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Chapter 6: Sharing of Textures: crossovers in contemporary art
by Roy Exley
Extract (with kind permission of University of Huddersfield Press)
|Figure 6.3: Stripe 3, 2009, oil on paper, 32.5 x 22.5cm. |
© Pip Dickens
They said, ‘You have a blue guitar / you do not play things as they are.’
The man replied, ‘Things as they are / are changed upon the blue guitar.’
Wallace Stevens, The Man
with the Blue Guitar
The crossover as a breaching of (arbitrary) boundaries
Back in the eighteenth century, when Henry Fielding was inspired by the drawings of William Hogarth (such as the notorious image of Gin Lane) to embark upon his classic novel Tom Jones, the concept of ‘crossover’ did not even exist. Neither the hoi polloi nor the gentry could have possibly foreseen the unbridled hybridity that would permeate the arts two centuries later. Cross-fertilisations between the arts became commonplace, not only cross-genre, but also cross-cultural, and this sort of hybridisation took place in the work of such modernist artists as Pablo Picasso, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Jacob Epstein, who all created work inspired by traditional African tribal masks. In the 1960s the American jazz saxophonist Joe Harriott and Indian violinist John Mayer collaborated to create a fusion of classical Indian music and modern jazz. This was all part of the ferment that included Ravi Shankar’s tutelage of George Harrison on the sitar and the traditional Indian raga, which led to a change of direction in the music of Harrison and The Beatles, and all that followed under their influence.
As a parting gesture to accompany the final curtain on the currency of modernism, in the late 1960s the partitions between artistic disciplines were decisively torn apart along the seams of their increasingly brittle, perforated and sutured integuments. The manifestos of individual disciplines were turned into a miasmic epilogue that succumbed to an unstoppable, burgeoning swell of hybridity – a hybridity that became the forerunner of the conceptual movement of the 1970s. The seeds of this disjunction had, of course, been sown long before, in the works of artists such as Marcel Broodthaers, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Daniel Buren, Bruce Nauman, et al., whose work and ethos anarchically, and fatally, punctured the already decaying modernist edifice and its shrine, the white cube. They were precursors, preparing the way for the advent of events, performances and mixed media installations – the age of pluralism had not just arrived to besiege the citadel of modernism but had stormed its gates and broken through. Could the provocative and often visceral performance work of such artists as the Americans Adrian Piper and Carolee Schneemann, or the Austrian Hermann Nitsch, have prospered without the pioneering work of these forerunners?
Between 1956 and 1958 the French-based Greek architect/composer Iannis Xenakis collaborated with the French architect Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris) to create the Phillips Pavilion at the Brussels World Fair, the form of which was inspired by Xenakis’ composition Metastasis and in which his composition Concret PH was performed, where an empathy between architectural space and sound dynamics was needed to achieve a perfect realisation of the composition for an audience seated within its space. Le Corbusier had conceived the idea of an ‘electric poem’ to engage with that space and in turn be enhanced by it, in which, in his words: ‘Light, colour, image, rhythm and sound join together in an organic synthesis’. Xenakis’ Concret PH was performed at the Phillips Pavilion in 1958 alongside Edgard Varèse’s groundbreaking electronic composition, La Poème Électronique. The latter work was fed, with spectacular results, through 350 revolving speakers, giving the impression of sound moving through space, and creating the
illusion of a tangible material entity. This calculated synthesis between architecture, lighting and electronic sound created a novel and spectacular holistic experience for the audience and was a prime example of successful cross-fertilisation of previously separate artistic genres.
[End of Extract] ]
Shibusa - Extracting Beauty
Edited by Monty Adkins and Pip Dickens
Size: 280 x 210mm
Number of images: 97
Images in colour: 89
published by University Huddersfield Press
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