Week 8 Reflections of a Modern World (An Introduction to some key thinkers)

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  • Today we are going to examine a few of the key theorists of modern Western though and their analysis of modernism and modernity as well as the impact and influence of their critical theory.
  • As we have seen, some of the problems in the pursuit of modernism were already apparent early in the 20th century. For example, the senseless, mechanized slaughter of the First World War showed that modernism's faith in scientific and technological progress as the path to a better world was regrettably, misguided. Picking up form last week, we can see that for the Dada artists, the ‘Great War’ signaled the failure of all modernist art. It may be claimed that Dada marks the emergence of a post–modernist cast of mind. In the period between World War One and World War Two modernism continued to pursue its goals, but now often in association with other forces. Many artists actively supported political revolution. The Russian Revolution had seemed at the time, and for a long time after, to be the answer to the progressive modernist's dream. Marxist communism was the boldest attempt yet to create a better society, adopting not a political democracy but an economic democracy that aimed at achieving economic equality. Communism offered the vision of universal freedom predicated on the freedom of ideas. Avant garde modernist artists, in the imaginative freedom of their works, exemplified or encouraged this freedom. In 1932, however, under Josef Stalin, this freedom was sharply curtailed and modern art, such as it was, was forced to adopt a more conservative form, known as Socialist Realism. The suppression of avant garde modernist art in favour of a propagandistic Socialist Realism also occurred at the other end of the political spectrum in Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
  • Also of relevance, as I have highlighted over the course of this lecture series are the Effects of The Industrial RevolutionMigration 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
  • Key to our discussion is how artists responded to these changes.For the artist of the modern period, the most essential problem was how to depict the modern: as a new style, as new content, as a new attitude? Each generation would fine its own answer, only to have the next generation find this answer inadequate.  In the process of attempting to find the “modern,” the role of art would change, the role of the artist would change, the role of the public would change, and ironically, the artist and the public would become completely separate.  So how did the artist become separated from the mass art audience? This estrangement was the result of significant social and economic changes, which had changed the artist’s role in society.  The condition of the avant-garde—that is, artists being “ahead” of the public’s taste and expectations—is closely linked to the development of the Industrial Revolution.  This social and economic revolution in manufacturing was, perhaps, both the most sudden and swift and also the most complete and comprehensive revolution in history: it changed everything.  The trend away from small scale artisanal or intimate domestic manufacture towards mass production, which began around 1740in England, and a bit later in America, with the industrialization of the textile industry and the development of mining to find the coal to run the machines to run the mills.  Textile mills sprang up near rivers, drawing thousands of workers from the surrounding countryside to new factory towns.
  • In dusty, noisy factories, absorbed in repetitive tasks, working like machines, the workers were also alienated from the end product, an object produced in pieces, the result of a rational and an analytic process, which investigated and examined each aspect of manufacture.  Each worker was responsible for a segment, for a part of the process.  The factory resembled a vast machine, the workers mere cogs in the machine.  The process and pace of manufacture ruled their lives. With the social and financial shift from landed wealth to industrial wealth, money and power were no longer solely dependent upon inherited position and were increasingly based upon new opportunities provided by trade and commerce and manufacture. MODERN TIMES: I want to show you a short, 10 min clip to demonstrate what I am talking about.Modern Times is a 1936 comedy film by Charlie Chaplin that has his iconic Little Tramp character struggling to survive in the modern, industrialized world. The film is a comment on the desperate employment and fiscal conditions many people faced during the Great Depression, conditions created, in Chaplin's view, by the efficiencies of modern industrialization. Modern Times portrays Chaplin as a factory worker employed on an assembly line. After being subjected to such indignities as being force-fed by a "modern" feeding machine and an accelerating assembly line where Chaplin screws nuts at an ever-increasing rate onto pieces of machinery, he suffers a mental breakdown that causes him to run amok, throwing the factory into chaos.CLICK IMAGE FOR FILM CLIP:
  • This is a good point to introduce our first key thinker. Karl MarxAlienation, according to Marx, is a condition in which humans become dominated by the forces of their own creationThe 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 inSecond, workers are alienated from the process of production. They are not involved in productive activity meaning that they are not working to satisfy their own needs. They become alienated because it is not satisfying and becomes monotonous resulting in becoming alienated from ones selfLast, the worker becomes alienated from his fellow workers
  • Marx (1818 –1883) was a German philosopher, political economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, and communist revolutionary, whose ideas played a significant role in the development of modern communism and socialism.Marx argued there were fundamental contradictions within the capitalist system—and that the workers were anything but free. Coming from the lower classes, the peasants and the urban proletariat, the factory workers operated machines which fabricated products on a massive scale, making consumer goods available to the entire population, making the owners of the factories wealthy while raising the standard of living for everyone. Those who owned the manufacturing processenjoyed the fruits of what Marx, called “surplus value,” meaning the difference what the worker was actually paid and what the object was actually sold for. For Marx all social reality is class conflict, based on economic self-interest. Freedom is illusory, because people are actually following a script that history has written for them. Marx famously announced that "religion is the opiate of the people”. He claimed that Art, philosophy, love, justice -- all could be reduced to economic interest.
