Reflections of a Modern World(An Introduction to some key thinkers)
John Heartfield. (1932) Joseph Stalin propaganda posterAdolf the Superman: Swallows Gold andSpouts Junk
Fundamental Shifts in Social Structure • Migration from rural to urban areas • Independent, skilled workers replaced by semi- skilled laborers • Large corporations were established, devaluing the personal relationship between management and workers or company and customers
For the artist of the modernperiod, the most essentialproblem was how to depict themodern: as a new style, as newcontent, as a new attitude?Each generation would fine itsown answer, only to have thenext generation find this answerinadequate.In the process of attempting tofind the “modern,” the role of artwould change, the role of theartist would change, the role ofthe public would change.
Karl Marx:Surplus value Absorbed in repetitive tasks the workers were alienated from the end product Charlie Chaplin Modern Times (1936) The factory resembled a vast machine, the workers mere cogs in the machine
Alienation, according to Marx, is a condition in which humans become dominated by the forces of their own creation The first stage of alienation is alienation from the product that the workers produce. The laborers also do not know the aspects of the production process they are working in Second, workers are alienated from the process of production. They are not involved in productive activity meaning that they are notCharlie Chaplin working to satisfy their own needs. TheyModern Times (1936) become alienated because it is not satisfying and becomes monotonous eventually becoming alienated from ones self Last, the worker becomes alienated from his fellow workers
Karl Heinrich Marx (1818 –1883)• German philosopher, politicaleconomist, historian, politicaltheorist, sociologist, andcommunist revolutionary• His ideas played a significantrole in the development ofmodern communism andsocialism• Art, philosophy, love, justice -all could be reduced to economicinterest
Marx is known as the"father of Communism”.Communism is a form ofgovernment whichattempts to empowerworkers and eliminatesocial class.Its socioeconomicstructure promotes theestablishment of aclassless, statelesssociety based oncommon ownership ofthe means ofproduction.
Begins in France, as realisme, a literarydoctrine calling for “reality and truth inthe depiction of ordinary life.”Grounded in the belief that thereis an objective reality which canbe portrayed with truth andaccuracy as the goal.The writer/artist does not selectfacts in accord with preconceivedideals, but rather sets downobservations impartially andobjectively.
“It is absolutely impossible to understand art and literatureproceeding only from their internal laws of development.”Essence, origin, development, and social role of Art could onlybe understood through analysis of social system as whole withinwhich economic factor plays the decisive roleThus art is one of the forms of social consciousness and ittherefore follows that the reasons for its change should besought in the social existence of menCreating works of art appeared as a result of the longdevelopment of human society and were the product of man’slabor also “in accordance with the laws of beauty”They emphasise that man’s aesthetics sense is not inborn, but asocially acquired quality
During the mid-20th century art historians embraced social history by using critical approaches. The goal was to show how art interacts with power structures in society. One critical approach that art historians used was Marxism. Marxist art history attempted to show how art was tied to specific classes, how images contain information about the economy, and how images can make the status quo seem natural (ideology).Hannah WilkesBeware Fascism Feminism(1975)
Marxist aesthetics is a theory of aesthetics based on, or derived from,the theories of Karl Marx. It involves a dialectical approach to theapplication of Marxism to the cultural sphere, specifically areasrelated to taste such as art, beauty, etc.It involves incorporating the Marxian theory of history and classconsciousness and the critique of bourgeois ideology, so as togenerate principles of analysis and evaluation and show the place ofart in the theory and practice of revolution.Some well-known Marxist aestheticians include Theodor W. Adorno,Bertolt Brecht, Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin, Antonio Gramsci,Georg Lukács, Terry Eagleton, Fredric Jameson and RaymondWilliams.
