Monday, 25 January 2010

Lecture 6 - Postmodernism

Modernity - main associations:
  • Experimentation; innovation, individualism; progress; purity; originality; seriousness.
Postmodern is concerned with:
  • Exhaustion; pluralism; pessimism; disillusionment with the idea of absolute knowledge.
Some characteristics overlap:

Modernism: Expression of: Modern life /Technology / New Materials / Communication [Modernity]

Postmodernism: Reaction to: Modern life /Technology / New Materials / Communication [Postmodernity]

Postmodernism origins:

•1917 - German writer Rudolph Pannwitz, spoke of ‘nihilistic, amoral, postmodern men’

•1964 - Leslie Fielder described a ‘post’ culture, which rejected the elitist values of Modern Culture

These people had broken away from modern European civilization values.

· 1960s beginnings

· 1970s established as term (Jencks)

· 1980s recognisable style

· 1980s & 90s dominant theoretical discourse

· Today: Tired & simmering

Uses of the term postmodern.

· after modernism

· the historical era following the modern

· contra modernism

· equivalent to ‘late capitalism’(Jameson)

· artistic and stylistic eclecticism

· ‘global village’ phenomena: globalization of cultures, races, images, capital, products

The demolition of the Pruitt - Igoe development, St Louis -

15 July 1972, 3:32pm - Modernism dies, according to Charles Jencks. The death of modernist architecture.

Frank Gehry, Guggenheim museum, Bilbao, 1997 Looks like melting in the heat - possible response to global warming? - making us as viewers become disillusioned with this idea / knowledge.

Roy Lichtenstein 'This must be the place' 1965.Robert Venturi 'Las Vegas - postmodern city?' 1972
High art / low art divide.

David Shrigley ‘Art Lovers’ 2000

I think this is a good example of showing the divide - showing what is clearly mimicking atroicious art, but is deemed excellent by those with money.

Andy Warhol.
Things begin to change - a postmodern 'cult' of celebrity obsession and focus starts to set in (like in today's culture - being on T.V. has now become more important than what's actually on it.) as does a commodity culture - depicted here in:
Roy Lictenstein 'Red painting (brushstroke)' 1965
Richard Hamilton, 'Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?' 1956

Key quotes from the lecture:

Quote 1. Robert Venturi

‘I like elements which are hybrid rather than ‘pure’, compromising rather than ‘clean’, distorted rather than ‘straight-forward’, ambiguous rather than ‘articulated’, perverse as well as impersonal….’

Quote 2. ‘Generally post-modern artists like to mix the highbrow and the populist, the alienating and the accessible, and to ‘sample’ elements from different styles and eras…

now you can reinvent yourself endlessly, gaily pick ‘n’ mixing your way through the gaudy fragments of a shattered culture’.

" Crisis in confidence - But:

also = freedom, new possibilities

Questioning old limitations

Space for marginalised discourse:

Women, sexual diversity & multiculturalism"

CONCLUSION: postmodernism is...

  • A vague disputed term

  • Po-Mo attitude of questioning conventions (esp. Modernism)

  • Po-Mo aesthetic = multiplicity of styles & approaches

  • Shift in thought & theory investigating ‘crisis in confidence’ Eg. Lyotard

  • Space for ‘new voices’

  • Rejection of technological determinism?

Friday, 8 January 2010

Essay - provisional bibliography.

The essay question I am planning to answer is:
'Choosing a particular period between 1800 to the present, in what ways has art or design responded to the changing social and cultural forces of that period? Focus on two specific examples.
I've chosen to look at the Punk era as it's not something I've really explored before but admire greatly. Would be nice to challenge myself instead of taking an easy option like the Russian Revolution like I have studied previously.
Provisional biography of 5 starting points (books).
  • Sladen, M (2007) 'Panic Attack!: art in the punk years' London, Merrell Publishers Ltd. Reason: I think it would be good to look at an overview of art and design at the time of the punk era and how it changed.
  • Kindersley, D (2006) 'Punk: the whole story' London, Dorling Kindersley. Reason: Has interviews, insider stories and photographs - could tell me about the social impact on people at the time.
  • Turcotte, B and Wood, D (2007) 'Punk is dead, punk is everything' UK, Gingko Press. Reason: "Punk is Dead exposes the lasting impact of Punk on visual culture worldwide".
  • Savage, J (2008) 'Punk - no one is innocent: art, style, revolt' Germany, Kunsthallewien. Reason: another source to look at punk art.
  • O'Hara, C (1999)'The philosophy of punk: more than noise!!' Edinburgh, Ak Press.
    Reason: first hand experience of punk - has photo montages, looking at other movements in the punk era - feminism, anarchists, homosexualisty etc - be good to look more at the social aspect.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Russian Revolution Seminar

  • 7th November 1917 - St Petersberg (Petregrad at the time).
  • Mass poverty in Russia.
  • Bolshevik's - led by Lenin - group formed to overthrow the Tzar's .
  • Tsar and family murdered and Russia became known as U.S.S.R and became a communist state.

Kustodiev "The Bolshevik" 1920.

Bolshevik's known as the Red Army, the red in this image symbolises the blood of the martyrs - slaughtered workers.

The giant figure dressed like an everyday working man is personification of a collective society.

Ivan Aivazosky - The Ninth Wave 1850.
Feeling of sublime - halfway between pleasure and pain.
'Romanticism' art is heavily disliked / hated by the Bolsheviks - find it belittling.

  • Lenin dies 1924 - replaced by Stalin - not a progressive leader - banned experimental Avant Garde art - replaced with Socialist Realism art. (Art "understood by the average worker"). Design and art limited because of political ideas.


  • "Women of the Kolkhoz" by an unknown artist."

Lenin encouraged designers / artists to look at European modernist art. They extended the idea of geometry and visual experimentation.

El Lissitzky - "Beat the Whites with the Red wedge". Wedge a metaphor for the October siege - Bolsheviks overthrowing the Tsar. Radical new design - abstract - designed to communicate to the mass illiterate.

"Books" poster by Rodchenko. The black almost triangle shapes mirrors the red wedge used in Lissitzky's piece above. The image of a woman is important - revolutionary - equality between men and women.
Designers were expected to have a social role in "building the future'. This poster is to show education is for everyone and encourage illiterate people to start to educate themselves.


Superimposing photos onto each other - new methods of creating images - excited by photography. Artists called Constructivists - everything - design, photography, art made for a purpose - constructing new world.

Tatlin's tower - Monument to the third international. Alliance of international communist states. Symbolises Russian progress.

Constructivists start to create new textile and wallpapers - every aspect of design is trying to be new - new forms of colour / industry etc. Use geometric, rational, scientific styles.
Vkhutemas - Russia's Bauhaus (before it came about). Equality of men and women doing design work - no female artists in western world.
Design fused with science. Experimental. Shut down by the Stalinists.
Communists "mortal enemies" of Western world - perhaps the reason why there are barely - if any books about Vkhutemas in our libraries.

Accepted style under socialist realism.

Come 1962 when Decree 394 is written it is basically said that - there is no design talent in Russia. They realise they have to pen a new institution - scared of calling it an art school - scared to admit communism failed - scared of Capitalism.