modernity

avant-garde

For Poggioli, futurism defines one central aspect of the avant-garde, which in Ortega Y Gasset's words, is that the historical task of the contemporary artist is to "work in the present for the future". In this "historical mythology of contemporary art" the work of the avant-garde presents the shape of things to come. Poggioli differentiates between the actual artistic movement of Futurism and that movement's claim to the concept of the avant-garde. For Poggioli,Futurism "possessed in its name the most successful and suggestive formula thought up by the avant-garde" but the movement "was one of the lowliest and vulgar manifestations of avant-garde culture" (p.143) If real futurism is dead forever, ideal futurism is still living, precisely because it renews itself in the consciousness of each successive avant-garde. (p.223). Reyner Banham also enthusiastically described the Futurist example and its exaltation of speed while distancing himself from its politics. 

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fordism

Ford's factories required a disciplined and deskilled workforce, willing and able to perform repetitive tasks on the assembly line. F. W. Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management published in 1911 had already described how labor productivity could be radically increased by breaking down each labor process into component motions and organizing them according to rigorous standards of time and motion. 

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formless

formless

This image of two inchoate substances ressembles Plato's accounts of creation in the Timaeus, in which earth and sky are separated by the gap of space, a gap which Eros tries to fill. (see philosophy / chaos ) While these accounts are about the origin of form, the informe is a counter-movement against the authority of form.

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Formalism

We can perhaps begin by describing formalism as the valorization of the purely aesthetic experience, as aestheticism. The principle work of formalism focuses on the techniques specific to a medium.

Michael Podro describes the critical historians of art as treading a tightrope between a sense of context in art and a sense of autonomy. He describes the concept of art as both inextricable from context and irreducible to it. When the former is elevated at the expense of the latter, art becomes a trace or symptom of context, when the latter is stressed, the position moves more towards formalism. For art, to be autonomous is to have a separate history. (The compromise solution for this tension has been to describe the "semi-autonomy" or "relative autonomy" of art.)

For the Russian formalist critics, such as Viktor Shklovsky, "estrangement" (or "defamiliarization”) was the central vehicle for a modernist aesthetics that sought to define the "literariness of literature". (although Sterne's Tristram Shandy and Cervante's Don Quixote written long before modernism, are often referred to as canonic examples of the technique)In "Art as Technique" (1917), Shklovsky claimed that the purpose of art was to force us to notice. Because of habitualization, "the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously...and art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. ...The technique of art is to make objects "unfamiliar", to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important." (Lemon & Reis, p. 12)

Formalism presents itself as moving beyond representation, and it thus moves out of the communicational social contract constituted in representation.

Russian Formalism was first attacked by Trotsky, in Literature and Revolution, in 1923. Trotsky saw Formalism as only concerned with the technical aspects of literature. In the following year, the first Soviet Commissar of Education, Anatoly Lunacharsky, renewed the attack, calling Formalism "decadent" rather than simply "narrow". for Lunacharsky, Formalism encouraged art for art's sake and promoted aesthetic sterility. (see Victor Erlich, Russian Formalism, p. 103-107)

The debate between the Marxist and Formalist critics continued for the rest of the decade and took a decidedly more frightening turn with the rise of Stalin. One of the more interesting attempts at going beyond both a-social pure Formalism and a-literary sociologism of pure Marxisms was the study originally attributed to P.N. Medvedev, but now thought to be principally written by M. M. Bakhtin, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship.

In 1932, Sergei Eisenstein was one of the few active artists still able to defend the idea of form. In "In the Interest of Form", he wrote, echoing what Medvedev/Bahktin saw as "the main claim of European formalism" that "Form is always ideological ."


globalization

globalization

What is globalization? On a simple level, Globalization seems to be a a name for the increased interconnectedness of cultures, a world of complex mobilities and interconnections, characterized by cultural flows of capital, people, commodities, images, and ideologies

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local/global

The "local" is a politically contested concept. Is it a site of resistance to globalization and the hegemonic ideological systems that go under the names of the West, McWorld, and EMPIRE? Is the local the only viable link to tradition, or is it a source of fascisms, of ethnic atavisms, of all the raging cultural fundamentalisms and defensively defined communities that Benjamin Barber calls jihad ? 

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modernism

Modernity can be thought of 

1. as a category of historical periodization: a distinct period in time.
2. as a quality of social experience, ("our" modernity), and as the experience of a qualitative difference in historical time. 
3. as a project, which is perhaps incomplete. (Habermas, Foucault, Deleuze (?) ) Perhaps also as a crisis. 

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non-place

For Marc Augé, a non-place comes into existence when human beings do not recognise themselves in it. (see place / identity) Non-places begin with uprootedeness -- uprooted nineteenth century countrymen, migrants, refugees, etc. They provide the "passive joys of identity loss." While anthropological places create the organically social, so non-places create solitary contractuality. (p.94) Thus a space which cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity will be a non-place, and these non-places are the real measure of our time. (pp.77-79) 

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perspective / narrative

In his study of the relation between the photographic frame and narrative in film, Steven Heath sees filmic narrative as the fulfilment of the Renaissance impetus for events to have their proper place. He quotes Rosalind Krauss' comments on perspective as "the visual correlate of causality that one thing follows the next in space according to rule...perspective space carried with it the meaning of narrative: a succession of events leading up to and away from this moment; and within that temporal succession--given as spatial analogue--was secreted the "meaning" of both that space and those events". (in "A View of Modernism", Artforum, Sept 1972.) cf. Alois Hildebrand, "The Problem of Form in the Fine Arts" with its stress on the coherence of spatial recession. (see vision)

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popular culture

In " Avant-Garde and Kitsch", Clement Greenberg describes a second new cultural phenomenon that appeared in the industrial West: Kitsch. For Greenberg, the new urban masses lost their taste for the folk culture of the countryside, discovered a new capacity for boredom, and set up a pressure on society to provide them with a culture fit for their own consumption. For Greenberg, Kitsch is produced by a rationalized technique that draws on science and industry and erases the values that permit distinctions between good and bad art. 

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