The tyranny of artistic modernism

First you might check this out from Chuckles:

Initial thought was wow – the wonders of modern technology, in particular when the man in the vid referred to the rectangular box as one of the least strong structures – the arch is stronger. You might recall the machine built yacht posted some months back [can't find it].

You might also recall the post on treehuts.

What worries me about it, now there’s been time to think about it, is whether we aren’t introducing ugliness into the local area by supporting prefabs like this or to be precise, they’re not prefabs but built-to-order. And with the dire financial situation which sees many of us with about 0.001% of the resources we need to own a home – the temptation to go for the low-cost box must be strong.

And what if it isn’t cheap at all but rather “fast”. Mention is made of 20 hours construction time. Why? Are we in Biafra or some other poverty-stricken place? The answer might be yes. And yet, why would speed be of the essence in a domestic dwelling?

It’s the ugliness of it which concerns me though. Architecture, like art itself, is reflected in – and in many cases drives – society and if our society is ideas-bereft and derivative, if it’s mediocre and worships mediocrity, if gimmicky architecture is all it takes to produce the wow factor in people, then we’re living in the wrong times.

So even attempts to emulate the spirit of classic architecture are doomed as we don’t have the spirit for it inside and it becomes a bitsy caricature of what was once and still maybe fine if they haven’t torn it down or bu**ered around with it in some way. It’s like sampling in DJ-driven music – brief interludes of recognizable chords – the whole soulless and reflecting the mind of the DJ.

Lord Somber comes into this with an article by Mark Anthony Signorelli and Nikos A. Salingaros on The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism:

The modernist aesthetic, which dominates our age, takes a variety of forms in the respective arts — in architecture, a lack of scale and ornamentation combined with the overwhelming deployment of materials like glass, steel, and brutalist concrete; in the plastic arts, a rejection of natural forms mixed with an unmistakable tendency towards the repulsive or meretricious; in literature, non-linear narrative, esoteric imagery, and an almost perfect lack of poetic form and diction.

Yet common now to the practice of all these arts are certain primal impulses which may be said to form the core of the modernist aesthetic — a hostility and defiance towards all traditional standards of excellence, discovered over millennia of craftsmanship and reflection; a notion of the artist’s freedom as absolute, and entirely divorced from the ends of his art; and, as Roger Scruton has so clearly demonstrated, a refusal to apply the category of beauty to either the creation or the estimation of artwork.

Oh yes! Even their prose has a certain ring to it.    Reading on with a much lighter heart in finding a kindred spirit:

Standing behind this aesthetic is an ideology supported by nearly the entire institutional structure of the Western world — the universities, the publishing houses, the galleries, the journals, the prize committees, the zoning boards. Books that evince a fidelity to modernist principles are the ones that get published. Buildings that conform to the brutal codes of modernism and its derivatives are the ones that get built. Whatever creative efforts spring from other sources of inspiration other than modernist aggression are invariably ignored and dismissed as something antiquated or reactionary. This is the great totalitarian system of our times — the dictatorship of modernism.

That’s one heck of an essay and its main thoughts I’ll summarize soon, unless you care to read it yourself.  The only thing I’d add at this point is that the old “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is only true to a point.   There really are non-relativistic principles – JD refers many times to the mathematics of it – and I lay much of this at the door of the Ugliists of the Frankfurt School who, for politically dystopic reasons, deliberately went about developing discord within soullessness.   A landscape of cold desolation.

Think this needs a parts 2 and 3 – maybe one of them by JD if he would – developing this theme further.

4 Responses to “The tyranny of artistic modernism”

  1. JD August 14, 2012 at 14:42 Permalink

    I saw that 3D printing thing the other day but can’t find it now. My first thought was not ‘how ugly’ but who wants to live in a plastic house? Can you remember the plastic mac of years ago? They were a great success weren’t they!
    In a plastic house there will be rivers of condensation everywhere and a/c is not the answer because all that does is create a draughty house instead of a damp house. And you know what your granny said about sitting in a draught!! :)

    The essay in the New English Review was all words, words, words and that is something that I complain about in art – visual representation has more or less disappeared. I did a post or a comment to that effect here but I can’t find it so you can read this instead-
    http://nourishingobscurity.com/2011/12/05/turner-prize-2011/

    …and while you are at it just read the quote from John Michell which I included in this post-
    http://nourishingobscurity.com/2011/12/06/turner-prize-postscript/

    I will come back to this after I have a lie down :)

  2. James Higham August 14, 2012 at 16:28 Permalink

    Really must put a comment by the author of that article in the post [who has written]:

    Mechanical schemes to house humanity are invariably
    inhuman in their geometry. My friends and I have a very different
    solution.

    That is going to form the nucleus of a second post on this and JD will be adding his bit. It really is an issue of the day and I’d go so far as to say that people even form their social attitudes largely as a result of what is around them, [as well as upbringing of course].

    The ugliness really must stop but part of that is people wanting it to stop. It needs new Michelangelos and the like to arise in the wake of the coming reaction against modernist tyranny. Then we might get somewhere.

  3. ivan August 14, 2012 at 19:40 Permalink

    Let me start by saying the idea of contour casting is not new – I have the promotional animations from over two years ago.

    JD, the buildings are only ‘plastic’ to the extent that the cement/aggregate mix is plastic until it sets so there is no inherent damp problem – the structure ‘breaths’ better than much of the plywood/plastic sheet clad woof frame buildings so loved in the US.

    The only possible problem is that most structures produced by this method will follow a minimalist design school, but then is that bad thing? Opinions differ.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with prefabricated housing, be it sections built in a controlled factory and assembled on site or cast in site by this method.

    New housing is generally vastly over priced because of the inefficient, time consuming construction methods. Who in their right mind would turn down a new house at a tenth of the cost of a conventional build?

  4. James Higham August 14, 2012 at 20:31 Permalink

    Post coming up tomorrow or Thursday.

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