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Modernist response

Saturday, 14 Jul 2018

Malevich Black Square on Dr John Dunn. Man’s condition is puppethood. Every minute of everyday lives responding to strings pulled. We appear to be responding freely to the randomness of life’s contingencies, but the pulling governs not only our bodies and the free will of our psychological expression, strings also regulate our communication in public spaces or the internet, and in political and economic spheres including our families and intimate relationships.

Borders of capitalist negative freedom are hidden and camouflaged in order to create an illusion of unlimited democratic participation and creative expression. The hidden agenda of contemporary art in a post-political, post-ideological world, is to bolster this illusion.

The rational response is to reorganise our everyday lives or even fight for political freedom, doing spontaneous things here and now, regardless of the future or the past. But we can only reach predictable and unsatisfactory results - or we can do nothing at all, which often seems the smarter move, or non-move. Either way, it is all about response; the complexity of contemporary economic and political conditions remains the same. Even defiance is surrender to the overwhelming force of life’s contingencies.

Bodies and minds are subject to natural decomposition and the market’s will. Our response is humiliating resignation, participative cynicism or no response - idiocy. Gravity pulls us back to the flat ground, to the brutal truth of our origin and to the inevitable end. Here lies the detached rationality of the Jehovian terror, an evil driving its dream to an apocalyptic finale.

Kasimir Malevich tugged against his strings, or shackles. ‘Reproducing the beloved objects and corners of nature is like a thief getting excited by his shackled feet,’ he exclaimed in The Manifesto of Suprematism.

From puppethood to human for him meant a separation from nature, a victory over nature, a Victory over the Sun.*Suprematic paintings don’t have the old bottom-top orientations that depend on gravity. Malevich’s Black Square was a new superordered space, a reality beyond the senses - perfect unchanging form.

And thus, Suprematism’s influence on the Bauhaus through Malevich’s student El Lissitsky remained connected to Plato.

The international style (in its purist De Stijl) chose forms for being ideal and impressed them upon the cityscape. The closer to an unchanging ideal, the better society would be. Individuals would change to match the forms. And the result? Puppethood. There is no denying Jehovah.

Perhaps only Le Corbusier defied gravity somewhat, denying Jehovah to some small extent.

*'VictoryOver the Sun.’ In 1923, El Lissitzky reinterpreted the Russian Futurist opera as a celebration of man's technological capabilities: 'the sun as the expression of old world energy is torn down from the heavens by modern man, who by virtue of his technological superiority creates his own energy source.’ (Cited 21 May 2018.)

© John Dunn.

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