At the beginning of the twenty-first century out relationship to Modernism is complex. Like many ‘isms’, it seems both to stand for something clearly definable – a major twentieth-century movement in art, architecture, design and literature, even culture.
We live in an era that still identifies itself in terms of Modernism, as post-Modernist or even post-post-Modernist. It simply is not possible to work in ignorance of the most powerful force in the creation of twentieth century visual culture.
…a self-conscious desire to create something new…
…Modernism in the designed world did not exist in a fully developed form…until well after the First World War. Indeed the traumas of the war were crucial for inciting Modernism’s subsequent utopianism and therefore for the forms that Modernism eventually took in the 1920’s.
In Berman’s view, Modernity, which he described as ‘the maelstrom of modern life’, has been brought about by modernization , the process of scientific, technological and societal change. Modernism represents the ‘visions and values’ that have enabled men and women to become the subjects and objects of modernization…
It is difficult to see, for example how Modernism could be understood without investigating the idea of utopia (both as a dream that existed on paper and as an experiment in actual building)
…for example, Russia and Germany, Czechoslovakia and the United States there was (especially until the worldwide economic collapse of 1929) a widespread utopianism, a belief in the possibility of a better future, and an embrace of technology (or the idea of technology) as the key means of attaining a better world, which could not be more at odds with today’s thinking.
Such aspirations had gained gained impetus during the First World War, when the widespread destruction and meaning-less carnage galvanized artists and architects, and stimulated their visions for building a new world.
The other side of the coin was projecting science and technology as the means to creating utopia.
As we have seen, utopian aspirations took on a particular potency with the First World War. The devastating loss of life generated a widespread feeling that things had to change.
Post-Modernist thinkers may detect a waning of utopia, but idealistic attitudes were fundamental to Modernism in the 1920s
Film seemed to promise nothing less than a revolution in, and of, art: a medium that combined the key features of the modern era – mechanization, speed, internationalism, reproducibility.
Film was by nature, objective, democratic and universal
Wilk, Christopher (2008) Modernism: Designing a New World 1914-1939. London. V&A Publishing.