And people did look. While the porcelain figurines were only owned by a select few within the country, they were a mainstay of the national press, shop windows, and art exhibitions. Their small size, non-threatening nature, and meticulous attention to detail “made these figurines familiar objects of Soviet pride,” writes Kiaer. Other works in the exhibition also testify to women’s hoped-for revolutionary power, including a pair of lithographs by Aleksandr Deineka, one that shows a woman being beaten by her husband before the revolution, and another image that shows a group of mostly women gathering for a meeting likely to decide their new future collectively after.
Despite this show of unity, some who wanted to craft the ideal Soviet home life were actually men who didn’t spend much time doing domestic labor. The leftist desire to liberate society from bourgeois norms and women from the burden of laundry, cooking, and other forms of unpaid home labor, notes Kiaer, was entwined with the misogynistic idea that women themselves, attached to traditions of the bourgeois world, also embodied what needed to be rooted out.
This led to the creation of some design objects that were more ideologically pure than actually practical, like a table designed by Ivan Morozov. In a quest for flexibility and to reduce clutter of household objects, the table had “moveable flaps,” writes Kiaer. But the design required plates and other precious objects to be hidden away and strapped down, constantly under threat of being destroyed—a “potent embodiment of Construvisist impatience with the feminine clutter of byt
.” Women, of course, knew better. Kiaer points to an article by Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers, wife of artist
. She wrote for a magazine of the time that “our architects should seek the advice of homemakers.”
Ultimately, “Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia!” does not compliment or condemn this revolutionary rethinking. Rather, it is a window into the struggles of those who tried to shape a vision of how the world should appear. Of course, that aspiration often differed drastically from the world that did materialize. Even so, one can’t help but admire the relentless questioning and the importance of artists in actively modeling a new world 100 years later.