This research project analyses the operation of mechanical and electronic technologies in connection with two apparently unrelated and chronologically disparate fields of production: current state-of-the-art military technology and the experimental art, music and writing of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The vast surveillance and killing machines of the 20 th and 21 st century military forces found both resources and resistance in the work of early avant-garde poetics. Modernist aesthetics addresses the conditions of possibility that are most dramatically actualised by contemporary military technology, which operates as a technology of the senses that it both appropriates and combats. Military technology seeks to close the gap of perception to more effectively observe and target the enemy while Modernist poetics opens and slows the gap of perception to investigate and critique the mechanization and appropriation of the human body.
The book shows how certain artworks foreshadow modern technologies in what at the time were unforeseen and incalculable ways. It examines a range of experimental modernist artworks (ranging from Mina Loy to James Joyce, and Marcel Duchamp to H.G. Wells), and performs extended readings of weapons systems, attack helicopters and targeting technologies. For example, Dali and Bunuel's Un chien andalou addresses the appropriation of sight in the public sphere by both cinema and military targeting systems, including those now operational in Apache attack helicopter cockpits. And Duchamp's Large Glass examines the mechanization of the human body as targeted by military institutions. Thus, the apparently curtailed moment of the avant-garde resurfaces powerfully and unexpectedly late in the same century and into the contemporary moment.
Modernist Avant-garde Aesthetics and Contemporary Military Technology: Technicities of Perception
Ryan Bishop and John Phillips
Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press, 2010