“The impulse of modernity, we are told on the other hand, is exhausted; anyone who considers himself avant-garde can read his own death warrant. Although the avant-garde is still considered to be expanding, it is supposedly no longer creative. Modernism is dominant but dead.”
Modernity-An Incomplete Project, Jurgen Habermas
Although modernism as an impact dominates western culture and most of its characteristics can be traced as echoes everywhere, it appears that these echoes are filtered and reflected in a way that the Utopian impulse-to use Fredric Jameson's description of the modernist vision-seems nowadays to be expressed in a neutralized way, unarmed and stripped of its radicality.
We have witnessed an avant-garde nostalgia in recent years, a more direct revision of modernism, aesthetically closer to its origins, and all the above observations seem more legitimate than ever. “Mostly Harmless”* is a body of work that deals with this subject, comments on the historical value of modernism and especially on how we perceive it and redefine it.
The works are “notes”, which vary from printed pages to large scale prints and installations, where a system of beliefs based on modernist visions as doctrine is recognized, along with the awareness of the post-modern identity that defines contemporary culture. As contradictory as possible, in a dipole explained simply as modernism versus reality, a juxtaposition is created, which sets the aesthetics of modernism in a specific context, where the vision behind the aesthetics dissolves in a mixture that produces irony. Forming always a pair of data, an iconic image or notion of the avant-garde and a surrounding context that tends to absorb the image’s radicality, the works generate an annotation on how contemporary culture integrates modernism.
*"Mostly Harmless" is the description of planet Earth in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the electronic space-travel guide in the series of books "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams.
Re-projections of the Utopian impulse
This series of works began with drawings depicting Avant-garde architecture. It was at first a “nostalgic” reproduction of images seen by a postmodern artist as iconic representations of the term modern. As an artist who was an art student during the end of the 20th century, I was indoctrinated with the notion of modernity as the absolute turning point in cultural history and as a result, everything rooted back to that period. In that way the radicality that defined modernism became dogmatic and all of its cutting edge ideas became aesthetic principles, creating a system of beliefs that in the context of an art school it can absolutely be considered as academic.
With these thoughts in my mind, as soon as I was making the first drawings, questions came up and especially about what will be the point of making these reproductions of retro-futurist visions. I began to conceive the idea about the degeneration of the modernist vision as a phenomenon caused by the appropriation and consumption of its principles by mass culture and contemporary politics. Seen as a controversial fact of an artistic reform(similar to meaning of th term in politics), several concepts were conceived about the merge of the Utopian-modernist revolutionary art practices with non-radical expressions in culture, in which the Avant-garde concept of the new modern world(filled with the urge to change everything), became a superficial obsession with the aesthetic of the pure form and therefore these tendencies began to be institutionalized.
Recognizing my own system of beliefs based on modernist visions as doctrine and aware of my post-modern identity, I began to think that I should oppose them as contradictory as possible, in a dipole explained simply as modernism versus reality. Juxtaposing the aesthetics of modernism and a specific context in which the vision behind the aesthetics dissolves, I am trying to shape a mixture that produces irony. Irony becomes critique. I am trying to emphasize to the normalization of the art practice of modernism as a revolutionary vision through images that combine the aesthetics with contradictory facts. Forming always a pair of data, an iconic image of an early 20th century building(or an art object) and a surrounding context that tends to absorb the image's radicality, my intention is to criticize both the modernist vision as an application formed by the obsession with the pure form, but also how post-modern culture especially tends to integrate modernism as an assimilated aesthetic value stripped from its notional content.
Exploring the picture elements
The main proposal is to resample already existing images into new ones, emphasizing on the elementary parts of the picture such as the pixels of a digital image, the dots of a photographic image or everything that can be taken as basic elements of the picture. The objective aim is to enlarge and make the parts of an image not only visible, but in some cases even more significant than the whole image. This alteration of the image has a result which redefines its aesthetics while the initial representation and its meaning loses its weight and becomes secondary, sometimes even “absent”, compressed only verbally in the title of each work. While the images become more and more unrecognisable, the main concept is expanding and it is getting similar with the objectives of Abstract Art but in a more conceptual manner due to the philosophical exploration of the morphology, aesthetics and meaning of the “particles” in an image. On the other hand if the image is visible, the subject in which the work refers becomes primary and the picture elements take a morphology which loads them with a meaning quite consistent with the initial subject. Even in the most evident image the form created by particles always gives a certain feeling based on the microstructure of the image which excites our psyche in various ways relative to the thematology of every work.
Optical perception is one of our primary senses and the role of vision amongst the more significant stimulants for human brain. We are undeniably cover the time of image and the innumerous of optical stimulants that overrun our brains, consequence image’s “aura” diminishing. Therefore the main goal for images’ creators or observers is the maintenance of their emotional power through their belief upon their impact on our daily life. The specific belief can be formed into an almost religious conception of the image, a new “iconolatry” towards the image itself, through an artistic “fetishism” concerning the picture elements, which can be accomplished through the reform of the image caused by the exploration and magnification of its inner structure.
The development of digital media especially, and their inner connection to the consisting parts of an image, form a new field of perception and possibilities strongly related to the meaning of an image itself, digital or not.