  • Marx is known as the "father of Communism”. Communism is a form of government which attempts to empower workers and eliminate social class. Its socioeconomic structure promotes the establishment of a classless, stateless society based on common ownership of the Means of production. It is usually considered a branch of the broader socialist movement that draws on the various political and intellectual movements that trace their origins back to the work of theorists of the industrial revolution and the French Revolution.Communism attempts to offer an alternative to the problems believed to be inherent with representative democracy, capitalist economies and the legacy of imperialism and colonialism. The dominant forms of communism, such as Leninism, Trotskyism and Luxemburg's, are based on Marxism.
  • The relationship between Marxism and Modernism is often seen as being rather complex and contradictory.“Is the often antagonistic relationship between Marxism and modernism due more to historical contingencies or are there basic political or philosophical incompatibilities between to two? To be sure, Marx’s own views of art and culture were derived from a classical aesthetics founded upon notions of autonomy and organicity which was an anathema to modernists and their assault upon ‘tradition’.”So what this statement is saying is that there was a clash with Marxism and ModernismLater Sigmund Freud would agree with Marx that a commodity was a mere symptom or a fetish, guaranteed to create, not to satisfy desire. The ephemeral commodity would “melt into air,” as Marx put it, only to be replaced by the next fad and the next novelty.  Writing the Communist Manifesto in exile in England, Marx imagined an uprising of the proletariat once the veil of ideology was torn from its eyes.  The proletariat would seize the mode of production, and during this phase of the people’s ownership would be “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” Witnessing the degradation of the workers on the eve of the Revolution of 1848, Marx waited in vain for the success of the workers’ uprising. But it was not to be. Workers were seduced by the all-powerful commodity, which, as Marx noted, had the qualities of the fetish to arouse desire.
  • Realism is grounded in the belief that there is an objective reality which can be portrayed with truth and accuracy as the goal.The writer/artist does not select facts in accord with preconceived ideals, but rather sets down observations impartially and objectively.
  • “It is absolutely impossible to understand art and literature proceeding only from their internal laws of development.”Essence, origin, development, and social role of Art could only be understood through analysis of social system as whole within which economic factor plays the decisive roleThus art is one of the forms of social consciousness and it therefore follows that the reasons for its change should be sought in the social existence of menCreating works of art appeared as a result of the long development of human society and were the product of man’s labor also “in accordance with the laws of beauty”They emphasise that man’s aesthetics sense is not inborn, but a socially 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).
  • Marxist aesthetics is a theory of aesthetics based on, or derived from, the theories of Karl Marx. It involves a dialectical approach to the application of Marxism to the cultural sphere, specifically areas related to taste such as art, beauty, etc. It involves incorporating the Marxian theory of history and class consciousness and the critique of bourgeois ideology, so as to generate principles of analysis and evaluation and show the place of art 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 Raymond Williams.
