Saturday, December 15, 2012

Coventry and modernism revisited, and Rod the God

Last night I was watching Danger Man & conceived the notion of an outing to Coventry today. The titles of that show so make me think of Coventry station: forty years ago they would both have summoned up the same idea of modern city sophistication, forward-looking & unhampered by the bonds of the past.
Recently in my reading about urban exploration on the internet (not doing it myself, I hasten to add, I might break a fingernail) I've come across a reason why modernism has ceded to postmodernism. A search for modern derelict, abandoned, loved/loathed buildings shows that they are precisely those buildings that embody an ideology whose time has passed. In Britain perhaps Park Hill flats in Sheffield would be the best example of that, although they, like the (in)famous Trellick Tower in London are in the throes of gentrification. Both of those were designed by architects and councils who wanted a better life *for other people*. It seems hoi polloi have rarely bought into modernism; albeit Park Hill was seen as heaven when new until the rot set in.
Modernism as the embodiment of someone else's ideology in Cold War western Europe may be seen in some relics is communist architecture in the former Eastern Europe, such as the former Communist Party headquarters in Bulgaria. From the west in the 1980s this must have had the appearance of regimentation, a closed system which allowed corruption & ultimately the Chernobyl disaster, a corruption & creeping decay hidden under the appearance of a bright new future. The communist headquarters had 'forget your past' in huge letters above the door: the exact opposite of what anyone in the west who wanted to avoid the menace from across the curtain would have wanted to do. The mosaics in the headquarters are drop dead gorgeous to my mind: extremely reminiscent of the sort of public art put up in the doomed underpasses of the post-war town planners' Britain. Once again the theme of regimentation & an enforced bright new future which doesn't really happen, appears. Also the brutalist/regimented/socialist/communalist ideology draws on motifs alien to us in the west. The person from whose blog come the last three images (acknowledgement: thinks that the final picture is a depiction of the pre-Christian Slav God Rod. It seems there is some debate about his standing in ancient pantheons, but in neo-pagan systems he has become a central deity. I don't think for an instant his name is pronounced to rhyme with 'god', but I have been unable to find the correct pronunciation online. To the inhabitants of western 'Christendom' modernism may therefore seem a heathen imposition of ungodly values & doomed. Ironic that since then not only has Western europe become increasingly post-Christian, but Christianity has had a real resurgence in the east, along with neo-paganism, and the full revelation of how corrupt western Christendom really is! The bigger picture is this: political systems come & go, they and religions have declines & resurgences. Our present realities can seem different in hindsight. By all means construct your future, but be careful not to forget your past because that is the source of the present. Even if we need to dis-member it to re-member it as an archaic future, it is essential not to deny it because it might just bite you on the bum.

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