Rehabilitation. The Legacy of the Modern Movement
Dirk Snauwaert, Christophe Van Gerrenwey, eds.
- MER Paperkunsthalle, Gent
- 228 p.
For many years now, one of the most recurrent and striking references in an enormous number of contemporary artworks has been the Modern movement — and, above all, Modernist architecture, with its lasting redefinition of space — to the degree that Modernism has become something similar to a directory of notions adopted to spark a particular investigation, and also a preferred landscape in which to retrospectively record the action. This reflection — or fascination, or exploitation, depending how you look at this ever-growing referential language — related to (mostly little-known) episodes, documents, traces, and figures of the Modern movement, as well as artifacts, buildings, projects, and everything else that is left, has been rampant. It’s always bad to oversimplify, yet looking at the art that is being created, Modernism seems to function overwhelmingly as a thesaurus, and/or an intermediate tool and/or a stage. The easiest, the richest, and the most universally accessible past we can relate to. One of the consequences of this production is the peculiar “rehabilitation” enjoyed by the object of the artists’ attention, the recipient of an unexpected legitimacy, these overlooked Modernist features that are passionately investigated and put back under the spotlight. So in the current period of contemporary art, one that has been characterized and defined by the very absence of any movement or convincing formula to help frame its comprehension, it’s especially helpful to get in touch with some explanatory sources like the documents collected in this book. Rehabilitation: The Legacy of Modern Movement, published to coincide with a group exhibition curated by Dirk Snauwaert with Elena Filipovic at Wiels in the summer of 2010, certainly exceeds the temporal relevance of most exhibition catalogues. Indeed, in some ways it even manages to predate the works on display. By devoting the first half of the book to the critical debate on the legacy and the significance of Modernist architecture, the authors reassess the importance of giving space and attention to the comprehension of the topic itself. At the same time, the selected critical contributions regarding architecture are scanned from the original publications, as if the very look of the graphic design might somehow improve our understanding of them, which seems unlikely. But it does, however, make the reader feel what is like to be an archivist, a researcher: the same feeling shared by so many artists whose work originates with browsing through archives and collecting documents. Moreover, it offers a hint of the fascination, the gentle power wielded by ideas from the past, regardless of their actual merits. Merits that in this case are manifold, of course, and that for the most part lie in the ambition that Modernist undertakings seem to incorporate an ambition to redefine things and respond to a certain notion of progress. This search for the utopian potential exuded by some forms of the Modern is what connects the work of the selected artists, Leonore Antunes, Alexandra Leykauf, David Maljkovic, Manfred Pernice, Falke Pisano, Tobiasd Putrih, Pia Rønicke, Oscar Tuazon and Armando Andrade Tudela. They appear to be given the same form of presentation in this volume, not a linear statement of their work accompanied by a few images, but a reproduction of images and texts that help to get at what drives them,rather than merely explaining them.