(Re)building a Proun in the metaverse, i.e., as virtually embodied three dimensional architecture, appears to be a question/challenge of capturing what Marcos Novak calls the materially immaterial that comes about as a construct of shifting, contradictory perspectives and components in which the inhabitant avatar's position reigns supreme over the experience; an attempt at building an interchange station that embodies a shift from painting to architecture; or indeed even possibly a reversal of El Lissitzky's original premise - a shift from architecture back to painting. In this case this can be said to be a three dimensionally inhabitable painting whereby I tried to replicate El Lissitzky's architectural drawing/proposition as exactly as I possibly could.

A "Proun" for Avatars
A "Proun" for Avatars
A "Proun" for Avatars
A "Proun" for Avatars

El Lissitzky had created a number of drawings of the construct from multiple viewpoints. When I started (re)building the construct in the metaverse however, it soon became evident that neither the placement of the components or indeed their actual presence in the drawings corresponded to one another: What was there in one drawing was missing in another, and even more intriguing was that oftentimes what appeared to be a straight line from one aspect became a curve in another. The central room, which was present in all of them, turned out to be a huge challenge in and of itself since although it looked like a 90 degree cube in the drawings, when I tried to re-build what I saw I found out that the only way in which I could fit this central element into what surrounded it was to turn it into an irregular trapezoid prism. The more I looked at the drawings and the more I brought together their components in  the metaverse the more I realized that what Lee considers El Lissitzky to have intended was what I was in fact experiencing - a loss of direction, a sense of duality, of being not only one, but instead multiple observers in perpetual motion. Or as El Lissitzky himself wrote: "...the Proun ceases to exist as such and becomes a building surveyed from every direction. The result of this turns out to be the destruction of the single axis that leads to the horizon. Revolving, we are screwed into space. We imparted motion to the Proun, deriving a host of projective axes thereby — we stand between them and displace them."


Note: I also wrote an extended academic text on the Proun 5A project, which will be part of a book that is edited by Gianluca Mura and that will be published by IGI Global in 2015.

This extended text can be read by clicking here.

By the end of 1919, El Lissitzky was making series of drawings of architectonic constructions that held hybrid perspectives which had variable, oftentimes skewed, and contradictory vanishing points. He used construction materials (sand, metal shavings, wood shavings, glass etc) that he mixed into paint to bring about a sense of energy generated by the encounter of these different surfaces, saying that "the element of treatment which we have brought to the fore in our painting will be applied to the whole of this still-to-be-built world and will turn the roughness of concrete the smoothness of metal and the reflection of glass into the outer membrane of the new life."


Shortly afterwards he would call these compositions Prouns (Acronym for 'Project for the Affirmation of the New' in Russian).


The creation of a Proun involved a process in which abstract geometric shapes defined spatial relationships that were developed as 3-dimensional constructs from which El Lissitzky rendered multiple paintings or drawings, often looking at the structure from varying perspectives out of which the series was then generated


The Proun series was essentially Lissitzky's exploration of the visual language of suprematism with spatial elements, utilizing shifting axes and multiple perspectives; both uncommon ideas in suprematism. Suprematism at the time was conducted almost exclusively in flat, 2D forms and shapes, and Lissitzky, with a taste for architecture and other 3D concepts, tried to expand suprematism beyond this. The Prouns spanned over a half a decade and evolved from straightforward paintings and lithographs into fully three-dimensional installations. They would also lay the foundation for his later experiments in architecture and exhibition design. While the paintings were artistic in their own right, their use as a staging ground for his early architectonic ideas was significant. In these works, the basic elements of architecture – volume, mass, color, space and rhythm – were subjected to a fresh formulation in relation to the new suprematist ideals.


Although he was notoriously vague about an exact definition of the term as it relates to the drawings, he did give clues as to what their purpose was, why he was making them. A well known one of these is his proclamation that a "Proun is the interchange station from painting to architecture," a statement which has been also been expanded on by Marcos Novak when he integrated it into his own conception of liquid architecture for cyberspace. "Proun is a transfer station from material to the immaterial."  Born from light and the motion of objects, this notion has elements in common with the space of electronic media. "The liquid architecture of cyber space is clearly immaterial architecture. It is architecture that is no longer satisfied with form, light and the other aspects of the real world. It is an architecture composed of changing relationships between a variety of abstract elements." Or as El Lissitzky himself expressed it in 1921 "We brought the canvas into circles . . . and while we turn, we raise ourselves into the space."

Proun 5A, 1919