Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

in reality, all of this has been a total load of old bollocks
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The Modernist
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Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby The Modernist » 25 Oct 2017, 16:09

I was looking through a book of photographs I have today. Photographs of all sorts of things collected from 1900-1990.
(the book is here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Londoners-thro ... E0PCNHS9BC and very much recommended). It struck me that the early eighties was the last definable time when things looked different to today and very much had its own style and identity.

It's strange when you think about it. After all, we have seen more radical changes (almost all related to technology) in the way we live during the last 20 years than at any other time in living memory. I reckon you'd have to go back to the introduction of electricity in daily life to find anything comparable. Yet none of this is reflected in the way things look. You could look at a picture of teenagers on the street from 1997 and it could have been taken last week.

Domestic interiors are always a good index of this sort of thing. For the past thirty years we have had a bland, functional minimalism.

Image

The person living in this place isn't going to look back at a photo of it in thirty years time and think "Oh my God, what was I thinking!".In fact they won't likely think of anything at all because this is design robbed of personality and individuality. Objects are where they are to fill a space and because that's where they're meant to be. The idea is convenience and to look like everyone else so you don't have to worry about any kind of self-expression. There's no sense of someone lovingly curating something. Compare it to the pride your granny had in her hand painted Staffordshire china set.

Love of the past isn't just nostalgia, it's a love of times when the visual language said something evocative about those times, and said it with flair and abandon. When you see Art Deco, it tell you so much about the period: its decadance and elegance, its daring belief in the future.
I get this with all sorts of decorative design of the 20th century. Take pottery for instance..
When I look at Troika, I think of Fairport Convention and The Wicker Man: All witchety and pagan.

Image

Or when I look at West German pottery from the early 70s, I think of Can and the German New Wave: Reinventing the present with a brash recklessness.

Image

It's rich and evocative.

Don't quite know what I'm expecting as a response, but I wanted to get it off my chest! Be interested in any thoughts anyway..

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The Great Defector
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby The Great Defector » 25 Oct 2017, 16:25

Are you just pissed because you can't afford to have a room looking like that?
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby The Modernist » 25 Oct 2017, 16:27

The Great Defector wrote:Are you just pissed because you can't afford to have a room looking like that?


:D
I don't aspire to that at all!

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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby The Great Defector » 25 Oct 2017, 16:27

I just wish my sittingroom was as clean as that, nevermind looking like it.
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby Jimbo » 25 Oct 2017, 16:34

The Modernist wrote:I

It's strange when you think about it. After all, we have seen more radical changes (almost all related to technology) in the way we live during the last 20 years than at any other time in living memory. I reckon you'd have to go back to the introduction of electricity in daily life to find anything comparable.



Not a comment you are looking for but I like this comparison. Those must have been heady days - like today!

In Tokyo with new housing going up all over I can't stand how ugly they buildings are and I'm irked at how little they reflect traditional Japanese buildings, not even an accent in recognition that it's a Japanese building.
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby The Modernist » 25 Oct 2017, 16:38

Jimbo wrote:
Not a comment you are looking for but I like this comparison. Those must have been heady days - like today!

In Tokyo with new housing going up all over I can't stand how ugly they buildings are and I'm irked at how little they reflect traditional Japanese buildings, not even an accent in recognition that it's a Japanese building.


Well that's the other I was going to say, but I was a bit ranted out! The homogeneity of everything today is depressing: a new building in Tokyo looks the same as one in Frankfurt which looks the same as one in Dubai.

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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby sloopjohnc » 25 Oct 2017, 16:44

Do you think some of the ornate styles that came out in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were a reaction to industrialism?

And if they were, why hasn't there been a art.style reaction to the tech revolution?

Now, the tech revolution has gone way past hardware.

If you look at web designs of the last 3 years or so, they're all mobile-friendly and scrollable, much more than web designs before. Are you not including the screen as part of the discussion on style?
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby Harvey K-Tel » 25 Oct 2017, 16:50

The modern 'design' aesthetic that's pictured above is just a product of mass production of simple, boring ideas that appeal to people with no imagination. They can go to their local 'furniture' store and buy something they think looks nice because they've seen it in a magazine or on "Pinterest" or some other shit like that. Even the tchotchkes that are supposed to lend an air of individuality are lame, poorly finished pieces of garbage. The thing is though, is that it's increasingly difficult to find unique objects at affordable prices because most of the 'cool' things have all been scooped up by collectors and re-sellers, so it's hard to begrudge someone their ease of choice. I just would like to see put a bit more thought into their surroundings - I mean, if you're going to live in a condo that looks like a billion other condos you might as well leave your door unlocked and crash wherever the hell you please.
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby souphound » 25 Oct 2017, 16:53

I blame Ikea
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby Nick » 25 Oct 2017, 16:53

sloopjohnc wrote:Do you think some of the ornate styles that came out in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were a reaction to industrialism?


William Morris's arts & crafts movement was, explicitly so.

You could make a case for people like Ruskin and the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood pursuing a similar path, though less obviously so in terms of an open opposition to industrialisation.

