Communities of Dialogue Russian and Ukrainian Émigrés in Modernist Prague

Conference | Paper

„Борец за право народа в искусстве титанов“. The Elements of Populist Terrorism in Avantgarde Practices and Discourses

Michał Mrugalski

Thursday 23 May 2024

16:00 - 16:45


Velimir Khlebnikov called David Burljuk in a poem a "fighter for the rights of the people in the art of the titans". In my talk, I will explore the overdetermination of the term "titanism" that Khlebnikov alludes to in composing his verse. The term encompasses the public image of both populist terrorists in the Russian Empire and reformers of the arts. In the first part, I reconstruct the imaginary of titanism that was part of the appeal of terrorism. The master narrative of this struggle between the underground and the authorities is the titanomachy. In the second part, using the novels of Stanisław Przybyszewski and Joseph Conrad, I will show how terrorist practices served as models for modernist art: the models found their fullest realization in these factions of the avant-garde, for whom, as for Bakunin in the 1840s and Mickiewicz a decade earlier, destruction was tantamount to divine creation, provided it was selfless and all-encompassing.