IES SAS Comparative Modernisms, ‘From Avant-Garde to Architecture (and Back)’

Comparative Modernisms Seminar, Institute of English Studies- School of Advanced Study, University of London.

21 November 2016, Room 246, Senate House, Malet St, London, Room 246, 18:00 – 20:00

Professor Tyrus Miller (University of California-Santa Cruz)

From Avant-Garde to Architecture (and Back)

Abstract: This paper considers the complex interactions of the historic avant-gardes with the symbolic idea, theory, and practice of modern architecture. Considering a number of cases including Malevich, Mondrian, Van Doesburg, Lajos Kassák, Moholy-Nagy, and El Lissitzky, I will discuss and assess Reyner Banham’s classic hypothesis that the avant-gardes played a crucial role for modern architecture in providing an “aesthetic discipline,” from outside of the architectural discipline, to make sense of various technical innovations, new materials, and emergent idioms of design. At the same time, for several avant-gardists architecture was invested with the dream of reinventing a totality lost among the multiplicity of incommensurable metropolitan sign-systems and forms: as a kind of utopian meta-art in which the autonomous languages of the various art-media, and even various extra-artistic dialects and functional idiolects, might be subsumed into a new, architectonic metalanguage assuring inter-translatability and social efficacy.

Tyrus Miller is Professor of Literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He is author of Late Modernism: Politics, Fiction, and the Arts Between the World Wars (U of California P, 1999); Singular Examples: Artistic Politics and the Neo-Avant-Garde (Northwestern UP, 2009); Time Images: Alternative Temporalities in 20th-Century Theory, History, and Art (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009); and Modernism and the Frankfurt School (Edinburgh UP, 2014). He is the editor of Given World and Time: Temporalities in Context (Central European UP, 2008) and the Cambridge Companion to Wyndham Lewis (Cambridge UP, 2016). He is the translator/editor of György Lukács, The Culture of People’s Democracy: Hungarian Essays on Literature, Art, and Democratic Transition (Brill, 2012) and series co-editor of Brill’s Lukács Library series.

The seminar is  free and open to all.  However, for reasons of room capacity, please register your participation by contacting  the Seminar convenor, Dr Angeliki Spiropoulou, Visiting Research  Fellow at IES/SAS and Assist. Professor at Peloponnese University at  angeliki.spiropoulou@sas.ac.uk