The Contemporary Genesis (part V)

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Certainly, there is a new springtime for mankind. A tragic spring, like all springs when murder and rutting passion combine to increase and multiply the energy which makes for fecundity. In these rebounding values, in this jumble of painting where the forms drag the backgrounds with them confusedly, and where the backgrounds reunite with space only after having brushed against the forms in order to gather up their echo, I perceive a kind of artless genesis. Our memories of Hindu art, of the "Paradise" of Tintoretto, of the entire work of Rubens, of the myth of Evolution, the love for the great music which has developed among us, Dostoievski, Nietzsche, Whitman, the awkward and essential architecture of Cézanne, and the painted symphony gained by Renoir, everything signifies the approach of some great agreement, unknown as to its methods, but for which these dispersed forms which seek to rejoin one another are a primitive appeal. The universe is remaking itself. The floating character of the values of plastic art corresponds to the indecision of science, to the fundamental instability of life which the biologists are revealing to us, to its attempt to fix itself in an architectonic rhythm, and to a collective defense against that instability. Whatever the opinions of an ephemeral school—and every self-respecting school is ephemeral—painting retains space as its domain, and will not escape from it. But the gradually increasing importance which we give to time has stealthily introduced itself into our former idea of space. The cinematograph causes it to be born and to die there, to be reborn and to die again under our eyes, precipitating into the counterpoint of universal and continuous movement that which painting, in former times, fixed upon canvas: volumes, passages, values, associations, oppositions, and contrasts—which modify one another, reply to one another, interpenetrate, and become entangled, ceaselessly and in all the dimensions. And now, everywhere and all the time, evolving and vague relationships of an irresistible accent are being established.

Exhausted by solitude, man, in a word, calls to man, in order together to build the house, and the unemployed decorators consent to immolation in order to converge their spiritual forces in the erecting of a temple which they will not see. The new order, creating the new architecture, simple and bare like every organism in its youth, will destroy decoration, or will transform it in such a manner that its present attempts can teach us nothing as to the form which it will assume [See Appendix (f)]. All the things which, for twenty years, we have been thinking of as realizations, are perhaps nothing more than symptoms; symptoms of a rebinding, symptoms of concentration [Ibid. (g)]. The most visible one is the increase in the spirit of association from which the social framework will probably come forth. The war is a most cruel one. But also it is perhaps the one which has had most influence in constraining us to look at ourselves, face to face, and to look within ourselves. In reality, it is of rather small importance that a great number of those who feel the universal need for communion should go to ask of dead political systems the secret of the new order. That is a symptom. It is a symptom also, and one of the most impressive, that we see in the insistent effort which Germany has been making, for a third of a century, to bring her triple hegemony, military, industrial, and intellectual, into the single frame of an architectural style determined by the will, a style whose simplicity is a pedagogical acquisition which has taken its elements from abstraction and from the past [Ibid. (h)]. A symptom again is that audacity of the Americans in erecting monstrous utilitarian constructions which shatter all known styles, in the brutal rush toward the sky of their metal framework, and in their continual effort to rise higher above the cities. And symptoms, above all, are those rational forms which have issued from applied science, and which gayly thrust into the ruins all the disordered habits, even though they call themselves the traditional habits, of the art of building. A great mystery is being wrought. No one knows whither it is leading us.

Here are the tall chimneys like temple columns, the living animals of steel, with a heart, intestines, nerves, eyes, limbs, iron bones articulated like a skeleton, the turning, the sliding, the mathematical coming and going of belts, of pulleys, of connecting rods, and of pistons; here are the rigid roads, shining, and extending, and intersecting to infinity, and the silent round of astronomical cupolas following the movement of the skies; here are the giant halls, and the bare façades of the factories, cathedrals dedicated to the cruel god who knows no other law than that of unbounded production. Here we see the industries of war in agreement with the industries of peace, and, boiling with them in the bloody crucible of the future, the marine monsters of metal, the gigantic insects which fly with their harsh buzzing, the cannons which hurl their drama more than twenty leagues, the armored dragons which crawl like caterpillars, spitting flame and poison. . . All of that is clear cut, without ornament, trenchant, categorical, and having the purity and the innocence of the function indifferent to good, to evil, and to morality—of the function which is being born, endowed with an appetite which is fierce, insatiable, and joyous. 

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