Traces of Modernism

Traces of Modernism

Art and Politics from the First World War to Totalitarianism

von: Monica Cioli, Eric Michaud, Silvio Pons, Maurizio Ricciardi, Pierangelo Schiera, Anja Schloßberger-Oberhammer, Francescomaria Tedesco, Fabio Benzi, Roberta Ferrari, Eckhart J. Gillen, Sophie Goetzmann, Andrea Meyer-Fraatz

44,99 €

Verlag: Campus Verlag
Format: EPUB
Veröffentl.: 15.05.2019
ISBN/EAN: 9783593443218
Sprache: englisch
Anzahl Seiten: 222

Dieses eBook enthält ein Wasserzeichen.


Die Krise der Moderne und der auf sie antwortende Modernismus markieren den Übergang vom 19. zum 20. Jahrhundert. Im Ersten Weltkrieg und den sich an ihn anschließenden Revolutionen manifestierten sie sich auf dramatische Weise. Dieses Buch geht den Beziehungen zwischen den neuen sozialen und politischen Entwürfen dieser Zeit - Planungsdenken, Neuer Mensch, totaler Staat - und den künstlerisch-intellektuellen Avantgarden nach, vom italienischen Futurismus über das Bauhaus bis hin zu deren sowjetischen Pendants. Im Zentrum steht dabei die Maschine, die zum Schlüsselbegriff des Modernismus wurde.
The Individual and the New Man. An Introduction 7
Monica Cioli, Maurizio Ricciardi, Pierangelo Schiera
I. From Modernity to Internationalism
The Great European Crisis between Modernity and Modernism 21
Pierangelo Schiera
French Artists at the Art Gallery “Der Sturm”. Herwarth Walden and German Nationalism
during the 1910s 37
Sophie Goetzmann
Splav Meduze (The Raft of the Medusa) by Karpo Godina. Traces of the Avant-Garde
More than Half a Century Later 49
Andrea Meyer-Fraatz
Charade of Democracy. From the Crisis of Individual to a Modernist Civilization 65
Roberta Ferrari
II. Human Engineering
The Many Lives of the New Man, 1914–1945 89
Éric Michaud
The Discipline of Freedom. High Modernism and the Crisis of Liberalism 107
Maurizio Ricciardi
From Utopian Designs for the New Order to the Ideology of Reconciliation and
Stalinist Humanism 129
Eckhart J. Gillen
Between Futurism and Anthropophagy. Transculturation and Postcolonialism 143
Francescomaria Tedesco
III. Machine and Order
Machines, War, Mechanical Art, and the City. The Influence of Futurism
on the French Avant-Gardes and their Aesthetics 157
Fabio Benzi
At the Origins of Technopolitics. The European Avant-gardes before and after
the First World War 175
Monica Cioli
Kazimir Malevich’s Visit to the Staatliches Bauhaus (Dessau) in 1927. Reconstruction
(of the Failure) of an East-West Modernist Encounter 195
Anja Schloßberger-Oberhammer
When Socialism was Modern. Gramsci, Stalin and the Post-war Era as “Passive Revolution” 205
Silvio Pons
Authors 219
Monica Cioli war Fellow des Deutschen Historischen Instituts in Rom und hat an der Universität Trient gelehrt. Maurizio Ricciardi ist Professor an der Universität Bologna. Pierangelo Schiera ist Emeritus an der Universität Trient.
The Individual and the New Man. An Introduction
Monica Cioli, Maurizio Ricciardi, Pierangelo Schiera
The “traces” of modernism that we will discuss here are not limited to the artistic, literary, or philosophical movements that developed from the end of the 1800s to the Second World War. Although these too are significant and worthy of consideration, we believe that the category of modernism can also be used in a more general sense, above all to designate a new cultural climate that, while finding particular expression in the above-mentioned movements, also had a political sphere of reference, in both an ideological and an institutional sense. Thus our discourse regards the uses that the concept of the “modern” had in the turbulent passage from modernity to modernization, which saw major changes in the West in the fields of economy, society and politics—during and after the age of transition that Reinhart Koselleck had called the Sattelzeit. Everything was then translated into the full-blown superiority of the culture and civilization attained and produced by cultured and civilized states—which Karl Lamprecht and others, recording the “künstlerischer Charakter der Zeit”, called Kulturstaaten. This historical-universal vision would be counterbalanced by Oswald Spengler’s formidable proposal of the decline of the West.
Our aim when talking of traces of modernism is not to propose a new and different periodization through which to read the motives and the structures of political modernity or of art at the time. We are not talking about modernism as an “epoch” that was different to or succeeded the modern age (Neuzeit) or the modern. Likewise, Christof Dipper, using the category of the modern to describe the dominant models of order that started to take root in the second half of the 1800s, claims that he is not proposing a new name for what is otherwise called contemporary history. We argue that modernism doesn’t simply emerge through the ways in which consolidated traditions—usually described as pre-modern—are called into question, but also as a constant redefinition of modern tradition. The term “modernism” encompasses a wide range of things that are all closely connected to the semantics of the term “crisis”. The traces of modernism show the intensification and modification of processes that were already present in the classic age of modernity, but which are now exposed to the persistent rhythm of modernization. We aren’t aiming to present a complete picture of these processes, but rather to identify some important traces of our present within them. First, the traces that we are trying to show are not limited to the European experience and are not confined within national borders but express a definitive connection between Europe and the United States on the one hand and Europe and Russia on the other. Unlike the modern they are not therefore the expression of a “European self-observation”, but rather the increasingly evident signs of a destructuring of the European framework. Some of these traces were already present at the beginning of the modern age, therefore just after the epochal shift between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that had redefined the political, institutional, and cultural order of Europe. The affirmation of the individual, but also the social necessity of disciplining individuals, was a process that coincided with the birth of modernity. The period we cover in this book saw an acceleration of these processes of individualization and at the same time their more or less radical critique, to the point of searching for a “new man”.
