Modernist Aesthetics and the Utopian Lure of Community
Edited By Laura Scuriatti
In the first half of the twentieth century, artists, intellectuals, writers, thinkers and patrons in Europe and the United States created a large number of artistic communities, circles, groups and movements with the aim of providing alternatives to the increasingly conflictual political and intellectual climate; the works and artistic practices of many of these groups were marked by an ethos of collaboration, based on a collective understanding of artistic production, and on the nurturing and exercise of sociability and conviviality. Collaboration, sociability, friendship and collective artistic efforts represented the utopian aspects of the radical experiments carried out by avant-garde and modernist artists; they were also the counterparts of the period’s obsession with the notion of genius and the cult of the artist. This book offers studies of under-researched (and often consciously provincial) avant-garde and modernist groups and authors. Their progressive aims are here read as particular forms of utopia based on the ethics and aesthetics of community.
The essays in this volume analyse the significance (and failures) of literary coteries as spaces of aesthetic and political freedom. They explore the internationalist and interdisciplinary practices of the Porza Group, the abstrakten hannover and the anthroposophical group Aenigma; the utopian efforts of the artists’ communities at Dornach (Switzerland) and Farley Farm, in England; the political and aesthetic implications of collaborative practices of cultural mediation, criticism and translation within the Bloomsbury group, the «Young American Critics», and of single individuals in relation to networks and avant-garde coteries, such as Mina Loy, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and Djuna Barnes. The volume offers an evaluation of the roots and ethos of sociability in the Enlightenment, as the basis of modernist utopias of community; it also reflects on the problematic notion of individual authorship within artistic groups, as in the case of the early-modernist Finnish author Algot Untola, who created around forty fictitious author-names.
List of Figures
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Figure 9.1. Group photograph at the studio of Hans Nitzschke, Hanover, 1925, Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart Archiv, Museum Wiesbaden. Top: Nelly and Theo van Doesburg, middle: Kurt Schwitters, Käthe Steinitz, Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, front: Hans Nitzschke.
Figure 9.2. El Lissitzky, Demonstrationszeichnung zum Prounenraum auf der Großen Berliner Kunstausstellung 1923 [Elevation Drawing for the Proun Room at the Great Berlin Art Exhibition 1923], colour lithograph, 60.2 × 44.1 cm, Sheet 6 from the Prounen-Mappe (Proun Portfolio), Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hanover, 1923.
Figure 9.3. Kabinett der Abstrakten [Abstract Cabinet] with works by Fernand Léger, Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, El Lissitzky, and Piet Mondrian, Provinzialmuseum Hannover, 1927.
Figure 9.4. Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, excerpt from ‘Theo Van Doesburg (1916–27)’ and ‘die unvergleichliche mechanik’, De Stijl, 7/79–84 (1927), 105–6.
Figure 9.5. Cover page of abstraction-création: art non-figuratif, vol. 1 (1932).
Figure 10.1. G. Sommer, First Goetheanum, painting, 1929 (reproduction photograph by R. J. Fäth).
Figure 10.2. Second Goetheanum (photograph by R. J. Fäth).
Figure 10.3. Irma von Duczynska, Aenigma Catalog, 1918 (reproduction photograph by R. J. Fäth). ← vii | viii →
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