Ulf Ickerodt is a state archaeologist from Schleswig-Holstein and head of a higher monument protection authority. He studied prehistoric archaeology, classical archaeology and ethnology in Bonn, Cologne and Halle. As a child of practical archaeological heritage management, he has worked for various heritage management institutions, excavation companies and universities since his studies. In the field of archaeological heritage conservation, he is developing the concept of planning-oriented heritage conservation, which includes the topics of digitalisation and participation. He is currently a member of the board of the Association of State Archaeologists in the Federal Republic of Germany (VLA), among others.
Archaeology, Ethnology and the Art of Classical Modernism
From a research-historical perspective, these three terms Archaeology, Ethnology and the Art of Classical Modernism are linked by their common phase of emergence and establishment in the late 19th / early 20th century. Their inner relationship arises from this and at the same time maps the process of pluralisation and modernisation that characterised first Europe’s and then North America’s modernity. Their results at the time, be they publications or works of art, methods and premises or even the institutions, collections or museums supporting the efforts of this process, have since become inspiring sources of history.
Through their objects and products, archaeology and ethnology illustrate peoples diversity in time and space. Archaeology gives the ethnographically described and documented diversity a temporal depth. Modern art challenges all this. But all three are united by the prestigious character of their objects or a deep knowledge of them. In contrast to classical modernism, archaeology and ethnology offer a counterweight to modernism, which is experienced as accelerating and which in turn manifests itself in the development and establishment of modern art.
Archaeology and ethnology are thus constitutive counterweights to this classical modern art, in that they fuel the hope of recovering not one but their own past. Their key and guiding concept is that of ancestry. While the two sciences are part of what is, in this case, a European process of scientification, this process and its supporting frameworks and principled assumptions are reflected through Modern Art. These are, for example, Dada, Futurism, Constructivism, Primitivism or Surrealism as well as, in Germany, the Brücke and the Blaue Reiter.
Through these environments, Modern Art also contributes to the social reception of scientific methodology or scientific knowledge. These three areas, as products of conceptual condensation processes, whether they belong to the sciences or to the creation of art, stand for the production of meaning of relevance to society as a whole during this period. Both Fromm’s religions of progress and science fiction as a product of the culture industry are rooted in this overall development.
While all three stand in one way or another for social protest in the broadest sense against what has gone before and are to be seen as counterweights to the advancing, respective realities of life, they enable participation in the mass society of the time in processes of restructuring society as a whole via the science or art industry: they contribute in their own specific way to the emerging identities and mentalities by shaping ethical ideas and safeguarding the norms and values that support them.
While modern art by and large seeks to free itself from the past in an iconoclastic way, both archaeology and ethnology offer a counterweight through their content, in which they increase the dimension of the past into natural history.
With the step into the culture industry, a dramatic fusion occurs in the sense of the dialectic of enlightenment: while all three are in essence anything but suitable for entertainment, the educational claim of the culture industry is challenged by the lure of economic value-added. If the culture business (Kulturbetrieb) may not yet be a mass product and thus suitable for carefree consumption, the culture industry (Kulturindustrie) certainly is.