The World Tree in Socialist Cosmology. Part III (of IV)

Bild 3.jpgCreated by Ivan Simakov (1877-1925), the Soviet poster from May Day 1921 is like a synthesis of Crane’s picture and the cover to Mother Earth.* The colours in Simakov’s image are bright and clear and dominated by red and green. The world tree has been cleaved into two; the one and only magnificent tree, an ash-tree perhaps, has been substituted by two common birches. Between these birches stand a male and a female peasant. In front of the sun they raise the hammer and the sickle. The sun is not rising; it is already high in the sky. The tree supports stabilize and signify order, but it is the sun – and industrial and agrarian labour – that is the guarantee for prosperity and happiness. The place for the incarnation of the non-place (u-topia) is apparently on Soviet soil.

* Reproducerade in David King (2009). Red star over Russia: a visual history of the Soviet Union from 1917 to the death of Stalin, p. 129.

The World Tree in Socialist Cosmology (part II of IV)

My second example is the cover of the very first issue from 1906 of renowned anarchist Emma Goldman’s journal Mother Earth. At a verdant tree stands a young man and woman, maybe Ask and Embla. At the roots of the tree lays the fetters that they have just liberated themselves from. The man salutes the rising sun. They are both naked and the era seems to be simultaneously before the birth of civilisation and after its termination.

bild 2Despite the fact that Walter Crane now and then played with baccantic motives and portrayed ludic games out in the wild, the more carnal aspects of the thiasos were alien to the nature of his art. Likewise, the humans on this cover (by an unknown artist) lack any sense of sinfulness. Yet, the cover image, with the erected tree between the seperated lands, easily opens up for interpretations of a sexual sort. In any case, some kind of emancipated, physical senusalism is cherished. Reinforcing these arcadian qualities is the fact that whilst Crane  maintained a hierarchical order, with the tree in the middle of the image, the visual “movement”  on the cover is rather horizental: the glance of the viewers drift away from tree and mankind. The tree trunk may be pleasant to lean against, but it is the distant rising sun  – and the utopian land its brings with it – that is the true centre of the world.