It always intrigues me, when a writer uses keywords of his time, that is to say words which embrace the spiritual mood or important contemporary concepts of its time, in this case for contemporary culture and art, - perhaps even neologisms for his special way of thinking or just to give his criticism a new and sensual term. It might not always be moral to use new keywords which are fashionable at the very moment of the writer’s professional activity. The political meaning of the keywords could be awful and inhuman, arrogant, and socially and ethically wrong. So one has to say that it might be good or bad - in the eyes of later judgement - to use keywords of one’s own time. But however, with these keywords you can demonstrate that one is a child of one’s own time, comparable with the motto of French intellectuals, mainly the impressionists, in the middle of the 19th century, who wanted to be: etre du son temps (of their time).
Let us ask how as creative a writer as Carola Giedion-Welcker, who wrote, sometimes as the first author, about some of the most important artists of her time, made use of keywords, showing how she was familiar with the use of words of artists and writers around the late twenties and mid thirties.
She was young and married to one of the most famous cosmopolitical writers, who compared ideals about modern architecture with temples, as he wrote about 1912, a decade before Carola Giedion-Welcker started to write, and gave her the prospect on art. He was already familiar with: abstract art, constructivism, all the ideals of modernity in art and architecture. Surrealism existed as well, but both of them, Siegfried and Carola had no eyes for it: The creativity of dreams, sexuality, the primitivity and wildness in everybody, even communism - la Breton and the new methods of painting in a rather odd sort of photographical realism were not at all the business of this intellectual couple. But Carola was open to what Sir Herbert Read later called: ‘vitalism’ and Alfred H. Barr ‘the biomorphic construction’. These words came up much later in the 30’s and even 60’s, so we do not expect to see them in her texts.
The physicist Werner Heisenberg called the period of the twenties and thirties ‘very stormy’, because in the natural sciences and art many ‘revolts’ took place. And of course we remember that the quantum mechanics of Max Planck which Heisenberg developed further, Albeert Einstien’s theory of relativity and the ‘Unschärferelation’ (uncertainty principle) of Heisenberg,radically altered traditional knowledge about the world. The same can be said about the results of the new study of the microcosm, of cells and crystals and the results of new research about the human brain and mind, the subconscious. In art as well constructivism, surrealism and biomorphism offered the world new visions, and very often as a parallel to the subjects of sciences. Drawings by the biologist Ernst Haeckel were, for many artists, a fascinating resource for natural forms from the beginning of evolution. Artists made use of it for their own repertoire of cells, which differed from those of Haeckel insofar as they mostly were not shaped symmetrically but asymmetrically as if they want to move in any direction. Haeckel was one inspiration for them, Henri Bergson’s ‘elan vitale’ and - as we now know - D’Arcy Thompson’s book on ‘Growth and Form’ of 1917 were others.