In 1912, Vasily Kandinsky stated that his painting had become “abstract”. So what did he mean by this?
First of all, he was distinguishing it from being “figurative”. He did not paint an apple to look like an apple. He saw the apple and had sensations or impressions of its colour and its shape, of its redness and its roundness. Red-roundness are what would have appeared on his canvas.
These are the qualities of things. Abstract art is the painting of qualities, of what gives essence to all the things of the world, of their relationships, of movement and their kinds, of contrasts, of all those aspects that make an object particular and unique.
Such qualities are what Kandinsky observed in his looking around in the world, and then he took the next step – to be aware of his own very personal reactions to his observations of qualities. He called them his “impressions” and in the case of colours he could describe his reactions to them, such as “shrill canary yellow”.
And since the spectator can experience all these things, an abstract painting may have an abundance of sense impressions, as Kandinsky called them, to which he gave shape and colour.
So these sense impressions can be used to paint a picture since qualities are their vehicle. They thus become the source of the spectator’s experience of a painting.
[Kandinsky . Complete Writings on Art. Edited by Kenneth C. Lindsay and Peter Vergo. Volume. One, London, Faber and Faber, 1982.]
Strictly speaking, the trend of Constructivism in Russia applies to three-dimensional works, with the creative principles drawn from architecture, engineering and technology. These are the elements of building and structure, and they include the vertical, horizontal and diagonal, the curved and straight line, volume, stability and weight, tension and all manner of forces as they manifest through materials. These principles are found in the qualities, the nature, of materials and in their relationships, from the stresses of steel girders and rods of a suspension bridge to the forces generated by turning wheels. These are what a number of Russian avant-garde artists were exploring in the works they designated as “Construction” – creating with the principles – and as “Constructivism” – applying the principles to specific purposes. Constructivism dates from 1920, although it was generally acknowledged that the creative premises of Construction had originated with the Reliefs of Vladimir Tatlin from 1913, who had been inspired by those of Picasso which he had seen in Paris.
In the lecture he gave on New Russian Art in 1922 in Berlin, El Lissitzky contended that there was also a Constructivism of painting and materials, saying that there were two streams in Constructivism. They had originated in the art schools – the First State Free Art Studios, the former Stroganov School of Decorative Art, in Moscow and the UNOVIS group at the Practical Art Institute in Vitebsk, and both groups had created exhibitions in 1921, opposite. This is how Lissitzky depicted Constructivism –
“Now comes the period of construction…. Two groups claimed constructivism. the Obmokhu (the brothers Stenberg, Myeduneyesky, Yoganson, and others) and the Unovis (Syenkin, Chasnik, Klutsis, Ermolayeva, Khedekel, Kogan, Noshov, and others led by Malevich and Lissitzky). The former group worked in material and space, the latter in material and a plane. Both strove to attain the same result, namely the creation of the real objects and of architecture. They are opposed to each other in their concepts of the practicality and utility of created things. Some members of the Obmokhu group … went so far as a complete disavowal of art and in their urge to be inventors, devoted their energies to pure technology. Unovis distinguished between the concept of functionality, meaning the necessity for the creation of new forms, and the questions of direct serviceableness. They represented the view that the new form is the lever which sets life in motion, if it is based on the suitability of the material and on economy [using the least amount of energy]. This new form gives birth to other forms which are totally functional, and through them it is itself enriched, modified and further developed.” (In Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers, El Lissitzky Life • Letters • Texts, 1968, 340)
The first exhibition using the name “Constructivists” would have been in Moscow in January 1922, and its creators were the Stenberg brothers, Vladimir and Georgii, and Konstantin Medunetsky. They had preceded this exhibition with their participation in the May 1921 show of the Society of Young Artists, OBMOKhU, a group of students and a teacher, Aleksandr Rodchenko, from the First State Free Art Studios; included was also Karl Ioganson. This group demonstrated ideas that were the subject of on-going discussions with those teaching in Moscow at the time and meeting in the Institute of Artistic Culture, INKhUK, notably Rodchenko, Liubov Popova and Varvara Stepanova, as well as Alexei Gan, in which the students participated. The First Working Group of Constructivists was formed and met between March and May 1921 where the premises of construction were discussed, notably the tectonic – the laws of building and construction – and of texture, called faktura in Russian, leading to their application in works now called Constructivism. (For publication of the debates see Selim Khan-Magomedov, The Complete Works of Rodchenko, The MIT Press, 1987, 90ff.)
