Modernism: the new?

Simon Gikandi’s article, “Picasso, Africa and the Schemata of Difference” mentioned that “even when artists such as Picasson questioned colonial practices, they seemed to reproduce the colonist model of African societies; they questioned the practice but not the theory of colonialism. This structure- the questioning of practice and the aceptance of the theory- tends to be reproduced when we don’t interrogate the idea of Africa in modern art.” This passage particularly caught my eye as I felt that this aptly decribes the changing relations between countries with the advent of modernism. To me, I feel that modernism is not just about revelations in art and the literary forms but it also encompasses the change of political, economic and cultural forces in the world. in these sense, modernism not only gave rein to the freedom of space and time, but the world war which preceded it shattered a world view built on foundation of illusions. To me, the freedom of space and time in modernism enabled people to discover the world in new perspectives which were repressed. It can perhaps be suggested that the “new forms” being discovered in the world as a mirror to the establishment of “new forms” in literary works and art even though they are not really new.

With this in mind, it can also be suggested that just as the reading titled “Mimesis” suggested, modernism is not a new concept. Rather, it is an expansion of the old of which artists and writers try to pass of as a novelty. Yet, it is interesting to note that many consider it to be a breakthrough period because as all the three readings have shown, at least for me, that it is a circulatory system of power beneath all the fancy terms that are being endowed on it.

The British Empire- a problematic construct of self and identity

Whilst I was reading through the article by Levine and trying to see how this is related to the other reading on “The Brown Stocking”, it struck me that one common theme explored is the desire to define and pin down something precise, by a pre-existing structure, or method of ordering. Mrs Ramsey as the figure of the artist in “To the Lighthouse” is someone who brings order to her household and she is adamant that the doors remain shut whilst the windows remain open.  I read this as the desire to be able to gain access to what is outside whilst making sure that nothing from the outside actually comes in to disrupt the pre-existing order. This is in parallel with the British colonizers’ desire to gain access to the colonized whilst making sure that their own cultures(order) remains untainted.

Windows suggest that the one inside is able to view what happens outside but remain separate from it, taking on the subjective position of one in power. This is in line with what the British colonizers do, when they view themselves as the centre of the empire and look upon the colonized, calling them uncivilized savages. However, just as Mrs Ramsey discovers that she cannot stop her children and various members of the household from leaving all the doors open and bringing things in from the outside which contribute to the gradual disarray and disintegration of her household, the colonizers soon find that their attempts to maintain a stable sense of self despite interactions with the natives is futile. The old order falls apart and a new method of ordering is called for.