The description of the historical modernist era actually sounds like it could be a description of our present times. Just as the modernists reacted to their social-political climate through their art and sought change, what are some ways in which we might try to “make it new” through our own art and entertainment?

Just like modernists who drew on the post–World War I socio-political climate and broke traditional rules of art and communication, people today are drawing on the challenges of the current era to spark change. For instance, the mass creation of Instagram infographics and educational TikToks in 2020 demonstrate how social media is opening doors for common people to reach mass audiences. They are also creating solidarity among a society that has a decreased trust in authority and a fear of the unknown future.

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Just like artists, writers, architects, and thinkers of the modernist era, many people today are finding new ways to encourage others to break away with rigid thinking of the past. In many ways, the global impact of Donald Trump’s presidency and the outbreak of COVID-19 on people’s worldviews mirrors the significant impact of World War One on modernists. While of course the challenges of recent years are much different than those of war, they have given rise to huge shifts in how many people view things that they once never gave a second thought, such as trust in authority or the notion of a sure future. The past year has also brought global attention to issues that have been going on for centuries with systemic racism, which has fueled a sense of urgency for radical socio-political change.

Just like modernist artists reacted to their socio-political climate through art (think of how Manet broke traditional rules of perspective, Hemingway broke traditional rules of prose, and Mies van Der Rohe preached “less is more"), artists and entertainers in today’s world are breaking away from traditional modes of communication. One groundbreaking way change is being made is with social media. Applications like Instagram and TikTok are providing common people with the platform to express themselves in ways that no other medium ever has. 2020 in particular saw more and more people communicating and consuming through these applications because traditional ways of consuming media like movie theaters and museums were forced to shut down. With the rise of massive protests for the Black Lives Matter movement and the rising political tensions of a historic presidential election in the United States, influential and common people alike took to social media as a way to reach the masses.

Content like infographics and short educational videos about important political issues spread like wildfire and reached audiences that may have never had access to such information. People were doing things like combining fifteen-second dances with the spread of health tips, and in many ways created a sense of solidarity and community in a society that was more physically separate and fearful of the future than it had ever been. Despite all of the heavy challenges of this new era, the way contemporary technology allows for widespread creativity and education suggests that there is a lot of hope for positive change in the future. As common people are allowed to enter influential artistic spaces that were once reserved for an elite few, they are “making it new,” just like Pound encouraged the modernists to.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 25, 2021
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