Together with Hans Arp, El Lissitzky had compiled a little book on the modern trends in 1924 titled, The Isms of Art, and the section on Constructivism opened with a page on Tatlin, followed by one on the OBMOKhU exhibition with an architectural project., to close with one on Gabo. Despite the differences in style, all these artists were working with the same principles of building. Gabo even wrote later that he and his brother, Antoine Pevsner, had not been constructivists, rather “We called ourselves constructors from the Russian word postroyenia meaning construction. Instead of carving or moulding a sculpture of one piece we built it up into space out of our imagination in the same way as an engineer does when he builds a construction.” And this may be a most succinct understanding of the meaning of “constructivism” in Russia in the early 1920s.
The works of all these artists made a great sensation in Berlin in 1922 when they were shown at the 1st Russian Art Exhibition at the Galerie Van Diemen. This was Russian Constructivism in its several forms, to soon develop into Production art, the principles applied to the design of utilitarian objects. The aim was to bring “art into life”.
View of the 1st Russian Art Exhibition, which originated at the Van Diemen Galerie in Berlin in October 1922 , installed in May 1923 in Amsterdam at the Stedelijk Museum. Works, left to right: V. Tatlin Counter Relief, Gabo Torso, El Lissitzky (2 Prouns), Gabo Head of a Woman, Rodchenko Spatial Constructions, hanging.
Constructivist Artists – among the most prominent: Vladimir Tatlin • El Lissitzky
UNOVIS School – Liubov Popova • Alexander Vesnin • Alexandra Exter • Aleksandr Rodchenko • Konstantin Medunetsky • Karl Ioganson • Georgii Stenberg • Vladimir Stenberg • Antoine Pevsner • Naum Gabo
Aero Proun 17N, 1922/1925
In Lissitzky’s inventory, today in the archives of the Getty Research Institute, which Sophie Küppers had compiled and sent to the artist in February 1924, there are two entries for the Aero Proun. One is No. 13, Proun 17N, the painting, which is signed and dated on the back, 1922/25. The other is No. 18 Aero Proun, the watercolour, on the back of which is written, “Aero”. Being the same composition they can thus be cross-identified.
First pages of El Lissitzky, List for El Lissitzky, February 1924. In the archives of the Getty Research Institute, Malibu, California
The aero car caught the imagination of many, Lissitzky mentioned the monorail in 1920 in “suprematism in world reconstruction”, and he created his own Aero Proun in 1922, No. 18 in the inventory List for El Lissitzky (above). The watercolour was exhibited in the Dusseldorf International Exhibition and published in that year in the Hungarian journal, MA. The painting may have been listed as Proun 17 in the catalogue of the January 1924, El Lisstizky, Display of Work 1919-23 / Schau der Arbeit 1919-23 at the Graphisches Kabinett J. B. Neumann, Berlin, or as No. 13 – Proun 17N if some of the numbers refer to the inventory list, as has been proposed in the interpretation of the inventory in El Lissitzky, Harvard, 1987, but the anomalies give reason to doubt this, or at least question its consistency. The painting has only recently come to light due to the fact that it has been in a private German collection since it was purchased sometime after 1925, and this is why it has escaped being mentioned in the literature until today.
Reproduction of Aero Proun, watercolour, in the Hungarian journal, MA, 1922.
Proun 17 N. (Aero Proun Aquarelle), 1922. Pencil, black ink, pen, gouache, watercolor, 36.5 x 26.5 cm. image). Kunstmuseum Moritzburg, Halle (Saale).
Reproduction of Lissitzky, Aero Proun, in Buch Neuer Kunstler / Book of New Artists, edited by L. Kassak and L. Moholy-Nagy, 1922
Proun 17N (Aero Proun), 1922/25. Private Collection, Paris
The Aero Proun
The Aero Proun was constructed according to the principles of the construction of the Proun.
