_Five Faces of Modernity_ is a series of semantic and cultural biographies of words that have taken on special significance in the last century and a half or so: _modernity_, _avant-garde_, _decadence_, _kitsch_, and _postmodernism_. The concept of modernity—the notion that we, the living, are different and somehow superior to our predecessors and that our civilization is likely to be succeeded by one even superior to ours—is a relatively recent Western invention and one whose time may already have passed, if (...) we believe its postmodern challengers. Calinescu documents the rise of cultural modernity and, in tracing the shifting senses of the five terms under scrutiny, illustrates the intricate value judgments, conflicting orientations, and intellectual paradoxes to which it has given rise. _Five Faces of Modernity_ attempts to do for the foundations of the modernist critical lexicon what earlier terminological studies have done for such complex categories as _classicism_, _baroque_, _romanticism_, _realism_, or _symbolism_ and thereby fill a gap in literary scholarship. On another, more ambitious level, Calinescu deals at length with the larger issues, dilemmas, ideological tensions, and perplexities brought about by the assertion of modernity. (shrink)
Reflections on the relationship of aesthetics to politics tend to circle, almost compulsively, around a relatively stable set of conceptual oppositions, inherited from German philosophies of the late 18th century. This essay proposes an expansion of the theoretical terms of the debate by extending the field of transcendental aesthetics into the domain of historical temporalization. Fundamental art-historical categories may thereby be incorporated, philosophically transformed, into ‘aesthetics’ as forms of historical temporalization: avant-garde, modern, contemporary. The essay expounds two theses, in (...) particular: 1. The historical subsumption of the temporality of the avant-garde by the temporality of the modern: the modern stands to the avant-garde as the negation of its politics by the repetition of the new –‘the new as the ever–same’; 2. the historical subsumption of the temporality of the modern by ‘the contemporary’: the contemporary stands to the modern as the negation of the dialectical logic – and hence specifically developmentalist futurity – of the new by a spatially determined, but imaginary co-presencing. One effect of this latter subsumption, it is argued, is a particular, regressive ‘repetition of the national’, at the level of cultural representation, on the terrain of the global. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to explore the conditions under which the post-positivist interest in rewriting or reinterpreting history could operate legitimately from an historical point of view. The first part of the paper outlines and explains some of the key thematic elements of historical post-positivism. The second, proceeds to investigate how these elements can be configured and related to each other within Arthur Danto’s influential account of the development of contemporary art, and especially the avant-garde. The intention (...) is to acquire a sense of the working dynamics of the post-positivist thought, so as to better understand its possible implications for the writing of history. In the concluding section an argument is proposed to the effect that, although the post-positivist interest in re-writing of history can in principle be admitted as entirely legitimate, its legitimacy depends on introducing some substantive constraints on content, in addition to the formal considerations that post-positivist discourse generally tends to favor. It is further suggested that this constraint should take the form of a requirement on historical literacy the meaning of which is, finally, elucidated by drawing a contrast with historical common sense. (shrink)
Art, Mimesis and the Avant-Garde explores the relationship between art and philosophy. Andrew Benjamin argues for a reworking of the task of philosophy in terms of the centrality of ontology. It is in relation to this centrality, understood through the differences between modes of being, that art, mimesis, and the avant-garde come to be presented. A fundamental part of this book is the original interpretations of important contemporary painters and their themes: Lucian Freud's self-portraits, Francis Bacon 's use (...) of mirrors, R. B. Kitaj and Jewish identity, Anselm Kiefer and iconoclasm. Apart from painting, Benjamin considers architecture, literature, and the philosophical writings of Walter Benjamin and Descartes in elaborating the various aspects of ontological difference. Benjamin develops the theory of the avant-garde as a philosophical category rather than a historical marker, thus bringing the worlds of contemporary art criticism and contemporary philosophy closer together. (shrink)
Many artists who identify as politically committed are suspicious of art due to the Situationist argument that revolutionary art is impossible. If right, the argument also rules out a future artistic avant-garde. I believe that, by concentrating on the truthtelling possibilities of art, we can meet the Situationist argument. To do so, it is necessary to change the relationship art has to everyday life. We can then speculate on the form of a future avant-garde.
