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Postmodernism is dead.
August 18, 2011 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Postmodernism is dead.
posted by spiderskull (133 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think I've managed to go a full year without encountering that word until now.

It was a good year.
posted by michaelh at 11:24 AM on August 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


Hipsterism has begun.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:26 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I once had a friend describe postmodernism to me like this: "The details don't matter, but at the same time, the details are the most important thing."

I don't think that's what postmodernism is, but it's a pretty cool idea.
posted by reductiondesign at 11:26 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives." - Lyotard.

Really, there is no "next".
posted by ryanshepard at 11:26 AM on August 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


... incredulity toward metanarratives.

Which makes for one helluva metanarrative.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:28 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


That really depends on your point of view, doesn't it?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:28 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's something to be said for the days when a philosopher could make headlines, like when Baudrillard got in shit for arguing that the Gulf War did not take place.

I don't think post-modernism is dead per se, it's just that it's difficult to define at this time what could come after it. The Anthropocene?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:30 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Postmodernism is sort of like a postcard from a dead guy, right?
posted by keratacon at 11:31 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let’s call it the Age of Authenticism

Isn't this just the Classicism that Modernism rejected?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:31 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Gradually we hear more and more affirmation for those who can render expertly, the sculptor who can sculpt, the ceramist, the jeweller, even the novelist who can actually write... We are entering a new age. Let’s call it the Age of Authenticism and see how we get on.

This is not the first time I've read a breathless vision of an age of authenticity and I swear to god just choke me to death here and now if these visions are of the real future. Fights over who was "more post-modern" are infinitely more tolerable over fights over who is "more authentic."
posted by griphus at 11:32 AM on August 18, 2011 [16 favorites]


"Postmodernism" is like "politically correct" in that neither term means quite the same thing to any two people, and they often mean very different things to people with differing politics or educational backgrounds. Because of this, discussions about either topic tend to go downhill quickly. As an example, the FPP linked article mentions art world, literary, and architectural postmodernism in the first few paragraphs, without making any attempt to distinguish between them. I wouldn't be surprised if the discussion in this thread does a similar thing, with some people talking about "lack of respect for tradition," others about "innovation and experimentation," still others about "irony" and "context," and even some who thinks it basically means "mash-up."
posted by aught at 11:33 AM on August 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


In the arts, postmodernism refers specifically to artists who were responding to modernism. It's not quite the same as postmodern philosophy, and a lot of postmodern art isn't grounded in postmodern philosophy -- it's literally used to mean "after modernism," and is a tricky phrase, which is why "contemporary art" is used so often as a general term to mean art from after the era of modernism.

But there's a lot of postmodern-inspired art still around, so I am not sure it's actually dead. Postmodern artists made extensive use of Intermedia, Installation art, Conceptual Art, and Multimedia, and artists still do.

I do think we need a term for the art that's coming out now that is neither a reaction to modernism, and distinct from the art of the contemporary era. I don't know what we might call that. Postcontemporary?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:33 AM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Uh, shouldn't that be "Age of Authenticity"?
posted by nathancaswell at 11:33 AM on August 18, 2011


Gradually we hear more and more affirmation for those who can render expertly, the sculptor who can sculpt, the ceramist, the jeweller, even the novelist who can actually write...

He must not be familiar with web comics.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:34 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yay!
posted by Hoopo at 11:38 AM on August 18, 2011


Uh, shouldn't that be "Age of Authenticity"?

Maybe not. An "Age of Authenticity" could be one where those involved strive to be "authentic." An "Age of Authentism" would be one where those involved strive to have the qualities of those commonly accepted by those setting the standards of authenticity to be "authentic" (which might not be the same thing, if you see what I mean). Sort of like the distinction between morality and moralism.
posted by aught at 11:39 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Postmodernism was never intended to be actually 'alive'. The fact that it actually appeared so was attributable to a dearth of "Authentic" alternatives.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:42 AM on August 18, 2011


You cannot unring the bell of postmodernism. That is one of its defining features. Postmodernism (which is to say concepts of postmodern philosophy and criticism, noting the distinction Bunny Ultramod made) is the Nash equilibrium solution that settles out of the game that human civilization is playing against its own inevitable products.

If postmodernism ceased to exist, it would necessarily, spontaneously and instantaneously be reinvented.
posted by penduluum at 11:43 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Postmodernism" is like "politically correct" in that neither term means quite the same thing to any two people,

That's actually the cool, liberating thing about post-modernism (and also Feminism), in that there is no one in charge, and as individuals we get to create our own narratives. There's no higher authority telling us what is wrong and what is right.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:43 AM on August 18, 2011


Postmodernism was never alive to begin with. The meaninglessness of dialectic desublimation prevalent in Fellini’s Satyricon is evident in a more dialectic sense. In a sense, the subject is contextualised into a posttextual desublimation that includes truth as a paradox. If Marxism holds, the works of Fellini are an example of dialectic socialism. Therefore, any number of situationisms concerning the difference between class and sexual identity may be found. The subject is interpolated into a precultural dialectic theory that includes language as a whole. But Lacan uses the term ‘posttextual discourse’ to denote the absurdity, and some would say the stasis, of postdeconstructive language.
posted by brownpau at 11:44 AM on August 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


The problem goes back to the word "modernism." Any attempt to call something a "right now"-ism is going to lead to confusion in a decade or two. Already we have "Contemporary Art" referring to the 1980s. What's next?

