So I`ve refined the ideas I got from the decline and fall of utopia from Collage City by Colin Rowe, The Arcades project by Walter Benjamin, and Of islands and trenches by Frederich Jameson in a more civilized way than my previous rant which was full of assumptions and lacked cohesion. I`ll continue my quest in reading, next stop will be meta-modernism, but I`ll be posting more visuals/work in the meanwhile.
In the text by Frederich Jameson it is referred to Levi Strauss` interpretation of the myth, which he considers a device for mediation. A circumstance that cannot be solved in the current sociopolitical context of the society is discussed or speculated upon through a myth. Which eventually leads to the myth of the Utopian context which is represented through a series of fiction texts that attempted to create a perfect Utopian world. What I found most interesting is that they all failed, even in fictional literature, the authors had to come to compromises or deux ex machina devices to solve the complications that would arise within the dense system of what utopia actually is. Some of the fundamental rules would be that money is no longer a thing and there is no such thing as crime, which sound ludicrous if we would apply them to our own society. And yet this dream/myth was pursued with great energies by the modernists, and failed to deliver it. But it’s not my belief it was a complete disaster or a complete travesty of their concept, but that some of it should be salvaged along with what was not flamboyant irony in post-modernism. The pursuit of this myth of utopia cannot be followed through blindly, as it was by the modernists because it produces the anomalies of places like Dubai, which in my opinion are similar growths to that of cancer within a body, places like Beijing where the air is un-breathable, and places like Kowloon city which although they might look like hell on earth it might actually be closer to an utopia than we might think at first glance. Dubai can perfectly replace the Arcades of Benjamin in an absolute exaggeration which he could not even imagine. It is the extreme place for flanerie, through its unreasonableness. The urban context presented by Dubai is so extremely artificial it can no longer identify itself with any culture, but that of the capitalist extreme consumer. When it came into being, there were no sanitation systems in place, people just threw their garbage outside their homes, until it stacked up in mountains. The only reason that happened was because of the stigma of even owning the garbage business. People were so convicted by their own arrogance that they preferred to live among mountains of salubrious waste rather than receive than to go as low as to clean after themselves. Eventually a French company took over, with only French personnel and equipment. In Dubai people become commodities, the privilege of living there is quantified by the idea that other people see you. Dubai in the grand arcade of the world would be the most expensive shop that instead of displaying merchandise, it displays naked people, naked of their culture and identity. The rest of the world observes them, and fails to see the devaluation of the human condition that Walter Benjamin saw almost 80 years ago. The phantasmagorical spectacle is absolute. But culture is so deformed there that the concept of utopia defeated itself, and instead of becoming a city of mind, it became a city of blissful ignorance, a capitalistic heaven for the blind.
I think the Walter Benjamin text completes the one of Collin Rowe, because in the end it seems that the first chapter of Collage city falls flat, with little conclusions while it Benjamin`s text appears to be a lot more relevant towards our day and age although it was written a whopping 40 years before. Benjamin could foresee the cult of the commodity which is reigning today along with the travesty of cultural values, maybe in effect to Adorno`s influence, but he did so without even witnessing the downfall of modernism during the second world war, where the leaders of totalitarian countries realized that it is not feasible to maintain a level of culture that would only serve high society, thus replacing authentic art with kitsch and serving it to the masses, as presented by Greenberg in Art and Culture. Best example is Mussolini. In 1972 John Berger talks in his show Ways of seeing about the false mystification and religiosity European art gained to compensate for what it lost when it became reproducible. The methods of reproduction worked in retrospective, turning art that was painted centuries ago into commodities that can be manipulated for any purposes. Because of that people have the misconception that they should feel in awe while standing in front of an work of art, because of its originality and its survival across the ages, which is partially true, but what the vast majority tends to forget that most European art should be viewed as a window towards the time it was painted.
Maybe the modernists failed to deliver the utopia because they never took it further, it remained based on Hegels organization of the world which is based on the Platonic conception of 2 worlds. Hegels states that there is a natural material universe and a historical spiritual one, both guided by Providence, which means a divine, therefore rational creation is still in progress. But providence should not be mistaken with God in this context, because I believe it was referring to humanity. And under this paradigm, the modernist architect took place of Providence in order to create the natural material universe( the utopia ), but in a selfish vision. Maybe If more modern philosophy would had been employed such as Nietzsche`s perspectivism, the modernists could have conserved much more of the traditional culture they were destroying in their race for utopia, while also delivering a better result, and by that I don`t mean utopia, but an at least more ameliorated version of the cultural hazard of today. Did the idea of Utopia ever change after the 20s? It actually never changed since the platonic version of it, the modernists added some depth to it and used it as a façade to butcher the traditional city, there is no difference in what Haussmann did to Paris in order to secure the city against civil wall by making barricading impossible, to what Corbusier did with Plain Voisin. Utopia did change in literature but it was a completely fictitious pursuit of perfection, but Xenokis did attack Frank Lloyd Wright and LeCorbusier altogether when he says: “The problems of urban concentration are not going to be solved by the vigorous pencil slashes of decentralization on the map, nor by advocating the dispersal of the living complexity of Paris into smaller centers which will simply reduplicate its inconvenience, but rather” adds Frederich Jameson, “by energetic attention to the general problem of communication, of exchange and information in urban agglomeration.”
The exchanged of information became instant but that only led to mass propaganda, led to a sedated society completely under capitalist control. The phantasmagorical spectacle that is a central point of the arcades project became the central point of modern life. One must be highly cynical and well versed in the arts to be able to defend himself from the unstoppable torrent of kitsch and propaganda that is attacking us from every angle, Tv, internet, magazines, smartphones etc.
Truths become more absolute than ever, the pseudo-demystification of existence is achieved at the cost of the loss of perspective, people start relying less and less on their own wits and more on what is dictated by the media. If our fathers asked themselves why do they need to read and understand whole libraries under the argument that the information is there anyway in case they needed it, our generation asks itself if there is anything to learn about when Google has the answer to anything, and if it`s not there it probably does not exist.
There are no absolute truths, even time is relative with that idea, unless we believe in them absolutely.