Cold War Modern

Design 1945-1970

Staged at the Victoria and Albert museum in London (September 25 2008 – 11 January 2009) . Bringing together more than 300 exhibits – from a Sputnik to a Messerschmidt micro-car, this exhibition examines contemporary design, architecture, film and popular culture on both sides of the iron curtain during the cold war era.

“This period from the end of the Second World War to the mid 1970s was a period of great political tension and exceptional creativity which touched all aspects of life, from everyday products to the highest arenas of human achievement in science and culture. Art and design were not peripheral symptoms of politics during the Cold War: they played a central role in representing and sometimes challenging the dominant political and social ideas of the age.”

The exhibition figured several sections ingeniously depicted in this timeline : Anxiety and Hope in the Aftermath of War / The Conscription of the Arts / The Competition to Be Modern / Crisis and Fear / Space Odysseys / Revolution / The Last Utopians / Fragile Planet

A two-day conference gave the opportunity to reflect on the ways in which Cold War politics shaped art and design. Among the speakers were Jean-Louis Cohen (on Post-War Soviet Americanisation), Simone Hain (on Planning and Utopia: Functionalism and Social Realism as Design Strategies), Richard Barbrook (on Cybernetic Communism), and Michelle Provoost (on ‘New Towns on the Cold War Frontier; urban planning as an instrument in cold war politics’)

One of the most interesting moments of the symposium was the informal speech of Tony Benn , who served first as Postmaster General and later on as Minister of Technology from 1964-1970. In this respect, Benn found himself in the center of the industrial development and technological revolution highly conditioned (and controlled?) by Cold War politics. Beyond doubt a most stimulating contribution commented here.

 

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