The end of Modernism, again

I was in Cafe Mag in Milano yesterday reading an architectural magazine (maybe it was called ‘Monitor’) which had a short but provocative feature about the end of Modernism, suggesting the high point was the June 1967 global satellite broadcast (with the Beatles song incorporated) and ending with the Coke’s own incorporation with the 1971 “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”. used by Nixon (and with two Coke execs in the Carter admin btw).

And it got me thinking that if there was one thing that I’ve spent a lot of time in understanding, without really knowing it (sic), its what the end of modernism means. For me as with other artists its a personal thing to understand, not just a technical point. When Gill Scott Heron said for example “The Revolution Will Not be Televised” it’s not because it will be underground, but just that revolution simply does not exist in modernism form as we conventionally understand. And for the smart the evidence for this is the proclamation of revolution by a million different products.

To understand what’s happening you’ve got as William Blake said to see the world in a grain of sand. To understand watching CNN yesterday that when some Danish soldier talking about a new plant genetically engineered to turn red near a landmine, when he said he not only thought this was a good thing he “felt it” that this if anything at all was the revolution. Which is to say it is no revolution at all, simply a restoration of the lost ability to connect thought and feeling in a real way. Which makes no sense at all if you don’t really know what that means, and in a sense why me writing these words is pointless. What makes that example real is that its also rooted (pardon the pun) in a real practical example, the landmine detecting crop.

Going back to the end of Modernism, what is also true is that the end is whenever makes sense for you, there is no common end, that patently is a modernist way of looking at the world. And what is most amusing is that this mental attitude, this modernist idea is still extremely strong and pervasive. That when a politician talks about love and freedom that he knows what it means and that we share the same understanding. But modernism is dead, died long ago, and those words are simply words from business.

Now globalisation is a business phenomena first and foremost not a political one, so it said in the Telegraph a few days ago in a report on BBC coverage of business. Again modernism is dead. Again you can stick the pin on the board of when that happened whenever suits you. From when your granny died to when Kennedy was killed. Indeed for me personally surely the high and low point of modernism was Kennedy, of Camelot and the assassination, which is when my parents lived in the US and brought back like some cargo cult that high-water mark of modernism with them.

But again to say again (I’m secretly famous) modernism is dead, but knowing what that means is a shift to the complex=personal to grasp to fully understand it at all levels. My research if you call it that, includes the assassination of MLK, the architecture of Oscar N’ in Brasilia (his museum has just been finished), the end of the Cold War in 1988, the visit to Auschwitz walking under the gates of the camp, etc. But all that accumulated journey really just comes back down to nothing if it doesn’t end if personal change that adjusts to the new reality, to see the world with different eyes. To wake up and think shit I better make some money today.

3 thoughts on “The end of Modernism, again

  1. good grief – what a jumble of half-formed ideas this May 29th posting is. i did try to read it for a while. thanks.

  2. Yes, I had a bit of a hangover. And the funny thing was I went to the Pacino Cafe the next day and read an interview with an Italian artist who argued persuasively that we had experienced 30 years of post-modernism, and it was high time we moved on – & there’s me still stuck on modernism.
    Then to cap it all when we left the cafe right outside there was the result of a traffic accident, with a blue car firmly wedged between and green tram and a tree.

  3. ah – those hangovers. Surreal scene with the green and blue and tree. Perhaps I should say “Post-Surreal”. But don’t we need a new phrase to mean “State-of-the-Art” ?

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