The artists’ books made in Russia between 1910 and 1915 are like no others. Unique in their fusion of the verbal, visual, and sonic, these books are meant to be read, looked at, and listened to. Painters and poets—including Natalia Goncharova, Velimir Khlebnikov, Mikhail Larionov, Kazimir Malevich, and Vladimir Mayakovsky— collaborated to fabricate hand-lithographed books, for which they invented a new language called zaum (a neologism meaning “beyond the mind”), which was distinctive in its emphasis on “sound as such” and its rejection of definite logical meaning.
At the heart of this volume are close analyses of two of the most significant and experimental futurist books: Mirskontsa (Worldbackwards) and Vzorval’ (Explodity). In addition, Nancy Perloff examines the profound differences between the Russian avant-garde and Western art movements, including futurism, and she uncovers a wide-ranging legacy in the midcentury global movement of sound and concrete poetry (the Brazilian Noigandres group, Ian Hamilton Finlay, and Henri Chopin), contemporary Western conceptual art, and the artist’s book.
This book is complemented by an interactive website that features sound recordings of zaum poetry: www.getty.edu/zaumpoetry
Nancy Perloff is curator of modern and contemporary collections at the Getty Research Institute. She is coeditor, with Brian M. Reed, of Situating El Lissitzky: Vitebsk, Berlin, Moscow (Getty Publications, 2003).
Art + Ideas Podcast: Nancy Perloff on Russian Futurist Book Art
“This study combines literature and art in an examination of a very specific segment of futurist creativity: unique books handmade as works of art. Perloff puts the topic in context, and in the five chapters not only discusses examples in detail but also provides ample material on Russian avant-garde art, including areas such as the relationship between folk art and modernism.”
"At its core, Perloff's study does more than justice to the complexity of the Russian futurists' book experiments carried out some one hundred years ago. By opening up the discussion to the ‘semantics of sound,’ Perloff allows the Russian futurist book to reverberate—or even explode—in our present day and beyond."208 pages
8 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches
47 color and 36 b/w illustrations
Imprint: Getty Research Institute