Skip to content

iron, glass and revolution

July 9, 2009

Tatlin’s tower, more accurately known as the Monument to the Third International, remains his most famous creation. It was commissioned in 1919 as a monument to the Bolshevik Revolution, which had taken place just two years before. As Lynton observes only in passing, the entire project was undertaken against a background of civil war, food shortage, political terror and epidemic disease (the last of which had killed several of Tatlin’s colleagues by the mid-1920s), so the artist’s bravado was breathtaking. What he planned was to be the tallest structure in the world, and also the most innovative, though elements of Eiffel’s tower in Paris (which Tatlin had seen) and of Athanasius Kircher’s famous seventeenth-century representation of the Tower of Babel were evident in the design. Conceived in deliberate contrast to the lifeless, useless busts and memorials of the previous regime, it was also to be functional, to include a massive conference hall, meeting rooms (the building was to be the headquarters of the Communist International), and a space for projecting films and disseminating messages of brotherhood, harmony and peace (the top tier would also function as a radio mast). The marvels of technology were one theme, but movement was another, so each of the four main function spaces, suspended within an open framework, was designed to rotate, each at a different but predictable speed. In this way, as well as reflecting the dynamism of the dawning age, the building could double as a slow-moving calendar and clock, perhaps even as a means of measuring stars and space. In its restlessness and transparency, the building embodied the democratic challenge to authoritarian power that Tatlin so welcomed. As Viktor Shklovsky, the critic, approvingly observed when he saw Tatlin’s model, ‘The monument is made of iron, glass and revolution.’ (read)

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: