Modernism Essays

Modernism Essays-48
And what the emergence of these aesthetic forms and accompanying sociocultural ecologies therefore signified was a different framework for thinking about culture after the demise of what the cultural theorist Andreas Huyssen has named – without collapsing into the bland cultural relativism of postmodernism.But whereas Huyssen sees this 60s pop sensibility as a relatively short-lived culmination of the aesthetic and sociocultural programs initiated a few decades earlier by the historical avant-garde, another way of looking at it is as the inception of post-war popular modernism.

And what the emergence of these aesthetic forms and accompanying sociocultural ecologies therefore signified was a different framework for thinking about culture after the demise of what the cultural theorist Andreas Huyssen has named – without collapsing into the bland cultural relativism of postmodernism.But whereas Huyssen sees this 60s pop sensibility as a relatively short-lived culmination of the aesthetic and sociocultural programs initiated a few decades earlier by the historical avant-garde, another way of looking at it is as the inception of post-war popular modernism.

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At a first glance, the ambition to align modernism with the popular may seem strange given that modernism indeed usually has been positioned as the critical antithesis to popular culture; perhaps most famously in the work of the Frankfurt School, the group of German intellectuals whose critical writings on modernism and popular culture from the mid-20.

Indeed, in their writings, modernism is always pitted against the realm of popular culture – which they viewed with nothing but contempt because of how it puts people into uncritical passivity by providing illusory comfort through the fulfilment of prefabricated expectations and desires.

In that regard, they need to be sharply distinguished from realism, but also from mere fantasy – which tend to either simply affirm the world as it is (cognition), or invoke worlds and (non-) realities that have nothing to do with our own (estrangement).

Contra mere cognition or estrangement, it is precisely the between the two that is crucial here – between a desire to constantly expand reality as we know it, but without lapsing into the supernatural.

Instead, these are cultural forms that took up the admirable task of constant formal innovation, and were thus not presented readymade to the audience (in terms of the patterns of formal standardisation that Adorno so despised about the cultural material favoured by the culture industry), but – like the best forms of art – instead are works that one often must learn to appreciate over time.

Yet they did this in popular formats and thereby importantly overturned the high modernist distinction between authentic and popular culture by subverting the concomitant premise that the encounter between authentic and popular culture always has to result in the accommodation of the former to the latter.

As he puts it in his most extensive discussion of the concept in his book In popular modernism, the elitist project of modernism was retrospectively vindicated.

At the same time, popular culture definitely established that it did not have to be populist.

The concept of popular modernism was coined by Mark in order to theorise the culture that he grew up with in post-war Britain and that formed him as an individual.

For Fisher, cultural phenomena such as parts of the music press and public service television, Penguin paperbacks, post-punk, rave and brutalist architecture were all parts of an overarching cultural ecology that came to set the standards of an entire generation of thinkers working at the intersection between so-called ‘high theory’ and popular culture.

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