Using axonometric projection, Lissitzky has depicted the Aero Car from two points of view at the top of the painting, one seen straight on and the other as if it were turning in space as the rail curved round, integrating the static and movement. We are seeing the Aero Car by looking at it from fairly close by and by turning. The rails are juxtaposed, presumably to indicate several directions of travel, and a notice for the watercolour in the Kunstmuseum Moritzburg in Halle says: “A dark ellipse is crossed by two spatial diagonals (below in the golden section) coming from the top right and is repeated by an ellipse-shaped segment below and by a red curved line above left. Two right angles meet in the golden ratio at the upper edge of the picture in the background.”
This dark ellipse may recall the large bulbous shape of the Aero Car in the photograph of Francis Lauer, now depicted as a shadow on the ground below. Lissitzky was thus pulling the space apart by juxtaposing the sizes of elements – the shadow and the car, the car being smaller at the bottom and at a distance as it has travelled along the rails. Lissitzky had remarked on the “special importance” of scale, saying that it is what “gives life to relationships in space…. it holds all the parts together” (“suprematism in world reconstruction”, 1920), and is an application of the law of contrast.
The colours on the painting are related to forces and materials. The “red curved line” at the top would, according to the practice not only of Lissitzky but also Liubov Popova and Aleksandr Rodchenko, indicate the sweep of an electrical current, while the blue curving lines would suggest magnetic forces, again as Popova and Rodchenko also employed in numerous works. Both red and blue lines travel along curves, which themselves designate forces, the whole hovering over a plane of light, luminosity of the air.
The “spatial diagonals” are the steel and iron girders of the pylons along which the cars will travel, while these cars are white, grey and black, presumably aluminium, steel and possibly iron.
In the 1922 Dusseldorf catalogue it was said that the Aero Proun was, “One of the stops or connecting stations from painting to architecture that, in the medium of painting and drawing material, volume, mass and rhythm, condense into a constructive architectural utopia.”
These “stops or connecting stations” between painting and architecture have parallels in designs of Lauer’s invention, which were published in the Swiss-Dutch magazine, ABC, in 1926, to which Lissitzky was a contributor – and a close friend of one of the editors, Mart Stam. The article was titled, “Der Aerocar Paris-St. Denis”, and Lissitzky most probably knew these technical drawings which could have been an inspiration for his Aero Proun.
Travelling over cities was a popular idea in the early 1900s, and there were even proposals to swing cables and flying cars above the skyscrapers of New York City. Between 1917 and 1923, several projects were under consideration for the installation of monorails on hanging airways.
El Lissitzky’s AERO PROUN 17N is a fine illustration of the application of the principles of construction, and a demonstration of this architect-constructor’s exceptional creative imagination. It is timely, modern, and futuristic. .
Note on the Pigments
Living between Russia and Germany since his student days studying architecture at the Darmstadt Technische Hochschule (1909-1914), El Lissitzky (1890-1941) was active in the Constructivist movement especially in Germany through the 1920s. His Constructivism merged the principles of construction – notably materials and forces as they create forms in the space of Suprematism, this innovation in painting of Kazimir Malevich which had so influenced how LIssitzky had turned three-dimensional architectural structures, which he called Projects for the Affirmation of the New – PROUN – Proekt utverzhdeniia novogo – in an illusionary space of vastness. As he wrote in 1920,
“Combining the effects of the various forces produces a new kind of result in the Proun. We saw that the surface of the Proun ceases to be a picture and turns into a structure round which we must circle, looking at it from all sides, peering down from above, investigating from below…. Circling round it, we screw ourselves into the space. We have set the Proun in motion….” (“PROUN Not world visions, BUT – world reality”, 1920)
Using architectural projections, Lissitky turned the two-dimensional into the three-dimensional, where every Proun painting is dynamic because the spectator’s imagination is active and creates forms and effects of movement in space.
Lissitzky had been invited by Mark Chagall, director of the Practical Art Institute in Vitebsk, to teach there in 1918, where he was appointed head of architecture and graphic design. In late 1919, Kazimir Malevich arrived at the school, on Lissitzky’s initiative, to teach the modern trends, Cubism, Cubo-Futurism and Suprematism. and these trends provided the artistic basis of Lissitzky’s Proun paintings. These paintings were set in vast architectural spaces, and he also adapted architectural materials to function as painterly materials. Thus Lissitzky integrated painting and architecture, materials and space, the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional. And Lissitzky’s sources of inspiration were the city with its buildings, its materials, its modern iron and steel structures from bridges to skyscrapers, to electricity and “underground metro underground monorail electricity transmitted under the ground and above the ground”, as he wrote in 1920 (opposite). With the Prouns, Lissitzky created the constructivist city.
