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The Art Institute of Chicago: PM Designer Jamie Hayes Leads Roundtable Discussion

November 20, 2017 @ 10:00 am - 11:30 am


This fall the Art Insti­tute invited me to acti­vate the exhibit Revoli­ut­siia! Demon­strat­siia! Soviet Art Put to the Test. As part of the exhibit, cura­tors asked differ­ent artists to host an event within the Work­ers Club, a recon­struc­tion of Alek­sandr Rodchenko’s 1925 design, Work­ers Clubs were spaces for leisure and educa­tion for work­ers and their fami­lies located within Soviet facto­ries.


I gath­ered ten activist/artists to discuss the ques­tion: What is the role of the artist/activist in dark polit­i­cal times?” Our group spent the morn­ing discussing our own expe­ri­ences with art and social justice, and the inter­sec­tion of the two.

We talked about the fallacy of think­ing of time and evolu­tion as linear, and also the hubris that artists alone can rein­vent soci­ety. We also talked about the impor­tance of contin­u­ing to make art, polit­i­cal or other­wise, as the act of creat­ing keeps us vibrant and helps us to dream of a better, more just and loving future.

The exhibit explores the role of artists in build­ing soci­ety during the time period imme­di­ately follow­ing the Soviet Revo­lu­tion, and incred­i­bly rich period of art history. This period of Russ­ian Construc­tivism is espe­cially influ­en­tial to my work, not only aesthet­i­cally, but also in terms of the way that Construc­tivist artists consid­ered the whole cycle of produc­tion.



Graphic designs in the exhi­bi­tion

Artists like Stepanova and Popova under­stood the impor­tance of cloth­ing design, and consid­ered the design of the 2-D print in rela­tion to the cut of the cloth­ing to produce 3-dimen­sional shapes on the body. They designed so as to waste as little cloth as possi­ble, work­ing directly with textile mills to inte­grate the surface pattern design with the patterns used to cut the cloth.


Textile by Popova


Textile by Stepanova

They also under­stood fashion’s role in creat­ing iden­tity within soci­ety. In fact, already in the early 1920s, they were using design to ques­tion and subvert gender and class roles.


Designs by Varvara Stepanova

It was a time when the “lesser arts” like cloth­ing and textile design were consid­ered to be of the utmost impor­tance because of their preva­lence through­out soci­ety and due to the intense amount of human and natural resources required to produce cloth­ing. In addi­tion, gender equity was a pillar of the revo­lu­tion, so  tradi­tion­ally “femi­nine” arts like cloth­ing design, as well as female artists like Stepanova and Popova,  were well respected at the time. IMG_8553

The exhibit runs through Janu­ary 15, 2018.

Thank you to Annemarie Strassel, Abigail Glaum-Lath­bury, Ayesha Jaco, Damon Locks, Hoda Katebi, Char­lie Vinz, Eve Fine­man, Megha Rala­p­ati, & Terri Kapsalis for join­ing me in the discus­sion.


November 20, 2017
10:00 am - 11:30 am