“politics of art” Benjamin questioned how has changed production of art changed the significance of art in our lives This is what Benjamin calls the politics of art Warhol Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962)
• art can always be reproduced(copies and so forth)• but with lithography we havesomething where the art existsONLY as a copy• why should this be important? –speed• with film it can keep pace withspeech: change
• Original work of art has a unique existence: “presence in time andspace”, includes changes; ownership•The concept of authenticity : “the essence that is transmittable from itsbeginning, running from its duration to the history it has experienced”• Authenticity gives us a notion of history: when it is challenged, thenthe sense if history and time is challenged• Two forms of reproduction: manual and mechanical; against themanual the original preserves its authenticity, less so against themechanical, here the process does not depend on the original and: thecopy can move into venues which are new: can “meet the beholder”• What do we loose when art is mechanically reproduced: its ”aura”; artdetached from tradition, many copies give it a plural rather than singularexistence, shattering of tradition, linked by Benjamin with contemporarymass movements
The pre-Surrealist Atget explores the uncanny, the fragmentary, disturbed world of modernity.Eugene Atget(1857-1927)
Benjamin’s Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: mechanization,repetition, loss of the original, loss of aura a role of broadcast media,newspapers, and cinema.For Benjamin, the aura is a quality that only exists outside ofcommodity production and technological reproduction.The aura is a singular presence, associated with cult and ritual; it has a“unique value” and it makes a claim to “authenticity.” Conversely,commodity exchange and technological reproducibility lead to thedestruction of uniqueness and authenticity, and hence to thewithering of the aura.
“Surrealist realism": the exploration of a real-lifesurreality encountered on the streets of the city• depiction of the street inSurrealist publications such asthe magazine „La RevolutionSurrealiste‟and Andre Bretonsbook „Nadja‟•Surrealism‟s connections withthe everyday life of the city. TheSurrealist photography of Parisreveals a city where order andcontrol was constantly beingundermined
“To win the energies ofintoxication for therevolution—this is theproject about whichSurrealism circles in all itsbooks and enterprises. . .an ecstatic componentlives in everyrevolutionary act.”(Walter Benjamin, Surrealism, 1929)
Benjamin was trying to cut away the intellectual underpinnings offascism and to do so he rejected the entire tradition of what he calleduniversal history.•the idea that history is a universal matrix prior to events, which aresimply placed in order within the matrix by the historian• he rejected the historicism because it makes the present seem to bethe cumulative progressive consequence of what has gone before• he claims that history is neither neutral nor is it positive progress,rather it is endless carnage and suffering
Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) Picasso was a practitioner of the Automatism form of surrealism. His work lets go of traditional artistic practices and results in a more primary form of art. Much of his work is based in his concept that childrens ingenuity can provide essential access to the unconscious. Picasso, light drawings (1949)
Carl Jung (July 26–1961) “People [have made] a very dangerous monster out of the unconscious, that really very natural thing. As if all that is good, reasonable, beautiful and worth living for had taken up its abode in consciousness! Have the horrors of the World War really not opened our eyes? Are we still unable to see that man’s conscious mind is even more devilish and perverse than the unconscious?” “The unconscious is not a demonic monster, but a thing of nature that is perfectly neutral as far as moral sense, aesthetic taste and intellectual judgement go. It is dangerous only when our conscious attitude towards it becomes hopelessly false. And this danger grows in the measure that we practice repressions.”
Salvador Dalí is more of the Veristic school of surrealism. Veristic surrealism is a style of surrealistic art which is designed to portray the dream world in rich detail. Dali’s work juxtaposes contrary or anachronistic images and derives more directly from Dadaism. Dalí very much believed that art should beAlfred Hitchcock, Salvador Dali, dream sequence,Spellbound (1945) studied and mastered, and that expression of the unconscious would spring from metaphor.