Going to Berlin in 1922 to collaborate on the 1st Russian Exhibition of Art at the Galerie Van Diemen, Lissitzky entered the artistic milieux of International Constructivism in Germany, and until 1927 was exhibiting regularly there, after which time he turned to the design of large international trade exhibitions. From the Constructivist exhibitions his work was sold to collectors and museums, and as his fame grew he was commissioned by various firms such as Pelikan inks to provide graphic designs for their products. He also created books and posters, adapting the structural innovations of his Constructivist Proun paintings to new Constructivist graphic design. Versatile and with an ingenious imagination, El Lissitzky was one of the major Constructivist creators of the 1920s.
Exhibitions of Prouns, 1921 – 1927
1921 December – UNOVIS exhibition, Moscow
1922 May – First International Exhibition of Modern Art / Erste Internationale Kunstausstellung, Dusseldorf May 29-30 – International Congress of Progressive Artists – Dada and Constructivism October – 1st Russian Exhibition of Art, Galerie Van Diemen, Berlin
1923 Spring – 1st Russian Art Exhibition, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam June – El Lissitzky, Kestnergesellshaft, Hanover Spring – Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung, Berlin. Proun Room November – Konstrucktivisten, Galerie von Garvens, Hanover: Moholy-Nagy, Lissitzky, Baumeister, Schlemmer
1924 January – El Lisstizky, Schau der Arbeit 1919-23 / Display of Work 1919-23, Graphisches Kabinett J. B. Neumann, Berlin Sept-Oct. – Internationale Kunstausstellung. Gesellschaft zur Forderung moderner Kunst, Vienna 1925 May-June – Ausstellung 1925, Wiesbaden Winter – El Lissitzky, Kühn and Kühl, Dresden
1925-1926 – June to May, in Russia
1926 – January – Lissitzky / Man Ray / Mondrian, Galerie Neue Kunst Hans Goltz, Munich El Lissitzky – Galerie Neue Kunst Hans Goltz, Munich June-September – International Art Exhibition / Internationale Kunstausstellung, Dresden Room for Constructivist Art 10th Anniversary Exhibition of the Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover / Ausstellung Hannoverscher Kunst, Hannover
1927 – January-March – Wege und Richtungen der abstrakten Malerei in Europa, Kunsthalle, Mannheim Spring – Abstract Cabinet, Provinzialmuseum, Hanover
The Proun City, a Constructivist City
New engineering and technologies were providing new materials and new possibilities in architectural construction and the urban environment, something greatly exploited in cities such as New York and Chicago, and in numerous European cities. They had captured the imagination of architects, designers and scientists that had given rise to many publications which were widely informing its readers. El Lissitzky was one of them, and even an editor of such magazines in Germany as Vesch/Gegenstand/Objet and G (Gestaltung / Form), and a contributor to the Swiss-Dutch, ABC – Beiträge zum bauen / Contributions to Building. Art magazines published by the International Constructivists from Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Hungary carried reproductions and articles, and these publications stimulated the imaginations and inspired new creations from Russia to Paris. Lissitzky was among the creators and his Proun paintings were architectural structures that incorporated not only views of the city but its new technologies and inventions, new materials and the capturing of new forces such as electricity. As Lissitzky summed it up in 1920 in “suprematism in world reconstruction” –
“This dynamic architecture provides us with the new theatre of life and because we are capable of grasping the idea of a whole town at any moment with any plan. The task of architecture – the rhythmic arrangement of space and time – is perfectly and simply fulfilled for the new town will not be as chaotically laid out as the modern towns of north and south america but clearly and logically like a beehive. The new 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 transform the roughness of concrete the smoothness of metal and the reflection of glass into the outer membrane of the new life. The new light gives us new colour and the memory of the solar spectrum will be preserved only in old manuals on physics. This is the way in which the artist has set about the construction of the world….”
So in his new commitment, Lissitzky declared, “We have set ourselves the task of creating the town. The centre of collective effort is the radio transmitting mast which sends out bursts of energy into the world.” (“suprematism in world reconstruction”) Thus the Proun paintings were created according to architectural principles, their substance was building materials conveyed through colour, and their forms were determined by the forces that generated them, moving in space.
