One of the curious phenomena of the period in which Modernism flourishes like no

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Dec 19, 2022


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One of the curious phenomena of the period in which Modernism flourishes like no other involves either the emulation of engineering on the part of artists and architect, and, in successive phases over time, the reverse, which is to say the admiration and emulation of art especially on the part of engineers. What was the nature of these shifts in their time?
A particular comment by Rutsky, in this regard, is intriguing at the least. He maintains that
it is precisely on the basis of an art that, as in aestheticism, is defined as noninstrumental that the avant-gardes attempt to construct a practical, functional art. Yet, at the same time, as Andreas Huyssen observes, “technology played a crucial, if not the crucial, role in the avantgarde’s attempt to overcome the art/life dichotomy and make art productive in the transformation of everyday life.” (In Rutsky 76)
What has happened to the “practical, functional” (above)?
In Jean Baudrillard’s depiction of simulation, the nature of simulation has changed because, in his time period, he maintains, there’s no longer an original of the simulation; it’s as if there’s an appearance that’s no longer tied to a thing in itself or place in itself. (Think of digital photography, perhaps either in its actuality as, or as a metaphor for, our ultimate example of simulation when, in a sense, there’s no original—in other words, as possibly something that, we could ask, Benjamin feared as he witnessed our power of technological reproduction growing and transforming during the Modern era.)
Is this concept of appearance, then—which Baudrillard might say cannot exist except within what he calls the hyperreal of Postmodernity—his way of reestablishing the ground for reproduction and transformation, when it’s obvious that the Benjaminian notion of aura is simply passé? Is this

postulation of Baudrillard’s his imagining of Benjamin’s “aura” brought up to date (let’s say by the 1990s—Baudrillard’s essay on simulation having been published in 1995)?
If so, then would you say that Baudrillard’s notion of “simulation,” let’s say of appearance, was inevitable—when Modernism is waning (even if in somewhat distant time, from the nineties) was a consequence of what, arguably, was Modernism’s unique sharing or transferring of roles among engineers, artists and architects, as well as artistic, architectural and engineered production? (Might we might want to conclude that Rutsky’s postulation amounts to, largely, his essential accounting for what happens in the earlier years of the twentieth century?)
Were what had been their respectively distinct roles superseded by a kind of merging, eventually, of art and technology (in this regard, for example, think of the iPhone)? Huyssen goes on to argue that
[N]o other single factor has influenced the emergence of the new avant-garde art as much as technology, which not only fueled the artists’ imagination (dynamism, machine cult, beauty of technics, constructivist and productivist attitudes), but penetrated to the core of the work itself. (76)
Baudrillard, in his de facto defining of the Postmodern, and in his discussion overall of “simulation,” does seem to strike an unavoidable contrast to the Modern; as Huyssen goes on to say,
[t]he invasion of the very fabric of the art object by technology and what one may loosely call the technological imagination can best be grasped in artistic practices such as collage, assemblage, montage and photomontage; it finds its ultimate fulfillment in photography and film, art forms which can not only be reproduced, but are in fact designed for mechanical reproducibility. (In Rutsky 76)
So were Modernist propensities for “collage, assemblage, montage and photomontage” (above) the precursors to Baudrillard’s idea of simulation—what the earlier twentieth century, even as it sought to divorce itself from it, might have thought of as a quasi-spiritual concept of the real, and of art as grounded in immanence and/or the spiritual (as in the Romantic philosopher Kant’s notion of art and aesthetics being grounded in the ding an sich [the “thing in itself”]), which Modernist art, arguably, would repudiate in its time?
Rutsky tells us that (he’s paraphrasing Huyssen in some of what follows)
the historical avant-garde, in order to make art functional, [attempted] to technologize it—but this technologization [. . .] must not be reducible to a means-end or instrumental rationality. This paradoxical conjunction of a functional art and a noninstrumental technology might, therefore, be considered as the obverse of the aestheticist formula of a “nonpurposive purposiveness”; for, whereas Kant’s notion of beauty stresses the indefinite form of aesthetic purposiveness, the impossibility of representing a purpose or end separate from the object as a whole, the avant-garde emphasizes a specifically purposive or functional form—a finite and technological rather than an indefinite and aesthetic form—that has, nevertheless, been detached from an instrumental rationality.
Thus, it is in the form of a functional but nonpurposive techne that the avant-garde attempts to reconcile art and technology […]. (Rutsky 66-67)
I need High Techne: Art and Technology from the Machine Aesthetic to the Posthuman by R. L. Rutsky, “Simulacra and Simulations” by Baudrillard,, and Charles Sheeler art work mentioned.


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