A Still from Dr de Mille’s Presentation

JEMP 2019: Mechanical – Constructing New Territories: Polish-UK Utopias

A talk between Dr Charlotte De Mille, Jane Alden and Wojtek Blecharz

Chaired by Maria Mileeva
The Swiss Church, London
13 Dec 2019

‘Not only the laws of nature, but space and time, and the material universe itself, are constructions of the human mind’ (Unit One, 1934). Ben Nicholson’s re-imagination of international constructivism in a British context was reinvigorated by the arrival of Gabo, Moholy-Nagy, and Mondrian in London between 1936-40. This talk looked at the transfer of ideas and collaborations between Russian, Polish, and British artists as well as architects working with a utopian vision for society, of which Lubetkin’s ‘Penguin Pool’ with Tecton for London Zoo (1934) were perhaps the most eccentric example; while Wells Coates’ Lawn Road Flats (Hampstead) and Strzemiński’s architectural plans for the city of Łódź offered more human interventions.

About Dr Charlotte De Mille

As a curator, writer, lecturer and arts educator, Dr Charlotte De Mille specializes in European modernism, intersections of art, music and philosophy.

Dr Charlotte de Mille curates the music programme for The Courtauld Gallery, where she works for the education department. With them she co-authored ‘Animating Art History’, a joint initiative with Central St Martin’s and the University of the Creative Arts, which was longlisted for a Clore Award in Museum Learning. Receiving her doctorate from The Courtauld Institute of Art in 2009, she has taught at The Courtauld Institute of Art as well as the Universities of Sussex, Bristol, and St Andrews. She also works freelance and is an Honorary Research Associate at The University of Bristol. Recent invitations for public lectures in art and music include Sotheby's Institute of Art, Aldeburgh Festival, and V&A.

About Wojtek Blecharz

Composer and oboist. In 2006, he graduated with honours from the Frederic Chopin Music Academy in Warsaw (Master of Arts), while in 2015 he received a PhD in Music Composition at the University of California San Diego.  Since 2012, Blecharz has been curating the Instalakcje Music Festival at Warsaw’s Nowy Theatre, featuring: sound installations, performance installations, sound sculptures, music videos, and music theatre. He has also directed both of his opera-installations—Transcryptum (2013), commissioned by the Grand Theatre National Opera in Warsaw, and Park-Opera (2016), commissioned by Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw.

During the years, he has received numerous prizes (for the Best Performance of a Contemporary Play in Warsaw/Wałbrzych, 2016), scholarships (‘for perfection in music composition’ at the International Summer Courses for New Music in Darmstadt, for IMPLUS International Composition Competition in Graz) and nominations (among others, for the Passport Award for classical music of the Polityka weekly in 2012, for the PKN Orlen Prize “Poles with Verve” in Art and Culture in 2013, and to the Polish Radio Channel Three Yearly Award “Culture Man of the Year”).

In 2015, a theatre/choir piece with Blecharz’s music Mutter Courage und ihre Hunden […] was acclaimed as one of the best 60 performances in Germany.

He has latterly composed pieces for the Kwadrofonik Ensemble (Warsaw), Forbidden City Chamber Orchestra (Beijing), Klangforum Wien (Vienna), Royal String Quartet (Warsaw), Aviva Endean (Melbourne), International Contemporary Ensemble (New York), Musiques Nouvelles (Brussels). Recently, his works were performed at the Warsaw Autumn Festival, Salzburg Biennale, Museum of Modern Art in Tel Aviv, Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music (Australia), MATA Festival (New York), Mostly Mozart Festival (New York), Klangwerkstadt (Berlin) and others.

Of late, Blecharz premiered his new installation Axis, commissioned by Goethe Institute in Warsaw and Polish Institute in Berlin; composed and directed a new theatre piece entitled SOUNDWORK for 8 actors, commissioned by TR Warszawa; a new piece for Syrian and Western instruments entitled Music for Invisible Places, commissioned by the International Contemporary Ensemble to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Lincoln Center in New York. In October 2016, Blecharz participated in Ari Benjamin Meyers’ 15-day installation at Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, composing daily for 4 hours at the museum. www.wojtekblecharz.com

About Jane Alden

Jane Alden has been appointed Professor of Music at Trinity College, Dublin. Jane Alden's research addresses musical notation and visual culture in the medieval and modern eras, language and translation, experimental music, and public engagement. Her publications include the monograph Songs, Scribes, and Society: The History and Reception of the Loire Valley Chansonniers (Oxford University Press, 2010) and a number of articles on medieval and contemporary topics. With degrees from Manchester University, King’s College, London, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she is active as a singer and conductor, seeing performance as the most effective way to reach out beyond academia to communicate with the wider public. In 2011, she formed the Vocal Constructivists, a London-based group of singers who specialize in performing graphic and text scores. Their first album, Walking Still, is available on the Innova label. https://www.wesleyan.edu/academics/faculty/jalden01/profile.html

About Masha Mileeva

Maria Mileeva is a lecturer in Russian Art, specialising in late 19th– and 20th–century Russian art and international avant-garde networks, with a particular interest in museum histories, cultural politics, and cross-cultural exchange. Her specialist knowledge and professional experience embrace cross-currents of European, Russian, and American art in the first half of the 20th century, with a distinct focus on Russian, German, and East European cultural politics. Maria received a BA in History of Art at the University of Cambridge (2005), and an MA (2006) as well as a PhD (2011) from The Courtauld Institute of Art. Her doctoral thesis examined exhibitions of Western art in the Soviet Union during the 1920s and 1930s with a particular focus on the history of the State Museum of New Western Art (GMNZI), Moscow. Maria has also worked as an Assistant Curator of ‘Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1970’, held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in autumn of 2008. She co-edited and contributed to the bookUtopian Reality: Reconstructing Culture in Revolutionary Russia and Beyond (Brill, 2013).

Since finishing her PhD, Maria has taught at The Courtauld Institute of Art and University College London (UCL). In 2016-17, she was an Associate Researcher in the Faculty of Art History, at the European University, St. Petersburg. She is currently working on her next book project, which focuses on the evolution of Soviet Socialist Realism in art and criticism between 1930 and 1970. She continues to serve as the Co-director of the Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre (CCRAC). https://courtauld.ac.uk/people/maria-mileeva

Part of JEMP: MECHANICAL—an experimental music festival inspired by Polish Constructivism, curated by Kasia Sobucka.

In partnership with Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź

Financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland, within the scope of the Multiannual Program INDEPENDENT 2017-2022, as part of the "Cultural Bridges" subsidy program of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.

Supported by the National Lottery Project Grant of the Arts Council of England

Photo credits: Kasia Sobucka

Jane Alden, Wojtek Blecharz, Masha Mileeva and Dr Charlotte de Mille
Jane Alden, Wojtek Blecharz, Masha Mileeva and Dr Charlotte de Mille
A Still from Dr de Mille’s Presentation
A Still from Dr de Mille’s Presentation