The Introduction sets out how transatlantic avant-gardes probed the intricate relationships between socio-technical ensembles, the human body and the quotidian operations of urban living. In the early twentieth century, these bathetic processes had been camouflaged by sublime cultural narratives that magnified the presence of technology in the public sphere while shrouding key aspects of its operations and functions. Beginning with a famous anecdote by Gertrude Stein, in which she describes an encounter between Pablo Picasso and a camouflaged cannon, the Introduction explores how technology became a cipher for avant-gardes’ encounter with modernity in the First World War. Following a survey of its key subjects and chapter synopses, the first section engages with the work of Gilbert Simondon to triangulate key technological terms and concepts, before applying them to modernist and avant-garde studies. The subsequent section builds ‘techno-bathetic’ frameworks from those concepts to critique the means by which technology is transduced into culture. Finally, analyses of Marcel Duchamp’s Encore à cet astre [Once More to This Star] and the radical Harlem Renaissance journal Fire!! illustrate how vanguardists deployed technicity as a crucial creative practice for intervening in cultural narratives and promulgating social change.
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