  • I want to move on now to discuss the importance of Walter Benjamin’s influence of critical art theoryHis key text The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction will be explored, this text deals with the concept of mechanical reproduction, specifically the relationship between labour and art
  • When Marx undertook his critique of the capitalistic mode of production, this mode was in its infancy. Marx directed his efforts in such a way as to give them prognostic value. He went back to the basic conditions underlying capitalistic production and through his presentation showed what could be expected of capitalism in the future. The result was that one could expect it not only to exploit the proletariat with increasing intensity, but ultimately to create conditions which would make it possible to abolish capitalism itself. So Marx thought that the tendencies of exploitation would put an end to capitalismBenjamin questioned how has changed production of art changed the significance of art in our livesThis is what Benjamin calls the politics of art
  • Benjamin’s key text: Work of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction.In principle a work of art has always been reproducible. Man-made artifacts could always be imitated.Replicas were made by pupils in practice of their craft, by artists for diffusing their works, and, finally, by third parties in the pursuit of gain via forgery.Mechanical reproduction of a work of art, however, represents something new. With the woodcut,graphic art became mechanically reproducible for the first time, long before script became reproducible by print. The enormous changes which printing, the mechanical reproduction of writing, has brought about in literature are a familiar story. At the beginning of the nineteenth century lithography made its appearance. With lithography the technique of reproduction reached an essentially new stage. Lithography enabled graphic art to illustrate everyday life, and it began to keep pace with printing. But only a few decades after its invention, lithography was surpassed by photography. Around 1900 technical reproduction had reached a standard that not only permitted it to reproduce all transmitted works of art and thus to cause the most profound change in their impact upon the public; it also had captured a place of its own among the artistic processes. There were huge repercussions on art in its traditional form
  • Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was subject throughout the time of its existence. This includes the changes which it may have suffered in physical condition over the years as well as the various changes in its ownership. The traces of the first can be revealed only by chemical or physical analyses which it is impossible to perform on a reproduction; changes of ownership are subject to a tradition which must be traced from the situation of the original.The presence of the original is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity. So according to Benjamin Original work of art has a unique existence: “presence in time and space”, includes changes; ownershipThe concept of authenticity : “the essence that is transmittable from its beginning, running from its duration to the history it has experienced” Authenticity gives us a notion of history: when it is challenged, then the sense if history and time is challenged Two forms of reproduction: manual and mechanical; against the manual the original preserves its authenticity, less so against the mechanical, here the process does not depend on the original and: the copy can move into venues which are new: can “meet the beholder” What do we loose when art is mechanically reproduced: its ”aura”; art detached from tradition, many copies give it a plural rather than singular existence, shattering of tradition, linked by Benjamin with contemporary mass movements
  • The pre-Surrealist Atget explores the uncanny, the fragmentary, disturbed world of modernity.Atge, took photographs of deserted Paris streets around the 1900s. It has quite justly been said of him that he photographed them like scenes of crime. The scene of a crime, too, is deserted; it is photographed for the purpose of establishing evidence. With Atget, photographs become standard evidence for historical occurrences, and acquire a hidden political significance. Benjamin is preoccupied with the trope of ‘experience’ which he senses is at the heart of Surrealism, “its writings are concerned literally with experiences, not with theories and still less with phantasms.” This direct relation to life itself is what Benjamin ascribes to Surrealism as its greatest revolutionary force, one that revolts against bourgeois complacency.
  • 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 cinemaFor Benjamin, the aura is a quality that only exists outside of commodity production and technological reproductionThe 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 the destruction of uniqueness and authenticity, and hence to the withering of the aura
  • The Surrealists utilised the tactics of documentary and theirideas in turn influenced the development of documentary photography. "surrealist realism": the exploration of a real-life surreality encountered on the streets of the citydepiction of the street in Surrealist publications such as the magazine ‘La Revolution Surrealiste’ and Andre Breton's book ‘Nadja’Surrealismsconnections with the everyday life of the city. The Surrealist photography of Paris reveals a city where order and control was constantly being undermined.
