Notes on David Craven's 'alternative modernism'

Luiz Renato Martins
  luizmart@usp.br
  

Abstract

(THIS PAPER BELONGS TO PANEL "NOTES ON MODERNIZATION , FROM THE PERIPHERY I")
The radical and dialectically inventive critique of David Craven, against the positivity of Clement Greenberg’s formalism on art criticism, and against the imperialist process of conservative modernization that this implies, picks up from peripheral anticapitalism the elements that are necessary to regenerate modern art´s negativity power. This had been eradicated (naturally, after the extermination of the Paris Commune and the reconfiguration of colonialism during the so-called “Belle époque”) by the technocratic conception of “pure art”, stemming from the neo-Kantian and Positivist conception of aesthetical experience as a matter of expertise, which denies the decisive role of social conflicts and ultimately lead the establishment of a global order of museums of modern art.

But what are the origins of negativity in modernism? Craven’s investigation aims to, on one hand, dialecticize the dominant conception of modern art, whose contradictory aspects – linked to the class struggle – are eradicated by the technocratic formalist model. On the other, Craven questions the interpretation of peripheral modernism as a movement ruled by a linear and single model of progress and social history.

Many are the parallels between Craven’s reflections on historical decisive works of ‘alternative modernism’, and figures of Benjamin’s thought. In the latter one can find the “dialectical leap” into the past and the “explosion of the continuum of history”, as practices inherent to the revolutionary classes (“Theses on the Concept of History, 1940). Both show, ultimately, that beyond its appearances, the “stageism” of the Third International and today’s neoliberal totalitarianism are homologous, in their blind faith in a monolithic thinking and in their common beliefs in progress by way of productive expansion. Craven’s theses open numerous doors and contributes to deconstructing the myth of the so-called “end of history”.
(DR. LUIZ RENATO MARTINS (VISUAL ARTS DEPARTMENT, USP, BRAZIL)

modern art's negativity - formalism and "pure art" - peripheral modernism - Trotsky's Results and Prospects - Benjamin's Theses on History