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The plot so far …. The plot so far … ‘All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity’ 1983 Marshall Bermann ‘All That is Solid Melts.

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Presentation on theme: "The plot so far …. The plot so far … ‘All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity’ 1983 Marshall Bermann ‘All That is Solid Melts."— Presentation transcript:


2 The plot so far …

3 ‘All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity’ 1983
Marshall Bermann ‘All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity’ 1983 Modernisation: The processes of scientific, technological, industrial, economic and political innovation that also become urban, social and artistic in their impact Marshall Berman (born 1940) is an American Marxist Humanist writer and philosopher

4 Marshall Bermann ‘All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity’ 1983 Modernity: The way that modernisation infiltrates everyday life and permeates sensibilities

5 Marshall Bermann ‘All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity’ 1983 Modernism: The wave of artistic movements that, from the early twentieth century onwards, in some way responded to, or presented, these changes

6 Lecture 2 Modernity and the Machine Age
This lecture will look at a specific aspect of modernity: the machine, which had a profound influence on modernism and modern art/design/architecture. The idea that the machine could bring both salvation and disaster is recurrent in 20th century culture Leitmotifs such as ‘speed’, the gigantic, repetition, standardisation, efficiency and noise provide positive and negative metaphors of that inspired the creative arts Led to something called ‘the machine aesthetic’ - which was more than just a ‘style’ but also a sensibility and way of thinking about modern life and modernity. Became a metaphor for all things positive and negative. Galleries des Machines Paris 1889 Pin joints at bases resolved huge horizontal and vertical forces, an innovation which allowed for massive span in height and width - used in train stations, factories etc. Machine aesthetic was part of ‘zeitgeist’ - spirit of the age Lecture 2 Modernity and the Machine Age

7 Theo van Doesburg Since it is correct to say that culture [modernity] in its widest sense means independence of Nature, then we must not wonder that the machine stands in the forefront of our cultural will-to-style… The new possibilities of the machine have created an aesthetic expressive of our time, that I once called the Machine Aesthetic. Since the Enlightenment ‘science’ has become a generic term and ‘technology’ the expression of science in society (science in opposition to ‘nature’) ‘Science’ offered to potential to harness natural forces and overcome them - (think about the Turner painting from last week), but the application of science also had the potential to go horribly wrong with terrible consequences (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein) As our ongoing investigation of modernity, this lecture will look at how ideas about the machine and technology created a set of images for twentieth century art, design and architecture, as well as a powerful set of metaphors (both positive and negative) that have changed the way in which we think about the artist and view, subject and object, mind and matter Simultaneous Counter Composition 1929/30

8 The Machine Aesthetic 1910s/1920s: Purism in France DeStijl in Holland Suprematism / Productivism in Russia Constructivism at the Bauhaus (Germany) Precisionism in North America Futurism in Italy The machine aesthetic - a label for some aspects common to some of the movements in the 1910s 1920s (The ‘first machine age’) Purism in France DeStijl in Holland Suprematism and Productivism in Russia Constructivism at the Bauhaus Precisionism in North America Commonality? To include machine and machine effects in their aesthetic appreciation

9 Non-Geometrical abstract art ……versus
Important to note that the machine aesthetic was not the only approach to modernism at this time Expressionism (Kandinsky) and Constructivism (Mondrian) - generic terms for art practice in Europe and North America in the first half of the 20th century Idea that mainstream modernism consisted of 2 overarching trends Alfred H Barr (founder of Museum of Modern Art New York) argued that modern art had split into 2 - on one side there was ‘non-Geometrical abstract art’ (growing out of expressionism ) and on the other ‘geometrical abstract art’ (growing out of constructivism and DeStijl via the Bauhaus) Thought the 2 were irreconcilable - Modernist schism Machine aesthetic was a backlash against the romantic individuality that expressionism seemed to support - seen as self-indulgent and self-obsessed - ‘Painting as Inner Necessity’ Art practice should not be about the ‘cult of the personality’, instead Ideal of universal beauty and egalitarian aesthetic which could be achieved through standardisation ( machine age concept) Many artists choose to standardise their means of production - working with a limited visual vocabulary and geometric forms (Leger & Mondrian) or readymades (Tatlin, Moholy Nagy) Ironic that although these artists were trying to depersonalise their work, it is now immediately recognisable and displayed in art galleries and products of individual genius rather than collective enterprise. Expressionism Wassily Kandinsky, Two Ovals, 1919 Constructivism Piet Mondrian, Two Composition, 1929

