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WEBINAR: Without affiliation: Iliazd and avant-garde identity politics

Born in Tiflis [Tbilisi], Georgia in 1894, while the area was part of the Russian Empire, poet Ilia Zdanevich (“Iliazd”), seems to have felt little identification with the region. If he spoke Georgian (his mother’s native tongue), he gave no indication of this in his writings. After 1912, he moved into Russian avant-garde circles in Moscow and St. Petersburg. But he also “discovered” the self-taught Georgian painter, Nikos Pirosmani. He was passionate about ancient Armenian and Georgian church architecture. He loved the mountains of the Caucasus region. However, he did not express any affiliation as a “Georgian” or mention the politics of the region in his work, only noting that after the Revolution in October 1917 he was prevented from returning to Russia. His early experimental plays, composed between 1916-20, identify Tiflis as their publication site. But he never mentions the interlude from May 1918 through February 1921, when Georgia was briefly an independent republic before being annexed by the Soviet Union, or the name change of his birthplace to Tbilisi in 1936. Iliazd travelled to Paris in 1921 and spent the rest of his life there as a publisher and poet. Linked to international art circles, Iliazd’s career raises interesting questions about the combination of local culture(s) (Georgian, Russian, Parisian) and national identity politics in the modern avant-garde.

Speaker: Johanna Drucker is Distinguished Professor and Breslauer Professor in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA. She is internationally known for her work in the history of graphic design, typography, experimental poetry, art, and digital humanities. Recent work includes Inventing the Alphabet (University of Chicago, 2022), Visualisation L’Interprétation modélisante (B42, 2020), and Iliazd: Meta-Biography of a Modernist (Johns Hopkins University Press 2020). Her artist’s books are widely represented in museum and library collections. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014. In 2021 she received the AIGA’s Steven Heller Award for Cultural Criticism.

The first of seven events in the series:

From Tallinn to Tbilisi: Art Across Boundaries in the Age of Empire

Through the long nineteenth century until the eventual collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, artists in territories under imperial control, such as Poland, Finland, Ukraine, the Baltics, the Caucasus, Central Asia and others, increasingly began to explore questions of national identity in response to hegemonic and Russo-centric narratives advanced by the tsarist regime. In this seminar series, speakers examine art production in key centres of activity beyond St Petersburg and Moscow to present perspectives from across the Empire. Exploring a range of topics, such as art education, travel, national revivals, and women's advancement, they consider the ways in which artists negotiated ethnic and territorial identities, advanced their professional careers, and recalibrated their art-making in response to imperial rule.

Mondays, 5-6:30pm (UK) / 6-7:30pm (CET) / 12-1:30pm (EST)
Teams, Free
Recording available after each event
Relevant research areas: Eastern Europe, 20th Century, Book arts

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