In the article the authors are dealing with the militant potential of the concept of avant-garde. Emerging in the politics and art in the first half of the 19th century and designed to ruin almost the whole tradition of 'bourgeois' enlightenment, political and artistic avant-garde was never capable of emancipating itself from its roots in strategic military thinking. Its true essence was to create battlefields in every domain of public life where the chance was given to ruin civil (...) society - its politics, its art, its way of thinking, its civilization. In the name of freedom never heard of before, it spread violence and spread totalitarian seeds on the scorched soil. And in the end it was not defeated by its numerous enemies because it became victim of its own destructiveness. U clanku autori se bave militantnim potencijalom koncepta avangarde. Pojavljujuci se u politici i umetnosti u prvoj polovini 19. veka i nastojeci da unisti gotovo celokupnu tradiciju 'burzoaskog' prosvetiteljstva, politicka i umetnicka avangarda nikada nije bila sposobna da se oslobodi svojih korena u vojnickom nacinu razmisljanja. Njena prava sustina je lezala u stvaranju bojnih polja u svakoj oblasti javnog zivota gde je postojala sansa da se unisti gradjansko drustvo - njegova politika, njegova umetnost, njegov nacin razmisljanja, njegova civilizacija. U ime jos necuvene slobode, ona je sirila nasilje i sejala totalitarino seme po sprzenoj zemlji. A na kraju je nisu pobedili njeni mnogobrojni neprijatelji zato jer je postala zrtva vlastite destruktivnosti. (shrink)
In the present paper, the author looks at the political dimension of some trends in the visual arts within twentieth-century avant-garde groups through George Santayana’s idea of vital liberty. Santayana accused the avant-gardists of social and political escapism, and of becoming unintentionally involved in secondary issues. In his view, the emphasis they placed on the medium and on treating it as an aim in itself, not, as it should be, as a transmitter through which a stimulating relationship with the (...) environment can be had, was accompanied by a focus on fragments of life and on parts of existence, and, on the other hand, by a de facto rejection of ontology and cosmology as being crucial to understanding life and the place of human beings in the universe. The avant-gardists became involved in political life by responding excessively to the events of the time, instead of to the everlasting problems that are the human lot. (shrink)
Artists and critics regularly enlist theory in the creation and assessment of artworks, but few have scrutinized the art theories themselves. Here, Daniel examines and critiques the norms, assumptions, historical conditions, and institutions that have framed the development and uses of art theory. Spurred by the theoretical claims of Arthur Danto, a leader in the philosophy of the avant-garde, Herwitz reexamines the art and theory of major figures in the avant-garde movement including John Cage, Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, (...) and Andy Warhol. (shrink)
I. An introduction -- II. Russian futurism and the related currents -- III. Russian suprematism and constructivism -- IV. The OBERIU circle (Daniil Kharms and his associates) -- V. Russian experimental performance and theater -- VI. Avant-garde cinematography: Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov.
In this challenging essay, Maarten Doorman argues that in art, belief in progress is still relevant, if not essential. The radical freedoms of postmodernism, he claims, have had a crippling effect on art, leaving it in danger of becoming meaningless. Art can only acquire meaning through context the concept of progress, then, is ideal as the primary criterion for establishing that context. The history of art, in fact, can be seen as a process of constant accumulation, works of art commenting (...) on one another and enriching one another's meanings. It is these complex interrelationships and the progress they create in both art and its observers that Doorman, in a display of great philosophical erudition, defends. (shrink)
Fascism, modernism and modernity -- The Jew as anti-artist : Georges Sorel and the aesthetics of the anti- Enlightenment -- La Cité française : Georges Valois, Le Corbusier and fascist theories of urbanism -- Machine primitives : Philippe Lamour and the fascist cult of youth -- Classical violence : Thierry Maulnier and the legacy of the Cercle Proudhon.
Using the literary work of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the founder of the Italian Futurist movement and an early associate of Mussolini, the author explores the point of contact between a "progressive" aesthetic practice and a "reactionary" political ideology.
Against arbitrariness -- The plastic word -- The simultaneous vision -- Each of us tracks his own toad -- The bed in the background : the erotics of chance in the discourses of Czech surrealism -- The poet and the hangman.
This essay is an excerpt for a larger paper exploring the concept of autonomy as it emerges in the life and work of the composer, performer, record label executive and club-owner John Zorn. Zorn’s activities over his wide-ranging career span from performing at jazz lofts in the 1970s to winning the MacArthur “genius” grant in 2008, while maintaining his status as a prolific composer and producer of avant-garde music. In interviews, documentaries, and in his music, Zorn often comments on (...) his status as an avant-garde producer, specifically within the context of the record industry and within New York City’s so-called “Downtown” scene. Economics take the forefront in determining artistic attitudes towards both production of music and the music itself, as Zorn has, seemingly, been forced by the “mainstream market” to create a parallel, vertically-integrated economic system to support the livelihood of himself and his collaborators. This excerpt, from the first third of the essay, unpacks Zorn’s relationship with Downtown scene, his conception of the avant-garde, and his attitude towards artists who have set precedents for Zorn’s version of autonomous cultural production. It also notes the idiosyncratic way that both Zorn and his critics have placed Zorn’s music both within and without two distinct traditions: Avant-Garde composition and free Jazz. (shrink)
Global Justice and Avant-Garde Political Agency offers a fresh, nuanced example of political theory in an activist mode. Setting the debate on global justice in the context of recent methodological disputes on the relationship between ideal and nonideal theorizing, Ypi's dialectical account shows how principles and agency really can interact.
