On the Ageing of Objects in Modern Culture: Ornament and Crime

Theory, Culture and Society 33 (4):127-150 (2016)
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Abstract

The article seeks to develop a new conceptual framework suitable for analysing the ageing processes of objects in modern culture. The basic intuition is that object experience cannot be analysed separately from collective participation. The article focuses on the question of the ‘timeless’ nature of modernist design and seeks to understand why modernist objects age more slowly than other objects. First, inspired by the late Durkheim’s account of symbolism, I turn to the experiential effects of collective embeddedness. Second, I enter the field of architectural practices and architectural theory. Visiting early modernist ideologue Adolf Loos, I seek to understand the modernist attitude as a direct response to experiences of the acceleration of ageing processes characteristic of modern culture. I then try to show how Loos’s explicit awareness of the collective dimension is ignored by the subsequent modernist movement and by architectural theory. Finally, I try to assess the consequences of this neglect.

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