Twenty years after the publishing of Lawrence Rainey’s Institutions that Modernism , our ar once again finds itself wrestling v its troubled partnership with institutionalism. Yet where when Rainey argued, incisively, that literary modernism to be self-aware of its own marketability and commodification, cocreating modernism together a discrete institution in its very own right, we now find...

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Fig. 1. Edward McKnight Kauffer, “One 3rd of the realm is in the Tropics” Poster Set, empire Marketing Board, 1927. L-R: Cocoa, Cocoa: Three-Fifths the the World’s it is provided from realm Sources, Jungles To-Day are Gold Mines To-Morrow, Bananas: The empire Exports 12,000,000 Bunches a Year, Bananas. Images courtesy the Library and also Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada. Reproduced v permission native Simon Rendall.
Fig. 2. “Empire Marketing board Hoardings,” Commercial Art, February 4, 1928, 45. Image courtesy the David Bownes.

In The ar of Culture, Homi K. Bhabha explores exactly how such organizations constructed and perpetuated what he terms “colonial discourse.” for Bhabha, this “form of discourse” is “crucial to the binding that a variety of differences and also discriminations that educate the discursive and also political practices of racial and social hierarchization.”<1> he plays particular attention to the function of the stereotype, colonial discourse’s “major discursive strategy”: we can see early american stereotypes at work-related in “One third of the realm is in the Tropics.” as Bhabha suggests, though, rather than just identifying such pictures as optimistic or negative, our “point that intervention” should be to understand “the processes the subjectification made possible (and plausible) through stereotypical discourse” (Bhabha, Location, 67). In these posters, the processes of subjectification are facility and contradictory. The central inscription reveals that “WE” (Britain) sell more goods come the “TROPICAL african COLONIES” than “WE” buy, calculation the territories much more important as buyers than as producers. In Bananas and Cocoa (fig. 3), however, the EMB chooses not to depict the African populace as consumers. Instead, castle are depicted as primitive colonial subjects, functioning to harvest bananas and also cocoa for “THE home COUNTRY.” despite the statistics (which would have actually been illegible because that those the town hall the posters in ~ a distance), the posters end up reinforcing the stereotypical picture of africans in classic dress in jungles.

Fig. 3. Edward McKnight Kauffer, Cocoa, realm Marketing Board, 1927. Image courtesy that Library and also Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada. Reproduced with permission from Simon Rendall.

Where carry out modernist aesthetics fit right into this early american discourse? top top a surface level, modernist aesthetics refigured the realm as bright, exciting, and exotic. It was a rebranding exercise: the vocabulary of modern design helped early american relations appear much more progressive when the procedures of subjectification continued to be the same. Posters like “One 3rd of the empire is in the Tropics” represent just one way in which modern institutions mobilized modernist architecture to perpetuate early american discourse. Ns refer right here to “modern institutions” no modernist institutions: the organizations I’m concerned with (the EMB, the GPO, London Underground, imperial Airways, etc.) used modernism in publicity materials, however I wouldn’t explain their organizing structure or their aims and objectives as “modernist.” Modernist aesthetics were employed strategically—of the 800 posters produced in between 1926 and 1933, just a tiny proportion could be explained as modernist—but as Michael McCluskey argues in his essay top top the GPO, modernist design was provided by interwar establishments to connote modernity and efficiency. Follow to that is Secretary Stephen Tallents, the EMB supplied publicity to “present the empire as a forward-looking conception, more modern and far better equipped than several of the prevailing concentration of worldwide organization.”<2> Modernist architecture was an especially used come depict speed the swift and also orderly exchange the goods and information across the empire, such together in “Make the empire Share Larger,” developed by Mann (fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Mann, “Make the empire Share Larger” Poster Set, empire Marketing board, c.1930. L-R: The value of ours Foodstuffs and Raw products from home (in black) and also Overseas (drawn to scale) (inverse), Make the empire Share Larger, Our re-superstructure (in black) of full Imports into Some Empire and also Foreign countries (drawn come scale), Make the realm Share Larger (inverse), The worth of our Foodstuffs and Raw materials from home (in black) and also Overseas (drawn to scale). Photos courtesy the Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada.

