(De)Constructing worlds: high Modernism, architecture and photography

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Since the last decade of the twentieth century, there has been renewed interest in photographing high Modernist structures and architectures. A significant portion of these images has tended towards the autotelic or spectacle, with far fewer functioning as social commentary or critique. However, the need for an independent and critical photography of architecture remains. Such a practice furthers our understanding of the lasting legacy of architectural modernity and its ongoing impact/s. This dissertation investigates the critical representation of high Modernist structures, architectures, and urban planning in specific works by contemporary artists and photographers, Andreas Gursky, Filip Dujardin, David Goldblatt, and Beate Gütschow. However diverse their practice, each of these artists and photographers engages with the authoritarian impetus of high Modernism: a drive towards social order and control enacted through its structures and architectures. Through investigation of a range of photographic projects produced with a view to critique the social expression of high Modernism, I argue that contemporary photography which takes architecture as its subject has the ability to communicate wider notions about society. These artists and photographers reveal the degree to which humanity has been elided by high Modernist architectures and planning. By discussing these projects I contribute to a relatively under-researched area of study.