chapter  1
60 Pages

Botanical Modernisms

Modernism was 'anti-realist', in the sense of arguing, instead, for a more thorough-going representation of reality which would move beyond the surface, the material and the consolatory platitudes of positivism to an interrogation which included theories of scepticism, relativism, psychology and psychoanalysis, existentialism and chaos. Re-designated as The National Botanic Gardens in the 1840s, Kew was a botanical testament to the inter-relation of science, economics and colonialism that characterised the nineteenth century. Modernism's commitment to experimentation is both an effect of and an engagement with modernisation rather than a reaction against it. The stuffiness of Victorian and Edwardian bourgeois values and the pomposity of its customs — already beginning to lose their credence — are the targets of Modernism as it embraces critiques that are experimental, avant-garde or bohemian. Thus, experiments with new media such as film, or the growth of cities and suburbia, contribute to Modernism's own theories and analogies.