10 Fernand Léger The Machine Aesthetic
I have more faith in it [the machine] than the longhaired gentleman with a floppy cravat intoxicated with his own personality and his own imagination This is quite different to Cezanne’s appeal for artists to ‘express themselves according to their personal temperaments’ Leger favoured the pragmatic engineer who ruled over technocracy rather than idealism of expressionist painters Significant that many of the artists who subscribed to the machine aesthetic were from non-fine art backgrounds These artists defied Romantic notion that artists are born and not made Fernand Léger, Propellers, 1918

11 Art is dead Long live Tatlin’s new machine art
Constructivist Vladimir Tatliln - championed the artist as a technician or ‘inventor’ as opposed to creator, an individual whose work in the studio mimics industrial processes Constructivists vocabulary was very different from early modernists ; constructed or assembled rather than paint, cast or carve art works Were in opposition to the ‘precocity’ of easel painting and the myth of the solitary artist genius. Wore boiler suits as opposed to smock or greatcoat of the expressionist artist International Dada Fair, Berlin, 1920

12 Jacques Henri Lartigue Grand Prix France, 1912
Lartigue is using a machine (camera) to capture the feeling of speed - moved the camera from left to right creating distortion which further adds to sense of speed Futurists made modernism even more modern - not interested in ‘stationary objects’ - involved in activities: theatrical, sound, costume. Had great enthusiasm for the machine Giacomo Balla Speed of an Automobile, 1913

13 Aleksandr Rodchenko Russia 1923-30 ‘Kingi’ (books) Window Poster, 1925
Machine aesthetic played a big role in Russian revolution. Rodchenko was a member of the Communist Party and served them by designing advertisements and designs which could get across the message to the largely illiterate proletariat Rodchenko was interested in exploring the relationship between technology and art - disillusioned with easel painting which he gave up to concentrate on relatively mechanised processes of modernity - photography Was particularly against what he called ‘bourgeois’ photography and wanted his to emphasise technical rather than connoisseurial aesthetics. Used for purposes of revolution. The machine age artists preferred film and photography to easel painting as they were felt to be far more democratic and have the ability to reach a much wider audience (parallels with digital age) Rodchenko’s work considered street poetry for the urban masses representing the utopian vision of the machine aesthetic ‘Kingi’ (books) Window Poster, 1925 ‘Mess Mend’ book series 1924

14 Gino Severini, Machinery 1922
The method used for constructing a machine is similar to that for constructing a work of art Machine was frequently represented in works of art (ie Charles Sheeler Ballet Mechanique) Sheeler is referencing the Ford Motor Company plant in Detroit - at the time the most technologically advanced factory of the world employing 20,000 workers in 1920s. A celebration of industry even though at onset of Great Depression in the US. Poetic idea that industrial machines were graceful like ballet Charles Sheeler, Ballet Mechanic, 1931

15 Machine Art exhibition at Museum of Modern Art in New York 1934
Official recognition of the transition of machine from industrial tool to aesthetic object came at MOMA exhibition 1934 ‘Machine Art’, which displayed engines, pistons, propellers and placed them on pedestals in the same way that a curator exhibits paintings or sculpture. (MOMA - first museum dedicated to ‘modern art’ opened in 1929) Catalogue pays homage to ‘a great new race of men in America: the engineer. He has created a new mechanical world’ (Catalogue designed by Fernand Leger) Important that these objects were displayed as works of art Through the idea of Machine Art, MoMA established its own set of requirements for design and art - An aesthetic that contained: simplicity, purity, geometry and austerity and a method of production: machine manufactured, actual or implied, using modern materials, and an iconography: the machine ‘The beauty of machine art is in part the abstract beauty of straight lines and circles made into actual tangible surfaces and solids by means of lathes, rulers and squares’

16 Lewis W Hine Mechanic and Steam Pump 1921
Recurrent theme of heroic worker and celebration of labour. Vision of impersonal and efficient body as metaphor for harmony and strength. Masculinity a key element of this interpretation of modernity! But rather than being depersonalised or oppressed by the machine, these figures appear ennobled and rejuvenated by it. Idea of standardisation and egalitarianism in art practice - standardisation was a positive factor

