text > Malevich’s Passage: A Painterly and Poetic Sdvigology (seminar paper)



This text records the journey of one word. This word is passage, known in the discipline of art history as a painterly device used to analyze Cézanne’s late work, as well as to discuss the master of Aix’s influence on the French cubists. In this paper I follow passage from France, where this word emerged in the writings of some painters from Cézanne’s entourage, to Russia, where the term surfaced in the writings of the leading avant-garde painters and poets. My hypothesis is that after Cézanne’s passage reached Moscow, where it was translated as “сдвиг” [sdvig][1] it soon emerged as one of the major tools in the arsenal of Russian Cubo–Futurism. I analyze in particular the effect of this device on the development of Kasimir Malevich’s art and theory, suggesting that sdvig was the crucial device for the emergence of Suprematism. Moreover, some of the leading Russian Futurist poets, such as Velimir Khlebnikov and Alexei Kruchenykh, adopted and applied the device of sdvig to the new poetry, which resulted in the radical poetic language known as zaum.

It is difficult to think about Modernism in general, and its Russian version in particular, without employing such notions as “dislocation,” displacement,” “break,” “passage,” transitions,” etc. Sdvig in the Russian cultural context of the first decades of the last century was one of those tools which enabled the fragmentation of both the avant-garde painterly surface and the new poetic language. If Malevich used sdvig to make the transition from his notorious Black Square to the Suprematism of the Cruciform, (Fig. 1) then the poets employed the same device to shatter the conventional relation of the word to its meaning by subjecting language to the transrational logic of zaum. It is not incidental that both zaum and sdvig share one of their meanings, that is “to lose one’s mind,” “to be at one’s wit’s end.” The Cézannian derived passage was granted Russian citizenship and on the new soil it contributed to a new understanding of the painterly and literary mass. The pictorial mass of Malevich, like the literary mass of the poets who made us think about language in terms of heaps and piles of letters and dissected words, should be regarded in the context of that time, when a new reality was shaped by the politics of masses.

Fig. 1 Malevich's Phases of Development


(From Cézanne’s passage to Malevich’s sdvig)

There is something mysterious about the origins and the history of the term passage. It is true that writers who employ a formalist method use this term often, although one also encounter brief references in the literature that distrust the strictly formal approach and discuss the impact of Cézanne’s late work on Cubism within a larger historical framework. The mystery evolves precisely around the question of who should be given credit for the introduction of this technical device into the vocabulary of art history and criticism.  Emile Bernard’s friendly exchanges and correspondence with Paul Cézanne[2] has been suggested as one of the origins of passage. In Bernard’s conversations with Cézanne the word passage is mentioned in regard to “le passage des tons” in impressionist painting. Bernard affirms that for him: “Le passage du ton a son origine dans le reflet: tout objet participe sur ses bords ombreux de son voisin.”[3] This impressionistic concern with the “passage of tones” seems to be far removed from the meaning that this term would require in order to answer to a truly cubist problematic. In Du cubisme published in 1912, Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger define “pictorial space” as “a sensitive passage between two subjective spaces”[4] and we can assume that this was where the term began its journey.[5]

Cézanne scholars tend to agree that it is more appropriate to discuss passage within the context of the painter’s latest work, which is marked by a tendency towards abstraction.[6] Analyzing the problem of the contour in Cézanne’s late still lifes and portraits, Liliane Brion-Guerry points to the role played by passage in making the transition from the solid and tangible to the aerial, from the mobile to the non-mobile, suggesting a new relationship of the painted image not only to the space that the image inhabits but also to the category of time.[7] Such an interpretative turn leads to the temptation to submit the notion of passage to a Bergsonian treatment, conceptualizing Cézanne’s condensation in terms of Bergson’s concentration.[8] “The apparent distortions in the essential lines of condensation thus present a spatio-temporal concentration of matter in the passage of the pictorial fabric.”[9] Passage often appears in close proximity to such terms as “fabric” or “texture” which as will be seen later, are two other important devices in the vocabulary of the Russian cubo-futurist painters and poets.

William Rubin, who wrote about the impact of cézannisme on the early cubist works of Braque and Picasso, discusses extensively the notion of passage.[10] He credits Braque with following Cézanne’s steps not only in the most direct sense (by painting the same motifs at L’Estaque bay), but also in adopting the master of Aix’s “constructive stroke” that became paradigmatic for cubism. For Rubin the use of the term is crucial since he had insisted on the conceptual impact of Cézanne’s technique on modernist painting as opposed to the perceptual one. Rubin also insisted on the use of the term “alterations” as an alternate term to discuss Cézannian passage in contrast to the established word “distortions,” which has been often used interchangeably. “The term ‘distortion’ implies the a priori acceptance of the integrity of an object which is then pulled or pushed out of shape.”[11] “Distortions,” argues Rubin, are an expressionist device and therefore should not be applied to Cézanne’s “constructive sensations,” selected from the totality of the visual field. For Rubin the use of the term “distortions” would imply that Cézanne was concerned with the integrity of the natural world rather than with that of the picture.

Cézanne’s work, which was relatively unknown at the turn of the century to the public at large, attracted however the attention of a small number of young French painters. The master of Aix passed to his younger colleagues his new vision of painting both through his pictures and his conversations and correspondence with Bernard, Derain, Zola, etc.[12] The conditions under which French cubism emerged are still a matter of debate among scholars but its origins could be located somewhere between Braque’s escapades at L’Estaque (suggested by Rubin) and Picasso’s right side of the Demoiselles d’Avignon (a position initiated by Kahnweiler).[13] Cézanne’s impact upon cubism is often expressed in a series of his statements, among the most frequently cited being his allusion to the ‘cylinder, sphere, and the cone” to which I shall return later.

Besides the young French painters who reacted in response to the emergence of the new artistic sensibility, there were many foreign artists who reacted promptly to the major fluctuations that took place in the capital of European culture. The Russian painter Kazimir Malevich was one of them and although he never traveled to France as was common among many Russians before the revolution, he also passed through a period of Impressionism (1903-1907) marked by the noticeable influence of Cézanne.[14] Critics have described Cézanne’s impact on the young Malevich, for instance in terms of his  “employment of a cézannian compositional schema (i.e. a tree in the foreground on a river bank, the view’s depth unfolds under the tree’s branches)….”[15] Malevich’s River in the Forest and Bathers, both dated 1908, are two examples where the presence of Cézanne is most strongly felt. The impact of Cézanne on Malevich can be divided into several phases. From an earlier impressionistic stage, when the Russian painter appropriates some of the most recognizable motifs, he moves on to a more mature understanding of Cézanne, which is most clearly expressed in his writings about the new art.

