A D R I A N S T O K E S
Adrian Stokes and the
Aware of the book's inadequacies, Stokes nonetheless finished with a dramatic appeal for artists and authors to use this new tool to become once again "prophets" of meaning rather than "discontented photographers;"4 that is, prophets no longer rejecting tradition in the name of "pure art." Through its "self-destructive sense of time,"5 Stokes felt that modern art had disconnected itself from its own resources. Intellectual activity was in effect avoiding its own emotional aspirations.
In his subsequent book, Sunrise in the West: A Modern Interpretation of Past and Present (1926)6 the "afternoon in the open piazza" became Stokes' metaphor for describing the only "healthy" attitude toward the modern situation. He regrets that "so insistent are the new demands of a new sensibility that our power of emotions are overwhelmed, no man perhaps is great enough to bare himself to modern existence without losing his strength."7
But because of its self-consciousness, the afternoon was in need of its "sunrise"its source of inspiration. Stokes insists that "we continually intend that some epoch should envelop us for we are at a loss to deal with our own."8
A new set of rules for historical understandingfor the process of historical formation itselfwas now needed to bridge the schism that seemed to separate the past from the present. Some mechanism of meditation was needed, capable of "mingling" a sense of modernity with a sense of the pasta way of seeing them on the same evolutionary continuum.
In formulating his own schema, Stokes relied on the distinction his contemporary T.S. Elliot drew between tradition and the individual,9 stating "When we change, history changes too. There is no priority because the two are interdependent."10 Past and present are given meaning by each other. From the "spectatorial side," that is, the reception side, history is always a "mechanism from the other end."11 Stokes insisted throughout his career that the "close of an evolution is tried at the beginning." Historical change always seemed consistent, since the background of history was always bound up with the foreground of the present. And the present was now in need of its past, a past necessarily reinterpreted.