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sexta-feira, maio 19, 2006

Modernism: Designing a New World

The Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition, Modernism: Designing a New World, is to its credit an ambitious attempt to summarise the tumultuous cultural history of 1914-1939, charting how revolutionary ideas became mass movements in art, mass production and architecture. This movement was driven to build a better society in the wake of the First World War; a rejection of the past, and a focus on new technology, was perceived as a way to achieve this.
It seems that for such critics, to have the temerity to want to change society or master nature, is inherently sinister, arrogant and perilous. They propose that utopianism is nihilism, in an embryonic form 'They turned a fad into a political programme, asserting "we" as sovereign over "them."', says one. 'The modernists were the neocons of 20th-century art. They took a sound methodology…and made it a dogma that brooked no opposition, even from reality.' (9)

Even the V&A's title, 'Designing a New World', actually reflects how uncomfortable the cultural establishment is when tackling the idealism embedded within the movement, choosing instead to frame the works in a sterile design light that artificially separates the intellectual or progressive impulses that drove the works.

We shouldn't let the panicky perceptions of the works thwart the progressive desires or inspirations that Modernism offers. If there had been a manifesto room, the curators would have done well to look again to Gramsci's praise of Futurism for a more uplifting gallery wall soundbite: 'they had confidence in themselves, in the impetuosity of their youthful energies.' (3) Re-engaging with such optimism might counteract current cowardice. These beliefs and hopes need to be dusted off as aesthetic and political curiosities, and we need to reconsider some of Modernism's bold aims to reshape not just objects but society itself.

spiked-culture | Article | Modernism: "Victoria & Albert Museum"


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