On a similar macro level, alongside efforts to reorganize the major powers at play—from the economic powers of a new capitalism based on “interests”, to the political powers of the bureaucracy of the administrative mega-states—there arose the partly late-romantic, partly neo-scientific idea of a new conception of the world. This conception was released from the overly ideological dualism between individual and society and was instead inspired by the figure of the “new man”, able to live in a future that was already present in the democratic dimension, but which would soon take on a totalitarian hue.
Thus concepts such as “modernism” and “modernity” are useful, considering the latter as “the figure that for centuries has characterized the pre-history and history of man as individual, liberal and then constitutional, free but with class belonging”. Modernism would instead cover the attempt to overcome—if not overturn—all of this in a totalizing vision, based on solid technological premises and promises, which were relatively indifferent to the beliefs—or myths—of the individualistic Prometheism of the liberal-constitutional era or of the dialectic of enlightenment. The totalitarian “political discourse” was encouraged, in a triangulation whose aims were already set: from the arrival of the masses on the political scene; the organization of the old civil society into elites; and the projection of elitist criteria onto the masses; to the search for the “new man”. Once the liberal individual, and their rights were in crisis, it became fundamental to create the unknown subject, the new man.
Perhaps it is too simple to say that the avant-garde period coincides with the end of the individual epoch (that started with the French Revolution) and the beginning of the epoch of sociality, but there was certainly a common movement which dragged the old idea of modernity towards a freer and more reductive modernism. The potential connection between sociology and the artistic avant-garde has perhaps never been on the agenda, but it is one of the issues we raise here. The problem that unites classical sociology is precisely this redefinition of the individual in the face of the radical transformations brought on by capitalism. The individual is clearly the controversial and constant centre of French sociology: from the socially disciplined individual of Emile Durkheim to the Homme total of Marcel Mauss. Classic German sociology has been rightly said to “remain vehemently faithful to the individual”, with this tension embodied in a particularly characteristic and interesting way in the work of Georg Simmel, who makes an intriguing analogy with geometry to account for the “interactions” or reciprocal actions of individuals. This geometry of individuals finds another analogy in the Kunstaustellung, which Simmel considers to be “Miniaturbild unserer Geistesströmungen” and the “symbol of our transitional epoch”. At the base of Simmelian sociological aesthetics is a constant attempt to resolve the problem of the “multiplicity of forms of modern culture” as expressions of individuality that cannot ever claim absolute legitimacy.
In 1901, Georg Simmel noted that the concept of the individual was in crisis due to the presence of two individualisms that were beginning to collide, having different conceptions of the relationship between freedom and equality. The historical concept of the individual was constituted just before the universal claims of these two principles. Freedom historically signified the unlimited deployment of one’s own individual capacities, but this at the same time entailed the tendential and increasingly differentiated development of different personalities. It thus entered into an increasingly evident contradiction with equality. It is precisely this collision that resulted in the declaration of the principle of brotherhood, in order to recuperate, at least on an ethical plane, that which the conflict between individual affirmation and its own universalization had put into crisis on the political plane. In the course of the 1800s, however, this ethical moment assumed an organizational, if not administrative, form that aimed at the depersonalization of relations that could not be trusted simply to the division of labour. It showed the necessity of cooperation in pre-eminently organizational terms, in such a way as to leave individuality free of any obligation and any contact with other individuals. The more the individuality tends to become liberated from personal constraints the more its organizability and its being necessarily organized is affirmed. We are not interested here in Simmel’s reconstruction of philosophical genealogies to demonstrate the conflict between a rationalist individualism founded on the primacy of the will and one that, from Goethe to Nietzsche, would fully valorize the difference between one man and another, to the point of considering egalitarianism as almost a violent act. What interests us is not so much the ontological difference between the two individualisms as the internal tension in the way the relationships between individuals are considered. At the beginning of the 1900s, they find themselves caught in a tension between the affirmation of an “ideal of equality and the equating [Gleichberechtigung] of societal elements”, leading to a formal concept of liberty, and the constant reaffirmation of the necessity of “naturally given command and obedience”.