17 The Bauhaus Dessau 1925 Hans Roericht, Stacking service, 1959
No where was this idea of standardisation and egaliatrianism more prevalent than at the Bauhaus. Building here at Dessau looks like a factory Opened as a regional arts and crafts school with an emphasis on bringing together fine and applied arts, was initially based on ideals of expressionism but soon reinvented itself in an image which was in line with the technocratic spirit of the age Walter Gropius (founder) renamed the workshops ‘laboratories’ and employed artists who imitated technicians, pursued creation of prototypes for mass production Effectively outlawed Expressionism Should note that capitalism is not well disposed to standardisation . Henry Ford’s maxim ‘any colour as long as its black’ did not satisfy publics’s desire to express their individuality. Hans Roericht, Stacking service, 1959

18 Laszlo Moholy-Nagy Light Space Modulator 1923-30
Moholy -Nagy - tutor at Bauhaus Light Sapce Modulator - Something between machine and work of art - a revolving kinetic sculpture which relflects and projects light. Made in collaboration with German engineering firm AEG Summed up all activities encouraged at Bauhaus: industrial collaboration, constructivism, photography (photograms in particular) and film

19 Mechanthropomorphism (hybrid of machine and human)
Themes of beauty and the machine - as with Sheeler’s work, carrying on idea of the ballet Oskar Schlemmer at Bauhaus - choreographed a number of ‘mechanical ballets’ in which dancers mimiced actions of cogs, wheels, pistons etc. - motifs such as speed, gigantism and repetition Saw parallels between machine and the body - Mechanthropomorphism (term used by Pam Meecham and Julie Sheldon in Modern Art: A Critical Introduction) Oskar Schlemmer - Triadic Ballet 1926

20 Mechanthropomorphism
‘No age, I believe, has been more imbecile than ours’ But not all images of machine were unquestioning Picabia - a dadist who was also a machine fetishist Picabia did a series of ‘machine paintings’ - known for relationship between picture and title. Depicts a completely irrational, non-functional machine, is it visually erotic? (title implies it is) Picabia realised the power in the machine as a symbol, making a play on the absurdity of the modern condition Francis Picabia, Parade Amoureuse, 1917

21 Mechanthropomorph as Mechanoid Monster?
Jacob Epstein also explores the negative side of the machine ‘Rock Drill’ - figure straddling a pneumatic drill. Torso without limbs Machine-like, menacing, phallic and sinister figure of today and tomorrow - a Frankenstein monster devoid of humanity - depicts both a fascination and horror of the machine A portent of the First World War - mindless monster fulfilling its programming regardless of the consequences Jacob Epstein, Rock Drill,

22 A house has to fulfill two purposes
A house has to fulfill two purposes. First it is a machine for living in, that is, a machine to provide us with efficient help for speed and accuracy in our work, a diligent and helpful machine which should satisfy all our physical needs: comfort. But it should also be a place conducive to meditation, and lastly, a beautiful place, bringing much needed tranquility to the mind. 1923 Built environment also experienced the influence of the machine age. LeCorbusier famously referred to the house as a ‘machine for living in’ a chair ‘a machine for sitting in. Swiss born Le Corbusier started out by designing prefab housing systems which were a response to the devastation after the First World War. Wanted to to harness modern industry as a means of overcoming disaster. Led to his 5 points of a new architecture Use of columns to raise house off the ground - gave room for circulation of people and cars - eliminated basement which he saw as unhealthy and tubercular. Flat roof to be used as a garden - recovering lost space and making a private space for sunbathing, exercising or taking the view. Free Plan - made use of freedom created by structural frame Free Façade - creation of windows and open terraces Long Horizontal window to enable more light Cook House embodied all of Corbusier’s 5 points of architecture - house raised on columns, ribbon windows running from edge to edge of the façade, partitions are freely shaped in response to aesthetic or functional requirements. Flat roof replaced by wall garden Le Corbusier Cook House, Paris, 1926

