In Jeopardy:Idealism, Authenticity, Universality and the Avant-Garde
The term modernity wasdeveloped alongside thedevelopment of the capitaliststate. Modernisation is a diverseunity of socio-economic changesgenerated by scientific andtechnological discoveries.Modernity was born by what arecalled grand narratives in thejargon of the post-modernists. Insimple language, GrandNarratives are big ideas whichgive sense and direction in life.Such ideas are truth, reason,tradition, religion, morality,ideology, etc.
Conservative American artcritic Hilton Kramer wroteabout the death of the avant-gardes in his The Age of theAvant-Garde (1973).He situates the avant-gardefrom the 1850s (Courbet)until the 1950s (abstractexpressionism) and defines itas art that meets withresistance from society atlarge.
Modern Architecture diedin St Louis, Missouri onJuly 15, 1972 at 3.32pmor thereabouts when theinfamous Pruitt-Igoescheme, or rather severalof its slab blocks, weregiven the final coup degrace by dynamite.’Charles JencksThe Language of PostModern Architecture
For Jencks, the social goals of theModern Movement had beenhijacked by commercial interests,emptying their forms of theiroriginal content. Faced withconsumerism in the West andstate capitalism in the East, thecontemporary architect had nochoice, if he/she wanted to re-establish a certain purpose forhis/her work, but to use alanguage understood by the localculture. The heroic attempts of theModernists to establish a universallanguage expressive of andconducive to greater social goalshad clearly failed.
You might equally well argue thatmodern died on the day, in 1929, thatAlfred Barr and the Rockefellerscaptured it and put it in a museum,New Yorks MoMA, thereby turning ahuge cultural force into a merestylistic category. But to argue that isto risk losing yourself in a quagmire ofdefinitions that has clouded theunderstanding of the modernmovement from the start. Modernisnt the same as modernism. Onecan be equated with contemporary,the other has come to mean a veryparticular creative approach.
Whilst Modernism attemptedto represent the experiencesand ramifications ofmodernity through artisticforms, design etc. themodernist generation alsoproduced utopian ideologiessuch as communism,fascism, and futurism.
Modernist architecture was shaped by developments in painting, such as the geometry of purism - Le Corbusiers architecture was a response to the spatial exploration of cubism - and influenced by cultural innovation in many different fields, from James Joyces radical experiments in writing to Sigmund FreudsCentre Le Corbusier pioneering psychoanalysis.
We live with the legacy of modernism. The buildings we inhabit, the chairs that we sit on, the graphic design that surrounds us have all been created by the aesthetics and the ideology of modernist design. We live in an era that still identifies itself in terms of modernism, asMark Kostabi postmodernist or even postSuicide By Modernism (2005) postmodernist.
There would appear to be an urgeon the part of many contemporaryartists to revisit the aesthetics andpolitics of the modern with a view asmuch to reanimating its radicalpossibilities as to mourning thedwindling forms, the ruins of whatwas left behind.
• A new generation of artists is again increasingly addressingthe legacy of modernity and modernism and the failure of theutopia associated with these terms• What has prompted contemporary artists to investigatemodernity and modernism, its aesthetic manifestation?• What are these artists relationships to the promises andformal languages of modernity?• How can this historical era even be critically reflected in andbe subjected to a re-evaluation?• Artists are researching modernity from their perspective andwith their own means
Daria Martin Kazimir Malevich Suprematism (1915)
Lucy McKenzie Giacomo BallaThe Rhythm of the Violinist (detail) (1912)
Cheung’s work features Le Corbusier’s post-war housing block Unite d’ Habitation, a vertical garden city containing elements of a small town in one building…in Cheung’s version it is a collapsing utopian vision.Gordon Cheung
How their influence can still be seen in our world today?
• Lane, Jim. Modern Art: the War(2001)http://www.humanitiesweb.org/human.php?s=g&p=a&a=i&ID=1001• Clark, T.J.B. (1999) Farewell to an Idea. Episodes from a History of Modernism• Hall, Stewart. Museums of Modern Art and the End of History conference at the TateGallery, London, May 1999http://www.iniva.org/library/archive/people/h/hall_stuart/museums_of_modern_art_and_the_end_of_history• Danto, Arthur C. (1996) ‘Introduction: Modern, Postmodern, and Contemporary’,After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History• Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition (1979) publ. ManchesterUniversity Press, 1984. The First 5 Chapters of main body of work are reproducedhere: http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/fr/lyotard.htm• Is modernism dead?http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/artblog/2007/nov/07/ismodernismdead
• Sudjic, Deyan. Modernism: the idea that just won’t go away. The Observer,Sunday 29 January 2006http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2006/jan/29/architecture.modernism• Lewis, Mark. Is Modernity our Antiquity? Afterall Journalhttp://www.afterall.org/journal/issue.14/modernity.our.antiquity