When the Working Group of Constructivists put forth their aesthetic program in 1921, it was famously structured by three “disciplines”—tectonics, faktura, and construction. Whereas the latter two quickly became essential to the literature on constructivism, tectonics has been more difficult to absorb. This paper presents one attempt to reckon with the constructivist usage of the term by situating it within a broader contest of meaning in the first decades of the twentieth century whose participants included Aleksandr Bogdanov’s proto-systems theory of tectology, Alfred Wegener’s theory of continental drift, and Heinrich Wölfflin’s Kunstwissenschaft. Constructivism emerges as a version of aesthetic modernism organized around embeddedness and contingency—one that cultivated an uncannily global outlook by working from a position deeply embedded in local specificity.
Kristin Romberg has been an Assistant Professor of Art History at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, since 2013. Her monograph Gan’s Constructivism: Aesthetic Theory for an Embedded Modernism is forthcoming from University of California Press this year (in 2018). She co-curated the exhibition Architecture in Print: Design and Debate in the Soviet Union, 1919-1934 in 2005 at the Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University, also co-editing the accompanying catalogue. Last year, she was involved in two other curatorial projects. She consulted and wrote for the catalogue of the exhibition Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test at the Art Institute of Chicago and she curated an exhibition of contemporary art at the Krannert Art Museum called Propositions on Revolution (Slogans for a Future).