Russian artist El Lissitzky’s Proun Room (1923), another exemplary work of the Constructivist movement, is an installation of dynamic abstract forms—primarily rectangles—that appear to float, propelling the viewer around the space. Lissitzky and other Constructivists sought to “activate” the viewer, thereby awakening a mass consciousness. Similarly, Lissitzky’s Abstract Cabinet (1927–28), made for the Landesmuseum of Hannover, Germany, but destroyed in World War II, was a modular space that actually responded to the viewer’s participation. The walls, constructed of a series of vertical laths, would change in appearance as the viewer walked by, from dark to light and back again.
Alexander Rodchenko would craft objects from a similar impulse, such as his “Spatial Constructions” (1918–21), which consist of concentric geometric shapes. When suspended from the ceiling, the “Spatial Construction” transforms from a flat, two-dimensional artwork into a kinetic sculpture responsive to its environment.
This kind of experimentation with activating a viewer—and, by extension, the masses—would go well beyond the space of the art museum. Constructivism made leaps and bounds in the field of graphic design, primarily at the hands of Rodchenko, who advocated for the incorporation of avant-garde art activity into everyday life. Rodchenko’s bold designs, using stark geometric forms and striking diagonal lines, were used in propaganda posters, such as his famous Books (Please)! In All Branches of Knowledge poster, made in 1924. The photograph of a woman shouting the titular cry appears within a frame of crisp, linear forms that extend outward, giving the artwork a sonic dimension.