Alternative abstractions of modernist architecture

Gough, Tim (2003) Alternative abstractions of modernist architecture. In: 29th Association of Art Historians Annual Conference; 10 - 13 Apr 2003, London, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Le Corbusier and Ozenfant in Purism (1921) state the goal of Purist art as placing �the spectator in a state of a mathematical quality, that is, a state of an elevated order�. This paper will take the poetic possibility of abstraction in the work of �modernist� architects as a guiding thread for an investigation of an alternative modernism in the twentieth century. If there is a modernism defined by the �universalising abstraction of technology� and the �unsituated tabula rasa� as pre-requisite for the creativity of the aesthetic genius, the argument will be made for an alternative modernism concerned and working with abstraction not instrumentally, but in a manner which, in making its own representation a subject for itself, gives space for a resonant creativity. The contrast will be drawn between a �figurative� and aesthetic understanding of art and architecture on the one hand; and �abstraction� as a practice/theory where - mimesis folds back on that which is mimed, and effects it (destroying its �originality�) - the act of mimesis speaks of that act itself, saying something of itself - and (thus) affects the work and affects the mimesis of the work in a movement of staging The aim will be at once to rescue abstraction from technological reduction, and to show abstraction as an ongoing theme for architecture.

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