Saturday, 21 April 2012

Modernism as Covert Theology

Regarding Janet Malcolm's review of Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice:

You'll never understand the ultimate absurdities of Modernism (architecture, graphics, music, theatre, film, literature), the whole multifaceted canon, if you don't start with its Genesis.

Walt Whitman solemnly called the poet the new Priest, and "Leaves of Grass" was his Newest Testament. Philip Johnson, Jackson Pollock, John Cage, Brecht, Bunuel, Gertrude Stein are all basically secular hagiographers, rejecting the ever-morphing chaos of industrial civilization with their own "saints" and sacred texts and rituals.

No matter their politics, living high on the hoggishness of material abundance of "developed societies", they get away with their facile fascism like Philip Johnson, or cynical unSemitism like Stein and Toklas, or the rich man's communism of Brecht, they fiddled while modern civilization, deprived of its natural leaders, reached its current impasse, where as Alice Rawsthorn recently observed in the International Herald Tribune ninety percent of the world's designers "work" for ten percent of the wealthiest world's humans.

And as Architecture for Humanity is attempting very creatively to do: see that more and more architects work for the Neglected Ninety Percent. Habitat for Humanity should make Frank Gehry tremble for his future status as Humanity's Class Clown. It is so painfully obvious that it is a crime crying to secular heaven for retribution when the world`s most creative so coddle only the well off.

Fifty years as an academic humanist convince me that the universities are too rotten to change the agenda. The intellectually obese one billion stand in the way of decent lives for the other five billion souls with not enough to eat.

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