Inventing The Modern

Part of the Arts & Humanities Festival 2013: Being | Human
Presented by the Centre for Modern Literature and Culture

In the early decades of the twentieth century, writers, visual artists, filmmakers and musicians competed to follow Ezra Pound’s injunction to ‘make it new’. Whether artists were willing or resisting change – hurling themselves into the (often technological) future or hankering elegiacally after lost forms and ways of life – the first fifty years of the twentieth century saw an explosion of artistic production in all the arts.

In this panel discussion the actor/director Fiona Shaw and the writer Ali Smith will join a visual artist to ask whether the early twentieth century did indeed see the invention of the modern and to explore their engagement with modernism in their own work. Does each generation in turn believe it is making it new? Is newness integral to our conception of what art is and is for? If modernism is often seen as too clever to be humane, then is it possible for formal experimentation to be a crucial aspect of art that affirms and protects us in our struggle to be human.

The discussion will be chaired by Lara Feigel who (with Erica Carter) is directing a new Centre for Modern Literature and Culture at King’s College London.

It will be followed by a drinks reception to launch the new Centre.