The Central Institute of Labour (CIT) was established in 1920 by the writer, politician and polymath Alexei Gastev (1882-1939), who was one of the most popular and outstanding proletarian poets of the early post-revolutionary Russia. He was convinced that CIT was his main artistic creation. Fascinated by Taylorism and Fordism, he has led a popular movement for the ‘scientific organization of labor’ (NOT) to represent a Marxian variant of cybernetics. It was Gastev who coined the term Bio-mechanics, which was widely used then in the psychology of labour as well as in the field of theatre, most evidently in the work of producer, director and actor Vsevolod Meyerhold. It was scientific research with an interdisciplinary and broad-ranging agenda. And at the foundation of this approach lay a powerful manmachine metaphor associating, in particular, with the concept of Organoprojection (1919) by Pavel Florensky - Russian Orthodox theologian, philosopher, mathematician and inventor, executed by NKVD in late 1930s.
CIL was extremely unusual institution where the same space was shared by selflessly experimenting old fanatics-inventors and fascinated teenagers. Alongside with physiological laboratory there were laboratories for sensorics, psychotechnics and education. To achieve maximum results a whole bunch of “multimedia” tools and “interactive” gadgets were involved including all sorts of photo and filming techniques, cards with precise instructions, imitating apparatus (cabins of the cars, planes, various control panels) to produce training without the instructor in a very short terms.
During the 1920s, in one of Gastev’s exhibitions, entitled Art of Movement, stereo images demonstrated the physical trajectories of tools, hammers, weapons, the corporeal joints of workers, pianists and sportsmen. Most of this documentary was produced by Nikolai Bernstein(1896–1966) - the Institute’s leading physiologist, who conducted a series of experiments that measured the trajectories and speeds of human limbs, while his subjects performed various labour tasks.
Although by 1938 CIL prepared over 500 000 qualified workers in 200 professions as well as 20 000 instructors of industrial training in 1700 educational centers, the toleration of state officials finished. Alas, the totalitarian State was not interested in the Utopia based on creative network of perfect, socially-engineered Cyborgs with liberated minds. Alexei Gastev was arrested in 1938, his institute was closed, documents were destroyed. Among thousands of other outstanding people, Gastev was executed on 15 April, 1939.