Abstract- Margarete Vöhringer

‘Space, not Stones – Nikolai Ladovski's Psychotechnical Laboratory for Architecture, Moscow 1926’

In post-revolutionary Russia, life became an experiment. The Russian Avant-garde regarded the new communist society as a quasi-artistic event and followed the formalist idea of “Art as a method“ for visualization, trying to free the automated perception of the suppressed worker by way of artistic alienation in order to produce an “enlightened Proletarian“. Within this experimental set-up, the Fine Arts were assisted by the life-sciences of the time: psychology, physiology, psychophysics and in the 1920s predominantly, psychotechnics. All these disciplines were to be synchronized in a single central vision: to build a new world for a new, revolutionized human being – which first of all meant to produce new preconditions for visual perception.
My paper will introduce the “Psychoanalytical Method" and the "Psychotechnical Laboratory" of Nikolai Ladovski, an architect at the VChUTEMAS (Higher Artistic-Technical Laboratories) in Moscow. In order to study the visual perception of architecture via lines, angles, volume and space, Ladovski in 1926 installed a series of instruments in a room painted completely black, the so-called "Glasometry" (eye-meter). The reports on his experiments included the measurement factors "attention", "memory", "perception measurements" and "spacial and motorical abilities" - that is, physiological as well as psychological criteria. I will compare Ladovski's experiments on human perception to contemporary experimental practices and thereby contextualize them with the Russian Avant-garde and Applied Sciences. In doing so, I question anew both the objects and agents of the arts and sciences in Soviet Russia and the density of their disciplinary borders. The complicity of psychotechnics with the arts will shed a new light on the latter's function as a means for communication beyond language – and in Ladovski’s case via the perception of space.