progress


The method of reckless and uncontrolled private use and waste has done for us all the good it ever can; and it is time to put an end to it before it does all the evil it easily may. We have passed the time when heedless waste and destruction … are longer permissible. Henceforth we must seek national efliciency by a new and better way, by the way of the orderly development and use, coupled with the preservation, of our natural resources, by making the most of what we have for the benefit of all of us, instead of leaving the sources of material prosperity open to indiscriminate exploitation. These are some of the reasons why it is wise that we should abandon the old point of view, and why Conservation has become a great moral issue in becoming a patriotic duty.

– Theodore Roosevelt, “Natural Resources” (1910). In The New Nationalism, p. 79.

…Frank Loyd Wright['s] design for Broadacre City … was based both on his wholesome appreciation of the hygienic and domestic values of rural life, and his Jeffersonian contempt for the many-sided corporate and institutional life of the city. In the name of the first, he was ready to shrink the acreage of productive soils and break down the special human values of the rural landscape, with the functional divisions of meadow, pasture, and woodland, of cultivated land and wild land, in order to give every house and family a subsistence garden; and he was no less ready to break down the natural coagulations of life in villages and country towns, in a new fashion that made every social activity call for long distance transportation and therefore the incessant use of the motor car….The high price of such remote lots automatically turns the farmer into a real-estate speculator, and results, as in California, in the slaughter of orchards, vineyards, and market gardens that once gave both health and delight–to say nothing of fresh food–to the nearby urban communities.

… the anti-city combines two contradictory and almost irreconcilable aspects of modern civilization: an expanding economy that calls for the constant employment of the machine (motor car, radio, television, telephone, automated factory, and assembly line) to secure both both full production and a minimal counterfeit of normal social life; and as a necessary offset to these demands, an effort to escape from the over-regulated routines, the impoverished personal choices, the monotonous prospects of this regime by daily withdrawal to a private rural asylum, where bureaucratic compulsions give way to exurban relaxation and permissiveness, in a purely family environment as much unlike the metropolis as possible. Thus the anti-city produces an illusory image of freedom at the very moment all the screws of organization are being tightened….

Because the anti-city is by nature fragmentary, any part can be built by anybody anywhere at any time. This is the ideal formula for promoting total urban disintegration.

Not the least factor in this development, certainly in America, is the persistent residue of the curious pioneer belief in space and mobility as a panacea for the ills of social life…. [which] is the current doctrine of space for space’s sake…. This has become the “space age” with a vengeance: in architecture space has become a substitute for urbane design….

No secondary modes of intercourse, neither the printed page, the telephone, nor television, can take the place of that direct face-to-face intercourse whose occasions the city, when it remains close to the human scale, multiplies. Without an urban container deliberately planned for such intercourse, the dominant economic and technical pressures of our time tend to form a multitude of over-specialized, non-cooperating, and non-communicating enclaves, whose spatial remoteness and social segregation favor the totalitarian automatism of our time….

Though the isolated institutional parts might be as hyper-productive as those computers whose data is already too abundant to be assembled and interpreted, the cultural creativity that fosters further human development is bound to drop, within a generation or two, toward zero.

– Lewis Mumford, “The Megalopolis as Anti-City” [c.1962-3]. In Jeanne M. Davern (ed.). Lewis Mumford. Architecture as a Home for Man: Essays for Architectural Record. New York: Architectural Record Books, 1975, pp. 121-128.

The collage is the provisional syntax of creative synthesis, a mass syntax. The collage is the assembly of simultaneity, a general totem…. Technology is achieving such sophistication that it starts to require the year zero of a NEW BARBARISM to unblock its pores. Society is ever more rich, life is ever more poor. . . . Today’s models of consumption are the models of production 40 years ago … This is the time of PRODUSUMERISM. The student is for the university what the worker is for the factory. The student is the information worker. Students in the [political and ideological] superstructure are still copying the old models of struggle of worker in the [economic] base. [This is the time of] PRODUSUMERISM. The world of consumption is superseded by the world of information, where the decisive battle will take place. NEW BARBARISM: an open field for the new models of the information war. The elites, especially the academic ones, are rotten with stupidity: every new [produsumer] barbarian knows more than them. It is not necessary to wait until everyone owns a motor car for the new culture to be born. Ownership is for the world of things, culture is for the world of signs. The artist is the language designer, even if — and especially if — they’re marginalised. This is the [time of the] artistic guerrilla…. Collective joy is the final vindication: intimacy in deep harmony. Beyond ciphers. And against the [tyranny of the] $$.

– Décio Pignatari, Contracomunicação, p. 27, quoted in Richard Barbrook. The Class of the New. London: OpenMute, 2006, p. 76.

… whenever thought for a time runs along an accepted groove—there is an opportunity for the machine …

– Vannevar Bush. “As We May Think.” Atlantic Monthly (1945).  (Last accessed June 10, 2009.)