Malevich discusses the impact of cézannism on the new painting in his 1928 essay “The Analysis of the New Art: Paul Cézanne.”[16] Here, the artist reveals the major differences between what he calls the new painting and the old, or traditional. Defining traditional painting in terms of its representational function based on a realistic reproduction of natural objects, he turns to the new painting, about which he writes: “in various structures of painterly mass, the object will be reproduced by means of applying different types of sdvigs to its contours (emphasis mine).”[17] He uses the term sdvig throughout the entire essay, and the overall impression is that the author places this formal device at the very center of the new theories of painting, emphasizing that the new painting gained its value and autonomy in its “as suchness.” Malevich suggests looking at two portraits – one by Pablo Picasso and another by Ilya Repin.[18] In comparing the two works he makes us realize that they are not simply two opposing extremes of one thing, i.e. the medium of painting, but that they each belong to two different and incomparable phenomena.[19] While in the case of the traditional portrait we deal with “nature as such” depicted academically by Repin, in Picasso’s Card Player (1913-1914) we deal with a new type of vision, a non-objective and non-representational vision which he calls “painting as such.” Malevich suggests that Picasso’s Card Player attains its “as suchness” by means of sdvigs, for now the painter does not apply “deformation in order to achieve a new form” but rather he alters the form “in order to perceive in the object new painterly elements.”[20] “Most of the new art is not plot-based,” continues Malevich, “however this does not mean that the new painting scarifies content for the sake of pure formal explorations. Cézanne taught us how to discover a new content, a painterly content which must take over the traditionalist concerns with the content of the plot.”[21]

Such an interpretation of Cézanne appears in Malevich’s more mature writings, but ten years earlier he propagated a more geometrized version of cézannisme, for example the one that appears in his 1919 text “On New Systems in Art.”[22] Here, the painter discusses Cézanne’s call to “treat nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere, and the cone,” and we can infer that Malevich translated the volumetric topology suggested by Cézanne into an iconic surface geometry, which materialized in his infamous trinity of the square, the circle, and the cruciform. (Fig. 1) William Rubin claims that Cézanne’s “cylinder, sphere, cone” formula has been “erroneously interpreted with consequences for the lesser cubists,”[23] and to us this might suggest that Malevich also interpreted this formula erroneously, for he understood it precisely as a call to abstraction. “Cézanne moved to abstraction of the natural forms because he saw in them only painterly surfaces and volumes…”[24] He calls Cézanne, “a bombastic and conscious individual, [who] realized the necessity of geometrization and directed us not unconsciously at the cone, the cube, and the sphere as the […] principles upon which to build nature, that is to bring the object to geometrical simple expressions.”[25] Notice that Malevich substitutes the cylinder for the cube[26] and this displacement is also a form of sdvig – a “meaning sdvig” – to which I will refer in more detail later when I discuss Kruchenykh’s science of “Sdvigology.” In his own turn to abstraction, Malevich translated the Western three-dimensionality of the volumes into the flat Byzantine two-dimensionality of the primary geometric shapes.

Russian art historians recorded for us many events which might throw light on the context in which passage arrived in Russia. The vision of a new painting emanated from the cultural capital of Europe by means of various channels such as artists’ pilgrimages, individual and group exhibitions, new translated books, and the enthusiasm of a handful of local rich collectors. Two Russian entrepreneurs – Sergey Shchukin and Ivan Morosov – managed to assemble an impressive collection of French painting including the Impressionists, the Fauves, and the Cubists. Shchukin, who became the most important foreign client of Kahnweiler, bought key works of few generations of French artists and displayed them in his mansion.[27] For painters like Malevich, who did not travel to France and who did not speak a foreign language, Shchukin’s collection was one of the main sources of information.[28] French new painting was also on display often in various joint exhibitions organized in Russia’s main cities. For example, in 1908 and 1909 The Golden Fleece exhibitions organized by Mikhail Larionov displayed works by Degas, Pissarro, Renoir, Cézanne, Sisley, Toulouse Lautrec, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, and others. In Saint Petersburg, the retrospective exhibition One hundred years of French art (1812-1912) opened in 1912, presenting, in addition to many known nineteen-century names, many contemporary French authors.[29] Another event that contributed to the consolidation of Russian Cubo-futurism was the translation of Gleizes and Metzinger’s Du cubisme published in 1912 in Paris. This book, mentioned earlier as the place where passage might have originated, was widely discussed throughout 1913 in Moscow’s artistic circles. Malevich may have come across the word sdvig in the Russian translation of Du cubisme, although these events took place shortly before Malevich entered his first “Static” phase (1913-15).[30] It is important, however, to consider in more detail the context in which various local and foreign ideas and theories were circulating.

According to Khardzhiev, “hardly would one find moments in the history of art when poetry and painting had come into contact with each other to such a degree as during the period when so-called Cubo-Futurism emerged in Russia.”[31] The term “Cubo-Futurism” itself defines a particular period in the history of the Russian avant-garde that can be dated roughly in the first half of the second decade of the last century. The apparent oxymoron in the term “Cubo-Futurism” can be explained by the fact that “the Futurists poets came in close contact with the Cubist-painters.”[32] It is also that, of all the “isms” that one encounters at that time in Russian poetry, Futurism became the most popular due to its very provocative stance, and the same may be said about the Cubist painting. We also know that in this compound word the prefix ‘cubo’ was added some time later,[33] which suggests a more active position played by the group of poets on the cultural front. Nevertheless, when taking a look at library titles that cover this period one realizes that the term “Cubo-Futurism,” in its established sense, reveals a passionate romance, a devoted attachment which we may never see again between two artistic genres: painting and poetry.

It is very important for my argument to stress the fact that almost all major cubo-futurists started as painters.[34] Vladimir Mayakovsky, David Burliuk, Alexei Kruchenykh, Velimir Khlebnikov, and Elena Guro, to mention just a few, all studied painting before they turned to prose or poetry. But even upon their conversion to poetry they did not abandon painting, and even acknowledged the radical transformations that took place in this area, as could be seen from this call issued by Khlebnikov in 1912: “follow bravely the painters!”[35] Or a similar call uttered in Mayakovsky’s loud voice one year later:  “Cubism in the word. Futurism in the word.”[36] In his study of Russian literary futurism, Vladimir Markov mentioned that in addition to symbolism, avant-garde painting was one of the main sources of inspiration for poets. Besides the frequent addition to their poetry of various visual elements, for instance using different typefaces, offbeat illustrations, or employing the author’s handwriting, the poets also borrowed from painters some key terminology such as sdvig and faktura.[37] Markov attaches more importance to the attempts of such poets as Khlebnikov, Mayakovsky, and Livshits, to apply principles of painting to poetry.[38] Roman Jakobson, himself a budetlyanin[39] during the first decades of the twentieth century, had also drawn attention to these fruitful collaborations between the Futurist poets and the Cubist painters.  “Artists such as Malevich discussed the relation between zaum, music, transrational languages, the utilization of constructions of sounds without words, and abstract painting. Oh, we discussed this a great deal!”[40]

Before turning to the way the poets have used sdvig in their works, let’s take a look at the importance Malevich attached to this device. Troels Andersen, who worked with Malevich’s paintings from his 1927 Berlin exhibition – those very paintings whose fate has been long surrounded by an aura of mystery[41] – had pointed to the use of sdvig in several works by Malevich dating from 1913:

“Sdvig“ in the general sense as painters understood it, had been derived from French Cubism. A key picture for Malevich appears to have been Picasso’s Le poète, dated from the spring of 1912. Several traits recur in the pictures Malevich painted in 1913, first and foremost the ‘hair’ on the right hand side of Le poète and the open corners in the composition.”[42] (Fig. 2)

Fig 2. Picasso Le poète and Malevich An Englishman in Moscow (1913-14)


