Last Updated 28 May 2020

Breaking with the Continuum

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In this paper I’m going to discuss how both Modernism and Postmodernism represented a paradigm shift in the traditional art and thinking. I’m going to list the characteristic features of these eras, providing relevant evidence, where necessary. In the closing part f my paper, I’m going to investigate the effects Modernism and Postmodernism had on the creative process in the wider context. Following the chronology of events, I’ll discus Modernism first. The revolutionary nature of this artistic movement is noted for all the scholars researching the History of Art.

If we discuss the definition of Modernism, we’ll see that it reflects the innovative and experimental nature if it: “The term Modernism applied retrospectively to the wide range of experimental and avant-garde trends in the arts that emerged from the middle of the 19th century, as artists rebelled against traditional Historicism, and later through 20th century as the necessity of an individual rejecting previous tradition, and by creating individual, original techniques. ” (HuntFor. com, n/d, para. 1) Indeed, the first and foremost characteristic feature of Modernism is the rejected tradition.

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While the majority of previous artistic developments tried to find a place within the general context of the artistic realm, Modernism rejected all the previous principles and practices. The very term “Modernism” implies the dichotomy and struggle between tradition and modernity. In a limited number of cases, “Modernism was not merely defined by its avant garde but also by a reforming trend within previous artistic norms. ” (HuntFor. com, n/d, para. 2) In a word, Modernism aimed at rejecting, transforming, or reforming previous artistic experience – but nothing can be left untouched.

But what tradition Modernism rejected? “The second half of the 19th century has been called the Positivist age. In the visual arts this modernistic or positivistic spirit is most obvious in the widespread rejection of Romantic subjectivism and imagination in favor of the faith in the positive consequences of the close observation and the accurate and apparently objective description of the ordinary, observable world. ” (HuntFor. com, n/d, para. 3) Another characteristic feature of Modernism is experiment.

From my personal point of view, in the majority of cases Modernism represented experiment for the sake of experiment: Modernists wanted “to create forms for no other purpose than novelty. ” (Keep, McLaughlin & Parmar, n/d, “Defining Postmodernism,” “What is postmodernism? ”, para. 1) The tension between dispositio and eloqutio was often decided in favour of form. It’s much easier to produce a revolution in form than in meaning. As for other revolutionary innovations, “Modernism's cutting edges, to this point had been the exploration of subjective experience and the clarification and simplification of structure.

” (HuntFor. com, n/d, para. 6) By way of all these changes and modifications, art was ascribed a new function. Modernism “introduced the increasing number of works which either radically simplified or rejected previous practice. Underlying strand of that thinking can be called the shift from idealistic to critical. This tendency mirrors that art is to communicate clearly. ” (HuntFor. com, n/d, para. 9) Modernism pioneered new forms of artistic expression, offered by rapidly developing technology. “This feature would in future unite both Modernism and Postmodernism.

The rise of cinema and ‘moving pictures’ in the first decade of the 20th century gave the modern movement an artform which was uniquely its own. The use of photography, which had rendered much of the representational function of visual art obsolete, also strongly affected Modernism. ” (HuntFor. com, n/d, para. 7) Indeed, Modernism, especially in specific forms, offered an up-to-date response to the changing reality. “The pressures of communication, transportation and more rapid scientific development began placing a premium on search for simplification of diction in the work of various art forms.

One example was the movement towards clarity, and the embracing of new technology, found in Futurism. ” (HuntFor. com, n/d, para. 12) So we can conclude that there were objective preconditions for the rejection of tradition advocated by the representatives of Modernism. When I thought of bringing a relevant example to illustrate how Modernists rejected the tradition, I found out that each movement – from De Stijl to Art Deco – offered their own response. This again proves the innovative nature of Modernism: while the tradition is singular, the deviations from it are multiple.

The situation with Postmodernism isn’t that crystal clear. The very term “Postmodernism” suggests the continuation of modernists’ tradition. The concept of Postmodern was first used with regard to architecture at the middle of the last century: “Firstly, postmodernism was a movement in architecture that rejected the modernist, avant garde, passion for the new. ” (Keep, McLaughlin & Parmar, n/d, “Defining Postmodernism,” “What is postmodernism? ”, para. 1) Generally, the movement was born as a rejection of the previous tradition of the adoeation of novelty. The definition of Postmodernism is as follows:

“[Postmodernism is a] rejection of the sovereign autonomous individual with an emphasis upon anarchic collective, anonymous experience. Collage, diversity, the mystically unrepresentable, Dionysian passion are the foci of attention. Most importantly we see the dissolution of distinctions, the merging of subject and object, self and other. This is a sarcastic playful parody of western modernity and the ‘John Wayne’ individual and a radical, anarchist rejection of all attempts to define, reify or re-present the human subject. ” (Keep, McLaughlin & Parmar, n/d, “Defining Postmodernism,” “What is postmodernism? ”, para. 5)

We see that Postmodernism rejects not only the previous tradition of Modernism, but also all the previous artistic tradition. It focuses on a different meaning and method of creation. Assuming that no new knowledge can have been produced at the end of the 20th century, Postmodernism concentrated on synthesizing the available element of art and thought. Postmodernism is a paradigm shift that can’t yet be defined by comparison with the artistic method that will chronologically follow it. As for the meaning of these two innovative trends, Modernism opened a new era in the Western art at the beginning of the 20th century.

It opened way for constant experimentation and search for new forms of artistic expression. Postmodernism with its stress on collective and anonymous experience changed the nature of relations between the author and artistic product. Both trends offered a highly needed response to the rapidly changing world. References Modernism. HuntFor. com. June 11, 2005. www. huntfor. com/arthistory/c19th/modernism. htm Keep, C. , McLaughlin, T. and Parmar, R. Defining Postmodernism. The Electronic Labyrinth. June 11, 2005. http://www. iath. virginia. edu/elab/hfl0242. html

Breaking with the Continuum essay

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