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Nativism, Avant-garde, Decolonisation

CBEES Advanced Seminar “Nativism, Avant-garde, Decolonisation: Towards the vernacular aesthetics of early-Soviet Georgian cinema” with Dušan Radunović, Associate Professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham University

Speaker: Dušan Radunović, Associate Professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University

Discussant: Oksana Sarkisova, Research Fellow, Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives, and Head of Visual Studies Platform, Central European University

Chair: Asiya Bulatova, Researcher at the School of Culture and Education, Södertörn University

Abstract: This paper interrogates the processes that led to the establishment of a new visual aesthetics of early Soviet Georgian cinema and it seeks to posit the following set of arguments: that the emergence of the early Soviet Georgian film language acted as the first film vernacular in the Soviet Union, b) that it was developed within the metropolitan discourses of early Soviet avant-garde art and film, c) that it was appropriated on the "peripheries" of the Soviet cultural space; and c) that the rules of its appropriation were in compliance with affirmative/emancipatory policies of early Soviet state towards minorities.
The extended discussion elucidates the hitherto unattended process of the transmission of avant-garde ideas in literature, performing and visual arts through the Tbilisi outposts of the major futurist journals in the 1920s Veshch/Gegenstand/Objet, Lef, and Novyi Lef. In this section the paper draws attention to Nikoloz Shengelaia’s 1924 manifesto “The Georgian Circus” (H2SO4) and the writings by Shengelaia, Kalatozishvili/Ghoghoberidze and Esakia (Memartskheneoba), in which the concepts, such as traditional culture, folklore and nature are afforded important role. The discussion evaluates this reappraisal of the primitive on the part of the Georgian Soviet avant-garde not only as a characteristic avant-garde gesture of undermining Western civilisation, but as a resignification of that procedure and appropriation of early-Soviet policy of minority emancipation (korenizatsiia) in art domain.
The central part of the paper is dedicated to Shengelaia’s 1928 film Eliso, in which the Georgian poet-turned-filmmaker, in association with his screenwriter Sergei Tret´iakov, transformed the representational language of the 1920s Georgian cinema and facilitated its emancipation from 19th colonial tropes. This part will detail the technical aspects of Shengelaia’s visual language, such as decrease of average shot length, controlled use of close-ups, change in acting style, and certainly montage, but it will also highlight the importance of Tret´iakov’s ideas about screenwriting as research, or the concepts of fact, production [производство/proizvodstvo], or purpose [назначение/naznachenie], which all enabled the author to immerse their protagonists into their concrete socio-historical circumstances. To further illustrate the decolonising effect of this new visual economy, Shengelaia’s earlier film Giulli (1927) will be used as a reference point to demonstrate how the new visuality, together with its factographic approach dispelled the aura of romantic aesthetics, decolonised the Georgian screen and gave rise to what I tentatively term the early Soviet Georgian film vernacular.

Dušan Radunović is Associate Professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham, where he teaches Russian cultural and social history and film theory. He has published on a range of subjects, from intellectual history to critical and film theory. Dušan is the author of monographs on the genesis of the concept of form in the twentieth-century Russian humanities (forthcoming) and on Mikhail Bakhtin and co-editor of the volume Language, Ideology, and the Human: New Interventions (Routledge, 2012). Dušan is also interested in the archaeology of film medium and in the way in which the medium of cinema interacts with other media. In this context, he has worked on Sergei Eisenstein’s late writings on cinema and on the interaction of post-war avant-garde cinema and art practices in Eastern Europe.

Tid och plats

27 maj 2024, 13:00-14:30

Högre seminarium

MA 796, hitta hit


Arrangeras av

Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES)



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