Modernism’s troublesome heritage

In a debate that took place in the spring of 2007, criticism was directed at a poetry that was based mechanically and systematically on the notion that any aesthetic that had a future needed to challenge the conceptions of earlier eras of what a literary text should look like. In the debate on cultural conservatism in the autumn of 2008, cultural radicalism – for obvious reasons – came to be presented as the ultimate enemy. The debate on figurative art in the summer of 2009, in turn, considered to what degree the pluralism and aesthetic openness that the contemporary art establishment maintained were their guiding light was in actuality illusory. This was done by excluding a number of artistic practices, including classical figurative painting based on traditional techniques.

What united my opponents’ arguments in all these debates was the fact that – despite their modern radical approach – they consistently turned to history to find support for...

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