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New Left Review I/41, January-February 1967


New Left Review

El Lissitsky

When we published the Jakobson-Tynyanov theses last year (nlr 37), we wished to draw attention to the confrontation of vanguard art and aesthetics with revolutionary politics and theory in the Soviet Union during the decade after the Bolshevik Revolution. El Lissitsky’s polemic on the future of the book is another key document from the same period. Just as Jakobson and Tynyanov prefigured much of the current debate on structuralism, Lissitsky in an obvious way foreshadows many of the insights of Marshall McLuhan. By going back to the twenties we are not being in the least antiquarian but posing the problems which, say, Barthes or McLuhan have raised, but in a revolutionary context. Moreover Lissitsky was himself a practising artist, for whom theoretical problems were inextricably intertwined with his work and his politics.

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