University of Hertfordshire

Revolutionary Evolution of Apes and Humans in the 1920s: Sculpture and Constructs of the New Man at the Moscow Darwin Museum

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMaking the New Man
EditorsNikolai Krementsov, Lyubov Bugaeva
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 15 Mar 2020

Abstract

Revolutionary Evolution in Apes and Humans in the 1920s: Sculpture and Constructs of the “New Man” at the Moscow Darwin Museum
Dr Pat Simpson
Abstract
This chapter explores the contemporary contextual and ideological resonances of a pair of sculptures entitled Age of Life, commissioned by the Darwin Museum in Moscow from the sculptor Vasilii Vatagin in 1926, in relation to discourses relating to aspects of the historical and contemporary constructs of the “New Man”. The sculptures, which now reside on the 2nd floor gallery of the Darwin Museum, represent the stages of life and modes of sociability in humankind and amongst orangutans. Overall, the argument suggests that in relation to their context of production, the representations projected by the sculptures can be argued to respond, in a self-interested way on the part of the Museum, to a complexly interwoven set of key contemporary discourses on: Lamarck, Darwinism, eugenics, “hygenic maternity”, and competing bio-scientific possibilities of “evolutionising” anthropoid apes in the USSR. The chapter concludes that, by doing so, the sculptures also implicitly present images of both apes and human women as “docile bodies”, a concept formulated by Michel Foucault regarding the exertion of institutional and political bio-power over citizens - and in this case also over creatures as well - which was implicitly essential to the evolution of the “New Man” in contemporary terms.

Notes

This chapter relates to my ongoing research project Art and Bio-Politics at the Moscow Darwin Museum 1917-1964, it is an extended version of the keynote paper I gave at the Making the New Man conference, St Petersburg in May 2019. I was also a co-organiser of the conference.

ID: 20523474