Colloquium by Devin Fore, Princeton University: On Factography
‘The Emergence of Soviet Factography’
February 27, 2013: 5.15pm
Pigott Hall (Building 260), Room 216
Despite its presumed association with the documentary impulses found in Europe and the Americas, Soviet factography, which flourished between 1924 and 1931, in fact bears little resemblance to these other movements. Its fleeting sketches, or ocherki, were a far more elusive genre than conventional documentary, closer to modes of avant-garde experimentation than to socialist realist didacticism. This talk pursues two inquiries, one formal-literary and one media-theoretical: first, that of defining the fugitive and enigmatic inscriptions of the factographers stylistically; and second, that of understanding how, through a process that Sergei Tret’iakov called vzaimoinformatsiia (“reciprocal information”), these ocherki were supposed to serve as the basic cells of “the collective brain of the revolution.” Drawing upon the writings of the early systems theorist Aleksandr Bogdanov, contemporaneous philosophies of emergence, and theorizations of distributive intelligence, this talk will raise the question of what kind of “social machine” (Latour), or revolutionary metaorganism, the factographers hoped to produce.
DEVIN FORE is an Associate Professor of German and an Associate Faculty member of the Slavic Department at Princeton University. His first book, Realism After Modernism: The Rehumanization of Art and Literature (MIT/October Books, 2012) examines the returns of mimetic realism in German cultural production from the late 1920s into the Popular Front era with chapters on Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Carl Einstein, Bertolt Brecht, John Heartfield, Ernst Jünger and the industrial novel (Erik Reger, Franz Jung, and Brecht). His forthcoming book All the Graphs: Soviet Factography and the Emergence of Avant-Garde Documentary, situates the work of the operative writer Sergei Tret'iakov within the material culture of early the Soviet period. He is also writing the introduction for the English translation of Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge’s History and Obstinacy (forthcoming from Zone Books in 2013). Fore has published articles in the journals New German Critique, October, Configurations, and Grey Room, and has also translated a number of texts from both German and Russian. He has been awarded grants from the Social Science Research Council, the Fulbright, Humboldt, Mellon, and Whiting Foundations, and he was the Anna Maria Kellen Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin in 2008-2009.