  • Benjamin said of Surrealism“To win the energies of intoxication for the revolution—this is the project about which Surrealism circles in all its books and enterprises. . . an ecstatic component lives in every revolutionary act.”He said of Surrealism in a essay of the same title that it was ‘The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia’
  • Benjamin was trying to cut away the intellectual underpinnings of fascism and to do so he rejected the entire tradition of what he called universal history.the idea that history is a universal matrix prior to events, which are simply placed in order within the matrix by the historian he rejected the historicism because it makes the present seem to be the 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
  • Now I want to briefly return to Surrealism to underline the significance of Sigmund Freud and Carl JungAs discussed last week, Surrealism was an artistic movement and philosophy that was launched in Paris by Andre Breton in 1924. Initially, Surrealism could be considered an offshoot of Dadaism, which posited that traditional art should be replaced with anything "anti-art" and triumphed the ridiculous, the absurd, and a basic disregard for form. Much of Breton’s emphasis was on accessing the unconscious, as viewed by psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. Surrealism was a reaction to the philosophy of rationalism, which many felt had caused, through the Industrial Revolution, the disaster of World War I.Surrealism, as envisioned by Breton, would discard the conscious production of art and would instead rely on the unconscious for inspiration in art. Breton and other surrealist philosophers and artists believed that art as access to the unconscious was more "real" or "true" than rationalist art works. Automatic drawing and writing, in which the artist holds a pencil and tries to clear away the thoughts of the conscious mind, then simply allow the pencil to flow, was considered the closest approach to the unconscious. Surrealists following Breton practiced the Automatism form of Surrealist art.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 children's ingenuity can provide essential access to the unconscious.
  • Carl Jung’s Modern Man In Search of A Soul, (1933)Modern Man in Search of a Soul is the classic introduction to the thought of Carl Jung. Along with Freud (and Adler), Jung was one of the chief founders of modern psychiatry. In this book, Jung examines some of the most contested and crucial areas in the field of analytical psychology: dream analysis, the primitive unconscious, and the relationship between psychology and religion“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.”Veristic surrealists split from Automatism primarily by defining the unconscious as envisioned by Jung. They strongly believed that surrealism could best express the unconscious by attention to and study of artistic form. Veristic work hoped to communicate deeper thoughts by looking at the metaphoric significance of the work and how it related to the universal unconscious.The universal unconscious was Jung's theory that all people possess an innate knowledge and understanding of images. Such images are universal in nature, and recur in most literature and art. By looking into the image, Veristic surrealism hoped to gain access to and understand unconscious thoughts and behaviors.
  • 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 be studied and mastered, and that expression of the unconscious would spring from metaphor.
  • Erwin Panofsky (1892-1968)EkphrasisKey questions for Art HistoriansCan 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?
  • Erwin Panofsky advocated a particular method…IconologyPrimary 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.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. Similarly, seeing a representation of a haloed man with a lion could be interpreted as a depiction of St. Jerome)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 history prior to Panofsky focused on formal developments. In other words, art was thought about in relation to a particular style. Panofsky’s achievement was to shift attention to content and meaning.Although Iconology doesn’t guarantee objectivity, Panofsky himself admitted that the deeper meaning could be imposed by theorists and tried to add his own “correctives” (checks against source material of the time), it does open individual artworks to discussions of broader cultural influences.
  • Panofsky paved the way for Semiotics, a treatment of images as a language. Semiotics would break down images into signs and symbols, considering the cultural conditions that allow them to mean something specific in a certain time and place.The Cultural Turn describes a range of academic movements related to postmodernism that argue that no meaning exists independently of culture. Could Les Demoiselles d’Avignon have been produced at any other time or place?
  • Theodor Adorno (1903-1967)
  • Frankfurt SchoolThe Frankfurt School refers to a group of very influential thinkers who pursued a critical re-evaluation of Marxism, primarily attached to the Institute of Social Research and the University of Frankfurt. Its members include Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm and Theodor Adorno. Later Adornp’s student JurgenHabermas would become very influential and director of the school. Also associated with the school was Walter Benjamin.
  • On Marx:Adorno used some of the ideas refined in Marx’s work, such as the division of labour. Marx suggested that social division of labour – divisions between different groups of people as part of social control and exploitation – was ideologically hidden under the guise of technical division of labour – certain people have to do certain things because that’s where there skills lie. Although Adorno’s writing can suggest that he was more supportive of Autonomous Art (High Art) over popular culture he still strove to understand the underlying social and economic basis for them.Like many thinkers associated with the Frankfurt School, Adorno did not subscribe to the Marxian Grand Narrative that capitalism is a step on the way to greater liberation. In fact, rather than seeing the bourgeois loosing their grip, Adorno thought that the Culture Industry was extending social control and people’s passivity.
  • Adorno’s father was of Jewish decent and when the Nazi’s cam to power he, like all other Jewish professors, had to give up his teaching position. He moved to Oxford, USA, in 1933. (He 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.For Adorno, Facism was a key example of the development of the modern world, not a freak occurrence.
