CFP: Multiplying Modernity: Vernacular modernisms, nostalgia and the avant-garde

Multiplying Modernity

Vernacular modernisms, nostalgia and the avant-garde

CRAACE workshop, 67 December 2019

East Slovak Gallery, Košice (Slovakia)

In the decades before 1918 there was a vibrant debate over the nature of ‘national art’ in Central Europe. For many this was embodied in folk art and culture. By 1914, this idea was increasingly challenged by avant-garde interests in the metropolis. After the War, however, a return to folk art and regionalism was revisited and gained increasing importance in the decades leading up the Second World War. Within a broad artistic landscape, folk art and culture was used to search for a fundamental essence of human culture, as in the case of the Hungarian painters Lajos Vajda and Dezső Korniss; to create a ‘national style’ with reinterpretations of folk art, as in 1920s Czechoslovakia; and to seek renewal outside a lost imperial capital, like in Austria.

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Artwork of the Month: Women Husking Corn by Joža Uprka (1926)

In 2008, the city of Cedar Rapids in Iowa was hit by a terrible flood caused by heavy rainfall and overflown local river. The water reached unprecedented 31 feet above the normal level and flooded nearly 8,000 properties. In financial terms, the losses to property were calculated at $6 billion. But how is a flooded city in the American Midwest linked to an idyllic rural scene by a Czech artist?

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Artwork of the Month: The Mother by Rudolf Koppitz (1925)

2019’s first ‘Artwork of the Month’ focuses on one example of how a ‘nostalgic modernism’ could look in interwar Austria. What it also stands for upon closer analysis is the malleability of the photographic image in turbulent social and political times. Not least, it also helps to introduce a trend of photography in 1930s Central Europe, which seemed to stand in diametrical opposition to the avant-garde experiments of the time: Heimat photography (‘homeland photography’). As it will turn out, the classically composed The Mother could be many things and fit within a series of developments that continued from the fin de siècle to the Second World War.

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