Wednesday 2 March 2016, 6 pm
Senate House, London, room 261
Embodied Elitism, Energy Regulation, and the American Audience for Modernism
Robin Veder (Penn State Harrisburg)
Early twentieth-century American modernists – artists, art critics, art models, and art historians – reified the American taste for modernism in an embodied elitism. Key figures in the American avant-garde repeatedly formulated modernist aesthetic experience in terms of somatic self-consciousness, specifically kinesthesia, the sense of movement. By learning to regulate postural alignment and breath, they cultivated and controlled kinesthetic responsiveness, a practice that perfectly complemented the ‘introspective’ protocol of experimental physiological psychology, which American university laboratories were conducting and dispersing to the art community via theoretical and pedagogical texts. Veder contends that in both the body cultures of modernity and the physiological aesthetics of modernism, the concept of ‘poise’ figured as a discourse of energy regulation. Building upon Bourdieu, Veder shows that in this context, the hexis of poise accompanied the habitus of physiological aesthetics, both contributing to a new kinesthetic category of elite identity formation.
Robin Veder is Associate Professor of Humanities and Art History/Visual Culture at Penn State Harrisburg. She received her doctorate in American Studies from the College of William in Mary, and she has held post-doctoral fellowships at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center for American Modernism, Harvard’s Garden and Landscape Studies Program at Dumbarton Oaks, and in spring 2016, the Institute for Advanced Study at Durham University. She is author of several articles on transatlantic art history, visual culture, history of the body, and landscape studies of the long nineteenth century, appearing in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, American Art, Visual Resources, Journal of Victorian Culture, Modernism/Modernity, and International Journal of the History of Sport. Veder’s book, The Living Line: Modern Art and the Economy of Energy, was published by the Dartmouth College Press/University Press of New England’s Visual Culture Series in 2015.