In the painting An Englishman in Moscow (1913-14), Andersen points out that the sword cuts and slightly displaces the two halves of the ladder in relation to each other. (Fig. 3) In addition, Malevich also cuts the words that appear on the surface of the painting for instance the words “za-tmenie” (eclipse of the sun) and “chas-tichnoe” (partially). Malevich uses sdvig to displace the painterly elements (e.g. the ladder) but also the words, and he always isolates the very important prefixes in both words. In the first case he separates from the word “zatmenie” one of the most common Russian prefixes “za” (beyond), which also happens to be the defining part of the term zaum, to which I shall return. In the second application of the sdvig to  “chastichnoie,” “chas” is the Russian “hour.” Sherwin Simmons points out to the range of cutting tools that are often present in Malevich paintings, tools that were used “to achieve shifts, to cut forms and words and alter the perception of the existing world.”[43] He mentions the scissors “found above the right shoulder of the Englishman in Moscow. With their blades open and their handles closed, they are surrounded by an area of pink color and resting on them is a white quarter section of a circle.”[44] I draw my own interpretation from the revolutionary literary criticism that emerged around the same time, with such writers as Viktor Shklovsky and Roman Jakobson. I prefer to think about the cutting devices in Malevich’s 1913-15 canvases – scissors, blades, saws, knifes – in terms of what Shklovsky called “laying bare the device,” or what some of his colleagues called revealing “the nuts and the bolts” of the internal mechanics of literary production. Malevich’s knives, scissors, and knives are pictorial metaphors for the concept of sdvig, which he employed in order to cultivate a truly cézannesque painterly content.

Sdvig, according to Andersen, is also the concept which Malevich and his friend Morgunov shared with the literary sphere, and in the vocabulary of painters it denotes the following:

…that which takes place in Cubist and Futurist pictures when portions of an object are jerked loose and reproduced separately. In a literary language the term had another meaning. If a word was broken up in a starting manner into new components it was “sdvig.” Malevich has drawn attention to an example in Mayakovsky, which apart from “sdvig,” also embodies a retrograde movement. The poem is untranslatable, but the literal meaning of the words can be given:

A more detailed analysis of the techniques and types of poetic sdvigs will follow. In the above passages I would like to stress again and again that sdvig as a technique was one of the things that united the painters and the poets, and might ultimately be one of the internal bonds of Russian Cubo-Futurism.

Dmitrii Sarabianov tells us that Malevich used to retrospectively give different generic terms to paintings often dating from the same period. For instance his “paintings from 1912 have been combined under the heading ‘Zaum Realism,’ and works from 1913 under ‘Cubo-Futurist Realism’.”[46] Sometimes Malevich would refer to his 1913 period in terms of alogism – a phase that he claimed directly preceded Suprematism. In his later writings Malevich wrote on the significance of this stage for Suprematism and again credited Cézanne, in whom he saw the precursor of cubism “developed later by Braque, Picasso, Léger, Metzinger, and Gleizes. He added however, that “in Russia this tradition acquired a new ‘alogistic’ bias.”[47] The alogistic phase starts in 1913, which is also the annus mirabilis of Russian Cubo-futurism and the year when Alexei Kruchenykh coined the term zaum.[48] To Malevich’s alogism in painting corresponds the poetic zaum of Kruchenykh, for both of these words refer to that which “lies beyond reason.”

Fig. 4 Malevich Cow and Violin (1913) Fig. 5 Malevich Aviator (1914)

A typical alogistic work in Malevich’s oeuvre is considered to be his 1913 painting Cow and Violin (Fig.4). The alogistic decoding is contained on the verso of this painting, where Malevich wrote: “Alogical comparison of two forms ‘violin’ and ‘cow;’ as a moment of struggling with reason, naturalness, and petty bourgeois senses and prejudices.”[49] To juxtapose a violin, which was one of the most depicted objects in French cubism, with a cow is a type of sdvig that Kruchenykh would have called “meaning sdvig.” In his science of sdvigs, Kruchenykh suggested that a “meaning sdvig” occurs when conflicting meanings juxtapose, as in this poem by David Burliuk:

I like the pregnant man.
How good-looking he is here near the Pushkin’s monument.[50]

“Pregnant” and “man” collide in this stanza just as the violin and the cow in Malevich’s painting. Moreover, Malevich points to the presence of this sdvig not only on a semantic but also on a technical level. On the overall cubistic surface of the painting, only the cow is not rendered in a cubist technique but is deliberately painted naturalistically with a certain degree of naivety. This ironic stance of the painter marks the period when Malevich, like many of his Russian colleagues from the painterly avant-garde, distance themselves from the cannon of French cubism, after internalizing it successfully.

Sdvig – Malevich’s cutting tools surface in other works from this period (1913-1915) and I would like to suggest that they signal the coming of the most well-known phase in his career, Suprematism. In such paintings as Portrait of M.V. Matyushin and Aviator he employed this device in order to deal with either the painterly or the textual mass. For instance, in Aviator, (Fig. 5) we witness again the presence of a saw and a sawfish, two metaphors for the sdvig which dissects the word apteka (pharmacy). The aviator himself “is suspended” in the air – he is not standing with his feet on the ground – and this fact has been interpreted as a anticipation of one of the Suprematism’s basic conventions, namely the abolishment of the difference between “up” and “down.”[51] In such paintings as Composition with Mona Lisa, (1914) and Reservist of the First Division (1914), sdvig is used to challenge the flatness of the painterly surface, by breaking into the third dimension. These collages should be regarded as early manifestations of the tradition of ready-made or assemblage painting, for in the Reservist of the First Division the painter attaches to the canvas a thermometer, which registers and displays the temperature in the exhibition space. In Composition with Mona Lisa, Malevich attached a cigarette to Gioconda’s lips.[52] Malevich’s search for the “as suchness of painting,” as well as for a truly cézannesque painterly content drove him to various distortions, or to use Rubin’s term, alterations, but these alterations were of a different nature from those explored by Cézanne.

The year 1913 was also marked by a cultural event which would have a great impact both on Malevich’s Suprematism and on the poets who were searching for new poetic languages: Malevich took part in the staging of the first futurist opera “Victory over the Sun.” The idea for a futurist opera originated on July 18-19 in Uusikirkko, Finland at “The First All-Russian Congress of Signers of the Future (Poet-Futurists).” Among many issues discussed was the decision to expand the activity of the “Singers of the Future”[53] to theater. Matiushin composed the music, Kruchenykh was responsible for the libretto, and Malevich produced the décor, while Khlebnikov contributed with a short prologue, which some claimed was the most interesting part of this opera.[54] “Victory over the Sun” consisted of two acts each divided into several scenes. The main protagonist – the strong machine-like budetlyanin (the man of the future) – calls for a revolt against the sun. The performance takes place under the angry growl of the revolted public who is outraged by the amateurish actors and annoyed by the harsh cacophony of dissonances mumbled by a group of individuals who pretend to be the chorus. On the stage the budetlyanin (who is Nero and Caligula in the same character) travels through centuries, trying in the meantime to communicate his impressions from the 35th century to the noisy public. The budetlyanin declaims that “power [in the 35th century] is without aggression and the only thing which is left to the rebels is to fight against the sun.”[55] This crusade against the sun reveals the Cubo-Futurists’ position towards tradition in its various forms. The sun was one of the major symbols in Russian pagan mythology, and used extensively by the anti-Western Slavophile intellectuals. But they also harassed Apollo – the god of rationality – in whose “symmetrical logic” they saw the blue shadows of Symbolism, which had no place in the future.[56]



(From Kruchenykh’s “Zaum” to Malevich’s “Suprematism”)

