The “Movement” Group. History of Russian Kinetic Art

by Quarta Gallery
The “Movement” Group

In September 1962 five young artists headed by 25-year-old Lev Nusberg founded the “Movement” group. The first participants were F. Infante, А. Krivchikov, V. Аkulinin, V. Scherbakov, R. Zanevskaya and М. Dorokhov. The movement was interpreted by the authors as change, relocation, mutual penetration, development, the state of everything that moves in both biological and esthetic sense. The important part of the project included the synthesis of various technical means and forms of art.

Lev Nusberg was born in 1937 in Tashkent. His father Voldemar came from the family of German gardeners von Nussberg. He used to work as an architect and took part in building new life in Soviet Turkestan. But in 1938 he was charged with «espionage in favor of a foreign state». From the end of the 1940s Lev and his mother, a singer and technologist Raisa Bespalova, moved to Leningrad. The grandson of V.G. Perov, Roman Alexeevich, and other employees of the Russian museum were the first to notice the talent of the young man and recommended him to the Moscow Art School (1951–1956).

Cyber-romantic kinetic movement of Nusberg fought in two fronts simultaneously: in order to gain recognition in the Soviet culture and to take its rightful place in the world art. In the USSR the group introduced the idea of supposedly applied character of the new trend which could beautify everyday life of the country’s working class, and in the Western press the “Movement” was presented as avant-garde of the new culture and a new vision of the world.

From the interview with Francisco Infante, member of the “Movement” group: «We were friends, we all shared everything we had, analyzed each other’s work. Life was interesting, though we were completely alone. No one did anything of the kind at that time… We have heard of the western kinetic movement – and we adopted the Russian equivalent of the term: "Movement".»

In 1963 the members of the group participated in the Moscow exhibition of “Ornamentalists” with their drawings, gouaches and canvases created strictly on geometrical basis: rhythmic configurations, ornamental rapports and linear schemes with expressed kinetic shadowless effect. All the works had one general feature: their interest to axial symmetry, which, according to Nusberg , was a symbol of harmony regulating the man’s attitude to the infinite. In 1963 first 3D kinetic objects appeared. They were exhibited in the hall, rotating, and were illuminated with color projectors. Mostly they were spherical structures, but they also included shapes made of metal, wood and nylon strings.

“Kinetists” strove to overcome the art of real esthetic objects and static structures. Constructionists of the 1920s understood movement not only as a mechanic phenomenon but also as a form of perception of time and space, movement as a universal notion. Thus Nusberg’s statement appeared supported by the whole group: «I want to work with electro-magnetic fields, with shining and pulsating concentrations in space, with various movements of gases and liquids, with mirrors and optical effects, with changes in temperature and smells… and, of course, with music». In his program of 1965 called «What is kinetic movement?» Nusberg defines kinetic synthesis: «…we demand to use all possibilities and means, both technical and physical, esthetic and chemical phenomena, all sorts of art, all processes and forms of perception, as well as psychic reactions and the influence of different senses of the man, as a means of artistic expression».

The «Movement» group consisting of about 30 members by the end of 60s included, in addition to artists, actors, musicians, engineers, physicists, electronics specialists and psychologists. In 1964-67 the group organized its shows in Russia and abroad. The synthesis demanded by Nusberg was executed mainly on stage, thus preceding the modern art of “performance”. Nusberg himself often looked at kinetic art as the supreme expression of human spirit, as an instrument of perfect harmony between the man and the universe. «Art should follow the principle – to create a certain refuge for harmony and balance in the never-ending chaos of this world».This idealistic esthetics differs much from the majority of Western versions which are much more pragmatic and orientated at actual socially fixed mental schemes. Nusberg’s strange connection of romantic utopia and humanism with experimental research seems to be a specifically Russian feature. In the 1920s the same motive was used in the theories of Malevich, Tatlin and some other utopism representatives, for instance, by the young Soviet architects from the А.S.N.O.V.А (Foundation) group.

In 1968-1972 the “Movement” created colossal urbanistic projects of the future Cyber-state which involved the viewers. The sketch for the kinetic labyrinth 500 meters long was installed only by half. The restdepended on the activity of the viewers. They had to change the idea, complete it or change it depending on their individual or collective reactions to the impulses which were transmitted by different light-kinetic and electric machines.

Despite the domination of social realism in the country the group managed to receive significant orders, for example to decorate industrial exhibitions «Chemistry- 70», «Construction materials-71» and others. In 1967 the group obtained the state order to decorate Leningrad for the 50th anniversary of the October revolution and next year they developed the project of kinetic playground «Flower island» on the Black Sea coast, after which it was officially closed. They still managed to stay afloat for a few more years. However, in 1976 Nusberg emigrated from the USSR, and the group fell apart with his departure. In 1980 in the USA he attempted to recreate the project of biono-cybernetic space but failed.

In 1972 the limited edition “Portfolio Gruppe Bewegung 1972” came out in Germany, and part of the works from it is presented in “Quarta” Gallery. A little later in 1978 another book dedicated to Russian kinetists was published in Germany.

50 years have passed since the foundation of the “Movement” group. Because of the repressions as well as of the problems within the group in the 1970s we have very little information about the creative activity of the group, which turned out to be more famous abroad than in their homeland. «Quarta» gallery provides a unique opportunity to get familiar with the art of Russian kinetists who became the well-deserved successors of Russian constructionists and avant-garde of the 1920s, and you can also become the owner of one of their pieces.