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The architect Gabor Stark will discuss his project “Black Currency | The Portable Monument,” a circulating tribute to El Lissitzky and Sophie Lissitzky-Kueppers. The talk will be accompanied by a screening of El Lissitzky: A Film of the Life, directed by Alexandra Arkhipova, curator of the Worlds of El Lissitzky competition. “Black Currency | The Portable Monument’ won the first prize in the international design competition Worlds of El Lissitzky, organized by The Siberian Center for Contemporary Arts and The Siberian Center for the Promotion of Architecture in Novosibirsk. Breaking the boundaries between art and life, El Lissitzky (1890-1941) and his wife, Sophie Lissitzky-Kueppers (1891-1978), led a nomadic existence. Traveling between different cities, countries and ideological regimes, while collaborating with the international avant-garde across constantly changing political borders, the Lissitzkys were peripatetic cultural ambassadors of the unstable 20th century.

El Lissitzky’s influence as an artist, architect, designer and theoretician spans an expansive territory covering Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Austria and France. His life and work link places like Pochinok, Vitebsk, Smolensk and Moscow with Darmstadt, Hanover, Berlin, Dresden, Cologne, Locarno, Rotterdam, Vienna and Paris. The art historian Sophie Lissitzky-Kueppers, who followed her husband to the Soviet Union in the late 1920s, was deported to Siberia shortly after El Lissitzky’s death in 1941. Once an active member of the European intellectual circles in Hanover and for several years part of the cultural elite in Moscow, she spent the last decades of her life in relative isolation and died in Novosibirsk in 1978. This double heritage of a creative cosmopolitan culture on the one hand, and of the migratory, sometimes tragic biographies of some of the avant-garde’s most important figures on the other hand, inspired the concept of the circulating artifacts. Instead of erecting one fixed memorial in a particular location, a multiple and migratory object is proposed. The portable monuments reflect the bio-geographical itineraries of both Lissitzkys and pay tribute to the vagrant lives of artists in the first half of the 20th century.

Gabor Stark is an architect, urbanist and educator living and working in and between Berlin, Germany, and Canterbury, England. He teaches as a senior lecturer at UCA Canterbury School of Architecture, where he runs the MA Urban Design course and the postgraduate research and design studio SYN City. Under the working title “precarious propositions” Gabor explores the liminal space between architecture and sculpture. Black Currency is part of this ongoing investigation.

The talk will be accompanied by a screening of El Lissitzky: A Film of the Life (Russian, with English subtitles, 40 minutes), by the kind permission of the M.T. Abraham Foundation. Produced by the Novosibirsk-based Lissitzky Center in 2003, the film was directed by Alexandra Arkhipova.

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