Alexei Kruchenykh, who was responsible for the opera’s libretto, coined and launched the term zaum in 1913. Zaum, which has been described as the most prominent, unique and provocative feature of Russian Futurism, has been translated in English as; “trans-mental,” “transrational,” “trans-sense,” “metalogical,” “nonsense” “beyonsense.”[57] The prefix “za,” which we have already encountered in Malevich’s Englishman in Moscow has been characterized as “the most productive and versatile of Russian prefixes; [it plays] the widest semantic role.”[58] The poet Kruchenykh, whom Vladimir Markov called the most extremist futurist, the poet who negated most persistently the literary traditions of the past,[59] wrote in 1913 his first self-conscious zaum poem Dyr Bul Shchyl. Scholars of the Russian literary avant-garde have repeatedly drawn attention to the impossibility of translating many works from this period; this, however, might not be the case with Kruchenykh’s “Dyr Bul Shchyl,” for the simple reason that the poem does not contain one single word in Russian or in any other language:

dyr bul shchyl



vy so bu

r l èz[60]

The “Dyr Bul Shchyl” poem was reproduced in the 1913 manifesto “The Word as Such.” Here, Kruchenykh and Khlebnikov added the following comment: “In this five-stanza poem there is more Russianness, more national spirit than in the entire oeuvre of Pushkin.”[61] “The Word as Such” manifesto ended with an exclamatory call addressed to the genuine poets to write on their books, “after reading, tear them up!” It makes clear once again not only the tight link between cubist painters and futurist poets but also their mutual reliance on sdvig. Here is how the manifesto expresses the use of this device. “Futurists painters like to make use of body parts and sections, while the futurist poets have used chopped words, half-words, and their whimsical, intricate combinations (zaum language).”[62] Malevich, who designed the cover for “The Word as Such,” and who considered Kruchenykh “one of the main physicians of contemporary poetry… the one who placed poetry in zaum”[63] had written zaum poetry himself, as did other painters like Olga Rozanova and Natalia Goncharova.

Painters, with the exception of Malevich, did not go as far in theorizing the use of sdvigs as did the poets, in particular Kruchenykh, who developed an entire theory, published in a collection of texts in 1922 under the title “The Sdvigology of Russian Poetry.”[64] In the introduction he declares that “Sdvigology or sdvigika is the science of sdvigs,” and further on the poet begins to catalog and analyze various types of “sdvigs” such as a “meaning sdvig,” a “syntactic sdvig,” or a “motif sdvig.”[65] While the “meaning sdvig“ occurs when the poetic mass is constructed by means of other sub-techniques such as ambiguities, puns, reading in between the lines, and parallel or symbolist meanings, a “syntactic sdvig” allows “the abundance of neologisms to pass into sounds, into words, ripping them apart and turning them into zaum language.”[66] Inspired by Kruchenykh’s cataloging of poetic sdvigs Gerald Janecek developed a system of classification for various types of zaum that could be used as tools for critical analysis. Thus “phonetic zaum” is a situation in which letters are presented in combinations that do not form recognizable morphemes, while “morphological zaum” uses recognizable morphemes (roots, prefixes, suffixes) in new combinations so that the final product is to some significant extent indeterminate in the meaning. “The basic principle is that dislocations that produce indeterminacy can occur on a variety of linguistic levels, ranging from the phonetic to various aspects of semantic construction.”[67] The new cutting and dislocating device sdvig played a crucial role in the emergence and consolidation of transrational language, as Kruchenykh himself proclaimed: “Zaum language is always sdvig language!”[68]

Kruchenykh, like other major poets of Russian Futurism (Khlebnikov, Mayakovsky, D. Burliuk), began his career as a painter, and one might speculate that later on, when he switched to poetry, he brought with him the technique of passage, which he practiced in the studio. “Many futurist poets … borrowed terms from the jargon of the painters. The critic Volpe mentioned Khlebnikov’s application of the methods of Picasso, Braque, and Léger to poetry.”[69] However, rather than borrowing terms directly from the French cubists, they looked to their own fellow painters, adopting from them new painterly devices and concepts like that of sdvig and alogism as they were theorized and used by Malevich. Not to ignore the fact that this collaboration was mutual, for Malevich himself “searched constantly for parallels between his painterly ‘alogism’ and Khlebnikov and Kruchenykh’s zaum.”[70] While poets strove to avoid “common sense,” searching for new techniques capable of producing “the word as such,” painters like Malevich looked for strategies for replacing the naturalistic “content of the plot” and “nature as such” with a “painterly content” and a “painting as such,” in the way suggested by Cézanne.

“The words ZAOUME and SDVIGUE will soon receive the right to citizenship without being translated,” wrote Ilya Zdanevich, a zaum poet associated with the Tiflis tradition of Futurism in the “Sdvigology of Russian Poetry.” Notice how Zdanevich spells the words zaum and sdvig. Opting for a French spelling does not seem peculiar in the age of French cultural dominance. However, in this 1922 publication dedicated to the science of sdvig, one comes across multiple hints that point to France and to the master of the passage. Take for instance the subtitle, “From Impressionism to Iconic ‘sdvig,”[71] where the reference to Impressionism should be regarded as an allusion to both Cézanne and passage. The impact of the new painting theories also altered the appearance or formal aspect of futurist poetry. The interactions between the new theories in painting and poetry produced a unique phenomenon in the poetical practice of the cubo-futurists; simultaneously with the emphasis on the sound form of the word through various articulations and pronunciations, the graphical aspect[72] of the poetic language began to play a more important role.”[73] This statement could be illustrated by new approaches to the graphical presentations of their poems employed by poets, for instance below where the stanzas are rendered vertically in order to express better the meaning of the words. [74]

Drawing a parallel between theories of a new painting, as expressed for instance in Malevich’s texts, and the Futurist poets’ theses conveyed in their manifestoes, we can define that common ground on which both avant-garde painting and poetry rests. Malevich’s “color and texture in painting are ends in themselves” and “painted surface is a real, living form”[75] were in dialogue with the “the self-sufficient, self-centered word, the word as such” proclaimed by Burliuk, Kruchenykh, Mayakovsky and Khlebnikov in “The Slap in the Face of Public Taste” manifesto.[76] In the meantime, both painting and the poetic word “as such” maintained a dialogue with the emerging formalist method of literary criticism developed by the members of the “Moscow Linguistic Circle” founded in 1915, and by the Opoiaz[77] group launched one year later in St. Petersburg. One of the leading members of Opoiaz, Viktor Shklovsky (who was among the few defenders of the Cubo-Futurists), expressed the new formal method in terms of “ostranenie”[78] in his celebrated essay “Art as Device” (1917).[79] Noticeably, Shklovsky’s “ostranenie” bears a semantic resemblance with the term sdvig, since “making something appear strange” – the main thesis of this infamous essay – implies a passage, and a shift, which displaces the conventional literary norm.