Erwin Panofsky (1892-1968) Key questions for Art Historians • Can artworks be judged objectively • How much can we understand about a time period by looking at individual works of art? • What methods should we use when studying art? Ekphrasis: the graphic, often dramatic, description of a visual work of art
Erwin Panofsky: Iconology1.Primary or Natural Subject Matter (Pre-Iconographic): The most basic level of understanding, the stratum consists of perception of the work’s pure form. For example, The Last Supper. If we stopped at this first stratum, such a picture could only be perceived as a painting of 13 men seated at a table. The first level is the most basic understanding of a work, devoid of any added cultural knowledge.1.Secondary or Conventional subject matter (iconography): This stratum goes a step further and brings to the equation cultural knowledge. (For example, a western viewer would understand that the painting of 13 men around a table would represent The Last Supper.)2.Tertiary or Intrinsic Meaning or Content (Iconology): This level takes into account personal, technical, and cultural history into the understanding of a work. It looks at art not as isolated incident, but as the product of historical environment. (Why did the artist choose to represent The Last Supper in this way?
Most art historyprior to Panofskyfocused on formaldevelopments. Inother words, art wasthought about inrelation to aparticular style.Panofsky’sachievement was toshift attention tocontent andmeaning.
The Cultural Turn describes arange of academic movementsrelated to postmodernism thatargue that no meaning existsindependently of culture. Could Les Demoiselles d’Avignon have been produced at any other time or place?
The schools mainfigures sought to learnfrom and synthesize theworks of such variedthinkers as Kant, Hegel,Marx, Freud, Weber andLukács.
Adorno’s father was of Jewish decent Social Control and when the Nazi’s cam to power he,For Adorno, Fascism was a key like all other Jewish professors, had toexample of the development of the give up his teaching position. Hemodern world, not a freak moved to Oxford, USA, in 1933. (Heoccurrence. would return to Frankfurt in 1949) Anti-Semitism became a model for how Adorno felt authority operated in all cases. Regimes strive for universal control and in doing so exaggerate differences between people to alarming degree, seeking to remove anything that is taken to be ‘other’. Studying the anti Jewish propaganda of the time Adorno saw that authority extended its power by appealing to subliminal appetites, the unthinking mind, and were often illogical and incoherent on the surface.
The division between lifeand mass media isbecoming blurred. Allexperience is mediated.-The whole world is madeto pass through the filterof the culture industry.Real life is becomingindistinguishable from themovies. Thomas Hart Benton “Hollywood” 1937
Because of his belief inthe authoritarian natureof the Culture Industry,Adorno fundamentallydisagreed with WalterBenjamin’s optimism inMechanical Reproduction.Far from dissipating theaura of artworks, Adornofelt that mass-productionin fact extended theuniversalising tendency ofCapitalism
Popular culture is akin to afactory producingstandardized cultural goods –through film, radio andmagazines – to manipulatethe masses into passivity; theeasy pleasures availablethrough consumption ofpopular culture make peopledocile and content, no matterhow difficult their economiccircumstances.
Art (for Adorno) is the emphatic assertion of what is excludedfrom Enlightements’ instrumental rationality: the claim ofsensuous particularity and rational ends.Autonomous Art, as opposed to the culture industry, should be,in Adorno’s formulation, that which recuscitates a criticalawareness in the viewers.Adorno recognised that Autonomous Art was still part ofsociety, i.e. Not truly autonomous and related economically tolabour, but felt it still occupied a special position thatnevertheless allowed it to comment on society.
Referenceshttp://www.marxists.org/subject/art/lit_crit/klingender/index.htmMarxism and Modern Art: An approach to social realism by F. D. Klingender 1943Marxist aesthetics: foundations within everyday life for an emancipatedconsciousness, Johnson & Pauline, Publisher : Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1984Art and society : essays in marxist aesthetics (translated by MaroRiofrancos), Vasquez& Adolfo Sanchez, Publisher - Monthly Review Press, New York 1973Benjamin, Walter. Theses on the Philosophy of HistoryBenjamin, Walter. (1936) The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical ReproductionAdditional material courtesy ofhttp://www.slideshare.net/JamesClegg