Art &Technology
- Russian Futurism

In a booklet of 1922 which summed-up a decade of experiences of the "Zaumniki", Aleksej Kruchenykh (1886-1968) indicated three main aspects of their verbal creations:

1. The most cheerful entertainment

2. The intense phonic technique (instrumentation and making of words)

3. The discovery and deciphering of the riddles of words and of the universe. But all three of these aspects (or principles) of "zaum"' as Kruchenykh understood it were already resent, though still in embryonic form, in U first elaborations, in particular those collected in the brochure "Vzorval" (Explodity), 1913.


Kr dei macelli (1920) (1:35)

Performed by Valerij Voskobojnikov
Recorded February 1977 in Milan
from the LP Futura Poesia Sonora (Cramps Records, Milan)

Here some essential models of transmental language were proposed: in the first place ecstatic gIossolalia: "Emotion cannot be compressed into coagulated words, concepts: the torments of the word are a gnosiological solitude. Hence the tension towards a transmental language, it is to this way of expressing himself that man has recourse in the most solemn moments. Here is a model, the discourse of the 'chlyst' (sectarian) V. Siskov: NOSOKTOS LESONTOS FUTR LIS NATRUFUNTRU... Here the authentic expression of the soul in ebullition, religious ecstasy, is manifest". (Roman Jakobson, too, referred to the verbal sayings of the prophet of the "chlysty", Varlaam Siskov, in his essay on Khlebnikov's poetry, in 1921).

This was the principle underlying Krucenych's poems of consonants, such as the famous "Dyr bull scyl", or composed solely of vowelss: " 0 E U/ 0 U 0/ A E/ E E/ I I/ U J U. Another model presented in that brochure were the Japanese, Spanish and Hebrew poems, the first two groups composed of words without sense which initiated the sounds of the languages in question, while the last consisted of a bad word written with characters imitative of Hebrew script: both types of poem came under the heading of the most cheerful entertainment".

The last aspect of "zai,"', the deciphering of the riddles of words and of the universe, gave rise to the most constant and organic elaboration of Krucenych's poetic work, semantic - transfer (sdvigologija). This was the triumph of Kruchenykh the 'zaumnik", the "Jesuit of words" (as Majakovskij described him), pedant and tireless verbal jugller.

Between the activity of the cubofuturist years (approximately 1912-14) and that of the left wing Moscow futurism (1922-28) lay the most extreme and strange period of Kruchenykhian "zaum"', when he worked at Tiflis (Tbilisi, Georgia) in the years 1917-20. In this period, the most tormented and tragic of the evolution, Krucenych gathered round him poets such as Zdanevic and Terent'ev, Tat'jana Vercorka (Tolstaja) and Katanjan, under the illusion of bringing into being a school of transmental poetry. 'In the midst of so much confusion, Krucenych was the central figure, the epitome of futurism. For the first time in so many years he played the central role, and this gave him wings... It was in the Caucasus that he matured on the theoretical plane, and his subsequent publications in Moscow are the result of the years spent at Tiflis" (Markov).

"Boen-Kr" (which we have translated approximately as "Kruchenykh of the slaughter-houses" is one of the most significant outcomes of these experiments. Nonsense plays an essential role, linking its frenetic sonic inventivity to dadaistic proposals.

Aleksej Eliseevic Kruchenykh was born at Tunductovo in Volinia in 1886 and died at Moscow in 1968. A futurist poet, he was the most deeply committed theoretician of the movement and the author of a number of very important programmatic declarations of Russian futurism. An extreme advocate of "zaum"' (transmental language), and characterized by a proto-dadaist irreverence, he published, with Khlebnikov, numerous collections of poems. Between 1917 and 1920 he headed, at Tiflis, the group of transmentalist poets of the "41st company." Kruchenykh published over 150 volumes of verse, programmatic declarations, polemics, memoirs, his own and of others. Returning to Moscow after 1920, he made a notable contribution to increasing the very limited diffusion of literary texts of the 1920s. Krucenych was the first to break up the wood of words into logs and kindling for burning, and with an indescribable pleasure inhaled the fresh smell of the verbal wood" (Tret'jakov). His 1921 manifesto "Declaration of the transmental language" is an important landmark in the history of sound poetry. Some of his more important publications: "Igra v adu" " (Moscow, 1912-13), Mirskonca" (Moscow, 1912), "Starinnaja ljubov"' (Moscow, 1912), "Pomada" (Moscow, 1913), "Slovo kak takovoe" (Moscow, 1913), "Vzorval"' (St Petersburg, 1913), etc. Also of note, under the phonic aspect, is the theoretical work "Fonetika teatra" (Moscow, 1923).