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Resilience after Modernism

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
27th March 2013


Via Øyvind Holmstad:

Nikos A. Salingaros has recently published two magnificent essays, one about resilience (together with Michael Mehaffy) and another about modernism as a break with everything human, natural and sacred. Unfortunately, most people cannot really believe that the image in which we created our world in the last century is entirely wrong and evil, and therefor try to grew something new from its roots.

But this is not what is needed! What we need is to cut down the very tree of Modernism, to rip out every single root of this tree and to destroy everyone of its seeds. A big job, as it has grown big and spread its branches all over the world, like the holy world tree Yggdrasil, as found in Norse mythology. Yggdrasil, the living ash that once grew large and proud upon our world, is now reduced to a fading dwarf, withering in the shadows of the tree of darkness, carrying the name of Modernism.

And here Salingaros comes as a savior for the last remnants of the once so proud tree of Yggdrasil, revealing the tree of Modernism in all its ugliness using the light of truth. And like with the trolls, there’s nothing the tree of darkness fears more.

- Beauty and Tradition Unmask a Pretend Modernity

A small excerpt:

I’m not going to discuss Wolfe’s book, but rather use this occasion for outlining what I believe to be the conflict between true art and elements of nihilism (focusing on architecture). Here, I can broaden the scope and suggest that many attempts to generate nourishing human creations failed because they tried, at the same time, to embrace “modernity”. In my estimation, the widely accepted images of modernity contain the seeds of destruction. Most of us have been brainwashed to accept someone else’s definition of “modernity”: someone with a nihilistic agenda. Thus, any persons attempting to be inclusive by welcoming what has destroyed beauty in our culture in the first place undo their laudable call for a renewal of true artistic production. One cannot adopt one set of values (generative and creative) and their opposite (destructive and sterile) at the same time. Well, one can indeed, but that only leads to confusion and cognitive dissonance. - Nikos Salingaros

And when this ugly tree of Modernism is weakened, and Yggdrasil again has spread its roots and branches all over our world, a life of true resilience will again occur.

- Toward Resilient Architectures I: Biology Lessons

A small excerpt:

Focusing upon redundancy, diversity, and plasticity, biological examples contradict the extremely limited notion of “efficiency” used in mechanistic thinking. Our bodies have two kidneys, two lungs, and two hemispheres of the brain, one of which can still function when the other is damaged or destroyed. An ecosystem typically has many diverse species, any one of which can be lost without destroying the entire ecosystem. By contrast, an agricultural monoculture is highly vulnerable to just a single pest or other threat. Monocultures are terribly fragile. They are efficient only as long as conditions are perfect, but liable to catastrophic failure in the long term. (That may be a pretty good description of our current general state!) - Nikos Salingaros and Michael Mehaffy

The Tree of Yggdrasil
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2 Responses to “Resilience after Modernism”

  1. Øyvind Holmstad Says:

    Second part on this series on resilience is now posted.

    - Toward Resilient Architectures 2: Why Green Often Isn’t: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-04-05/toward-resilient-architectures-2-why-green-often-isn-t

  2. Øyvind Holmstad Says:

    Third part on this series on resilience is now posted.

    - Toward Resilient Architectures 3: How Modernism Got Square: http://www.metropolismag.com/pov/20130419/toward-resilient-architectures-3-how-modernism-got-square

    Something I didn’t knew is that Modernism is deeply racist in its origin. From the essay:

    “In his famous essay of 1908, “Ornament and Crime,” the Austrian writer/architect Adolf Loos presented an argument for the minimalist industrial aesthetic that has shaped modernism and neo-modernism ever since. Surprisingly, he built this argument upon a foundation that is accepted today by almost no one; the cultural superiority of “modern man” [sic], by which he meant Northern European males.

    Loos proclaimed that, in this new era of streamlined modern production, we had apparently become unable to produce “authentic ornamental detail.” But are we alone, he asked, unable to have our own style do what “any Negro” [sic], or any other race and period before us, could do? Of course not, he argued. We are more advanced, more “modern.” Our style must be the very aesthetic paucity that comes with the streamlined goods of industrial production — a hallmark of advancement and superiority. In effect, our “ornament” would be the simple minimalist buildings and other artifacts themselves, celebrating the spirit of a great new age.

    Indeed, the continued use of ornament was, for Loos, a “crime.” The “Papuan,” he argued, had not evolved to the moral and civilized circumstances of modern man [sic]. As part of his primitive practices, the Papuan tattooed himself. Likewise, Loos went on, “the modern man who tattoos himself is either a criminal or a degenerate.” Therefore, he reasoned, those who still used ornament were on the same low level as criminals, and Papuans.”

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