Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wicus Pretorius
Assignment on Modernism, its philosophies and its outcomes
14 April 2009

Firstly I’m going to explain how Humanism, Enlightenment, Materialism and Positivism relate and connect with modernism. Then I’m going to explain how mechanical reproduction and machines connect with modernism and how that affected the age of modernism. Lastly I’m going to explain to purposes of modernism and how these dreams ended up.

So modernism was shaped by all these ways of thinking and these philosophies. Humanism places a lot of value and authenticity on man and the importance of man rather than some supernatural force or as we call it God. Humanism is placing man in the middle of his achievements and his power. So also modernism focuses and puts the importance and status of the artist and the artist as a creative genius in society. Not only is the importance on the artist, but the artwork is seen as a piece of gold, it must be autonomous and original and so much status is put onto the artwork. So when it comes to the importance of man and his work, humanism and modernism are one in the same thing.

The enlightenment project or age of thinking was mainly based on man’s reason power and to create perfection of humanity through reason. This then connects with modernism which states that reason will lead mankind to utopia on earth and also the belief that the modernists are at the pinnacle of human achievement. They believed they were the avant garde artists of all that came before them. This also reflects in enlightenments notions of perfection through reason.

Materialism believes that everything that exists is made out of matter. Even things like love and affection which cannot be seen still needs a physical thing to create or receive this phenomena. If you read about these people who believe in materialism they have a very singular point of view, they can be seen to believe in this universal truth. They make this statement as if it was a universal truth that everyone must abide by. This links with modernism’s statement which says that there is such a thing as a universal truth and a grand narrative.

Positivism believed in the evolution of human though, firstly it was religious, then meta-physical and finally at the top of human thought it was science. They believed that science was the last and best of human thought. They believed they can prove everything with science or at least work everything out. They were also fond of hierarchies with connect well with the modernists notions of man being at the pinnacle of human achievement. The latter also falls well into this belief that science is at the top of human thought that comes from positivism.

The essay on mechanical reproduction falls very well into modernism. The modernist’s believed in the ethos of the radical new beginning, the ideas of speed and acceleration, the reverence of the machine and the urban. Mechanical reproduction began in the age of modernism for example the industrial revolution, printing, the photo camera and the video camera etc. The way we began to trade and even our lifestyle has changed because of all these mechanisms we created to make life easier on the one hand and faster on the other. Now this begins to link with modernism’s notions of speed and acceleration and it’s obsession with these two things. This kind of thought could lead down a very destructive path. The kind of thinking that is so mechanical, so obsessed with the speed of production and the acceleration of humans is not a natural one. No this kind of thought is very unnatural very machine-like and can only lead to destruction, and it did. The first world war broke out and then the second when this kind of thinking was dominated. This obsession with superiority, power, perfection and the machine was destined to lead to war and not just any war, but a world war. They were obsessed with the way mechanical reproduction worked, the speed and power this machine brought, that they totally forgot about the human in flesh and blood. The human who was not a machine but a being that makes mistakes and lives a life with emotions and a being with flesh and blood. They were too obsessed with their own ideas of utopia through mechanical devices that they brought destruction upon earth.

Modernism’s goal or dream was to create a world of utopia, to create a world that could be controlled by man, a world that could be scientifically figured out and solved, a perfect world that could be better and more comfortable than any other time in history. This betterment and comfort would be achieved by human reason and science. They desired the thought of a world that could mechanically create a perfect world for humans to live in. But the methods and obsession with the machine, as I mentioned above, created anything but utopia. In fact it created quite the opposite, death and destruction. Their constant strive for perfection, their constant notions of superiority, their obsession with themselves and the power of humans drove them to create war using their own power of reason and mechanical devices. I think one of the main reasons why they went on this path of destruction was because they thought they where the centre of the world but more importantly that they where by nature good. We know from history that too much power and selfishness creates destruction. We repeat this over and over again, so to say we are by nature good is a dangerous statement.

So this is how these philosophies connects with modernism and how the age of mechanical reproduction and the’ thought around that made its mark. This is how modernism’s dreams were upheld and shattered within the age of modernism.