What parades as progress in the culture industry, as the incessantly new which it offers up, remains the disguise for an eternal sameness; everywhere the changes mask a skeleton which has changed just as little as the profit motive itself since the time it first gained its predominance over culture.

Theodor W. Adorno. “ Culture Industry Reconsidered” [1967]. New German Critique 6 (1975): 14.

… the Nazis … mass-distributed images of [Albert] Speer’s models in the form of postcards. The monumental effect of architecture could just as easily, perhaps even better, be achieved, say, by a high-angle, totalizing image of architecture. No need to even build the real thing. For years after the war, many Germans mistakenly believed that Speer’s Berlin projects had actually been built and then destroyed in the last stages of the war.

Thus fifty and some years later, our own monumental seduction may be no longer tied up with real built space at all, certainly not with the mammoth shopping malls in the middle of nowhere, nor with international airports and their mass circulation of people and commodities, both of which are physically uncoupled from the traditional site of public space: the living city. No wonder, then, that some will look for the new public space on the Internet, our very own monumental seduction that holds the promise of conquering both time and space and that gives new meaning to McLuhan’s phantasm of an electronically unified global culture. Monumentality today may all be in cyberspace and the information highway. The Germans, at any rate, in seamless and oblivious continuity with another monumental Nazi project – the building of the Autobahn – call it Infobahn, and Deutsche Telekom, in a recent ad in the New York Times, has described without hesitation as the ‘fast lane to the future’. Monumentality is alive and well. We may in fact have to consider a monumentality of miniaturization, for the world wide web is in principle the most gigantic undertaking of our age, as promising to some and threatening to others as any monumentalism has ever been.

– Andreas Huyssen. “Monumental Seduction: Christo in Berlin.” In Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2003: 47-48.

The universally accepted ideas and norms of a bourgeois audience represent a wall with which it screens itself from the perils of a developing society, and it is the bourgeois artist’s job to preserve this wall intact. Contact with the richness of the outer world must inevitably be alarming for the bourgeois artist. Whereas with our audience and our artists it is, of course, quite different.

– Vsevolod Illarionovich Pudovkin. Film Technique and Film Acting (1929). New York: Grove Press, 1976, p. 266.

“There is no exquisite beauty,” says Bacon, “without some strangeness in the proportions.” The philosopher had reference, here, to beauty in its common acceptation; but the remark is equally applicable to all the forms of beauty — that is to say, to everything which arouses profound interest in the heart or intellect of man. In every such thing, strangeness — in other words novelty — will be found a principal element; and so universal is this law that it has no exception even in the case of this principal element itself. Nothing, unless it be novel — not even novelty itself — will be the source of very intense excitement among men. Thus the ennyue who travels in the hope of dissipating his ennui by the perpetual succession of novelties, will invariably be disappointed in the end. He receives the impression of novelty so continuously that it is at length no novelty to receive it. And the man, in general, of the nineteenth century — more especially of our own particular epoch of it — is very much in the predicament of the traveller in question. We are so habituated to new inventions, that we no longer get from newness the vivid interest which should appertain to the new — and no example could be adduced more distinctly showing that the mere importance of a novelty will not suffice to gain for it universal attention, than we find in the invention of Anastatic Printing. It excites not one fiftieth part of the comment which was excited by the comparatively frivolous invention of Sennefelder; — but he lived in the good old days when a novelty was novel. Nevertheless, while Lithography opened the way for a very agreeable pastime, it is the province of Anastatic Printing to revolutionize the world.

By means of this discovery anything written, drawn, or printed, can be made to stereotype itself, with absolute accuracy, in five minutes.

….

The value of every book is a compound of its literary value and its physical or mechanical value as the product of physical labor applied to the physical material. But at present the latter value immensely predominates, even in the works of the most esteemed authors. It will be seen, however, that the new condition of things will at once give the ascendency to the literary value, and thus by their literary values will books come to be estimated among men. The wealthy gentleman of elegant leisure will lose the vantage-ground now afforded him, and will be forced to tilt on terms of equality with the poor devil author. At present the literary world is a species of anomalous Congress, in which the majority of the members are constrained to listen in silence while all the eloquence proceeds from a privileged few. In the new regime, the humblest will speak as often and as freely as the most exalted, and will be sure of receiving just that amount of attention which the intrinsic merit of their speeches may deserve.

– Edgar Allan Poe, “Anastatic Printing,” Broadway Journal, April 12, 1845, 1:229-231

Age of Power and Wonder Cigarette Card

Paris-London on a Beam.” Age of Power and Wonder Series. Max Cigarettes, cigarette card, c. 1935-38. Medium: Offset-Litho. In the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, George Arents Collection, at the New York Public Library.

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