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Orthodox Marxism Versus Modern Art. Setting: T o d a y. A lecture by Valery Podoroga

4 February 2016


The work of the Garage Field Research project If Our Soup Can Could Speak...Mikhail Lifshitz and the Soviet Sixties continues with a lecture from Kandinsky Prize-winning philosopher Valery Podoroga.

In his lecture, Podoroga aims to show the unique viewpoint from which critic and philosopher Mikhail Lifshitz was able to provide a consistent critique of modernist art. This lecture aims to breathe new life into the understanding of Marxism by analyzing it in from the viewpoint of its most orthodox follower—and one of its biggest influences.

Podoroga asks: “Was Mikhail Lifshitz an orthodox Marxist-Leninist, a secret ‘right-wing liberal,’ or a self-taught eclectic philosopher? The answer is hardly so important.” For Podoroga, the more interesting—and important—idea is how Lifshitz managed to provide a critique of modern art at all. Lifshitz, for his part, did not want to be a modernist, and subjected all modern art to the same standards of “ruthless critique.”

Lifshitz developed his own style of argumentation and was able to persuade peers with his incisiveness and subtlety. Such persuasion would be nigh impossible today, argues Podoroga, but Lifshitz was lucky in that he already occupied an anti-bourgeois, anti-Western place in socialism—he was already in the place that European culture would reach only slowly, after many difficult detours. In the end, there was no one but Lifshitz who was truly able to go against what was thought of as the “truth” of modern art.


Valery Alexandrovich Podoroga, born in 1946, is a doctor of science in philosophy, a professor, and one of the leading scholars at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He finished his studies at Moscow State University's Philosophy Department in 1970, and the Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Philosophy PhD program in 1974. He has worked at the Institute of Philosophy since 1974. In 1991 Podoroga became the head of the Laboratory for Post-Classic Studies in Philosophy, Literature, Politics, and Art. He is the current head of the Department of Analytic Anthropology at the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the head of the Center of Analytic Anthropology at the Russian State University for the Humanities. He is the author of six books and around 200 scientific texts. In 2001 he won an Andrei Bely Prize—the country's oldest literary award—and in 2015 he won the Kandinsky Prize in the field of history and theory of contemporary art.

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