23 Le Corbusier Villa Savoye 1928-31
LeCorbusier’s New Architecture was completely radical - offering a machine age structure and Promised to create new freedom by using machine age technology and industrial production in order to solve problems of lack of housing after ravages of WWI, enrich daily life by adding roof gardens, and improve health by allowing more light Villa Savoye - Built in suburban Paris, weekend house which marked the height of Corbusier’s Purist period. Organised as an ‘architectural promendade’ around a central ramp Interior is an example of Corb’s philosophy on purism in architecture Plays with sunlight and geometric form - aesthetic ideals Worth pointing out that this is not a house for ‘the common man’! Le Corbusier Villa Savoye

24 Le Corbusier Unité d’Habitation,
Marseilles, Le Corbusier had utopian belief that world of happiness and equality could be arrived at through combination of social progress and reliance on technology Unite d’Habitation was Corb’s first major post war building - anticipates ‘brutalism’ that is associated with 1950s and 60s modernism. Became model for urban housing Architecture which is arrived at through scientific, rational approach - analysed needs and functional requirements to come up with a solution. Communal living Would have range of carefully considered socialised functions - kindergarten at ground level where parents could easily drop off and pick up children on way to work, shops, social areas

25 Utopia / Dystopia Things to Come 1936 Things to Come William Cameron
Menzies 1936 Proponents of machine age modernism thought that the machine was a great leveler which had potential to make society equal. Examples of the machine age ideals could be seen in popular culture at the time: Things to Come (1936). A work of science fiction, but sets were exemplars of modernist design. Film based on HG Wells story that traces the development of 100 year utopian redevelopment of ‘Everytown’ after it is destroyed by war. Rather than paradise for the few - utopia is the perfect society for everyone. Premise that the old society has to be dismantled before the utopia can be created - timely with war. Idea that utopias are preceded by dystopias

26 Fritz Lang Metropolis 1927 Many twentieth century artists we have looked at engaged with utopian ideal of creating order and harmony through the machine Other side of this is dystopia. Idea of Brave New World was considered by some to be dehumanising - Aldous Huxley and George Orwell Positive metaphors of machine aesthetic were considered negative metaphors of alienation, threatening uniqueness of the individual and fear that we would become dominated by artificiality - gadgets, standardised environments, gigantism, excessive noise and speed. Metropolis is the allegory of the future as the triumph of the machine. The machine in a variety of manifestations becomes the central allegorical figure of the film Depicts urban Modernity (based on Berlin’s Golden Twenties), Generally recognised as the fetish image of all city and cyborg futures. Metropolis stages man’s battle with the machine The central machine of the city transform itself into a demon Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner a make over of Metropolis

27 Fritz Lang Metropolis 1927 Modernity is the centre of the film. The hall of machines symbolises modernity and also becomes a hall of immolation. The machines are large and intimidating. Everyone is a slave to the machine In one of the final scenes a man is literally crucified by one of the machines

28 Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times, 1936
Utopia / Dystopia Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times, 1936 Whereas some believed machine had potential to free ordinary people from burden of repetitive labour, many were concerned about the relationship between machines and human operatives Modern Times - Charlie Chaplin parodies robotisation of human functions in factories in the US. Fear that if the boundaries between the working body and the machine become blurred you will end up with mechanthropomorphism Frederick Winslow Taylor was pioneer of time and motion studies, believed that workers should work like machines in fast, repetitive, time-saving motions to maximise efficiency. Henry Ford implemented Taylor’s ideas creating the ‘assembly line’. Marxist theorists believed that although men and women had been liberated from religious dogma and superstition, this was replaced by a new alienation and demumanisation. Fits in with Marxist idea that capitalism is a form of social control Factory work was soul-destroying and offered no hope of belonging or sense of purpose in life

29 Mechanthropomorph to Cyborg
Central concept of modernity is Idea that everything made by humans is within human control - but does the relentless progress of modernity mean that technology may evolve for itself? Science fiction has explored idea of machines being sentient 2001 Space Odyssey and HAL - computer who has a human name and a personality Blade Runner has 2 characters who do not know if they are real or androids because they have been implanted with a fake human memory Stanley Kubrick 2001 A Space Odyssey, 1969

30 The Machine Aesthetic The machine is as old as the wheel, the wings of Icarus or the Trojan horse. But it is only in our century that it has transcended its utilitarian functions and acquired a variety of meanings, esthetic and philosophical, which are only distantly related to its practical use. John Baur 1963

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