I’m interested in hidden histories: how the past can be hidden in plain sight in images, words, traces. This is a photograph of the workers (mainly women) at the Lotor Soap Factory in Morford Street, Bath, c.1900. It is incredibly rare to find an un-posed photograph of workers; usually they are lined-up like a school photo with the boss in pride of place.Who were they, where did they live, what are they chatting about, what effect on their health did they suffer (soap-making is very hazardous).
Saturday 21st November 2019
What was modernism? Arguably (and people do . . . ) it is a period roughly from the early 1900s to the early 1930s. But there are plenty of examples of work of the late 19th century that pre-figure modernism and which move in that direction.
The most tantalising thing is that modernism is evident in every artform – architecture, music, dance, theatre, the novel, poetry, painting, sculpture, film, photography. Across all these artforms, there is an interest in the ‘bones’ of the artform (what makes dance ‘dance’? what makes music ‘music’?); and a desire to strip away the decorative and the sentimental, to simplify, and to express the experience and feeling of ‘now’ – being modern.
The political upheavals of the late C19 and the First World War – the definitive break with an old order in Europe – and the increase in mechanisation and industrialisation were both huge influences on how artists expressed themselves in every artform. In painting, film, and poetry in particular, artists used juxtaposition – placing two images alongside each other to create a sudden and unexpected new meaning. An example – in 1913 Ezra Pound wrote In a Station of the Metro:
The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals on a wet, black bough.
Modernism is such a huge and diverse topic, we can’t possibly do it justice in a day! So I’m suggesting:
Morning workshop (Lonsdale room)
We look closely at some examples of modernism in poetry, the novel, and other writing. Please suggest pieces you’d like to share and talk about.
It would be great to have robust discussion about to what extent these writers succeeded – or not – in conveying the ‘modern’ world and their feelings about it. And the fact that some – for example the Futurist Manifestos – espoused very right-wing or fascist politics [illustration: Marinetti ‘Words in Freedom’ 1914]
Afternoon (Elwin room)
We try to cover a wider selection of material in different artforms, to underline the variety and richness within modernism. Explore what modernism was, and its excitement and freshness – and where did it go next? Please suggest ideas across all artforms.
Please email me if you’d like to be involved.