The relationship in between colonial discourse and also modernist aesthetics was no a simple, unidirectional one, however. Together we will check out below, colonial discourse shame the institutional usage of modernist art and also design. The official nineteenth-century doctrine of the “civilizing mission” defined not just the way in which modern institutions connected with “native” populations, but likewise domestic audiences. The idea that the populace necessary to it is in “improved” by one artistic, legislative branch or intellectual elite defined the occupational of numerous interwar establishments (the EMB, GPO, London Underground, design & markets Association, Arts organization of Service) nevertheless of whether they addressed those life in the colonies, the brothers Isles, or both. These initiatives to “improve” the population constitute one of the institutional techniques of population control described by Michel Foucault. As he reminds united state in “The Subject and also Power,” the term “government” advert not only to “political frameworks or come the monitoring of states; rather it designate the way in i beg your pardon the command of individuals or of groups might be directed . . . Come govern, in this sense, is to structure the possible field of action of others.”<3> I want to use this essay, in conjunction v McCluskey’s donation to this cluster, to examine the ways in which establishments used modernist aesthetics to construct far better citizens: individuals with patriotic buying habits, gradual views, and an ext refined artistic taste.

Art as a Civilizing Force

Despite its official remit to mount a “publicity campaign on instead of of realm foodstuffs,” the EMB public Committee’s emphasis quickly shifted native selling goods to ideas.<4> with their poster, press, film, radio, exhibition and also shop screen campaigns, the public subcommittees depicted the realm as a “forward-looking conception,” one i beg your pardon “stood for peace” and “fair labor conditions.”<5> This rhetoric of empire as a force for an excellent characterizes what has actually variously to be termed the “white masculine burden,” the “civilizing mission,” or “imperialist philanthropy”: as Michael Mann notes, main to these notions was the assumption that “colonial subjects were also backward come govern themselves and that they had to it is in ‘uplifted.’”<6> This approach imbued the EMB native its inception: that founder, the Conservative MP and Colonial Secretary Leo Amery talked around “vast backward regions of Africa, occupied by primitive peoples whom we are only start to lift up from the much more elementary barbarism”; in Tallents’s unpublished memoir, he says that “Every early american Civil maid knows how much more could and should be excellent in helping backward individuals to learn brand-new and much more scientific means of rearing their children, tilling your soil and improving your health” (“Prelude,” 10–11).<7> because that Tallents and also his colleagues, just the empire could aid educate this “backward peoples.” It was an altruistic school dedicated, in the words of Mann, to bringing “the fruit of progress and modernity to topic peoples” (Mann, “Torchbearers,” 5).

The part that the EMB played in depicting and also legitimizing the “civilizing mission” is well documented, most notably in Uma Kothari’s terrific 2014 Third world Quarterly article.<8> She explains how EMB posters shown “the colonized” together “‘out there’ however also component of a collective project for the establishment of a usual wealth that people across the Empire” (Kothari, “Trade,” 51). We can see this twin articulation that Otherness and also community in “Empire Buyers are realm Builders” (fig. 5).

Fig. 5. “Empire Builders” Poster Set, empire Marketing Board, 1927. L-R: G. Spencer Pryse, Rice Planting in India; Dora Batty, The Rice fields of India; Fred Taylor, The empire Shop; Dora Batty, The Tea Gardens the Ceylon; G. Spencer Pryse, Tea picking in Ceylon. Pictures courtesy of Library and also Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada. G. Spencer Pryse pictures reproduced v permission from Tessa Spencer Pryse.

In this series, usual of the tone and style of at an early stage EMB poster sets, G. Spencer Pryse’s romanticized depictions the “native” workers laboring industriously for the an excellent of the empire flank Fred Taylor’s image of the quintessential English grocer, through a mommy fulfilling she “duty of to buy imperially” (Tallents, “Publicity,” 10). The posters fallen the substantial and unknowable Empire, do it an ext accessible v the grocer’s shop with realm goods labelled by country of origin and Dora Batty’s whimsical letterpress posters telling the story of tea. Much more importantly, the series reiterates a key EMB ideology: the idea the the empire as a family, in which the Dominions space the brothers and sisters and the colonies are the children.<9> with the action of realm buying, the grocer, mother, child and also colonial subjects form a atom family identified by “a intuitive language of care, interdependence and a typical humanity,” however one in which every races continue to be in their rightful place (Kothari, “Trade,” 57).