The leader of the ‘Moscow Linguistic Circle,’ Roman Jakobson brought his own contributions to formal analysis. His preference for a synchronic over a diachronic method, his insistence on the elaborate artistic form, (“for the form appears difficult because it is made so – Shklovsky would say the form is estranged), resonates with Kruchenykh’s and Khlebnikov’s manifestos. The poets’ “slap in the face” of conventional bourgeois taste must be painful, it must be felt as one feels the materiality of the “word as such.” And here Jakobson agrees with the avant-garde. “We feel our cheek bones are hurting as were hurting the cheek-bones of general Ermolov, when he was reading the poetry of Griboedov.”[80] One thesis in “The Word as Such” manifesto stresses the unpleasant confinement of the new artistic form, both in poetry and painting. “ It shall be written tight and read tight; it must feel more uncomfortable than wearing a pair of lubricated boots; it needs nods, loops, curves, patches, and rough surfaces.”[81] The loops and the patches in the new poetic language are – like Malevich’s scissors and knives – the new devices and their effects. Jakobson stressed: “if the science of literature wants to be a science, it needs to recognize the ‘device’ as its only ‘hero’.”[82]

Analyzing the devices of the futurist poets, Jakobson contrasted the Russians’ “word as such” with Italian Futurist “parole in libertá.” In the same way that Kruchenykh classified various types of sdvigs, Jakobson lay down the “nuts and bolts” (the internal mechanistic laws of literary production) of the Italian and Russian Futurist poets, arguing that Marinetti’s parole in libertá was a “reform in the field of reportage rather than in the field of poetic language.”[83] He points to Marinetti’s manifesto, which enlists several types of “onomatopoeia,” for example: a) “straight onomatopoeia, imitative elementary realistic” (e.g. pic, pac, pum, ssiiiii, ffiiii ffiiiiii); b) “indirect and analogical onomatopoeia” (e.g. dum-dum-dum-dum); c) “abstract onomatopoeia” (e.g. ran ran ran); and d) “the psychological accord of many onomatopoeias.”[84] Contrasting the “parole in libertá” with the “word as such,” Jakobson draws attention to the fact that if there is a new form, then accordingly there is a new content, and the form determines the content.[85] If the Italian device of “onomatopoeia” forms new words by imitating inarticulate sounds then its Russian counterpart sdvig proceeds from the opposite direction: it constructs its poetic material on the basis of the inner, already existent structure of the word, stressing the materiality of the self-contained and self-centered letter.

A closer look at Marinetti’s “Destruction of Syntax - Imagination without Strings - Words-in-Freedom” published in 1913, reveals a striking difference with the Russian manifestos issued in the same year. Despite its provocative calls for freedom of words, for destruction of the syntax, for the exclusion of punctuation and adjectives, and for the use of infinitives, the entire rhetoric of this manifesto actually rests upon some very traditional canons. For instance, Marinetti writes: “The poet’s imagination must weave together distant things with no connecting strings, [but] by means of essential free words (emphasis added).”[86] In the last part of the sentence we see that the words (though essentially free) are still means and not ends in themselves as the Russian Futurists declared. Another word that betrays the concealed traditionalism of Marinetti’s aesthetics is harmony. The poet employs it often to proclaim various types of harmonies (e.g. “onomatopoetic harmony,” “typographical harmony”), which in this case come in direct conflict with the Russian futurists’ main device. Sdvig has a negative or negating charge, for it is used specifically to “shift,” to “displace,” to “distort,” or to “alter” the poetic or the painterly form, and in doing so, it questions or even annuls the entire aesthetic ideology of the petty bourgeois harmony concerned at that time with peace and the preservation of the status-quo. Not without reason, Jakobson called Marinetti’s “words-in-freedom” manifesto a “cult of the purest impressionism, […] not a poetical but an emotional linguistic system.”[87]

Here is how Markov saw the difference between “parole in libertá” and the self-contained “word as such.” To him both “sound suspiciously similar, but in reality the latter is a whole program for the study of, and experimentation with, the inside of the word, the laying bare of its inner structure, by making its texture felt; the former means simply the discarding of the syntax through the use of infinitives and the omission of prepositions and conjunctions.”[88] However, the impact of the “Emperor of World Futurism” on Russian avant-garde poets and painters was substantial, although after visiting Russia in 1914 Marinetti deemed this peculiar version of Futurism as “abstract pseudo-futurism,” “plusquamperfectum rather than futurum and even “savagism.”[89] The Russians treated “the emperor” accordingly. The most hostile of all was Khlebnikov, who used to refer to Marinetti as “this Italian vegetable,” declaring that after all the term “Futurism” was in Russia a pure accident.[90] The Russian Cubo-Futurists and Marinetti did not understand and did not like each other in that winter of 1914. Jacobson, who translated for Marinetti, and who had tried in vain to explain to the Italian Khlebnikov’s version of zaum, concluded defeatedly: “vous comprenez dans le femmes mais pas dans les poème.”[91]



(Malevich’s passage through Cubism and Futurism to Suprematism)

Malevich Kaznimir[92] was among the few ones who defended Marinetti, despite the painter’s short engagement with Futurism. By 1914, the time when Marinetti visited the two Russian capitals, Malevich was already in the second year of his first phase towards the absolute non-objectivity of Suprematism that he will declare complete in 1918. (Fig. 1) This stage represented by the static Black Square was also his longest phase and it is often regarded as Malevich’s period of engagement with cubism. The second stage, which lasted one year (1915-16), is defined by a dynamic sensibility represented by the two-dimensional Black Circle. This is the futurist phase. In contrast to cubism “futurist painting in Russia did not exist in essence, except for singular experiments of Malevich e.g. “The Knife-Grinder”… as well as some works by Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, and Olga Rozanova.”[93]

Historians have not yet agreed on the Year One of Suprematism. The dispute evolves around the question of whether to count Suprematism from 1913 – the year claimed by Malevich when he produced the first sketches of the black square for the backdrop of the opera “Victory over the Sun” ­– or, the year 1915, when he actually painted the “Black Square” and exhibited it for the first time. In this dispute I take the side of the artist and those who assign the birth of the “royal infant”[94] to the year 1913, the year of the “Victory over the Sun.” Another dispute revolves around the meaning and history of Malevich’s term Suprematism. Khardzhiev has drawn attention to the fact that “both Russian and Western researchers often derive ‘Suprematism’ from the word supreme, which is not quite accurate. ‘Suprematism’ (according to Malevich’s own explanation) originated from the term suprematie, that is the primacy and the dominance of the problem of color.”[95] Shaktskikh informs us that the term has its origins in Polish, which was Malevich’s first language. “In the Polish language there is “supremacja” which in its French counterpart ‘suprématie’ means – superiority, predomination, domination… At the base of Polish and French languages there is the same Latin root found in the catholic bible.“[96]

Malevich’s “icon”[97] – the Black Square – was first exhibited in the upper corner of the “Dobychina Gallery,” which hosted in 1915 the infamous “0.10” exhibition.[98] The Black Square became truly iconic and since then there have been many attempts to interpret this picture. In a lecture delivered in Berlin in 1922, El Lissitzky spoke about the importance of the painting in the following terms:

Malevich exhibited a black square painted on a white canvas. Here a form was displayed which was opposed to everything that was understood by ‘pictures’ or ‘painting’ or ‘art.’ Its creator wanted to reduce all forms, all painting to zero. For us, however, this zero was the turning point. When we have a series of numbers coming from infinity …6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0…it comes right down to the 0, then, begins the ascending line 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…

These lines are ascending, but already from the other side of the picture. It has been said that the centuries have brought painting right up to the square, so that here they can find their way down. We are saying that if on the one side the stone of the square has blocked the narrowing canal of painting, then on the other side it becomes the foundation-stone for the new spatial construction of reality.[99]

During the twentieth century the “Square” collected many epithets, for instance “icon,” “mirror,” “zero,” “abyss,” nothing,” all suggesting the abolishment of reality, and the suspension of gravitational laws. In his writings the author would come to theorize the Black Square in mystical terms, referring to it as a Suprematist mirror that reflects “the essence of nature [which] is unchangeable in all changeable phenomena.”[100] In one of Malevich’s most religious texts entitled “Suprematist Mirror,” the painter provides us with a chart that equates art and science to zero.

