Wednesday, April 10, 2013
147: Terry Smith's Making the Modern
The body of the book is organized around case studies that trace the emergence of this new way of seeing. Topics include the modernization of work in the Ford Highland Park plant, where the moving assembly line provided a new way to frame space and inspired a new "industrial-functional" architecture; a new modern business aesthetic along these Fordist lines that was celebrated by Life, Time, and Fortune, resisted by Rivera and Kahlo, and complicated by New Deal Social Realist photographers Lewis Hyne and Roy Stryker; and an extension of the "aestheticization of American industry" to the increasingly commercial industrial design profession, MOMA's purist modernism, and Futurism at the 1939 World's Fair. Throughout, Smith also investigates three conceptual pairs that seem to be at the core of the modernist worldview: cities/crowds, industry/workers, and products/consumers.
Slippage between industry and culture aside, Making the Modern is pretty effective at showing how culture and technology intertwined to create a worldview from a particular way of life - to the extent that aesthetics can speak for culture, anyway. However, it's debatable whether cultural production is still this tightly connected to the means of production.