  • The Culture IndustryMass ProductionThe division between life and mass media is becoming blurred. All experience is mediated.-         The whole world is made to pass through the filter of the culture industry.Real life is becoming indistinguishable from the movies.
  • Because of his belief in the authoritarian nature of the Culture Industry, Adorno fundamentally disagreed with Walter Benjamin’s optimism in Mechanical Reproduction.Far from dissipating the aura of artworks, Adorno felt that mass-production in fact extended the universalising tendency of Capitalism
  • popular culture is akin to a factory producing standardized cultural goods – through film, radio and magazines – to manipulate the masses into passivity; the easy pleasures available through consumption of popular culture make people docile and content, no matter how difficult their economic circumstances.
  • Art?“Art (for Adorno) is the emphatic assertion of what is excluded from Enlightements’ instrumental rationality: the claim of sensuous particularity and rational ends.”Autonomous Art, as opposed to the culture industry, should be, in Adorno’s formulation, that which recuscitates a critical awareness in the viewers. Adorno recognised that Autonomous Art was still part of society, i.e. Not truly autonomous and related economically to labour, but felt it still occupied a special position that nevertheless allowed it to comment on society.Adorno’s work was very much based around philosophical principles. However, he seemed to support Modern Art in general, seeing it as fulfilling it’s duty to break the passivity of popular culture. This has led to some postmodern critics to see him as being elitist like Clement Greenberg, but perhaps read more carefully it actually pre-empts many postmodern concerns.
  • After two hundred years of one modernism replacing another, these critical theorists can direct us in exploring the unintended consequences of modernisation.Critical Modernists aid us in understanding the evolutionary, social and economic forces not only of modernism and modernity but also of this new stage of global civilisation.There also draw attention the the fact that there are many modernisms (not a single style or ideology)It is important to not that akin to the modernist artists that as far as the critical side is concerned, they alsoreact to two very different things: their own internal problems and the outside world as they find itIn the arts it means looking critically at both the content and formal languages of creation, simultaneously, and it shares with Critical Theory the idea of exposing ideologies in order to enhance freedom, both of the group and individual. As far as the modernism side is concerned there is the usual commitment to progress, competition, and the romantic urge to overcome the previous generation. This results in a curious continuity and break, the swerve and the concealed repetition. Second, when these movements follow each other in quick succession they may reach a ‘critical mass,’ and become a conscious tradition.
  • Visual analysis

Transcript

  • 1. Modernism in Art: An Introduction Week 8 Reflections of a Modern World (An Introduction to some key thinkers)
  • 2. John Heartfield Josef Stalin propagandaAdolf the Superman: Swallows posterGold and Spouts Junk (1932)
  • 3. The Effects of The Industrial Revolution: 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
  • 4. 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.
  • 5. 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
  • 6. 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 not working to satisfy their own needs. They become alienated because it is not satisfying and becomes monotonous, resulting in becoming alienated from ones self• Last, the worker becomes alienated from his fellow workers
  • 7. 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
  • 8. Marx is known as the"father of Communism‖Communism is a form ofgovernment whichattempts to empowerworkers and eliminatesocial classIts socioeconomicstructure promotes theestablishment of aclassless, statelesssociety based oncommon ownership ofthe means of production
  • 9. ―Is the often antagonistic relationship betweenMarxism and modernism due more tohistorical contingencies or are there basicpolitical or philosophical incompatibilitiesbetween to two? To be sure, Marx‘s own viewsof art and culture were derived from aclassical aesthetics founded upon notions ofautonomy and organicity which was ananathema to modernists and their assaultupon ‗tradition‘.‖There existed a clash with Marxism andModernism P207, New German Critique © 1984
  • 10. Begins in France, as realisme, aliterary doctrine calling for ―realityand truth in the depiction ofordinary life.‖Grounded in the belief thatthere is an objective realitywhich can be portrayed withtruth and accuracy as the goal.The writer/artist does not selectfacts in accord withpreconceived ideals, but rathersets down observationsimpartially and objectively.
