2 Haziran 2009 Salı

The Dawn of a New Age: Culture and Modernity/ Girardelli-May 18,2009

-At the beginning of the20th century many of the bourgeois certainties that were taken for granted in the 19th begin to be challenged and questioned

-Art, architecture, literature and music enact such challenges by abandoning the academic patterns dominating 19th century culture. Painting can be no longer figurative and bound to perspective (Picasso, Matisse),

Pablo Picasso,
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,

-architecture is freed from obedience to the historical styles (Art Nouveau), literature may represent directly subjective and mental realities rather than coherent imaginary worlds (Proust, Joyce), music engages in compositional experiments outside the tonal structure (Stravinsky).

-In painting, observing how the same theme - a snake charmer - was treated in the mid 19th and in the early20th century we understand the different meanings attributed to “otherness” in these periods.

Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), The Snake Charmer, 1907

J.L. Gerome, The Snake Charmer, c. 1870

-The academic painter J.L.Gerome depicts “objectively” a scene presented as distant, exotic, outside any possible moral involvement by the western observer. The informally trained H. Rousseau is instead attracted by the “otherness” in ourselves, by primitive, dream-like and irrational forces that belong to the sub-conscious (explored by Freud in the same years). His snake-charmer is charming ourselves as well…

-Not a “window” opening onto an imaginary world (as traditional painting was) but a system of invented forms. The “primitive” is extolled as antidote to bourgeois hypocrisy and sophistication

Avante-garde” in the 19th century, Saint-Simonian sense (1825 c.)

“To be a member of the avant-garde is to be part of an elite - although this elite, unlike the ruling classes or groups of the past, is committed to a totally anti-elitist program, whose final utopianist aim is the equal sharing by all people of all the benefits of life”

(M. Calinescu, Five faces of modernity, 2003 [1977], p. 104)

Notion preserved in the Marxist-Leninist theory of the party as the
revolutionary avant-garde of the proletariat.
Poet and artist as herald of the future
"Fourier’s conception of universal harmony was related to his ultimate … belief in universal unity … Fourier drew analogies between colors, sounds, curves, passions, and rights. He thereby extended the analogy between colors and sounds which played so important a part in the art theory of romatica and later symbolists” (D. Egbert, quoted in Calinescu, pp. 107)

Contemporary notion of the artistic avant-garde (late 19th - early 20th c.)
The main difference between the political and the artistic avant-gardes of the last one-hundreed years consists in the latter’s insistence on the independently revolutionary potential of art (p. 104)

“In the 1870’s in France, the term avant-gard, while still preserving its broad political meaning, came to designate the small group of advanced writers and artists who transferred the spirit of radical critique of social forms to the domain of artistic forms” (112)
Revolutionize art = revolutionize life
“socially ‘alienated’ artists felt the need to disrupt and completely overthrow the whole bourgeois system of values, with all its philistine pretensions to universality” (119)
"Distorting and often eliminating man’s image from their work, disrupting his normal vision, dislocating his syntax, the cubists and the futurists were certainly among the firts artists to have the consciousness that Man had become an obsolete concept, and that the rhetoric of humanism had to be discarded (125) "

Humanism rejected as a bourgeois ideology

“The scientificism cultivated by the avant-garde for the sake of its antiartistic and antihumanistic metaphoric potential … rejects anyone of the organic or biological assumptions that constitute the heritage of romantic philosophy and literary theory (the world viewed as a living creature, genius paralleled to a natural vital force etc…) (131)

The City Rises- Umberto Boccioni

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space- Umberto Boccioni


Art as re-contextualization (Dada). The most radical gestures in the years around WWI implied a rejection of the very notion of art as a product of taste, genius, skill. The art object is redefined as a found object turned into art by a linguistic re-contextualization.

Marcel Duchamp, Bicicle wheel, 1913

Marcel Duchamp,Fountain, 1917


Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory, 1931

-S. Dali considered his painting as hand-made photos of dreams

Art and Revolution

Natalia Goncharova, Cats

L.S. Popova, Painterly Architectonic

In the early years of the Soviet revolution, the new avant-gardist art was used as a cathalizer and a representation of the radical socio-political process of change…

Socialist Realism

…But during Stalin’s rule the abstract and experimental character of modern Western art was condemned as decadent/bourgeois. In similar fashion Hitler had organized an exhibition of “Degenerate Art” stigmatizing modernism as perversion and corruption, extolling classicism as Arian, as the art of the “superior” race of the Reich.
In the Soviet Union socialist realism was promoted as the faithful representation of popular-national dynamic realiy.

Rethoric of industrialization across political boundaries

-America’s factories are
“our substitutes for religious expression”

-“the man who builds a factory builds a temple, [and] the man who works there worships there.”
(President C. Coolidge)

Social photography and the New Deal

Dorothea Lange (1895-1965),
Migrant Mother, 1936

Next time try the train, California, 1932

Fascist modernity
In Fascist Italy, Mussolini’s imperial dream/nightmare uses a modernized version of the ancient Roman heritage as the signifier of Italy’s ambitions.

State Classicism
Modern monumentality and classicism can also be used in non-totalitarian political contexts to emphasize the stability and the presence of the state in people’s horizon

York & Sawyer
Department of Commerce building
Washington D.C., 1932

G.S. Underwood
The United States Mint Building
San Francisco, 1937