Despite its presumed association with the documentary impulses found in Europe and the Americas, Soviet factography, which flourished between 1924 and 1931, in fact bears little resemblance to these other movements. Its fleeting sketches, or ocherki, were a far more elusive genre than conventional documentary, closer to avant-garde experimentalism than to socialist realist didacticism. This talk pursues two inquiries, one formal-literary and one media-theoretical: first, that of defining the fugitive and enigmatic inscriptions of the factographers stylistically; and second, that of understanding how, through a process that Sergei Tret¹iakov called vzaimoinformatsiia (reciprocal information), these ocherki were supposed to serve as the basic cells of the collective brain of the revolution. Drawing upon the writings of the early systems theorist Aleksandr Bogdanov, contemporaneous philosophies of emergence, and theorizations of distributive intelligence, this talk will raise the question of what kind of social machine (Latour), or revolutionary metaorganism, the factographers hoped to produce.
Devin Fore received his PhD in German from Columbia University in 2005, and joined the faculty at Princeton after a year teaching as a Mellon postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities. He has been awarded grants from the Social Science Research Council, the Fulbright, Humboldt and Whiting Foundations, and was the Anna Maria Kellen Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin in 2008-2009. His first book, Realism After Modernism: The Rehumanization of Art and Literature (MIT/October Books, 2012) examines the returns of mimetic realism in German cultural production from the late 1920s into the Popular Front era with chapters on Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Carl Einstein, Bertolt Brecht, John Heartfield, Ernst Jünger and the industrial novel (Erik Reger, Franz Jung and Brecht). His forthcoming book All the Graphs: Soviet Factography and the Emergence of Avant-Garde Documentary, situates the work of the operative writer Sergei Tret’iakov within the material culture of early the Soviet period. He is also editing and writing an introduction for the English translation of Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge’s History and Obstinacy (forthcoming from Zone Books in 2013). Fore has published articles in the journals New German Critique, October, Configurations and Grey Room, and has also translated a number of texts from both German and Russian. Fore is an Associate Faculty member of the Princeton Slavic Department and an Affiliated Faculty Member of the Program in Media + Modernity. He is an editor of October, and a contributing editor to New German Critique and Germanic Review.