Fig. 6. Adrian Allinson, “Colonial progress Brings residence Prosperity” Poster Set, realm Marketing Board, 1930. Picture courtesy the Manchester arts Gallery.

The visual perpetuation of colonial discourse in EMB posters is at ideal troubling and also at worst offensive, such together in Adrian Allinson’s “Colonial progression Brings house Prosperity” (fig. 6). This racist depictions have been critiqued in Kothari (2014), Horton (2010), and Constantine (1987). What has escaped recognition so far, however, is the degree to i m sorry the imperialist “civilizing mission” additionally shaped the EMB’s relationships with residential audiences, and, in turn, influenced the Board’s aesthetic choices.<10> This residential “civilizing mission” was rarely referred to in this terms; together Frances Borzello notes, the nineteenth-century “missionary belief in art’s strength to refine” was changed in the twenty century “with a missionary id in art’s power to educate.”<11> although the language changed, the impulse continued to be the same: both the public’s taste and values essential to be improved. According to Tallents, “the E. M. B.’s project was to market the idea of empire and, in so doing, to replace in men’s minds part false portraits. It had actually to avoid and also correct any snapshot of the realm as a jingo concern” (“Publicity,” 1). The language that “correction” is significant: members the the Poster ar committee such as Tallents, Frank choose of the London Underground, and also the proclaiming mogul teacher William Crawford sought to correct what they considered to be outmoded political, ethical or aesthetic ideas. Because that Crawford, the “real power of declaring is no to market goods, yet to form habits that thinking.” As at an early stage as November 1916, Pick suggested that the best advertisement was “not of a an intricate or patent commodity yet of ideal living and right doing.”<12> Posters could be used, in the words of a 1932 Commercial art & Industry article, “to educate the people, to improve their minds, come clear their outlook, and to carry to castle a currently of every the great and manifold, cheap and easily obtainable comforts of our civilization.”<13> choose nineteenth-century religious missionaries before them, contemporary institutions prefer the EMB implicitly sought come “improve” and “correct” the brother public’s worse taste and behavior, this time through the tool of art and also design. 

Mobilizing Modernism

Given their instructional aims, the EMB i was delegated artists and also designers from across the contemporary art spectrum, from the “comparatively abstract” to the “comparatively naturalistic,” in order to education “the people” about different varieties of contemporary art and also design.<14> layouts ranged indigenous J. Kerr Lawson’s mute biblical allegory “Service of Empire” to man Kortright’s arts deco fashion illustration-inflected “Summer’s Oranges from southern Africa,” to the heightened palette and simplified, geometric creates of Edgar Ainsworth’s “Buy from the Empire’s Gardens” (figs. 7–9).

Fig. 7. J. Kerr Lawson, “Service the Empire” Poster Set, realm Marketing Board, 1932. Image courtesy of Manchester art Gallery. 
Fig. 8. Man Kortright, “Summer"s Oranges from southern Africa” Poster Set, empire Marketing Board, 1928. Picture courtesy of Manchester art Gallery.
Fig. 9. Edgar Ainsworth, “Buy native the Empire"s Gardens” Poster Set, empire Marketing Board, 1931. Picture courtesy that Manchester art Gallery.

Modernism was an essential part that this aesthetic spectrum, albeit provided sparingly: pick reflected the if “if all posters to be Kauffer posters, the attractiveness of them would be lessened.”’<15> In one unpublished 1927 talk, Pick suggested that posters could have an energizing and also indeed transformative effect: they can make the “eye see points anew,” if only “for the moment.”<16> Modernist posters own a certain capacity to make New: supplied appropriately, avant-garde art and design could aid Tallents’s mission come “present the realm as a forward-looking conception” (“Prelude,” 4). The poster collection that finest fulfilled this quick was Clive Gardiner’s 1928 “Empire Buying makes Busy Factories” set, described by The time as the “triumph that the series” (“Empire Posters, 11) (fig. 10).

Fig. 10. Clive Gardiner, “Empire Buying makes Busy Factories” Poster Set, empire Marketing Board, 1928. Image courtesy of Manchester arts Gallery.