The Architectural Projections
In his creation of the Proun paintings, Lissitzky focused on various aspects of depicting the construction as made up of different parts and seen from different points of view, dividing them as an architect would into the overall view or concept with its subsidiary designs for parts – as rooms with their windows, doors, door handles, and so on down to the last detail. An architectural project is multi-faceted, with drawings for each part. So are the Proun paintings.
And being a modern man, Lissitzky also used modern methods of projection and of perspectives – the mastery of which he had acquired at the Darmstadt Hochschule – especially the bird’s eye view or axonometric projection. He also introduced the Futurist shifting of the spectator’s viewpoint around in space so that the architectural elements were seen from different points of view both alone and in relation to other parts; this made his arrangements complex and able to capture movement, as in Proun 12E, for example, where the curved white band is the implication of a section of the circular motion in the implied swinging of the red circle below it.
Thus, there are the Prouns captured in a bird’s eye view, such as Proun 1E subtitled The City, seen from high above, and there is Proun 2C which set metal and wooden beams in juxtapositions of tension and which may be moving parts. Also suggesting moving parts is Proun 19D in the way the bands and bars appear to slip back and forth over the static yellow circle, with an extended arm that may be moving in other directions, perhaps parallel to the picture plane.
Materials and Colours
Colours used to depict the architectural structures of the Proun paintings are parallels to materials. As he wrote in 1920, “Colour becomes a barometer of material and allows completely new treatments” (“PROUN – Not world visions, BUT – world reality”, 1920). Thus the colours used in the Proun paintings are meant to convey real materials, where white may be concrete or granite, bright red could be copper, grey and black may be iron, silver would be aluminium, brown would be bronze, grey would be steel, browns and yellow would be wood, transparency would be glass and so on. These are variable, of course, depending on the structure, and they may change if there are moving parts, but generally, a Proun painting is to be read as an arrangement of materials, again stimulating the spectator’s imagination to engage in the creation of the painting.
Although the materials on the surface begin with pigments, Lissitzky applied them very thinly and smoothly, his brushwork usually invisible and without texture (called faktura in Russian). Indeed, apart from woods with their grains and glass with its reflections, most of the surfaces are undistinguished in their brushwork, there being very little surface texture in the application of paint in the Prouns. Rather, Lissitzky transferred his interest in building materials to the colours themselves as they represent real materials, but he also added a variety of mixed media to extend the textural qualities in the Prouns. Thus are found such materials as plaster, sand, sand paper, cellulose, metal paint, metal foils, varnish and so on, and these enhance the textural qualities of the buildings and the surfaces being depicted. Looking at a Proun painting we are reading it through the variety of materials.
Forces Give Shape to Form
Force gives shape to movement which in turn gives shape to material forms. This is a fundamental law of nature, too, where, for example, the forces of rippling water give shape to the gills of a fish. So Lissitzky wrote: “Material form moves in space along specific axes: across the diagonals and spirals of stairs, in the verticals of lifts, along the horizontals of railway tracks, along the straight lines or curves of the airplane, material form must be shaped according to its movement in space, that is construction.” (“PROUN – Not world visions, BUT – world reality”, 1920) Form, then, is a visual manifestation of the interplay of forces where “every form is the frozen instantaneous picture of a process”. (Nasci, 1924) Form is also the “construction of space”, as Lissitzky also asserts in “suprematism in world reconstruction”, about which he said: “we are building in it”.
“Construction” for Lissitzky, then, was made up of architectural principles, materials, and the forces that gave shape to forms, the very definition of construction, he claimed. His “constructions”, the Prouns, were conceived according to these principles and placed in an undefined space which, stimulated by the Proun, was the space of the spectator’s mind, the place where the Prouns exist and come alive as materials and as moving forms in space.
New things are needed in this world of new constructions, and they include the radio and the typewriter, the train and the airplane, among the many new technologies. Lissitzky wrote that they are manifestations of a “universal force”, an energy that has many applications. One of these applications was the invention of the “aero car” or “motorail”, designed by the French engineer, Francis Lauer; his “flying trains” were published in December 1919. On them one would circle round the city on this overground system.
