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Modernist Avant-Garde Aesthetics and Contemporary Military Technology

Technicities of Perception

Ryan Bishop, John Phillips

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Examines the tensions between the aims of military technology and modernist aesthetics in relation to perception

This book analyses the operation of mechanical and electronic technologies in connection with two seemingly disparate fields: state-of-the-art military equipment of the 20th and 21st centuries and the experimental art, music and writing of the late-19th and early-20th century.

Reading the art and writing of Djuna Barnes, Joseph Conrad, Marcel Duchamp, James Joyce, Mina Loy, Stephane Mallarme, the Italian Futurists and H. G. Wells against Apache attack helicopters, Network-Centric Warfare, satellites, decoys, sirens and radios, this book addresses issues such as targeting, surveillance, visibility and the invisible, broadcast and media, the military body, diasporas, geopolitics and beauty.

Key Features

  • An important contribution to the increasingly important interdisciplinary field of war studies
  • Original and groundbreaking readings of modernist art, literature, music, poetics and aesthetics
  • Gives a valuable and provocative reading of the avant-garde
  • Contributes to a new understanding of both military technics and modernist aesthetics


Section 1: Aesthetics, Poetics, Prosthetics
1. The Slow and the Blind: Unhinging the Senses to Harness Them
2. Sighted Weapons and Modernist Opacity: Aesthetics, Poetics, Prosthetics
3. We Make it Beautiful
4. We Don't Make it Beautiful
Section 2: Broadcast, Hinge, Emergency
5. Ventriloquism, Broadcast and Technologies of Narrative
6. The Curious Logic of the Hinge
7. Manufacturing Emergencies
8. Among the Blind and the Delay
Section 3: Surveillance, Targeting, Containment
9. Strategies and Technologies of Containment: Unmanning the Homeland and Containing the Political
10. Scoping Out
11. Satellites of Love and War.

About the Author

Ryan Bishop is Professor of Global Art and Politics at Winchester School of Art and Co-Director of the Winchester Centre for Global Futures in Art Design & Media at the University of Southampton. He co-edits Cultural Politics (Duke UP) with John Armitage and Doug Kellner, and he edits the book series Theory Now for Polity Press. His research areas include critical theory, art, media, literary studies, technology, urbanism and militarisation of daily life.

John Phillips is Associate Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the National University of Singapore. He is the author of Contested Knowledge: A Guide to Critical Theory (Zed, 2000), co-editor, with Ryan Bishop and Wei-Wei Yeo, of Beyond Description: Space Historicity Singapore (Routledge, 2004), co-editor, with Ryan Bishop and Wei-Wei Yeo, of Postcolonial Urbanism: Southeast Asian Cities and Global Processes (Routledge 2003), and co-editor, with Lyndsey Stonebridge, of Reading Melanie Klein (Routledge, 1998).