Lea Ypi’s book Global Justice and Avant-Garde Political Agency is a very rich book, and one cannot hope to do it justice in the space of a short discussion.1 In this commentary I will focus on the second part of her title, reserving for another occasion her interesting discussion of equality and sufficiency as principles of global justice. Here I will restrict myself to some remarks about method in political theory, and especially the idea of avant-garde political theory, (...) which is perhaps Ypi’s most distinctive contribution. (shrink)
The design office of Charles and Ray Eames was a collaborative, interdisciplinary, multimedia affair linking Hollywood, the State Department, universities, the corporate sector and international fairs during the height of the Cold War. Bringing together design, furniture, cutting-edge technology and experimental, avant-garde informed-multiscreen projections, the Eames Office operated as a humanities/IT/media/arts lab. For the 1964 World’s Fair, the Eameses created ‘The Information Machine’ for IBM. The techniques of display and experimental juxtaposition of images, sound and new media capacities later (...) migrated to the many ‘happenings’ following in the wake of Allan Kaprow’s medial and performative experiments. The Eames Office crafted for the 1964 World’s Fair a vision of global change and possibility grounded in avant-garde visual techniques and aesthetics that continue to constitute a specific globe crafted by the US Cold War military-industrial-university-entertainment complex that remains the grounds for our current collective nomos. (shrink)
In this groundbreaking study, Nina Gurianova identifies the early Russian avant-garde as a distinctive movement in its own right and not a preliminary stage to the Constructivism of the 1920s. Gurianova identifies what she terms an “aesthetics of anarchy”—art-making without rules—that greatly influenced early twentieth-century modernists. Setting the early Russian avant-garde movement firmly within a broader European context, Gurianova draws on a wealth of primary and archival sources by individual writers and artists, Russian theorists, theorizing artists, and German (...) philosophers. Unlike the post-revolutionary avant-garde, which sought to describe the position of the artist in the new social hierarchy, the early Russian avant-garde struggled to overcome the boundaries defining art and to bridge the traditional gap between artist and audience. As it explores the aesthetics embraced by the movement, the book shows how artists transformed literary, theatrical, and performance practices, eroding the traditional boundaries of the visual arts and challenging the conventions of their day. (shrink)
In her book Global Justice and Avant-Garde Political Agency, Lea Ypi revisits the debate over the scope of justice between cosmopolitans and statists, which has been constitutive of the field of international normative theory. Against statists, Ypi defends the global scope of egalitarian principles of justice, deriving them from a causally fundamental relationship between relative and absolute deprivation. Against cosmopolitans, she demonstrates that associative political relations play an essential role in implementing egalitarian principles of global justice and that condemnations (...) of the state by cosmopolitans are both unnecessary and ill-advised. Advocating what she calls ‘statist cosmopolitanism,’ whereby domestic ‘avant-garde’ agents intervene politically so as to constrain and motivate fellow-citizens to support cosmopolitan transformations, the book offers a dialectical account of political theory in an activist mode. (shrink)
This essay interprets the controversy over Richard Serra's monumental sculpture, Tilted Arc , which was designed for a public plaza in downtown Manhattan in 1979 and then torn down five years later after intense public outcry. Levine reads this controversy as characteristic of contemporary debates over the arts, which continue the tradition of the nineteenth century avant-garde, pitting art against a wider public, and insisting that art must deliberately resist mainstream tastes and values in favor of marginality and innovation. (...) This definition of art has posed a lasting dilemma for democratic societies: how, after all, should a democracy deal with art that represents an intentional rejection of the majority? The problem becomes even more intractable when it comes to avant-garde art commissioned for public spaces, where the art object can challenge public tastes and movements in a way that is inescapable for those who must live and work in the space. Disturbed by the imposition of a massive and incomprehensible art object in a public plaza, Serra's opponents argued that Tilted Arc frustrated a whole range of socially beneficial activities, labor and leisure alike. And they claimed that Serra's supporters were dangerously anti-democratic. But despite the avant-garde's challenge to majority tastes, this essay makes the case that it remains a democratic value to continue to sponsor avant-garde art in public spaces. (shrink)
