Sims Reed Rare Books×

A Catalogue of Superobjects - Supercomfort for Superpeople

Komar & Melamid

New York. Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. 1977
The superb, subversive photographic portfolio satirising capitalism and communism.

From the edition limited to 100 copies - only 56 were in fact produced - with each photograph with label verso stamped by the artists and numbered and signed by the publisher; the work is not signed by the artist themselves for obvious reasons.

'The Socialization of the Modern World is a reality.' (Komar & Melamid).

The Russian conceptual art dissidents and collaborators Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid were trained originally - as were all of their peers - as painters in the Socialist Realist tradition. Increasingly disenchanted with a regime and society that they felt oppressive, the two were expelled from the Artists’ Union for the crime of 'distortion of Soviet reality' in 1973. In 1974 the pair were arrested and had work, together with other nonconformist artists, destroyed by the government in what became known as the 'Bulldozer Exhibition'. The pair began to receive international recognition and were invited in 1977 to hold an exhibition in New York at the Ronald Feldman Gallery.

'A Catalogue of Superobjects - Supercomfort for Superpeople', presented here, was the subversive and satirical photographic portfolio that resulted, produced in Komar and Melamid’s absence from smuggled negatives printed in the US. The artists, as one might expect, were refused permission to attend by a Soviet regime that was unappreciative of others’ efforts to satirise it and that despite the inherent ironies - 'distortion of Soviet reality' indeed - in its own syntax. The portfolio, a distorted and satirical re-imagining of an American sales catalogue, describes fantastical consumer articles, devices and products, all linked distinctly to a time with a strong Cold War flavour. The 'Charog-15', for example, a metallic face-grill, will 'protect the purity of your thoughts', the obvious imprecation of thought crime and mental or ideological pollution is implied, while the 'Kniliya', a desk hung from the neck is 'the way to Phenomenal Erudition! that keeps you together with food for thought'. All of the depicted objects highlight and satirise both untrammelled consumerism, repressive social hegemony on the one hand and, from a perspective of all being equal but some being more equal than others, unbridled social ambition, on the other.

'By trying to be like everyone else, the ruling class has obliterated the elite and the intellectual divide between it and the masses. The result is the mindless, semi-literate, economic and cultural policy of the governments of Europe … The task today is to create a NEW ARISTOCRACY in place of the old one which has destroyed the legacy of our ancestors … The catalogue being offered to you is of ‘Objects’, developed by the Celebrated Artists at the End of the Second Millenium A.D., Moscow … These are ‘Objects’ which correspond to the principles of Ideological Design, ‘Objects’ invested with New-Traditionalistic functions; ‘Objects’ of SUPERCOMFORT intended for the Ruling Elite and called upon to divide society into those who use these ‘Objects’ and all the rest.' (From Komar & Melamid’s introduction).

The full range of items is as follows:
I. Prestigeants: 1. Alton; 2. Olo; 3. Stong*.
II. Sensationizers: 4. Ksushna; 5. Zig-Gims; Zig-Gims 420; 7. Khaasha*; 8. Model Khaasha-703.
III. Clotheables: 9. Iy-Ediy; 10. Pira-Ediy*; 11. Dress for the ‘Proud Solitude’ Dance*; 12. Spirit*.
IV. Cultivatents: 13. Kashpo-Telozemlyatsvetok.
V. Defendibles: 14. Tirsak.
VI. Auto-Probes: 15. Dikliotik; 16. Charog-15*; 17. Udam; 18. Khudam*; 19. Tyairp; 20. Ovyiorly.
VII. Communicizers: 21. Pekuliya*; 22. Korchuga*; 23. Udam-12.
VIII. Energy-Loss Abaters: 24. Electro-Pliss; 25. Electro-Pliss Model YE-2.
IX. Furniture to Wear: 26. Booft; 27. Kniliya*; 28. Laledosius.
X. Floorists: 29. Small Sterdak*; 30. Large Sterdak; 31. Kyurgol -16; 32. Dylo-2; 33. Dylo-2 (Supporting Part); 34. Oveltuy; 35. Small Dungan*; 36. Boldalyon.

[for an extensive analysis see Ksenya Gurshtein's 'Utopia by Mail: Komar and Melamid's A Catalogue of Superobjects: Supercomfort for Superpeople', 2014].
Folio. (274 x 228 mm). Leaf with title, leaf with introductory text, 10 leaves with section titles and 36 original colour photographs (8” x 10” or the reverse), each with label verso with number, the artists’ stamp and publisher’s signature, each within protective transparent plastic sleeve and accompanied by leaf of descriptive text, final leaf with justification. Loose as issued in original grey cloth paper-lined box, artist's red stamp to inside of lid, with original brown paper outer wrapper with matching number to that of the copy in pencil.