Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Modernist's Babel

The Modernist's Babel

God was the first to go, followed closely by Man.  We inherited a corpus of Western art that sprang from Medieval piety, overgrown with Renaissance sincerity, and was quickly overgrown with the Baroque and the Rococo.  All that baggage!  It got in the way of what we wanted to do.

We despised it, we discredited it, we destroyed it.

The pointless surface of a Vermeer, a Rembrandt, even a Dali  -- who could respect it?  Oh, some of our earlier members, our Picassos, our Klees, our Miros, suffered from an excess of technique.  But we were patient and they died and our work could continue its inexorable march toward simplification.  We got rid of that idiot fixation on beauty.  We got rid of the decoration and elaboration.  We reduced art to its quiddity.

Bruegel's Tower of Babel was re-imagined first as a collage, then as a line, and finally as a sheet of untouched white paper.

And on the seventh day we rested.

But then came Postmodernism, with its parody and pastiche and -- worst of all -- its rediscovery of representation.  One by one, all the elements we freed fine art from are returning.  Unmediated imagery.  Craft.  Prettiness.

Imagine our disgust.  Imagine our pain.  So must the ghost of Attila look now upon Europe and what has been done to his legacy:  All his work undone. 

 All that beautiful desolation no more.

4/30/08 12:45-12:55 p.m.



Yes, I know how unfair the above is -- I'm a big fan of the high modernists, though not of what their movement eventually devolved into.  But one of my notebook sketches of Babel was a collage, and this is the story it suggested. 

I didn't have the time to write anything polished (I'm running a little late today), so I just jotted down the above first draft, directly onto the post.  I may revisit and revise it, if I ever find the time.

And the latest poet on Poem du Jour is Shakespeare.  You can read it here.  Tomorrow, Lewis Carroll.  Not one of the the ones you expect.


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