  • 11. • ―It is absolutely impossible to understand art and literature proceeding only from their internal laws of development.‖• Essence, origin, development, and social role of Art could only be understood through analysis of social system as whole within which economic factor plays the decisive role• Thus art is one of the forms of social consciousness and it therefore follows that the reasons for its change should be sought in the social existence of men• Creating works of art appeared as a result of the long development of human society and were the product of man‘s labor also ―in accordance with the laws of beauty‖• They emphasize that man‘s aesthetics sense is not inborn, but a socially acquired quality
  • 12. 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 theHannah Wilkes economy, and how images canBeware Fascism Feminism make the status quo seem(1975) natural (ideology).
  • 13. • Marxist aesthetics is a theory of aesthetics based on, or derived from, the theories of Karl Marx. It involves a dialectical approach to the application of Marxism to the cultural sphere, specifically areas related to taste such as art, beauty, etc.• It involves incorporating the Marxian theory of history and class consciousness and the critique of bourgeois ideology, so as to generate principles of analysis and evaluation and show the place of art 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 Raymond Williams.
  • 14. “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)
  • 15. • 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
  • 16. • 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
  • 17. The pre-Surrealist Atget explores the uncanny, the fragmentary, disturbed world of modernity.Eugene Atget(1857-1927)
  • 18. • 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 of commodity 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 the destruction of uniqueness and authenticity, and hence to the withering of the aura.
  • 19. “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
  • 20. ―To win the energies ofintoxication for therevolution—this is theproject about whichSurrealism circles in allits books andenterprises. . . anecstatic componentlives in everyrevolutionary act.‖(Walter Benjamin, Surrealism, 1929)
  • 21. Benjamin was trying to cut away the intellectual underpinnings offascism and to do so he rejected the entire tradition of what hecalled universal history.•the idea that history is a universal matrix prior to events, whichare simply placed in order within the matrix by the historian• he rejected the historicism because it makes the present seemto be the cumulative progressive consequence of what has gonebefore• he claims that history is neither neutral nor is it positiveprogress, rather it is endless carnage and suffering
  • 22. 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)
  • 23. Carl Jung (1875–1961) ―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.‖
  • 24. 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 artAlfred Hitchcock, Salvador Dali, should be studied anddream sequence, Spellbound (1945) mastered, and that expression of the unconscious would spring from metaphor.
  • 25. 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
  • 26. 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?
  • 27. Most art historyprior to Panofskyfocused on formaldevelopments. Inother words, artwas thought aboutin relation to aparticular style.Panofsky‘sachievement wasto shift attention tocontent andmeaning.
  • 28. 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?
  • 29. The schools mainfigures sought tolearn from andsynthesize theworks of suchvaried thinkers asKant, Hegel, Marx,Freud, Weber andLukács.
  • 30. Social ControlFor Adorno, Fascism was a key example of the development of the modern world, not a freak occurrence. 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.
  • 31. The division betweenlife and mass media isbecoming blurred. Allexperience ismediated.The whole world ismade to pass throughthe filter of the cultureindustry.Real life is becoming Thomas Hart Benton ―Hollywood‖ 1937indistinguishable fromthe movies.
  • 32. Because of his belief inthe authoritarian natureof the Culture Industry,Adorno fundamentallydisagreed with WalterBenjamin‘s optimism inMechanicalReproduction.Far from dissipating theaura of artworks,Adorno felt that mass-production in factextended theuniversalising tendencyof Capitalism
  • 33. Popular culture is akin to afactory producingstandardized cultural goods– through film, radio andmagazines – to manipulatethe masses into passivity;the easy pleasures availablethrough consumption ofpopular culture make peopledocile and content, nomatter how difficult theireconomic circumstances.
  • 34. Art (for Adorno) is the emphatic assertion of what isexcluded from Enlightements‘ instrumental rationality: theclaim of sensuous particularity and rational ends.Autonomous Art, as opposed to the culture industry, shouldbe, in Adorno‘s formulation, that which recuscitates acritical awareness in the viewers.Adorno recognised that Autonomous Art was still part ofsociety, i.e. Not truly autonomous and related economicallyto labour, but felt it still occupied a special position thatnevertheless allowed it to comment on society.
  • 35. NEXT WEEKAbstract Expressionism and the Rise of Formalism
  • 36. Referenceshttp://www.marxists.org/subject/art/lit_crit/klingender/index.htmMarxism and Modern Art: An approach to social realism by F. D. Klingender1943Marxist 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 Maro Riofrancos),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