Keti Chukhrov’s lecture will address the issue of the return to realism through the prism of Mikhail Lifshitz’s articulations of the notion of the classical.
This lecture, held as part of the Garage Field Research project If Our Soup Can Could Speak...Mikhail Lifshitz and the Soviet Sixties, will consider various, dissensual ways to approach realism and materialism. Contemporary discourses might at times imply a critique of formalism, with its revived interest in narratives, or they might claim materialism understood quite straightforwardly—like the self-sufficient presence of an object without its subject, as has been posited in object-oriented theories or speculative realism. Mikhail Lifshitz called such materialism vulgar and approached realism only in its dialectical bond with the ideal. However, it is precisely the urgent need of Lifshitz’s theory that gives rise to rebukes not only among critics of realism, but also among its contemporary supporters too. From their point of view, realism is rather the testimony of a document, or the evidence of the material presence. It cannot have any connection with the ideal, or with the notion of the classical: the paradigm that is unacceptable for contemporaneity.
In short, many have come around to see realism’s necessity for art, whereas the fact that the classical is an indispensible component of realism arouses embarrassment: it causes fear of the return to conservative values or to some obsolete tenets of culture. But maybe it is exactly today—when the notions of both realism and classics are so often appropriated by the institutes of authority—that it is especially urgent to articulate what makes “the classical” so important.