This tension, which is internal to individualism, is one of the traces of modernism that we want to bring to the fore. It led to the powerful acceleration of the social rhythms of modernity, producing the complex effect of calling into question the consolidated certainties of liberal individualism. This is very clear in the different if not opposing ways in which the paintings of Rembrandt were understood between the 1800s and the 1900s. The first way that we consider can be found in a book that both explicitly and implicitly influenced the German culture of the Wilhelminian Empire. The 1890 book Rembrandt als Erzieher proposed the idea of the individual as national rather than international, cultural rather than scientific, male rather than female, and German rather than Jewish.
For its author, Julius Langbehn—but also for many other people, given that already by 1908, the year after his death, it had reached its forty-eighth edition—“education about individualism and inside individualism” set about rediscovering a specifically German historical-cultural position which seemed to have been lost. The opposition between the learned intellectual, who would necessarily have an international perspective, and the artist, who would necessarily express the national dimension of culture, indicated a particular way of constituting the individual. The reference to Rembrandt served to identify the clearly fantasmatic element which was required for the self-recognition of German individuality. “Rembrandt is the prototype of the German artist”, precisely in his capacity to express his Dutch belonging, or rather in his affirmation of the “localism of art”.
Simmel’s modernism appears exactly in the manner in which it is detached from this national appropriation of the Dutch painter, proposing, thanks to Rembrandt, a conciliation between the two concepts of the individual mentioned above. Simmel identifies a break between the Dutch painter and the Italian painting of the previous centuries. We are not interested here in how well-founded this judgement is from the point of view of art history, but rather in the clear difference it demonstrates between the static nature of the classic portrait and the dynamic nature of Rembrandt’s portraits. “The Classical portrait captures us in the moment of its present”, while in the Dutch painter “the representation of the ideal individual” would be completed “by the abstraction from all of its singular moments of life”, to the point where the “generality [Allgemeinheit] of the individual human being means the accumulation of these moments that somehow retain their historical order”. This intrinsic dynamic of the portrait would make the pictorial problem in Rembrandt solely “the depiction of the totality of a human life”. Thus individuality itself becomes movement, with a dynamic that retains within it all of life’s singular moments, ending up revealing the character of the man that, from the twenties onwards, would assume an ever-greater relevance, presenting itself as a totality in movement. Since, for Simmel and others, “a life is a whole life in each single moment as Life”, life itself reveals the image as dynamic and totality. We must emphasize the crucial importance of the concept of totality that precedes that of totalitarianism and doesn’t necessarily anticipate its political contents. Modernism is caught up in this search for totality, for it must confront the disintegration of the movements in contemporary society, with the aim of recomposing an individuality that wouldn’t destroy differences and therefore wouldn’t destroy singularity. But contradictorily this search moves not so much towards a totalitarian aesthetics, as to one of indifference, because no individual manifestation of the universal truly represents it. However the elements of modernism that run through Simmel’s sociology show that for him, and for many of his contemporaries, studying society also means stabilizing the coordinates of a discourse on the rules of coexistence and power that preside over the relationships between the individuals that live in it.
This could mean a new politicization with respect to the traditional one of modernity. We can rightly ask if there is in some way an analogous problem for our avant-garde artists, of politicizing the artistic-cultural “centre of reference” of which they consider themselves to be the protagonists.
This long introduction is needed to explain the structure of this book, which includes both historical-political and historical-aesthetic essays, aimed at reconstructing the crisis and critique of the classical ways of reading and understanding the world that had prevailed during the age of modernity: does the rhythm of the world change? The problem is identifying what Niccolò Machiavelli called the “qualities of the times”. This was also the problem posed by Leonardo da Vinci, who was, as Patrik Boucheron wrote, “the man of the machine” and since “the mechanism of the world [was] out-of-sync” then “the secret mathematics of world rhythms” had to be found. And as Machiavelli noted at the advent of modernity, the “ways of acting” had also changed.
This quote is not an end in itself or useless. The idea was to apply a sort of “quality of the times” (which was nothing other than Zeitgeist?) to modernism—in the decline of modernity—thus releasing “traces” of new ways of acting.
A second important aspect is the intertwining of art and politics in the modern West, in the historic experience of communication, particularly in its more modern version, i. e. that concerning the public sphere (Öffentllichkeit).
We were struck by two aspects, which are often interwoven but are also fundamentally independent. First, art as propaganda, and second, art as a separate field (which runs parallel with science) for observing and deciphering the world, and, in particular, society.

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