Art Nouveau too.
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby Nick » 25 Oct 2017, 16:56

Whereas a movement like Bauhaus was all about function more or less dictating the form. Leading to Le Corbusier's famous dictum about houses being 'machines for living'. Though of course in both cases, their styles were hugely distinctive and innovative.
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby Jimbo » 25 Oct 2017, 16:56

If anything our home could use a whole lot of that empty space. My wife has our place decorated like a gay (18)90's San Francisco whore house with a pasha's palace worth of throw pillows, plants and lace.
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby Goat Boy » 25 Oct 2017, 16:57

Globalisation and technology have created it I guess. I mean that interior style has become some kind of accepted standard of “good taste”.

Back in the day individual and group tastes still had the freedom to develop in relative isolation.
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby Fonz » 25 Oct 2017, 17:00

I had this conversation with family 6 months ago.
Generally, people have raced to get rid of heirlooms and ‘stuff’, often for very little money, in pursuit of either easy cash or just chasing the aesthetic that G posted a pic of.
Part of it comes from being more fluid in terms of where you live. More mobile. Buy a place to flip it, so necessitating a neutralbland palette. Been guilty of this myself, as job has taken me all over the South of England.

I think we will see a reaction, bu5 I don’t know when. I predict a generation of folks will want to reconnect with the past and start to value heirlooms and hand-me-downs; things they can actually touch and hold, rather than virtual stuff on a screen.
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby Harvey K-Tel » 25 Oct 2017, 17:01

I want to know more about this Scandinavian glass that you're into, G. It's not something that has seemingly even made a dent in the marketplace over here.
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby Rayge » 25 Oct 2017, 17:03

Ring the bells, G. I agree with almost every word of your analysis, although I'm a less pissed off about it than you are.
I do have more to say – quite a lot more, not only about style but about changing ideas about the purpose of a home, technology's arrow, and also the way our perceptions of passing time and changes change as we age – but no time very stoned dog to walk etc.
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby The Modernist » 25 Oct 2017, 17:06

sloopjohnc wrote:Do you think some of the ornate styles that came out in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were a reaction to industrialism?


Yes, the Arts and Crafts movement was totally a reaction against that.
sloopjohnc wrote:And if they were, why hasn't there been a art.style reaction to the tech revolution?

Now, the tech revolution has gone way past hardware.

If you look at web designs of the last 3 years or so, they're all mobile-friendly and scrollable, much more than web designs before. Are you not including the screen as part of the discussion on style?


Really interesting points. I think there has been an "art style reaction to the tech revolution" to some degree. You see it when you go to a site like Etsy, hundreds of people making and selling their own hand made and hand crafted goods. But this is more cottage industry, hobbyist stuff really, I agree you don't see it much in highly visible commercial design.

On the second point, you might be right, the visual innovations could be taking place on-line, that would make sense. Problem is I don't see much that stands out in that regard.
It's funny when you look at a Geocities page from about 8 years ago with their lurid yellows and purples and black backgrounds, and crappy animations. They look as ancient as a one reel film from 1900. We have come a long way incredibly quickly. But it strikes me web design is all about mass appeal and ease of use. I don't get much sense of individuality or artistic purpose. Can anyone name a famous web designer? Will people be looking at a web page from today in fifty years time installed in a gallery, and be going "what a beautiful and groundbreaking design that was".
I dunno...

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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby Goat Boy » 25 Oct 2017, 17:14

I think technology has supplanted style and design in the way it reflects the period. In the past there seemed a genuine desire to reflect the times and the different generations through design etc but now this desire is fulfilled through technology advances
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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby The Modernist » 25 Oct 2017, 17:23

Harvey K-Tel wrote:The modern 'design' aesthetic that's pictured above is just a product of mass production of simple, boring ideas that appeal to people with no imagination. They can go to their local 'furniture' store and buy something they think looks nice because they've seen it in a magazine or on "Pinterest" or some other shit like that. Even the tchotchkes that are supposed to lend an air of individuality are lame, poorly finished pieces of garbage. The thing is though, is that it's increasingly difficult to find unique objects at affordable prices because most of the 'cool' things have all been scooped up by collectors and re-sellers, so it's hard to begrudge someone their ease of choice. I just would like to see put a bit more thought into their surroundings - I mean, if you're going to live in a condo that looks like a billion other condos you might as well leave your door unlocked and crash wherever the hell you please.


Agree 100%.
In the UK, old or even antique furniture can be picked up very cheaply at auction or in junk shops, often very attractive and well made things. It is much harder to get good quality G-Plan and similar(which was the British answer to mid century Scandinavian design, in fact their early designers were Scandinavian) because of the mania for all things mid century (which I share!).

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Re: Modern life and visual aesthetics - a rant!!

Postby The Modernist » 25 Oct 2017, 17:24

Goat Boy wrote:I think technology has supplanted style and design in the way it reflects the period. In the past there seemed a genuine desire to reflect the times and the different generations through design etc but now this desire is fulfilled through technology advances


Very much, but I worry we are losing our visual eye.