Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Into the Modernity

Modernity is most often made synonymous to the Enlightenment Project which had seen a development of more rational and objective science, universal morality and autonomous art.  The Age of Enlightenment, also called the Age of Reason, aimed to dispel religious superstition (beliefs with no basis in logic) and political tyranny (absolutist rulers and exploitation of lower classes).  Its main doctrines include: rationality, reason; innate goodness in humans; individual equality; art should play on the intellect not emotions.

The American Revolution and the French Revolution were direct results of Enlightenment thinking.  The proletariat (workers and farmers) united to fight against the bourgeoisie.

Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat, 1793

Jacques-Louis David was the official artist of the French Revolution and The Death of Marat (Jean-Paul Marat was a friend of David's and an important political figure in support of the revolution) is in many ways an embodiment of the bloodshed and terror of the revolution.  Napoleon had come out of the French Revolution and subsequently went on to conquer Europe.  Modernism came out of Enlightenment philosophy as many artists were uneasy and critical of Enlightenment thinking.

18th Century: Immanuel Kant
-  people have full capacity to will their way through life
Autonomous Ego: will is within oneself; dependent on imposing rules on will; subject possess free will, free from religious and political tyranny; transcendental self; collaborate with others in order for everyone to be free; independent but still in relation to society
PARADOX:  Those were weren't enlightened were seen as children that need to be enlightened.  The paradox lies in the fact that enlightenment thought championed freedom, yet imposed their ideas and knowledge on others.
Hegel:  selfhood is dependent on others and society. self-consciousness

By the 19th century, it was clear the onset of modernity and industrialization could not be stopped.  As a direct result of the Enlightenment, the 19th century saw the advent of suburbs (picturesque landscapes) in the outskirts of cities.  The middle-class conducted themselves based on rules of behaviour, etiquette, morals and values that were written out for them in manuals and catalogues (See: Eaton's Catalogue).  The private and public sphere were under scrutiny, especially that of the women's.  

The Victorian Parlor - living room - became a semi-private space in the home.  The opulent decor and designs was a means to show comfort, wealth and status in society to those who came to visit.  It was seen as improper to show uncovered furniture and wallpapers, draperies, textiles, carpets served to cover the space.

Brotherhood of the Pre-Raphaelites.  These groups of artists were against the modern industrialization, mass production and consumerism and sought to embrace religion and Medieval spirituality.  William Morris attacked both Victorian fashion and gave social criticism to factory working conditions.  As a result, he started Morris & Company (1861) and perpetuated the Arts and Crafts movement.  Morris & Company was a workshop where artists and designer worked collaboratively in a machine-free environment.

Unfortunately, the hand-made furniture, in direct competition with mechanically-made goods, proved to be too expensive for the middle-class.

Katherine Hoffman - "The Nineteenth Century."
-Bohemianism: unconventional; outside mainstream society became popular
-Romanticism was reflection of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's philosophy that emphasized inherent good in people.
  -mystery, imagination, exotic, nature, individualism

Hoffman details the constant struggle between individuals and society and the strong emphasis put on the private sphere during the Victorian Era.  The image of an ordered family and domestic life became increasingly important.

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