– Autumn/Winter 2006

'Is Modernity our Antiquity?'

Art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past.
- G.W.F. Hegel, Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art1

By 'modernity' I mean the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and the immutable.
- Charles Baudelaire, 'The Painter of Modern Life'2


For five years now, every time I am back in Vancouver, I have been taking pictures of a small modernist apartment building that sits very close to Stanley Park, the large and beautiful urban park that borders the centre of the city. I have been taking pictures because one day I imagine that I might make a film there. I am not sure what this film will be: if it should be 'about' the building, or whether the building will simply feature as a part of a larger landscape. Regardless, it's the building that I have been drawn to. And even though I have taken hundreds of photographs and hours of video footage, I still am not sure if I am any closer to knowing what to do with this building than I was when I first saw it five years ago. When I lived in Vancouver I must have walked or cycled past the building hundreds of times without ever noticing it. It seems mildly significant that my fixation or compulsion should begin only after I moved away to a country (England) where modernist architecture is not only hard to find, but its reputation, until recently at least, has been rather battered and neglected. Is it this relative absence at 'home',

  1. G.W.F Hegel, Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, Malcolm Knox (trans.), Oxford: PUB, 1975; quoted in T.J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999, p.371.

  2. Charles Baudelaire, 'The Painter of Modern Life', The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, Jonathon Mayne (trans. and ed.), New York: Da Capo Press, 1986, p.13.

  3. See Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, Catherine Porter (trans.), Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993.

  4. Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, London: Athlone Press, 1997, p.1.

  5. C. Baudelaire, op. cit., p.1.

  6. Ibid., p.13.

  7. Ibid., p.14.

  8. See T.J. Clark, op. cit., 1999.

  9. See Sylviane Agacinski, Time Passing: Modernity and Nostalgia, Jody Gladding (trans.), New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

  10. Charles Baudelaire, 'The Modern Public and Photography', in Francis Frascina and Charles Harrison, Modern Art and Modernism: A Critical Anthology, New York: Harper and Row, 1982.

  11. T.J. Clark, op. cit., 1999, p.373.

  12. See Bernard Yack, The Longing for Total Revolution: Philosophic Sources of Social Discontent from Rousseau to Marx and Nietzsche, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

  13. C. Baudelaire, 'The Painter of Modern Life', op. cit., p.13.