Sunday, 26 December 2010

Shock of the New 1: Mechanical Paradise

The television series “Shock of the New” was first broadcast in 1980. The above episode was last broadcast in on Sat, 27 September 2008, at 20:00.

The series explores the development of modern art from 1880 to the present or at least to 1980 with the series and the first addition of the book based on the series. The first episode “Mechanical Paradise” (see above) shows how the development of technology transformed art and culture between the years 1880 and 1914. 

The key word was modernity and its emblem was the Eiffel Tower: its creator an engineer and not an architect.  This emblem signalled the end of one kind of history and the birth of another as the 19th moved into the 20th Century.

Hughes discusses Paul Cezanne and his works curious if sometimes contradictory relationship to Cubism. Hughes explores Cubism and its “inventors” Pablo Picasso and George Braque. Cubism according to Hughes was the first time artists confronted these cultural changes, shifts in contemporary philosophy and science and the birth of mass media. The transforming urban experience was explored by artists as diverse as Delaunay, Juan Gris and Leger and the poet Apollinaire.

The Marinetti and the Futurists seized upon the transforming poetry of the machine and speed, while the work of Picabia and Duchamp seem to suggest something less romantic about technology.

This episode concludes with the outbreak of World War One and the end of the hopes and dreams of the early machine age.

Presenter: Robert Hughes
Producer: Lorna Pegram

BBC Time-Life television series.

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