The most important modes of film practice, in my view, are art-house cinema and the avant-garde, both of which contrast with the classical Hollywood mode of film practice. While the latter is characterized by its commercial imperative, corporate hierarchies, and a high degree of specialization as well as a division of labor, the avant-garde is an “artisanal” or “personal” mode. Avant-garde films tend to be made by individuals or very small groups of collaborators, financed either by the (...) filmmakers alone or in combination with private patronage and grants from arts institutions. Such films are usually distributed through film cooperatives and exhibited by film societies, museums, and universities. (Consequently .. (shrink)
The words of the keynote speaker at the “After the Avant-Garde” Conference (University of Houston, March 6-9, 1985) were destined to fall on deaf ears. Here was the 55-year-old Hans Magnus Enzensberger—poet, essayist, editor of Kursbuch —who 15 years earlier had argued for a left-wing “takeover” of the media for revolutionary ends. Yet this night he had a more Socratic wisdom to convey: an innate distrust of the concept of the avant-garde, a notion that suggests the obligation of (...) a self-styled political or artistic elite to become standard-bearers for the rest of humanity — presumably, the unenlightened “masses” — who will in due time follow suit. Enzensberger subjected the sheer presumption of this conception to unsparing critical scrutiny. (shrink)
This article discusses the role of ideology in the Avant-Garde of both Russia and Western Europe. For this purpose, it is necessary to clearly delineate “ideology”and “politics,” which takes up the first part of this study. A number of different views of these aspects, as expressed by several critical approaches with respect to the Russian Avant-Garde, are confronted and critically examined.
Last Spring two important German books on aesthetics finally appeared in English: Adorno's unfinished Aesthetic Theory, intended to summarize his philosophy and sociology of modern culture, and Büger's Theory of the Avant-Garde, in many ways a dialogue with Adorno and critical theory. Peter Bürger, a professor of French and comparative literature at the university of Bremen, has published extensively on a broad spectrum of classical to avant-garde literature, generally trying to combine an outline of a sociology of culture (...) with detailed socio-historical anaylses of specific works. Bürger sees himself as a mediator between hermeneutics and critical theory. He is an avowed disciple of the Frankfurt School in that the recognizes the cognitive and potentially moral function of art, bound up with art's necessary aloofness from practice in bourgeois society. (shrink)
Modernism remains a complex and complicated term, contested not only with regard to its historical meaning or period boundaries but also with regard to its relevance for aesthetics and, more broadly, for the contemporary understanding of art. Is modernism the culmination of modernity, its crowning moment or perhaps its tipping point toward the purported postmodernity/postmodernism, or is the radical challenge instigated by modernism’s artistic inventiveness—what I call its avant-garde momentum—still extant and current beyond the apparent succession of modernism by (...) postmodernism? This essay approaches these questions through a discussion of various approaches to artworks in modernism and the avant-garde: Adorno, Rancierè, Heidegger, and Lyotard in order to explore the extent to which aesthetics remains both the precondition and the optics for modernism. At the same time, it assesses the implications of the avant-garde’s challenge to the very idea of art. The divergence in the discussions of the split between modernism and avant-garde, as well as the contention between proposals for a new aesthetic and the critique of the notion of art, pivot on the issue of freedom and the role of the human. In its challenge to art, the avant-garde calls into question the centrality of the human and the idea that freedom is a human possession. In doing so, it rethinks the notion of the artwork with regard to the non-human or inhuman. Against the backdrop of this rift between modernism and the avant-garde, the essay discusses the works of Wallace Stevens and Gertrude Stein. While Stein’s avant-garde writing is intensely engaged in its practice with drafting a new poetic rigor of writing and experience, the modernist Stevens uses aesthetic paradigms and reflection to trigger the liminal state at the end of the imagination or the mind. This brief study of Stevens and Stein illustrates the fact that modernism and the avant-garde inhabit the same historical moment yet part ways with regard to aesthetics. As the avant-garde elaborates its new rigor in order to work in tune with the non-human reach of the event, it moves beyond the metaphysical determination of art and aesthetics. In the avant-garde, what is ‘proper’ to humankind comes to be “inhabited by the inhuman,” to paraphrase Lyotard, and is “celebrated” as such. This fissure means also that the momentum of the avant-garde extends beyond the historical boundaries of, for many already closed, chapter of modernism. (shrink)