Tuesday, November 10, 2015

modernist nostalgia

a report by Rea McNamara at Artfcity on what looks to have been a very interesting lecture by Claire Bishop on "reformatted modernism" or what RMcN calls "citational modernism""

"Bishop believes we’re stuck in a rut she describes as ’“reformatted modernism”. The self-invented term refers to a historicist strain of contemporary art, where our downloadable obsessions with Eames chairs, van der Rohe skyscrapers and archival forms of display (think slide projectors) have rendered Modernist references in art that are all image and no function. 
"Bishop easily supported this core idea. Take Vladimir Tatlin’s “Monument to the Third International” (1919), a frequently-referenced work Bishop sees as a “telling lens of the changing relationship to utopian Modernism in contemporary art.” The Constructivist twin helix tower was a post-Bolshevik Revolution utopian design aspiring to unseat the Eiffel Tower as the symbol of modernity. Tatlin’s Tower, however, was never built—Tatlin was more an artist than architect, and the Tower never went beyond the design stages.
"Nonetheless, the monument has been quoted in dozens of art works. While Dan Flavin endeavored to memorialize Tatlin’s Tower in his “Monuments to Tatlin” series (1964-1982) as a postmodern joke—he used fluorescent tubing to realize a monumental sculpture of traditional grandeur—later reformatted Modernism quotations have been tinged with nostalgia. According to Bishop, works like Ai Weiwei’s “Working Progress (Foundation of Light)” (2007) or Michel Aubrey’s “Monument to the Third International Set to Music” (2008) are faithful, even awestruck reconstructions of an avant-garde memory. “The impossible beauty of revolutionary design”, in Bishop’s view, has become a reverential symbol of “failed artistic utopianism.”"
McNamara has some complaints about the idea or at least its approach, however:
"We all get that we’re in this ghoulish cannibalistic cycle where artists are reformatting modernism — complete with saccharine nostalgia sans original progressive agenda — to the extent that they’re annihilating the past in an institutionally tasteful and collector-approved way.
While Bishop made some effort to point out works that were of this breed, she had a hard time pointing out works that offered a counter-perspective. She half-heartedly remarked during the question period that she found afrofuturism hopeful in how its looks to the future, recasting origin myths in a new way. Tellingly, she offered no names of artists creating afrofuturist works."

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