Thursday, 3 November 2011

Modernity and Modernism.

The term 'modern' has attached to it the connotation of progression. 'Modern' should always be seen as an improvement on the previous, and never a backward step. This was one of the most important messages that was put across through a recent lecture regarding 'Modernity and Modernism.'

Since as early as the mid to late 1700's, technology has been changing at a blistering pace. Along with these rapid advancements, the media has been affected greatly. These changes in the media have been brought on by such factors as industrialization, meaning that factories are run 24 hours a day by people working various shifts. Because of this (unlike traditional agriculture), Work is not determined by the current season or the weather conditions, people work constantly and must savour their free time by indulging themselves with entertainment and the latest media. Another major change was brought on by the discovery of electricity, which evidently to this day, has unlocked much greater possibilities within the media (digital). Other social factors such as the improvement in transport (trains, aeroplanes), making the world seem more accessible and in reach, and also the invention of the telephone, which makes contact with others much more efficient and effortless have had an impact on the media. Exotic landscapes are now only a short plane journey away, meaning that media must be more imaginative and engaging.

Because there is this huge social aspect which determines the way in which the media advances, the city has been widely considered as the heart of modernism and progression. The sheer mass of the crowds within the lively city encourages people to seek identity through extravagant and colourful clothing. This attitude spawned modernism within fashion, where trends in clothing change almost uncomprehendingly to fit the general need for the very latest in style. When this whole interest in the city developed, painters began to progress away from religious works, and began painting the whole experience of the city through various different people, who share a close proximity yet are distant in the sense that they are connected individually with the city itself. This whole attitude of the psychological experience of the city was brought on by the enlightenment of science and philosophy, leading to a deeper understanding of the human mind. 

This great advancement in society and technology, however fabulous it seemed to some, frightened anti-modernist 'Max Nordau,' who posed the theory of degeneration. He worried that the public would become over-absorbed by the ease of modern life, spending all of their time riding inside train carriages, constantly on the telephone. Interestingly, he also proposed the idea that people would be constantly within close proximity, yet lack interaction and communication, an idea which one could argue was accepted in some modernist interpretations of the city and it's impact on others. This raises the question: does modernism really reflect positive progression?

In art, modernism comes in many forms: Futurism, cubism etc... There is a great sense of relevance, and beauty towards form and function. Materials are often kept very honest and not masked with paint or made to look like anything else. This approach stays true to progression, as appose to indulgence, but where does this whole movement fit in with digital film, games and animation, and how does it relate to what I aim to do?

A great area of the media where modernism can be seen is film. The 20's science fiction movie 'Metropolis' creates a fantastic vision of the future, whilst addressing Capitalism and class divide. The futuristic setting of the film contains Modernist style architecture, influenced by the German expressionism movement. This post World War 1 movement spawned a series of very low budget films. Because of the high budget set designs coming out of Hollywood, the German films relied more on surreal sets and strong messages to make their movies gripping and innovative. There was also a theme of psychology running through the Expressionist films, dealing with insanity and other dark realizations. This again relates to the sense of enlightenment and a deeper understanding of the human mind. Bellow is the trailer for the original vampire film 'Nosferatu.' Note the very surrealist approach with the use of heavy shadow and the modernist shapes such as the stair banister and plane walls, fitting in the beauty of form and function, yet in this case offering a bleak and isolated feel.

Overall, in other medias such as film, games and animation, Modernism- it seems- offers an idea of progression. Like in traditional art, it is not the budget of the piece of media that determines its success, but the ideas and forward thinking behind it. These post war expressionist films are today considered timeless classics, because of their innovative approaches and content. Modernism can contain social commentary, science fiction, character psychology (an example being the genius outcast portrayed in many films). All of these elements can contribute towards a story, an idea, which can then be applied to any piece of media, to truly captivate an audience.

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