The painter believed that neither science not art possess limits. “All that could be known is limitless and countless and this countlessness and unlimitedness equates to zero.”[101]

There are many references to numbers in Malevich’s works, and the tendencies to interpret the Black Square in mathematical and geometrical terms are not accidental. Linda Henderson in her exploration of the fourth dimension and of the non-Euclidean geometry in modern art also studied Malevich’s work,[102] focusing particularly on the impact of Peter Uspenskii’s theories of the “Forth Dimension.”[103] John Milner approaches the zero dimension of Malevich’s Black Square from another direction. Milner suggests a mathematical interpretation of Malevich’s work in terms of the painter’s use of the old Russian measure system (arshin and vershok) arguing that this had actually paved the way to the Black Square.[104] He draws our attention again to the Aviator (Fig. 5) where at the center of the black squared aviator’s hat Malevich depicts a “0” (zero). The word “apteka” (pharmacy) that appears in the picture has also been sectioned into “a,” “pte,” and “ka.”

Aviator is important for this discussion, not only for the sheer fact that it provides many clues for constructing a pictorial genealogy of the Black Square. Both “zero” and the dissected syllable “ka” establish a link to the poet Khlebnikov, who being trained as a mathematician at the Kazan Lobachevsky University formulated a highly evolved mathematical philosophy of history. I would like to focus, however, on the syllable “ka” that also happens to be the title of one of Khlebnikov’s most known short prose works written in 1915.[105] Ka (the Egyptian word for soul) is a mythic figure, a time traveler, it is “the shadow of the soul, it is the soul’s double. Ka is an envoy to those people who visit the snoring master in his dreams. For Ka there are no outposts in time; Ka travels from dream to dream…”[106] For Khlebnikov, who considered this story one of his central works, Ka was also the agent of inspiration and artistic creation. He defined “inspiration in terms of a current which flows from everything to myself, while creation [art] is the reversed movement, and the current flows from myself to everything.” In this double movement Ka is the carrier of creative energy. When the flow is from the “world to the artist” then the artist is blessed with inspiration, but the reverse movement of the Ka is the artist’s product, which returns into the world.

What else could have Malevich and Khlebnikov in common? In Malevich’s case the Black Square, or the “zero of form,” institutes the Year Zero of Suprematism. In defining its principles, the painter asserts that the Cruciform shape – the basic element of the last Suprematist phase –  “develops from breaking up the square.”[107] The breaking of the Cubist Square paved the way to the Suprematist Cross by means of the technical device sdvig in the same manner as Cézanne used passage to brake the contours of the pictorial surface in his still life and landscape motifs. “From the simple square took place the ascension towards the complication of forms, composing them from the combination of the most elementary units, through their coloring and consecutive dynamics.”[108] The break of the main cubist element, Black Square, but also of the Futurist Circle, has resulted in the kaleidoscopic and highly fragmented Suprematist surface. Khlebnikov follows a similar path, as illustrated in this calligramme where the main protagonist is the morpheme “so.”

“So,” which in Russian plays often the same role as the English preposition “with” creates a field that encompasses a series of words: son [sleep], solntse [sun], sila [strength], solod [molt], slovo [word], sladkii [sweet], soi [clan: Macedonian dial.], sad [garden], selo [setllement], soli’ [salt], slyt’ [to be reputed], syn [son].[109]

Khlebnikov employs “so” as a module to generate a new series of words in a fashion similar to that of Malevich’s square, which serves the latter as a meaningful painterly unit that brings in the dynamics of the mystical, non-existent, absolute and non-objective Suprematism.



(Instead of a Conclusion)

It appears that sdvig has withstood the test of time. It re-emerges in the second half of the twentieth century in the vocabulary of the Soviet non-conformists, especially with the inauguration of the Moscow Conceptualist tradition. Malevich, driven to a more dynamic painting in order to respond to the rapidly changing social reality used sdvig to break through the statics of Cubism epitomized by the Black Square. The story of this word is not so different from that of any other word; sdvig followed the same path as many other words which have been imported and adopted to the local context, as in the case of political theorists who propagated social change and who introduced in Russian language such words as “socialism,” “party,” “dialectics,” “revolution,” and “revolver.” These were concepts, which nevertheless left their imprint on reality in a truly Hegelian fashion. In art sdvig contributed not only to the roughening and finally to the dissolution of the polished surfaces of traditional painting and language but most importantly it altered our understanding of these media. Although the link between this device and the most radical art of that time is obvious, I would like to reenforce my argument by once again quoting Kruchenykh: “Zaum language is always sdvig language!” He also added: “Where there is seemingly a slip of the consciousness, there is where the sdvig is opening the mysterious creative work, which betrays now and again many secrets of the authors!”[110] But we could reverse his statement by saying that “Sdvig language is always zaum language,” which would lead us to the conclusion that every political or cultural displacement, dislocation, transition, or passage, appears as an abolishment of logic in the manner of zaum language.





