In the context of cultural historic logic, modernism can generally be defined as new literary and artistic styles that emerged before 1914, as a result of rebellion from several artists against the norms of the nineteenth century, concerning the literary and depiction form. The artists rebelled so as to be able to present what in their opinion was the true picture reflecting of how people actually think and feel. The twentieth century can therefore, be effectively divided in to two parts; the modern periods and the post modern periods. The term modernism includes the output and activities of the artists who were of the opinion that the norms that were dearly held in the traditional society, such as literature, architecture, social organization, religious faith and generally the daily life were being eroded away. They were being replaced by new social, political and economic conditions of a world that was emerging that was more industrialized. This led to the rise of the futurism movement which was meant to incite and gather support to counter the force of modernism (Blum, pp 84).
Modernism and futurism
Modernist art perceived the life experience in which the traditional society had collective faith and identity to be eroding and out dated. The mechanized slaughter in the twentieth century during World War I was an event that made the modernist to distrust reason and also sunder self-satisfied views of moral improvement of the belief progress and the human society in a steady manner. Originally a movement that was composed of some intellectuals made modernism to achieve acceptance and thus it was possible for modernism to exert on popular entertainment and culture a pervasive influence, in the twentieth century. The claim by modernists that truth was subjective contributed a lot to the rise of moral relativism and individualism, in the guidance of personal ethics. This led to considerable transformations concerning the importance of religion in some one’s life (Blum, pp 154).
The developments that were realized in modernism started to usher in new views and perceptions about it and thus its meaning changed. Modernism embraced rejection, disruption or moving further than simple realism in art and literature. It also rejected the dramatic change of tone in music. This therefore, set the modernists apart from the artists who believed in progress in music and other works of art. The painters and musicians who were not radicals were considered as valuable members of the society since they produced art that added value to the society. Since modernism was progressive it perceived traditional social arrangements and traditional norms as barriers to its progress. This made the artists to be recast and to be considered rebellious and over throwers of the prevailing social order instead of enlightening the society on various issues (Hickman, pp 284).
Although modernism had only a minority following before the war, it was more embraced after the war. In Europe, during such significant movements such as the Dada, the constructive ones like the Surrealism and other smaller movements like the Bloomsbury Group, each of them in terms of modernism led to the development of new ways of producing the desired results. The exhibitions, cinemas, theatres, buildings, libraries and books were all focused on cementing the idea that the world was in the process of changing and that those who were not changing with it risked being out dated. There were several hostile reactions from those who were opposed to the idea of modernism and they spat on paintings of modernism and organized riots which were aimed at denouncing modernism. Concurrently, during the same period, that is, 1920s which was well known as the Jazz Age, societies showed a lot of enthusiasm for air travel, cars and telephone among other developments in technology. By the year 1930, modernism was largely embraced by several societies and was thus well cemented in both artistic and political worlds (Williams, pp 103).
Marinetti, who was a poet, led other futurists who were opposed to the idea old is worm eaten in society and in art too. Their work was intended to refute the dilapidated traditions and hence develop a new art that was capable of encapsulating both the environmental and mental changes brought about by modernity. The intentions of Marinetti and his followers were effectively propagated by manifestos that were worded aggressively. The contemporary life miracles, such as industrialization, scientific progress and dynamism in the urban centers were celebrated openly in the manifestos. During this period new discoveries were made which made the perception of the world to change and thus the concept of universal dynamism was adopted. Objects ceased to be considered in temporal and spatial isolation but they were instead integrated together, and also with their environments in interpretations that were dynamic suggesting energy and speed. Universal dynamism brought about the use of diagonal lines of plastic forms and force which were web like, which sought to involve the spectator in their confusion and violence. The merging splintered vectors and protean forms replicated the effects of highly paced Machine Age that was evolving rapidly (Gardner, & Mamiya, pp 220).
As discussed above, futurism was basically therefore, an artistic and literary movement. The movement was a characterized by its paradoxical nature that started as a response to the environment that was under going change. Such a movement should not possess any means of expression in the form of art that was responsible of conditioning the environment directly, which was the situation until mid 1910s about half a decade following release of the first manifesto (Blum, pp 208).
In painting, the movement of futurists has in several occasions been considered erroneously as a Cubism offshoot. In the real sense both its goals and its roots were quite different. The paintings closely resembled the ones that were used in the new Germany movement that was later referred to as Expressionism. Some confusion originated from the persistence of painters from Paris to read the futurists manifestos with Cubism analytical procedures in their minds (Clough, & Clough, pp 125).
Modernism was based on a different way of doing things in which case the old ways were considered to be out dated. It promoted radical changes in the society especially in the field of photography, architecture, literature, and music. On the other hand the futurists openly expressed a lot of passionate to the old way of carrying out various duties and that there was need for the societies to maintain their norms and values and with stand the effects of modernity. However, the futurists were pro technology, speed car and airplane travel, youth and violence and also an industrial city. The futurists unlike the modernists liked technological developments of humanity, they were also true nationalists. As opposed to the modernists the futurists practiced a lot of medium art such as sculpture, painting, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, ceramics, film, theatre, music, literature, textiles and fashion.
Blum, Cinzia Sartini; The other modernism: F.T. Marinetti’s futurist fiction of power (1996): University of California Press, ISBN 0520200497.
Clough, Rosa Trillo & Clough, Rosa; Futurism: The Story of a Modern Art Movement; A New Appraisal. (1969): Greenwood Press, ISBN 0837121663.
Gardner, Helen & Mamiya, Christin J.; Gardner’s art through the ages (2004): Thomson/Wadsworth, ISBN 0534640915.
Hickman, Miranda B.; The geometry of modernism: the vorticist idiom in Lewis (2005): University of Texas Press, ISBN 0292709439.
Williams, Louise Blakeney; Modernism and the ideology of history: literature, politics, and the past (2002): Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521814995.