Bartram’s Toy Production as a Knowledge Network
Russian collector, art theorist and pedagogue Nikolai Bartram can be classified as an early Soviet avant-garde labor enthusiast. For him, the toy had a double meaning: it represented basic labor processes and pre-existing logistical connections, and it conveyed autonomous knowledge. Bartram boldly reduced the aesthetic and practical side of the toy to this autonomy of knowledge, and following the achievements of pedagogy of the time, proposed his own model of the development of the handicraft. In this model, the proper placement of toys as both instruments of idealization of folk crafts and instruments of proper systematic knowledge of them confronts the logic of capitalism and substantiates a system of interactions between people and things that foreshadows the actor-network approach. Reading Bartram’s texts and considering the toys he developed and the museum he opened as an instrument of social design in the light of the actor-network theory makes it possible both to see the unity of his activity before and after the revolution and to introduce him in the canon of early Soviet avant-garde intellectuals who problematized productive labor through aesthetic means.
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