The Garage Field Research Project If our soup can could speak … Mikhail Lifshitz and the Soviet Sixties continues with a lecture by David Riff on the anti-fascist aspect of Lifshitz’s scholarship and its possible relevance today.
Beginning with his 1933 introduction to The Philosophy of Art of Karl Marx, Mikhail Lifshitz explained his theoretical efforts as a contribution to the struggle against 20th century fascism. This was more than just an abstract, official frame, as Lifshitz shows in The Crisis of Ugliness (1968), where modernism’s often-unintended complicity to “the revolution from the right” plays a major role. Lifshitz would also go on to produce two further analyses of fascist art in Italy and Germany, published in the 1973 anthology Iskusstvo i sovremenniy mir (Art and the Modern World). Lifshitz’s diary notes, posthumously published in Chto Takoe Klassika? (What Is Classic?, 2004) reveal just how central the struggle with fascism and totalitarianism was to his work. Not only did Lifshitz feel himself culpable for the rise of the personality cult, which he analyzed extensively, but he also continued to be preoccupied with the rise of new totalitarianisms and fundamentalisms clad in the colorful garb of consumerism, social demagogy, and religion, even predicting the rise of radical Islam from the ruins of modernist Marxism. What does this anti-fascist undercurrent in Lifshitz’s writing mean today? David Riff’s lecture follows Lifshitz’s argumentation, illustrating it with visual examples from the history of art, and connecting it to a contemporary situation of globalized fascism that far exceeds Lifshitz’s worst predictions.