Modern antiques and artificial eternity

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“The atrophy of individual culture through the hypertrophy of objective culture is one reason for the bitter hatred which the preachers of the most extreme individualism, above all Nietzsche, harbor against the metropolis.” Simmel

Charles Baudelaire by Frantisek KupkaBaudelaire casts the city and the modern as a kind of paradox. History is the transitory stretched out in eternity. The modern or contemporary consists of the most ephemeral aspect of the wastage of time’s passing. To be a great modern artist is to capture this excess as though it were eternal rather than to trap it within the cliches of the Historical or Classical. To be modern is to live within the specific gaits and gestures of one’s time, that is, to prepare to be an antique. The painter “makes it his business to extract from fashion whatever element it may contain of poetry within history, to distill the eternal from the transitory.” But the modern individual is no more than an animated antique. Their external life is all artifice, but this is the very material that constitutes them and which the artist captures (an artist only captures artifice and this is the ‘truth’ or the ‘soul’ of the matter). And from this matter Baudelaire spins more paradoxes: the nobility proper to artifice; the savagery found in civilization; the evil devoid of any spirituality. And each member of this trinity finds itself diagrammed out upon the body of the city and its inhabitants with their “emaciated flesh of consumption or the rounded contours of obesity, that hideous health of the slothful.” (more…)

Against Acceleration: Wyndham Lewis vs The Futurists

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From Blasting and Bombardiering (1937)

Meanwhile the excitement was intense. Putsches took place every month or so. Marinetti for instance. You may have heard of him! It was he who put Mussolini up to Fascism. Mussolini admits it. They ran neck and neck for a bit, but Mussolini was the better politician. Well, Marinetti brought off a Futurist Putsch about this time.

It started in Bond Street. I counter-putsched. I assembled in Greek Street a determined band of miscellaneous anti-futurists. Mr. Epstein was there; Gaudier Brzeska, T. E. Hulme, Edward Wadsworth and a cousin of his called Wallace, who was very muscular and forcible, according to my eminent colleague, and he rolled up very silent and grim. There were about ten of us. After a hearty meal we shuffled bellicosely round to the Dore Gallery.

Marinetti had entrenched himself upon a high lecture platform, and he put down a tremendous barrage in French as we entered. Gaudier went into action at once. He was very good at the parlez-vous, in fact he was a Frenchman. He was sniping him without intermission, standing up in his place in the audience all the while. The remainder of our party maintained a confused uproar. (more…)

The affective tourists: Holly King and Rehab Nazzal

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Half of the Holly King show at Art Mûr is a retrospective. She’s been doing this for 30 years. I’ll confine myself to addressing the new work, though it’s worth noting that while her work has become warmer in hue, it’s also become less romantic in tenor. Made up principally of photos and a few viewing contraptions, A la frontière du mystère features studio created landscapes blown up as large photo prints. Sometimes the backdrops to these images are painted with loose brush work in swirling Sunday painter style as mildly whimsical skies. Sometimes they are enlarged, glossy tourist getaway brochure type images filled with glinting pebbles. In both cases, she places what amounts to still lifes of largely dead plants and the occasional gewgaw in the foreground and in focus. Sometimes these are a bit glittery to play against the background. The few smaller, strictly still lifes against black play this angle more, covering the dark grounding with what looks like a shower of dandruff, or maybe it’s glitter.
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Notes: On the rudiments of culture III

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René Girard on the ‘anticulture we call modern’ (from Violence and the Sacred [1972]).

If the history of modern society is marked by the dissolution of differences, that clearly has something to do with the sacrificial crisis to which we have repeatedly referred. Indeed, the phrase “modern world” seems almost like a synonym for “sacrificial crisis.” It should be noted, however, that the modern world manages to retain its balance, precarious though it may be; and the methods it employs to do so, though extreme, are not so extreme as to destroy the fabric of the society’. As my previous chapters indicated, primitive societies are unable to withstand such pressures; violence would quickly get out of hand and trigger the mechanism of generative unanimity, thus restoring a social system based on multiple and sharply pronounced differences. In the modern Western world nothing of this kind takes place. The wearing away of differences proceeds at a slow but steady pace, and the results are absorbed more or less gracefully by a community that is slowly but steadily coming to encompass the entire globe.
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