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Constructivism and Deconstructivism

Cultural Perspectives

Constructivism was a system of beliefs that originated in Russia during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Architect, painter, and sculptor Vladimir Tatlin (1885–1953) wanted to replace the traditional contemplative functions of art with an approach that would engage the masses. He and others envisioned a “construct” of art and architecture as an expression of emerging modernism and extended this proposal to their materials, which were to convey clarity and truth, reflecting emerging technologies of the new machine age. Tatlin’s investigations provided fresh approaches for state art used in propaganda and advertising. His influence extended to major trends such as the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements.

Tatlin’s Tower, a design for the monument and headquarters of the Comintern (Third International), combined a machine aesthetic with dynamic additions celebrating technology, such as searchlights and projection screens. Artists immediately hailed this work in Germany as a revolution in art. Colleagues George Grosz and John Heartfield are shown in a 1920 photograph holding a placard that reads “Art is Dead—Long Live Tatlin’s Machine Art.” The tower was never constructed due to Russia’s financial crisis after the revolution.

Deconstructivism followed the rise of post-modernist movements of the late 1950s, spawned by a negative reaction to the perceived dehumanizing effects of modernist architecture, art, and minimalist thinking. Post-modernist philosophers, architects, sculptors, and visual artists rejected the celebration of the machine and returned to a semiotic analysis of natural structures. They probed internal and external characteristics of form, “deconstructing” objects to reassemble their components without tampering with their individuality. Hallmarks of the movement are controlled chaos and asymmetrical approaches to design.

Two main branches of modernism—functionalism and rationalism—were overturned in favor of a reinstatement of ornamentation, historical allusion, and symbol. An expanded semantics of signs was applied to existing pragmatic architecture to add a richness of intent that modernism had discarded.

Deconstruction in cooking involves changing the appearance of ingredients used in a dish, while remaining faithful to and even reinforcing the recipe flavors. The results are radically different in the way the elements are presented, but the diner is able to “reconstruct” the original in his “taste memory.”

Migas are a traditional Mexican breakfast dish consisting of fried corn tortilla strips, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, chilies, and eggs. This elegant “deconstruct” by Kim Bultman is simple to prepare and delicious!

Deconstructed Migas
1 tbsp. butter
1 corn tortilla
1 egg, poached
1/3 c. tomato/onion salsa of choice
2 tbsp. sour cream
Paprika (smoked if available) and chives
for garnish


Melt butter in a small skillet until sizzling. Add corn tortilla. Fry until crisp on both sides; set aside to drain on paper towels. Poach an egg in boiling, salted water. Place tortilla on a plate and a mound salsa in the center. Top with a poached egg and sprinkle with smoked paprika.

Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and chives on the side.


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