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Lecture 1: Modernity & Modernism

John Ruskin (1819-1900) - Critic who discussed whether or not contemporary life was as good as traditional lifestyles.

20th Century definition of modern is not just something that is up to date but something that is better, improved and made increasingly made better - Modern is an improvement on what has came before

Improved Art - More radical style and aesthetic, progression is in art for the first time

Fashion would not exist without progression, consumers rely on the constant progression fashion - changing styles, reinvention of the old to make new  

Paris 1900 - The City of modernity at the time, most radical and modernist city in existence in the early 20th century

Urban modern life - radically different said to have ended in the sixties - but some question how can modernism have ended, if we currently live in a modern society?

Late 1700’s when the world began modernizing, because of industrialization and urbanization. Rural farming industry - traditional industry relied on the weather and controlled by the times of the day, factories in modern cities could run for 24 hours a day and people began controlled, shifted work patterns of life.

Urbanization - Density of population growing within inner cities, urbanizing involves the living of many people in a small area but nobody knows each other unlike small rural communities that came before

Living Within a modern city, life began to speed up, the invention of train led to the whole country being accessible within hours rather than days via horse back. The invention of the telephone also led to people becoming more interconnected over long distances. New leisure forms such as the cinema also became popular

These new inventions did not come without there drawbacks, the invention of new technology began to changes people’s relationships with society.

Major cities within the world fought to become the most modernist city, London held the ‘Great Exhibition’ in 1851, which failed to impress the world as much as Paris’s event 4 years later in 1855 in which the Eiffel tower was unveiled. Rivalry began to increase between nations, there was a race to develop the best new technology.

Enlightenment - The world turns to modern forms of knowledge, the world now uses science and philosophy to understand the world rather than religion

The city becomes a social hub

Modernity in the modern city - The Eiffel tower rises above traditional buildings, its construction, design, materials and scale also exemplify paris as a modern city

The increasing pace in which the city and life changed was not welcomed by everyone, people began to become dazed and dizzied by the change

Travel and railways across continents meant a standardized world time was introduced - the world became a sync

As population in cities began to increase feelings of loneliness and isolation began to occur amongst members of society

Fashion becomes a key part of society and in defining who you are as an individual amongst the many of whom live within the city - Fashion used to signify who you are and distinguish yourself.

Haussmannization - The narrow streets of Paris and other cities were knocked down and replaced with large boulevards, the centre of Paris went from being an area of highly concentrated poor people to an area of affluence, poor people were pushed to edges of the city. Boulevards meant for more controlling city, the city centre became an upper class zone.

Within art, Artists turned to the city for inspiration within their work rather than popular figures and landscapes. The city became a relevant and valid subject for artists work. Within the paintings the city became more important than the people inside the painting.

People lived close to their neighbors, but never really knew who they were.

A growth in the study of Psychology also became prominent with a desire to understand how the human mind worked, with a main goal of understanding how the city would affect people mentally.

The Modern Family - families remained physically close but became psychologically disconnected

As technology advanced so did the work of artists, the discoveries
 within science began to influence the techniques used by artists 

A Shift took place between work and free time, life became more controlled with the introduction of shift work, life was more regimented, controlled, organised and repetitive

Class division between higher and lower class also became more prominent, poorer members of society began to drink alcohol to ‘drown sorrows’ because of the horrors of modern life

The invention of photography also impacted the work of artists, the ‘cropped’ style of photography began to be seen in art in which the subject of the artwork did not completely fill the frame

Kaiser Panorma (1883) - An optical viewing device in which people communally viewed photographs, a shift in social behavior can be seen with this practice, in that people are willing to pay to see static photographs rather than travel to see the actual place.

Technology now became a barrier between our experience with the real world, our understanding of the world became an individual experience rather than a communal experience.

Much of society disliked the modern world, only a few celebrated the changes modern life brought with it

Max Nordan, Degeneration (1892) Talked about individual experiences that were isolated and not shared.

Today we take technologically advancements for granted, but at the time of modernism these changes were radical

With the invention of Photography, art and artist had to respond as photography made painting obsolete, artists began investigations into new techniques and abandoned realism for expression.

The city gave new perspectives to the world, not previously possible, such as looking down onto the world from a tall building

The world became infinitely more understandable and advancements in science helped us to further understand the things within our world

Shift in visual culture, Picaso didn’t paint his subjects realistically he painted them abstractly at different angles, Picaso painted in a way that symbolises how one might experience and interact with the body at angles

Modern art was mainly influenced by the modern changes being seen in the world at the time, this change is reflected within design as well

Design became an anti-historicism process - which didn’t look back, only looked forward to what could be better and to invent only new styles of working

Truth to materials - An ideology in which designers focused on where materials ‘speak for themselves’ they are not painted or decorated, the materials are not disguised

Form follows functions became a new principle in design, in which the aesthetic design is secondary to how it works and functions, simple functioning form creating beauty

Can also be seen in Graphic Design, the function of communicating comes first no unnecessary decoration needed

This design principle always embraced new technology, and works were created in response to it

This principle also created an international language for all

Bauhaus cutlery - an example of modernist design in which functions comes before aesthetic decoration

Adolf Loos (1908) wrote ‘Ornament is crime’ which discussed how buildings should not be decorated to make them ‘trend’, trends go out of date, following trends is not a progressive practice, he believed in creating an ‘eternal style’

If materials are allowed to be themselves, design will never date

The Bauhaus, Modern design school in germany - Radical approach to teaching, it’s teaching focus was interdisciplinary

The Bauhaus building is modernist - made from concrete and has large windows to let light in for painting

Internationalism - A language of design that could be recognized by all on an international basis

Harry Beck as an example or internationalism, creator of the london underground map - now copied by every country in the world

Modernist ideology seen in the developments of fonts and typefaces - serif’s were seen as an unnecessary part of a typeface, therefore removed to create sans serif typefaces

Contrasted by Stanley Morrison who created ‘Times New Roman’ during the same period, a serif typeface which is not internationalist

‘Fraktur’ another typeface design which was created to reference german historical culture was also none internationalist

Technology also lead to creation and use of new materials such as plastics, aluminum and concrete

The process of mass production also became common which allowed products to be made on a large scale, for cheaper which made certain products more readily available

As the products were made quickly and cheaply this meant more people could afford to buy them, also promoting a cultural theory that everyone can have the same (Communist society)

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