25 January 2011

(It Was) The Economy, Stupid

(1) Proto-'ruin porn' -- complete with quasi-Wagnerian Philip Glass score -- by way of an old panoramic cult film, and (2) the ossified cliché, via the PBS version of Robert Hughes's The Shock of the New, versus (3) a belated re-framing of the narrative?

The verdict about the "death of Modernism," it long seemed to me, was a dubious one. The argument being that Le Corbu and those like him imposed their ideas in a top-down fashion -- inhumanly idealistic and utopian, they failed to account for social dynamics, for human needs. And so thusly their projects were doomed to failure. Essentially, the argument goes, their vision was a strictly aesthetic one. Yet the critics often failed or neglected to properly contextualize the reasons for Modernism's supposed demise in the first place, never addressed any of the core factors (economic, public policy, etc.) that brought it to pass. Meaning: In lieu of truly accounting for the social and sociological factors, the critique carries little weight -- ultimately amounting to little more than a condemnation that is merely aesthetic in its thrust. Thereby re-perpetuating the very failure it decries.

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