"Modernists all rode the recycling bike. The modernist tradition certainly rejects certain parts of the past, but only certain parts. Even when you have someone like Ezra Pound saying “make it new,” he’s going back to Provençal troubadours, to the Greeks. At the same time he’s saying this, he’s off stealing something from Confucius. So you can call, let’s say, Picasso modern, but he’s borrowing from Japanese, African, or other sources. This always takes place. What is important is not whether you are looking back (you had better), but how and for what reason. When you go back as a modernist in architecture, you’re going back to see, for instance, in Palladio, what you can discover about the very foundation of architecture. You can find in an earlier writer like Sterne, the very foundations of fiction—its possibilities. You don’t reach back to imitate them, to use Sterne like little signatures later on so people will say “Sterne!” When an architect suddenly starts using columns or round windows or friezes to remind us of the past, he’s probably only employing pastiche. But to go back to somebody with the idea of discovering what the art is all about, not by copying their style or mode, but by discovering the fundamental principles which they may help you to wield, that is what modernists tried to do at their best. Corbusier goes back to earlier principles to find out what architecture is all about, not to dance the Palladian polka...
"So when one returns to an earlier model, it’s not to copy something, it’s to refine the essence of the whole task...
in between the ellipses is this bit
"I find Postmodernists rarely interested in fundamental things, but only interested in finding qualities of the past which they can decorate a modernist shed with. Most Postmodern buildings are merely modernist buildings wearing a different skirt, to switch the image...."
That whole section of the interview is him being asked if he's a postmodernist writer and Gass rejecting the label, and saying instead: "My work is probably best characterized as late or decayed Modern end of the road sort of thing, last gasp"
Sounds like where I'm situated!
Version at Dissensus opposes the Life's A Gass viewpoint ("why go back to the past? to go boldly forward, reoriented and renewed") with the counter-view as expressed by Tom McCarthy in the Remix / Transmission monograph, which I took to task in my original Recreativity critique.
I had my first shot a few weeks ago - making me an aging Moderna-ist.