Monday, 7 December 2009

Media Technologies and Public Spheres: 2

The second session Wednesday 7 October , 2009: 'The Media and Modernity: Mediation, Technology, Change'.

Here are some of my thoughts on Modernism and Modernity:

The adjective modern refers to the contemporaneous. So in terms of art, all art is modern to those who make it, whether they are the inhabitants of Renaissance Florence or present day Lincoln. Specifically the term Modern refers to a historical period from the mid 19th century to the nineteen seventies. The exact end date for modernism is up for debate, but we could argue the the 1970s represented the beginning of the end.

Modernism is a critical approach that stresses innovation over all criteria. It is characterised by a radical attitude toward both the past and present. Historically we begin in the 18th Century and the Enlightenment and then at a period that has often been called the Age of Revolution (American, French and Industrial) and then in 1848 the year of the Chartists and the revolutions that swept Europe changing peoples attitude to contemporary life. Crucial to the development of modernism was the break down of traditional of financial power-the church, the state, and the aristocratic elite. This meant that artists were more independent and so free to determine the content of their art, refusing to depict paintings with mythological, religious and historical themes (often referred to as Academic Art). Modernism was widely, but not exclusively associated with life in an industrialised society and was often distinguished by its celebration of technology and science (challenged by many modern artists after 1914). Modern Art arose as part of Western society’s attempt to come to terms with the urban, industrial and secular society that emerged from the 19th century. Modern design emerged as a reaction against the declining standards of craftsmanship and to the Art Nouveau movement from the 1880s onwards. Many practitioners recognized the need for new approaches that would enable the mass production of well-made artefacts for mass consumption. It was believed that mechanization and technology, if properly channelled, could change society for the better. Progress seems to be a key word here when in art we see one style succeed another in quick succession. In the late 19th Century and early Twentieth Century we see the content of art shift from realism and naturalism to spirituality, the celebration of technology, the evocation of primitivism and the emptying of art of all identifiable forms. So Modernism cannot be seen as just one movement.

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