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[1] “Sdvig” (сдвиг) in Russian has several meanings: displacment, dislocation, progress, change, shift. All translations from Russian and French by author.
Bernard, Emile, Souvenirs Sur Paul Cézanne. Une Conversation Avec Cézanne (Paris: R. G. Michel, 1926).
Ibid. p. 31
Gleizes, Albert and Jean Metzinger, Du "Cubisme" [De] Albert Gleizes & Jean Metzinger, 13. èd. ed. (Paris,: E. Figuière, 1912).
I am indebted for this view to Patricia Leighten, who has suggested that Gleizes and Metzinger’s book could be the source of passage as used later by the avant-garde painters.
Medina, Joyce, Cézanne and Modernism: The Poetics of Painting, Suny Series, the Margins of Literature (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995). P. 8
Brion-Guerry, L., Cézanne Et L'expression De L'espace (Paris,: A. Michel, 1966). Pp. 170-2
Medina, Cézanne and Modernism: The Poetics of Painting. P. 18
Ibid. p. 108
Rubin, William, "Cézannisme and the Beginnings of Cubism," in Cézanne : The Late Work: Essays, ed. William Rubin (New York, Boston: Museum of Modern Art, 1977).
Ibid. p. 165, 198n
For Cézanne’s correspondence see Bernard, Souvenirs Sur Paul Cézanne. Une Conversation Avec Cézanne., Doran, P. M., Conversations Avec Cézanne ([Paris]: Collection Macula, 1978)., Cézanne, Paul et al., Paul Cézanne, Letters, 2nd ed. (Oxford,: B. Cassirer, 1944).
On these two sources in the origins of cubism see Rubin, "Cézannisme and the Beginnings of Cubism." and Kahnweiler, Daniel Henry, Les Années Héroïques Du Cubisme, Collection Des Maîtres (Paris,: Braun; agent pour U.S.A.: E. S. Herrmann New York, 1950).
Sarabianov, Dmitrii Vladimirovich et al., Kazimir Malevich: Zhivopis', Teoriia (Moskva: Iskusstvo, 1993). pp. 23, 33
Centre Georges Pompidou and Soviet Union Ministerstvo kul'tury., Paris-Moscou, 1900-1930 (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1979). p. 33
Malevich, Kazimir Severinovich, "Analyz Novogo Iskusstva: Pol Cezan," in Sobranie Sochinenii V Piati Tomakh, ed. Dmitri i Vladimirovich Sarabrianov (Moskva: Gileia, 1995).
Ibid. p. 141
Clement Greenberg will also use the name of Ilya Repin to argue for a formalist evolution of art. See Greenberg, Clement, "Avant-Garde and Kitsch," in Clement Greenberg : The Collected Essays and Criticism, ed. John O'Brian (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986).
Malevich, "Analyz Novogo Iskusstva: Pol Cezan."p. 142
Ibid. P. 144
Ibid. p. 150
Malevich, Kazimir Severinovich, "O Novykh Systemakh V Iskusstve," in Sobranie Sochinenii V Piati Tomakh, ed. Dmitri i Vladimirovich Sarabianov (Moskva: Gileia, 1995).
Rubin, William Stanley et al., Cézanne: The Late Work: Essays (New York, Boston: Museum of Modern Art; Réunion des musées nationaux (France), 1977). p. 193
Malevich, Kazimir Severinovich and Aleksandra Semenovna Shatskikh, Chernyi Kvadrat (Sankt-Peterburg: Azbuka, 2001). p. 136
Ibid. p. 115
In literature on Cézanne the call to treat nature “by means of the cylinder, the sphere and the cone,” is one of the most often quoted phrase. However in Bernard’s “Souvenirs” there is one passage where the cube is also mentioned in the same range with the cylinder, the sphere and the cone. “Il faudrait d’abord étudier sur des figures géométrique: le cone, le cube, le cylinder, la sphere.” See Bernard, E., Souvenirs sur Paul Cézanne. Une conversation avec Cézanne. 1926, Paris: R. G. Michel p. 94Bernard, Souvenirs Sur Paul Cézanne. Une Conversation Avec Cézanne. p. 94
“On Sundays Shchukin permitted anyone who wished to see his collection. Towards noon there were 25-30 people and the owner who despite being very inarticulate was fanatically explaining the paintings form his collection to the visitors.” (Khardzhiev p. 31) Later answering to the increasing Bolshevik attacks on his Suprematist theories, Malevich offered Shchukin as example of an “art lover” who ignored the public opinion in both Paris and Moscow and had bought those art “degenerates,” thus establishing one of the best European collections. (Malevich, K.S. and A.S. Shatskikh p. 126) Khardzhiev, N., Stat'i Ob Avangarde V Dvukh Tomakh, Arkhiv Russkogo Avangarda (Moskva: Ra, 1997). p. 31
Later in life responding to the Bolshevik attacks on his Suprematist theories, Malevich offered Shchukin as an example of “art lover” who ignored the public opinion in both Paris and Moscow and had bought those “art degenerates,” thus establishing one of the best European collections. Malevich and Shatskikh, Chernyi Kvadrat. p. 126
Khardzhiev, Stat'i Ob Avangarde V Dvukh Tomakh. pp. 32-33
Malevich divides the evolution to Suprematism in five phases. The first phase (1913-1915) he calls static and its element is the Black Square. See the evolution of Malevich’s art in Fig. 1.
Khardzhiev, Stat'i Ob Avangarde V Dvukh Tomakh. p. 18
Ibid. p. 31
Markov, Vladimir, Russian Futurism; a History ([London]: Macgibbon & Kee, 1969). p. 117
Khardzhiev, Stat'i Ob Avangarde V Dvukh Tomakh. p. 29
Ibid. p. 52
Markov, Russian Futurism; a History. p. 3
Ibid. p. 3
“Budetlyanin” was a neologism coined by Khlebnikov, and was often used as a Russian synonym for the Italian term Futurist. See Jakobson, Roman et al., My Futurist Years (New York: Marsilio Publishers, 1997).
Jakobson, Roman, "Art and Poetry: The Cubo-Futurists, an Interview with David Shapiro," in The Avant-Garde in Russia, 1910-1930: New Perspectives (Los Angeles, Calif. Cambridge, Mass.: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; distributed by the MIT Press, 1980). p.  18
Malevich’s paintings from the Berlin Exhibition were considered lost but after World War Two they surfaced mysteriously in the collections of the Stedelijk Museum. On the mystery that surrounds Malevich’s Stedelijk collection see Khardzhiev, Stat'i Ob Avangarde V Dvukh Tomakh., and Andersen, Troels et al., Malevich. Catalogue Raisonne of the Berlin Exhibition 1927, Including the Collection in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, 1970).
Andersen et al., Malevich. Catalogue Raisonne of the Berlin Exhibition 1927, Including the Collection in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. p. 25
Simmons, W. Sherwin, Kasimir Malevich's Black Square and the Genesis of Suprematism 1907-1915, Outstanding Dissertations in the Fine Arts (New York: Garland Pub, 1981). p. 197
Andersen et al., Malevich. Catalogue Raisonne of the Berlin Exhibition 1927, Including the Collection in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. p. 25
Sarabianov et al., Kazimir Malevich: Zhivopis', Teoriia. p. 72
Malevich and Shatskikh, Chernyi Kvadrat. p. 11
Markov wrote that David Burliuk (The Father of Russian Futurism) had suggested the term “zaum” to Kruchenykh. See Markov, Russian Futurism; a History. p. 23
Sarabianov et al., Kazimir Malevich: Zhivopis', Teoriia. p. 76
Markov, Russian Futurism; a History. p. 279
E. Kovtun made this remark. See Sarabianov et al., Kazimir Malevich: Zhivopis', Teoriia. p. 78
Nakov, Andrei B. and Kazimir Severinovich Malevich, Kazimir Malewicz: Catalogue Raisonné (Paris: Adam Biro, 2002). pp. 163-5
“Singers of the Future” (певец будущего), “Budetlyanin,” were synonyms invented by Russian futurists in order to distinguish themselves from Marinetti’s claim that this cultural phenomena was an Italian product.
