New York City has long been a stage for what Marshall Berman called “modernism in the streets,” a modernism that encompasses not only the speed and scale of modernity at large, but also the energies of migrant communities and social movements that stake their claims at street level. MSA 2023 will consider the modernist street as a place where demands for new worlds have become legible in countless creative ways.
MSA 2023 will be held in downtown Brooklyn, at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, which inspired the painter Joseph Stella, photographer Walker Evans, and poets ranging from Hart Crane and Marianne Moore to Vladimir Mayakovsky and Federico García Lorca. Brooklyn's streets were trod by such diverse modernist luminaries as Richard Wright, W.H. Auden, Djuna Barnes, Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weil, Paul Robeson, and Mae West.
A separate city until 1898, Brooklyn’s relations with the other four New York City boroughs invite renewed reflection on questions of development–and neglect–at street level. In particular, Brooklyn, whose “ample hills” Walt Whitman extolled, has undergone a dramatic population shift in the new millennium. Though people of color still make up the majority of Brooklyn’s residents, gentrification has not only made parts of the borough financially out of reach for many; it has also turned a borough famous for its working class and ethnic neighborhoods into an international brand.
Our theme of “Streets” aims to foster discussion not only of modernisms that have sought to remake the streets but also those modernisms (perhaps not going by that name) that have arisen from them. It also aims to bring the study of global modernism to bear on the streets of this most genuinely global of global cities, but also on the streets that have helped to shape key moments in modernist art, from those running through the Dublin of 1904 and the London of 1922 to those spanning the Paris of 1924 and the Chandigarh of 1951. We offer “Streets” as a capacious rubric inviting new perspectives on modernist production and the histories that produce it. Streets can be imagined as a way of thinking; as sites of overlapping temporalities; as networks; as material, populated places; but also as infrastructure joining together remote towns and villages. The theme is thus one that not only encompasses work in literary studies, visual art and music, but also anthropology, political science, urban studies, and histories of race and immigration.