I spent several hours yesterday afternoon in the wonderful Tate Modern on London’s South Bank. The big pull was the Rodchenko & Popova exhibition, Defining Constructivism. Being interested in things Russian, this was a fascinating enquiry into Constructivism’s attempt to do art under the newly-formed revolutionary socialist Soviet Union – functional, abstract and pragmatic. Or not.

Trotsky cardThe exhibition has to be viewed as if we were back in the 1920s and not with the benefit of 2009 hindsight. The revolution was precarious; there was no gurantee it would survive; there was massive economic upheaval and poverty was awful across Russia. We know what happened as the twentieth century rolled on, but the Constructivists did not. It is a fascinating exhibition and worth a visit. (Although, given that so much of the exhibits contain words in Russian, it is odd that no translation is provided. In some cases the exhibit cannot properly be understood without an understanding of the content.)

TrotskyHowever, that aside, I was also reminded that Nicky Gumbel wasn’t the first to write a book called ‘Questions of Life’ with a big question mark on it.

Leon Trotsky wrote his Voprosi Byta (bizarrely translated at Tate Modern as ‘Questions of Everyday Life’) in 1923. Not surprisingly, he doesn’t come to the same conclusions as the Alpha Course.