Francis Lauer, The Flying Train, Paris, Photo-collage, 1919
El Lissitzky in his studio in the Practical Art Institute, Vitebsk, 1920. The paintings, left to right: Proun 1D, 1, 1A (The Bridge), 1C (Moscow), Untitled, 1E (The City), Arch (on easel). About these views of the city, Lissitzky wrote:
“The rebuilding of the town threw into utter confusion both its isolated elements – houses, streets squares bridges – and its new systems which cut across the old ones – underground metro underground monorail electricity transmitted under the ground and above the ground. this all developed on top of a new powerhouse whose pumps sucked in the whole of creation. technology which in its achievements took the most direct route from the complexity of the train to the simplicity of the airplane … and amid the thunderous roar of a world in collision, We, on the last stage of the path to suprematism blasted aside the old work of art like a being of flesh and blood and turned it into a world floating in space. We carried both picture and viewer out beyond the confines of this sphere and in order to comprehend it fully the viewer must circle like a planet round the picture which remains immobile in the centre.” (“suprematism in world reconstruction”, 1920)
Untitled, Watercolour of painting, top right. Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven
UNOVIS No. 1, 1920. Watercolour of the painting on the easel, bottom right.
Lissitzky’s selection of paintings for the Berlin Display of Works, 1919-1923. It was an exhibition showing views of the city and ending with travelling around it in the Aerocar, Proun 17. The artist had written to Sophie Küppers from Berlin on 7 January 1924 –”Dear S., arrived in order, found all works there. Opening of exhibition Sunday 13. For the occasion, lecture by [Adolf] Behne. Catalogue with foreword.” In fact, Behne had written the introduction and Lissitzky’s foreword was a short, “From a Letter to Mr. M”.
Some Proun paintings have been lost, but those known which may have been shown in the Berlin show in 1924, followed by a few others, are reproduced below. Paintings with titles belonging to a different numbering system are not included here.
Proun 1. 1919. Lost Lithograph
Proun 1A (The Bridge). 1919. Lost
From catalogue of Wege und Richtungen der abstrakten Malerei, Mannheim, Jan.- March 1927
Proun 1C (Moscow). 1919 Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
Proun 1D (Suprematism of the City). 1919. Kunstmuseum, Basel
Proun 1E. The City: Suprematism. 1919 Azerbaijan Museum of Art, Baku
Proun 2. Unidentified
Proun 2C. 1920 Philadelphia Museum of Art
Proun 2D. 1920 Lost Lithograph
Proun 3 / 3A. 1920/23 Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Proun 4 / 4B. 1919-1920 Thyssen Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
Proun 5A, 1920. Lost Lithograph from Proun Portfolio
Prouns 5 and 6 in UNOVIS Exhibition, Moscow, December 1921
Proun 6B – Lost Lithograph from Proun Portfolio
Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett
Proun 8 (S. K. / Sophie Küppers) c. 1922. Lost. Watercolour. Guggenheim Museum of Art, New York
Proun 9 Unidentified
Proun 10. Lost Lithograph
Proun 11 Unidentified
Proun 12 Unidentified
Proun 13 – Unidentified
Proun 14 – Unidentified
Proun 15 – Unidentified
Proun 16 – Unidentified
Proun 17 (Aero Proun). 1922/25 Private Collection, Paris
Proun 18 Unidentified
Proun 19D Museum of Modern Art, New York
Proun 23, 1919 Azerbaijan Museum of Art, Baku
Proun 23 N Wilhelm Hack Museum, Ludwigshafen
Proun 24 Unidentified
FLYING TRAIN. Popular Science, December 1919.
Francis Lauer, an inventor from Paris, dreamed of combining an airplane and a monorail to achieve what he called “guided flight.” Although we dismissed the project’s aeronautic capabilities and questioned its cost, we admitted that the project could be a good scientific experiment if Lauer found the proper funding. His flying train would consist of one egg-shaped car with four stories: one for the luggage, one for about 30 passengers, one for the engine and one for the operator. To steer the egg, the operator would use a lever to turn the wings. We pointed out a number of practical issues with the machinery: for one thing, the propeller would have to be huge in order to move the heavy, four-story car forward. Secondly, the foundations would be expensive to build. Finally, the use of wings instead of wheels meant that the car would move very slowly. Despite its potential as a study in aviation, we concluded that Lauer’s monorail flier would be better off as a pocket-sized toy.