Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Lecture notes 11-11-09

Contextual studies lecture 11.11.09

1760 – 1960 – Modernism.

(modernist era)

Modern – to make something new, to make something better.

Project of building, of the new, better.

Progressiveness, positive thinking.

1851 – advent of industrialization.

Image in its day looked new and radical. Considered modern but not modernist, traditional style in a modern era.

Paris – sight of modernity, most advanced city at the time.

Urbanization, idea of the city as a figure, dense, populated, quicker.

Revel in their modernity, built around 1900’s.

Whole world invited to paris in 1889 – exposition.

All buildings created at this time try to be modern, unapologetically, built with modern materials, steel etc. revels in its industriality/modern aesthetics.

Urbanization – shift from the agrarian, from country to the town. As a place for our existence, came to the city for work factory work replacing rural work. Working shifts, changes in communications, roads built, telegraphs, telephones, railway, steam ships. 1912 – world time standardized. Before this lived a carefree life, now being ruled by the clock.

Trottoir roullant – invented for paris exhibition. Women would get skirts stuck in it, people shocked at how quick they could get around the city.

Process of rationality and reason.

Enlightenment = period in late 18th century when scientific/philosophical thinking made leaps and bounds. When people embrace technology, science, knowledge and ditch the old way of thinking.

Secularization – look at ourselves instead of god.

The city becomes a product of our culture.

The Eiffel tower, dominating, imposing – symbol of modernity.

Impressionists were one of the first artistic movements to paint the city – experience of urbanity – more interested in the modern city.


Paris 1850’s on = a new Paris, old Paris architecture of narrow streets and run down housing is ripped out. Haussman (city architect) redesigns Paris. Large boulevards in favour of narrow streets – made streets easier to police = a form of social control.

Also the ‘dangerous’ elements of the W.C were removed.

Subject of images is figure of the city.

Psychologically did have an impact on people, scared them, everything happened so fast. People alienated, reserved.

More about class division now, no sense of community.

Flaneur – talking in the city, walking round showing off their wealth.

Fashion becomes an important communicator of your wealth, of who you are – status symbol.

Shyrat – inventor of pointillism.

The whole idea of life changes – the advent of shift work, spare time arranged around work.


Modern image of modern life, getting pissed in Paris cos life is so shit.

Kaiser panorama 1883 – another invention of the time. People would pay to look in it and see images of the world, landscapes etc and sometimes even erotica.

Technology and inventions replace our own experiences. Techno fetish.

If we start to think about subjective experience (the experience of the individual in the modern world) we start to come close to the understanding of modern art and the experience of the modern world.

New York

Quintessential modern city, built around a system of grids, blocks. Strange triangular buildings, flatiron. Brings different ways to view.

New technologies give us more understanding into how we work.

Modernism in design

Anti-historicism (attempt to be new, new s better)

Truth to materials (materials speak for themselves)

Form follows function (functional first them form comes from that)


Internationalism (modernism is a mutual language)

Replicable anywhere, accessible by all.

Anti- historicism – no need to look backwards to older styles.

“ornament is crime” – Adolf loos (1908)

truth to materials – simple geometric forms appropriate.

Bauhaus – the most progressive art school of its time. Interdisciplinary, revolutionary, on the back of modernity. Futura font – created in Bauhaus.


New materials – concrete, new technologies of steel, plastics, aluminum, reinforced glass.

Mass production – cheaper more widely available products.

Seagram building – mies van der rohe – modernist building, not decorative.


A language of design that could be recognized and understood on an international basis. Utopian aspect of modernism – things should be international.

Herbert Bayer, sans serif typeface, argued for all text to be lower case.

Stanly Morrison (1932) times new roman font.

Fraktur font – Nazi font, referencing medieval, gothic script.

The term modern is not a neutral term – it suggests novelty and improvement.

Modernity (1750-1960) social and cultural experience.

Modernism – the range of ideas and styles that sprang from modernity.

Importance of modernism

1- a vocabulary of styles

2- art and design education

3- idea that form follows function.

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