I have spent the morning reading the Clement Greenberg essay we are asked to look at and comment on for our first project, and will need, as instructed, to read it again before writing about it but I wanted to come on here and put some initial thoughts down.

The essay covers the definition of Modernism albeit briefly and as Greenberg says, with many simplifications and exaggerations (page 777 Art in Theory)  – but what really struck a chord with me was the idea that Modernism is not a clear-cut period of time or group of ideas that suddenly exploded in a vacuum like some sort of Big Bang (if indeed that ever happened as we have long been led to believe). Instead it grew out of centuries of development; and in conjunction with ideas, values and expressions across a variety of areas such as science, philosophy and all the arts. As I read it I jotted down  –  collective development of human thought, consciousness and existence, and the subsequent expression of that.

I have just read the Ego Trick by Julian Baggini which questions the idea that a self is made up of a core, defined, centre but is instead an illusion necessarily bought into by our conscious-understanding in order to make sense of the world and our place in it. So, I have been thinking quite a lot about boundaries and categories, the way our brains seem to need these defined objects, not only in relation to our selves but also to language  (what is spoken/written language if not a set of categories), ideas, historical moments and passages of time. As I have learned that photographic images and therefore art in general is a language, I couldn’t help but bring those thoughts to the essay which seems to be explaining, not only what Modernism is, but also that  it is merely a term, which helpfully for us, binds up a time and process across Western thought, and so lets us recognise it as different to other times, even though it is a continuation of those other times.  And, that it is informed by all that has proceeded it and indeed succeeded it; the further away from that time we move, the more we put it into context in relation to our ongoing history.

I am very interested lately in this idea of being more flexible with our constructed categories (language, individuals, countries etc) – not only personally, but as a Western human trend, which I think I have picked up on recently but which I can see is covered in the essay written in 1960 and I am particularly interested in how images are a form of language that have the potential at any rate to be less formally restrictive than words are; and also are images pre-verbal or post-verbal in the way we are using them nowadays… all stuff that has been on my mind for a while.  So, I hope I will have more opportunity to contemplate this as I move through the course.

The other thing I have thought is that it will be important for me and my development to use Research and Reflection notes for this blog quite a lot, as I work out ideas before putting them into more formal critical reviews, where chatting away, as I am used to doing when writing, is less desirable… Oh dear, I do dread that, I must say.


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