Above: Plasticity in Philidelphia
“Acrobatic study: ‘Pyramid’”
(Above) Figure 2 b
“Acrobatic study: ‘Pyramid’”
c. 1920 Drawing by Osip Engels
Watercolor and pastels. Photo courtesy of Nicoletta Misler.
Plasticity in Arizona
Above: Plasticity in Arizona
Plastika in Halifax
Plasticity in Halifax
Plasticity in Halifax
Plasticity in Halifax
Meg Brooker and student of Duncan Dance South performing at the Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, TN.

Plasticity as the Abstract and Essence of Modernism in the Early Soviet Union

My seminal research as a scholar included the study of indigenous performance techniques such as plasticity, a silent, corporeal language that produces a narrative, sometimes as an inter-woven body and object community. The subsequent narratives accommodate and resist political frameworks from the early Soviet Union to today. I left American higher education for a year in the middle of college to study directing at GITIS. In my course on movements for the stage / сценические движения, our instructors would reference Meyerhold and Stanislavsky together. While English translations depict Stanislavsky as a psychological realist, my readings in Russian at the Art Theatre archive-museum led me to understand him as my instructors of movements of the stage at GITIS described him. My subsequent articles about plasticity and Stanislavsky’s involvement with dance, Isadora Duncan Modernist theories of gesture appear in peer-reviewed journals.

I’ve examined how the same structural form (plasticity) was replicated in the two different fields of science and theatrical arts from 1927-1936. Behaviorist theories seek physical causes for phenomena occurring internally within a studied subject. Absent from many early Soviet behaviorist scientific behaviorist experiments was any demarcation between the studied subject’s internal structure and its surroundings as it was believed that controls in the environment influenced the controlled subject’s development. Such a controlled subject was considered “plastic,” with a capacity for orientation towards an idealized structure in the environment. Within the domain of Soviet behaviorist science plasticity entailed a pliant subject submissive to its environment. On the other hand, on the early Soviet stage plasticity was a technique for actors that resembled (and still does today) modern dance as it involves a harmonious play with objects that express the creative image of the actor; thus, the physical environment on the stage is shaped around the mind. Released in 2021 was Сюзанна Вайгандт, Plasticheskie tela K. Stanislavskogo, T. Lysenko i A. Zalkinda v epokhu sovetskogo bikheviorizma / The Plastic Bodies of Konstantin Stanislavsky, Trofim Lysenko, and Aron Zalkind in the Era of Soviet Behaviorism in Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie / New Literary Observer.

Talk-back with scholars after MLA presentation, Plasticity in Kirill Serebrennikov’s Plasticine (2001): The Visual, Symbolic Language for Silent People of Post-Soviet Transition

The language of transitional people of post-Soviet Russia lacks verbal signifiers to explain new political events. As the site of psychic regression and physical pain, the transitional object of the plasticine is doing the work of stage acting: what in conventional theater would be associated with “drama” and “feeling,” as I describe in “The Structure of Plasticity: Resistance and Accommodation in Russian New Drama,” Issue 1-T229 in TDR: The Drama Review, MIT Press (2016).

main background image for page on Plasticity
Meg Brooker of Duncan Dance South
Queuetopia Modernity and Standing in Lines in the Second World
The Body in Media in the Long 20th-C
Susanna Weygandt, “Theory of Gesture in 1920’s Russian Avant-Garde: Affect and Embodiment in Stanislavsky’s Philosophy.” Stanislavsky Studies, Spring issue (2019).