Call for papers - Consumer Culture, Populism and Everyday Life: Re-reading the Architectural Avant-garde Discourse
Call for Papers Date:
The artistic avant-gardes of the 1950s and 60s, and especially groups such as Fluxus and the Situationist International, returned to a central aspect of the historic avant-garde: the merging of art and life. A parallel interest in everyday life developed within architecture, yet much of its focus was on mass consumer culture rather than on the more material aspects of daily life. Consumer culture was compelling because it was enmeshed in everyday life, and presented itself as a vehicle of authentic, popular values outside the academia of high culture; American postwar mass culture developed in the United States and entered Europe as a new, commercial vernacular phenomenon which seemed liberating in contrast to the ‘elitism’ of high culture, the pre-WWII class society, and the didactic tone of a middle-brow culture promoted in the post-war years by governments. Whereas the appreciation of high culture demanded education and an aesthetic disposition, mass culture was immediately accessible to all levels of society, it served a ‘mobile’ society enabling individualism and new collective manifestations such as youth culture, and hence could claim an egalitarianism absent in its adversaries.
In architecture, an interest in mass consumer culture can be detected in the Smithsons’ collaborations and exchanges within the Independent Group, in their fascination with colour magazines, advertisements and the Citroen DS, in the work of Robert Venturi and Denis Scott Brown, who looked into the aesthetics of suburbia and Las Vegas, or in the claim of Rem Koolhaas that shopping is the last resort for the upkeep of our public spaces or his vocal support of the market. Mass consumer culture appears in the disparate work of these and other architects as a means of liberating architecture from the limitations, dogmatism and elitism they identified as prevailing in architectural discourse and practice, and the idea of liberation was often extended, whether explicitly or not, to the market forces – commercialism, advertising, media culture – driving the development of this new culture. Subsequently, the frozen food package, the Tanya billboard on the Las Vegas Strip or the mere existence of Ryan Air could be identified as phenomena of greater importance to the contemporary city than the work of the architect or urbanist.
The architects interested in consumer culture employed strategies and procedures which were consciously borrowed from - and an elaboration of – the early avant-garde, such as the critique of the autonomy of architecture and the fascination with everyday phenomena, commodities and media products. However, the so-called logic of the avant-garde was itself undermined by subjugating architecture to a populism which rejected the idea of an enlightened elite spearheading a path for the rest of society – the very idea of the avant-garde. Charles Jencks's notion of a postmodern language of architecture would emerge as a first hypothesis to synthesise these contradictions.
It is these contradictions and paradoxes, and the manner in which they were embedded in both discourse and practice, which this issue of Footprint wishes to study. It implies a re-reading as well as a re-defining of the architecture discourse of the second half of the twentieth century. We aim to outline the manner in which the architecture of everyday life pursued avant-garde strategies while defying the logic of the avant-garde, in a sense both succeeding and failing in the pursuit of the submersion of art and architecture in daily life.
The deadline for the submission of papers of circa 6000-8000 words (incl. notes) is 2nd January 2011. Please use Word files. They should be sent to email@example.com with ‘issue 8’ in email title. Papers which will relate to the topic and will demonstrate reasonable academic and writing competence will be peer-reviewed. Please see 'paper submission' section in our website for more details.
Dirk van den Heuvel, Tahl Kaminer (TU Delft), editors.
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