Friday, 5 November 2010

Lecture 1 Modernity & Modernism - an introduction

Without Modernism - No Ikea,designer bars and building, mini skirts and stiletto heel.

Modernity period 1750-1960, although some people think we are still living in a period of modernity since 1960 this is officially termed post modernism. 

Until the 18th century the word modern in terms of culture was used to compare the modern artists inferiority to the Classical artists.  So it was a negative term.

1851 - Modern was a term used to describe Pre-raphalites and as such was used seen in a positive light.
A concept we can relate to in the 20th/21st century 
Paris 1900 is the cultural hub of modernity.  This was a period of rapid change and URBANISATION

The Exposition Universelle of 1900 was a world's fair held in Paris, France, to celebrate the achievements of the past century and to accelerate development into the next.

Process of urbanisation

A shift in society as people started living in towns and cities as a direct result of industrialisation. Features of urbanisation:
  1. Factory workers - shifts, set work times, leisure and holiday times
  2. Changes in transport - roads,canals,steam ships. Railway in particular made the wider world more accessible to more people.
  3. Invention of telephone and telegraph
  4. New forms of leisure  - Music Hall, Cinema, shopping (rich),
  5. World time standardised

Process of rationality and reason
Enlightenment is a period in late 18th C when Scientific and philosophical thinking made leaps and bounds.  A shift from using spirituality and religion to understand the world towards a rational understanding using science and technology.

The "city' is the personification of modernity.  The city landscape in the late 18th/ early 19th century is the figure of modernity, both historic and modern.  The Eiffel Tower is a symbol of modernity , glorifying the modern world. 

Caillebotte ‘Paris on A Rainy Day’ 1877

Around the same time it is no coincidence that there was a shift in art. This painting by Caillebotte is  painting of people experiencing the modern world not a portrait.


A 'new'Paris was specifically designed to be a symbol of modernity from 1850's.  Large boulevards replaced narrow street to accommodate the faster pace of life.  Some argue this was a form of social engineering that the re-design was cleansing the city of crime and slums.  The narrow streets were dark and unsafe.  The working class were moved to the 'ghettos' whilst the wealthy thrived in the 'new' city.

Caillabotte -Young man at his window 1875

More portraits of people experiencing modernity.  The picture captures a sense of isolation that all this new space afforded people.

Psychology emerges as people worried that new modern life was too fast and was driving people mad.

1893 a photograph of one of the first psychology labs

Cailebotte - Observed social identities in the city where the rich and poor were forced to mix

Seurat - Reflected new found space for leisure created by the modern world.  His style 'Pontilist' was in response to the optics and lenses which were being experimented on at the time. (Small dots)

Seurat- A reflection of new classes and class division - the workers on the left and he rich on their yachts on the right.

Degas L'absinthe 1876 - An observation of a worker drowning her sorrows, getting drunk as work is so boring

Degas- Being served by someone. Not happy, part of wealth but not allowed to fully access.

There was a new found time to be bored and to need distraction. Kaiserpanorama 1883 was a viewing device which you put coins in to view slides such as erotica, art and images of the 'modern' world.

People were experiencing the 'modern' world through the lens.  Technology replaces the real involvement with living.  Society became increasingly atomised.

Cinema was invented and the initial reaction to moving image was one of shock.  The first showing of a moving train in a cinema resulted in people leaping from their seats.  The first films in Paris were produced by the Lumiere Brothers.

We can start to understand modernity by considering the subjective psychological experience of the individual. Modernism emerges out of artists ad designers responses to modernity.   

William Powell Frith painting is a classical representation of the modern world.

Monet - Gare Saint Lazar attempts to represent sights, sensations and smells - A sensory experience of the modern world.

There is an argument that Impressionists were deeply influenced by photographs.  Painting had to do something different as photographs represented the world so accurately.  Impressionism was 'reactionary'.

In 1903, Alfred Stieglitz designed the 'flat iron' building, New York.  Modern building towering above the natural, controlled space.  A rational piece of design where form dictated purpose.  It also gave new perspectives of the world ie from above.   

Artistic modernism
Paul Citreon - Collage, Graphic Design 1923photomontage, provided a condensed view of modernism

George Gorz Collage- demonstrates in the modern world we are instructed by advertising and the media.

George Grosz & John Heartfield
‘Life & Activity in Universal City at 12:05 Midday’ 1920

1884 the use of photos to understand scientifically how our bodies work

There was a direct response from design. 
Anti-historicism - A period of not looking backwards only looking forwards.
Truth to materials - let new modern materials speak for themselves
Form follows function -simple geometric forms appropriate to the material being used ie skyscapers built for high capcity ue in small area
Technology -
Internationalism - All modernist design spoke an internationally understood language.
Beauty comes frrom simplicity to carry out function

BAUHAUS most influential art school of the 20th century.  Walter Gropius, an arhitect, was the director of the school who loved living the 'modernist liestyle'.  A modernist art school with a concrete building designed using the latest technology.  Large windows to provide light.  The building is decorated bt the 'new' font 'Futura'.  The school rewrote the rules on how art was taught, modernising education.  Interdisciplinary where painters taught photographers.  It was actually cloased by the Nazis as it was considered too progressive (1919 to 1933)
The Breurer chair was designed by Bauhaus architect, teacher and furniture designer Marcel Breurer and was a direct response toa certain moment in time (1925/6) It ha sincebeen much copied and the design's ethos has reduced over time. The ethos was dign available to all where they carved mass production but ironically the designs became elitest.
Technology - As new technology was embraced this resulted in products which could be made more quickly and that were affordable to the masses
New technologies of steel
Reinforced glass
Cheaper more widely accessible products
Products made quickly
The Seagram Building in New York represents a typical  Modern building:  
Simplicity, logical design, anti-decorative, geometry, purity, truth to materials
. Lots of buildngs were built like this very cheaply and have since been demolished.
Le Corbusier ‘Plan Voisin’ 1927  Modernist utopian vision. A logical, progressive vision of a perfect modern city. Brutalism vs. Idealism.This design looked great on paper but the reality was quite different.
Modernism was supposed have Inernationalism (A language of design that could be recognised and understood around the world).  However this was questionable as even today parts of Africa and other underdeveloped countries will not be bale to relate to Modern concepts and designs.

A good example of  a truely Interrnational pure modern design could be Harry Beck's London Underground map 1933. Any culture can understand and it has since been copied in most cities in the world.
The legacy of Modernism is everywhere.  Throughout history the term 'modern' has never been a neutral term; it has always implied either a positive or negative.
The Modernity period between 1750 to 1960 experienced  a huge social and cultural shift.
Modernism advanced the stylistic possibilities of design.  Modernism is the  range of ideas and styles which sprang from Modernity
Importance -  It introduced a vocabualrly of styles, art and design education and the important concept 'Form follows function'

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