See for instance Markov, Russian Futurism; a History. pp. 144-5
Erbslöh, Gisela, "Pobeda Nad Solncem": Ein Futuristisches Drama Von A. Krucenych: Übersetzung Und Kommentar (Mit Einem Nachdruck Der Originalausgabe), Slavistische Beiträge; Bd. 99 (München: O. Sagner, 1976). p. 7
Janecek, Gerald, Zaum: The Transrational Poetry of Russian Futurism (San Diego, Calif.: San Diego State University Press, 1996). p. 1
Mickiewicz quoted. Ibid.
Markov, Russian Futurism; a History. p. 129
There are several versions of “Dyr bul shchyl.” The current one is from Markov (1968) p. 44
Brodskii, N. L. and Karl Eimermacher, Literaturnye Manifesty: Ot Simvolizma K Oktiabriu = Literarische Manifeste: Vom Symbolismus Zur Oktoberrevolution, 2 vols., Slavische Propyläen; Bd. 64 (München: W. Fink, 1969). p. 80
In the The original text the futurist poets are called (jivopistzy budetlyane) while the futurist poets (budetlyane rechetvotsy). See Brodskii 1969, p. 82
Malevich's reamarks about Kruchenykh appear in his text "Khlebnikov." See Ivanov, 2000. p. 183Ivanov, Viacheslav Vsevolodovich et al., Mir Velimira Khlebnikova: Stat'i: Issledovaniia 1911-1998 (Moskva: Iazyki russkoi kul'tury, 2000). p. 183
Kruchenykh, A., Kukish Proshliakam: Faktura Slova, Sdvigologiia Russkogo Stikha, Apokalipsis V Russkoi Literature (Moskva: Gileia, 1992).
Meaning sdvig (Смысловой сдвг), Syntactic sdvig (Синтактический сдвиг), Motif sdvig (Сюжетный сдвиг). Ibid. p. 24
Ibid. pp. 24-35
Janecek, Zaum: The Transrational Poetry of Russian Futurism. pp. 4-5 (my underline)
Kruchenykh, Kukish Proshliakam: Faktura Slova, Sdvigologiia Russkogo Stikha, Apokalipsis V Russkoi Literature. p. 35
Markov, Vladimir, The Longer Poems of Velimir Khlebnikov, University of California Publications in Modern Philology; V. 62 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1962). p. 8
Parnis, A. I., "Khlebnikov I Malevich," in Mir Velimira Khlebnikova: Stat'i, Issledovaniia 1911-1998, ed. Viacheslav Ivanov, Zinovii Papernyi, and A. E. Parnis (Moscow: Iazyki russkoi kul'tury, 2000). p. 176
«От импресионизма к сдвигу образа» It is difficult to translate the Russian word obraz. Among its multiple meaninings are icon, sacred image, shape, form, appearance, etc.
The Russian word is «графико-моторный» -- the graphical-motorness.
Khardzhiev, Stat'i Ob Avangarde V Dvukh Tomakh. p. 54
In the original «Карабкающейся по прямому проводу птиц» Kruchenykh, Kukish Proshliakam: Faktura Slova, Sdvigologiia Russkogo Stikha, Apokalipsis V Russkoi Literature. p. 34
Andersen et al., Malevich. Catalogue Raisonne of the Berlin Exhibition 1927, Including the Collection in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. p. 52
Burliuk, David et al., "Poschechina Publichnomu Vkusu," in Literaturnye Manifesty: Ot Simvolizma K Oktiabriu = Literarische Manifeste: Vom Symbolismus Zur Oktoberrevolution, ed. N. L. Brodskii and Karl Elmermacher (München: W. Fink, 1969).
“Opoiaz is an abbreviation, which stands for "Obschestvo izuchenia poeticheskogo iazyka" The Society for the Study of Poetic Language.
Since the introduction of Russian Formalist method in the United States by Viktor Erlich's monumental Russian Formalism there has been much debated the proper translation of "ostranenie." The term has been translated as "defamiliarization," "estrangement," "estrangement," and even "alienation." See Erlich, Victor, Russian Formalism: History, Doctrine, Slavistic Printings and Reprintings; 4 ('s Gravenhage,: Mouton, 1955)., Jameson, Fredric, The Prison-House of Language; a Critical Account of Structuralism and Russian Formalism, Princeton Essays in European and Comparative Literature (Princeton, N.J.,: Princeton University Press, 1972)., Sher, Benjamin and Viktor Borisovich Shklovsky, Theory of Prose, 1st American ed. ([Elmwood Park, IL, USA: Dalkey Archive Press, 1990).
«Искусство как прием» (сб. «Поэтика», П., 1917)
Jakobson, Roman, "Noveishaia Russkaia Poeziia: Nabrosok Pervyi; Podstupy K Khlebnikovu," in Mir Velimira Khlebnikova: Stat'i, Issledovaniia 1911-1998, ed. Viacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov, Zinovi i Samo ilovich Papernyi, and A. E. Parnis (Moskva: Iazyki russkoi kul'tury, 2000). p. 5
Brodskii and Eimermacher, Literaturnye Manifesty: Ot Simvolizma K Oktiabriu = Literarische Manifeste: Vom Symbolismus Zur Oktoberrevolution. p. 80
Jakobson, "Noveishaia Russkaia Poeziia: Nabrosok Pervyi; Podstupy K Khlebnikovu." p. 27
Ibid. p. 23
Ibid. p. 37
Ibid. p. 40
Apollonio, Umbro, Futurist Manifestos (New York: Viking Press, 1973). p. 98
Jakobson, "Noveishaia Russkaia Poeziia: Nabrosok Pervyi; Podstupy K Khlebnikovu." p. 25
Markov, The Longer Poems of Velimir Khlebnikov. pp. 2-5
Malevich and Shatskikh, Chernyi Kvadrat.
Markov, Russian Futurism; a History. p. 157
Jakobson et al., My Futurist Years.
Kaznimir (Казнимир) instead of Kasimir is one of Khlebnicov's play of words, which translates “execute or panish the world.”
Khardzhiev, Stat'i Ob Avangarde V Dvukh Tomakh. p. 31
“Royal infant” – one of Mlevich’s references to the “Black Square.”
Khardzhiev, Stat'i Ob Avangarde V Dvukh Tomakh. p. 104
Shaktskikh, Aleksandra Semenovna, "Kasimir Malevich, Teoreticheskoe I Literaturnoe Nasledie," in Kazimir Malevich: Zhivopis', Teoriia, ed. Dmitrii Vladimirovich Sarabianov, Aleksandra Semenovna Shaktskikh, and Kazimir Severinovich Malevich (Moskva: 1993). p. 179
The critic Alexander Benua was the first to apply the term “icon” to Malevich’s Black Square. See Sarabianov et al., Kazimir Malevich: Zhivopis', Teoriia. p. 99, 103
“0.10” – Zero Ten Futurist Exhibition organized in Petrograd in 1915.
El Lissitzky quoted in Simmons, Kasimir Malevich's Black Square and the Genesis of Suprematism 1907-1915. p. 3
Malevich and Shatskikh, Chernyi Kvadrat. p. 82
Henderson, Linda Dalrymple, The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983).
The theosophist Peter Uspenskii’s Tetrium Organum was very influential among the cubo-futurists. See Uspenskii, P. D., Tertium Organum: The Third Canon of Thought, a Key to the Enigmas of the World, 1st American ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf: distributed by Random House, 1981).
Milner, John and Kazimir Severinovich Malevich, Kazimir Malevich and the Art of Geometry (New Haven [Conn.]: Yale University Press, 1996). p. 100
Khlebnikov, Velimir and Charlotte Douglas, Collected Works of Velimir Khlebnikov (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987).
“А Ка - это тень души, ее двойник, посланник при тех людях, что снятся храпящему господину. Ему нет застав во времени; Ка ходит из снов в сны…” http://www.kirsoft.com.ru/freedom/KSNews_240.htm (10/29/2006)
Railing, Patricia and Kazimir Severinovich Malevich, On Suprematism, 34 Drawings: A Little Handbook of Suprematism (Forest Row, East Sussex, England: Artists Bookworks, 1990). p. 52 [emphasis added]
Sarabianov et al., Kazimir Malevich: Zhivopis', Teoriia. p. 103
Khlebnikov and Douglas, Collected Works of Velimir Khlebnikov. p. 272
Kruchenykh, Kukish Proshliakam: Faktura Slova, Sdvigologiia Russkogo Stikha, Apokalipsis V Russkoi Literature. p. 35


Octavian Esanu 2004