Despite criticisms that EMB posters were above the public’s heads, Gardiner’s collection was, follow to The Times, “enormously successful with the hard-headed guys in the electric engineering industry. The was said that lock ‘lapped it up’” (Constantine, Buy and also Build, 16; “Empire Posters,” 11). Putting the patronizing language come one side, the not tough to view why the posters to be so popular. They are visceral images: the absence of perspective bring the explosive warm of the blast furnace forward; the rhythmic repetition of drills and also pulleys and wheels evoke the cacophonous din the the motor workshop. Buck says that Gardiner’s “portrayal of indistinguishable, robotic figures” “render workers anonymous and also less visible,” however in pictures like Motor Manufacturing I check out something much more heroic: a celebration, not a critique, that the modern-day factory worker (“Imagining imperial Modernity,” 951) (fig. 11). For Tallents, among the EMB’s central aims to be to provide workers “remote from the general public eye . . . A sense that their occupational is at last being understood and justly valued and also with that sense a new dignity and also a new energy” (“Prelude,” 7). Abstract and fractured but quiet legible, Gardiner’s designs make the electrical and also motor industries—and the duty that castle play in the brothers Empire—appear exciting and also important. In act so, they introduced a working-class audience to a form of art they might otherwise never have actually encountered.

Fig. 11. Clive Gardiner, Motor Manufacturing, realm Marketing Board, 1928. Image courtesy the Manchester art Gallery.

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I could cite other instances of how the EMB utilized modernist design, such as in poster set by H. S. Williamson or Rosemary and also Clifford Ellis, whose modern twist on classic English scenes introduced the public to a new method of seeing and thinking, no only about Britain’s function in the empire, but likewise about modern-day art and also its location in life. To conclude, though, I’d like to think an ext broadly around the means in which modern-day institutions mobilized modernist art and design to enact behavior change. In ~ the EMB and also other interwar institutions, those commissioning modernist artists and designers had actually interlinked aims: come present an image of a modern-day and effective organization (in this case, the british Empire; in McCluskey’s essay, the GPO), and also to carry the windy in line v their own tastes, values and also habits. The implicit assumption was that if one boosted the public’s taste, other enhancements would follow: they would certainly become an ext empathetic, an ext patriotic, an ext civilized.

Foucault’s portmanteau “governmentality” has actually been glossed by Bal Sokhi-Bulley as the “conduct that conducts,” definition “the regulation (conduct) of behaviors (conducts).” We check out these initiatives to regulate behavior at the EMB and also other modern-day institutions. What the EMB together a situation study offers, though, is the opportunity to link governmentality with early american discourse, making use of the “civilizing mission” together a through line v which to cut throughout “colonial” and “domestic” contexts. That reveals the extent to which modern institutions, whether state-funded or not, whether heralding empire products or not, were motivated by a “mission” v its roots in the othering and also subsequent convey of members that “inferior” races and classes. By illustration parallels between colonialism and social paternalism, I carry out not desire to negate the violence spreading upon victim of imperial oppression. Rather, I want to suggest that the racist and classist presumptions underpinning early american discourse likewise underpinned modern institutions and also the works they commissioned. What still needs to be completely teased the end is the duty that modernism play in this correctional process: why were modernist works deemed to be the high-watermark of cultural production?

In interrogating this question, we go into into a various discussion roughly modernism’s institutionalization. In their recent dialogue, “The Trouble through Modernism,” Michael Shallcross and Luke Seaber argue the the “New Modernist Studies” perversely “reaffirm, and also even exacerbate, the underlying disciplinary presumption that has held firm since the New an important era: that modernist literary works is the self-evident aesthetic gold typical of at an early stage twentieth-century culture, against which every little thing else should be measured.” analyzing the methods in i beg your pardon colonialist organizations like the EMB mobilized modernism together an aesthetic to aspire to allows us to dig deep into modernism’s institutionalization ago further, and in law so to shine a different light ~ above its modern hegemony in Anglo-American greater education institutions. Come what degree is the an important and institutional value put upon modernist artefacts still motivated by a id either in modernism’s capacity to “civilize,” or together a note of the “civilized”?