The 20th century was the era of big ideas and isms. People fought and died for them in millions. Artists formed movements and circles around them. Musicians wrote symphonies to them. These days it's hard to find any 3 creators following the same philosophy. These are the days of pop culture and personal artistic visions. I don't think there IS an ism anymore.
posted by keratacon at 11:45 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Slow clap.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:45 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Postmodernism is dead.

Long live Post-postmodernism!
posted by rtimmel at 11:45 AM on August 18, 2011


PACINO
So you were saying?

QUINN
The Modernists are the ones to blame. Her logic being that once we term an era capital "M" Modern, what's left? What could possibly follow?

PACINO
Post Modern.

QUINN
Maybe for a decade or two, maybe to the turn of the millennium. But what now? Where the hell are we?

PACINO
It's just words, Quinn.

QUINN
But words are the fundament of all culture, all society. They’re all that separate us from the animals. In the beginning was the Word and the word was –

PACINO
Anyway.

QUINN
Her final point being that there's really only one conclusion. This is the future. Not coming anymore, already here.

They move through the doorway, step into the light. Blood everywhere, signs of struggle and violence.
posted by philip-random at 11:45 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


As an example, the FPP linked article mentions art world, literary, and architectural postmodernism in the first few paragraphs, without making any attempt to distinguish between them.

I think that was kind of his point. De-emphasizing any overall narrative has led to such fragmentation that we can't even talk about what it means anymore. Whether or not that is the 'death of postmodernism', I don't know.
posted by bradbane at 11:46 AM on August 18, 2011


Fights over who was "more post-modern" are infinitely more tolerable over fights over who is "more authentic."

Incorrect.
posted by DU at 11:46 AM on August 18, 2011


Weird for the sake of weird.
posted by Trurl at 11:47 AM on August 18, 2011


nah, I think we're entering the age of artists being defined but nothing but their audience. It doesn't matter what you do unless you have thousands of twitter followers and millions of views on your youtube. "I wanted to check out that new gallery downtown" you'll say, "but they only have a few hundred Likes on Facebook, and their Twitter is a ghost town". Some people will try to spin this as the democratization of art. Really it will be an armsrace of list-buying and l.c.d. pandering.

It's not just art though. Newt Gingrich is running not on his record, but on his army of followers on twitter. It doesn't matter that 90% of them were purchased, that's besides the point because authenticity is a false objective.

In retrospect the past 5 years and the next 5 will be seen as the age of the digital fan landrush.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:47 AM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think postmodernism is dead except in the sense of it being dead as a radical movement. It is more alive than ever as the cultural logic of late capitalism. The freedom it offers is the "freedom" of consumerism.
posted by AlsoMike at 11:47 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Postmodernism - there is no author, therefore, there is no one to complain about my "theft" of existing material and its presentation as my art (contradiction), as originality is dead. Tart it up with some neologisms and there you go. Check out The End of Art by Donald Kuspit, a breath of fresh air in this miasma of art as product. From the description, "[postmodern art is] a new visual category that elevates the banal over the enigmatic, the scatological over the sacred, cleverness over creativity."
posted by njohnson23 at 11:50 AM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Of all extant and extinct artistic and aesthetic movements, post-modernism seems most likely to come back as a zombie, since it's kinda like zombie modernism already, so I'm not too worried that it's going away in any meaningful sense.
posted by clockzero at 11:50 AM on August 18, 2011


This is why I only work with Early Modern ideas. I don't have to worry about them mutating.
posted by oddman at 11:53 AM on August 18, 2011


Uh, shouldn't that be "Age of Authenticity"?

Authenticity : Authenticism :: Truth : Truthy
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:54 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your favorite band is dead.
posted by macross city flaneur at 11:55 AM on August 18, 2011


In other news, racism is dead, feminism is dead, marxism is dead, capitalism is dead, humanism is dead, fascism is dead, disco is dead, punk is dead, God is dead, and Nietzsche is dead.

Declaring things dead that probably aren't dead: dead.
posted by macross city flaneur at 11:58 AM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ken Dodd's dad's dog's dead.
posted by Abiezer at 12:01 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


In other news, racism is dead, feminism is dead, marxism is dead, capitalism is dead, humanism is dead, fascism is dead, disco is dead, punk is dead, God is dead, and Nietzsche is dead.

And I'm not feeling too well, myself.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:01 PM on August 18, 2011 [13 favorites]


punks not dead
posted by griphus at 12:01 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


“With all that reflection and refraction, modernism creates the illusion that there is an illusion when in fact it is a straightforward statement of money and power. But we wanted to get away from that. We wanted to say something else. There was a return to ornamentation—and there was a frivolity—something over and above the brutal structural form of the old modernist designs. You could say that the AT&T legitimised postmodernism to the whole world.

What a load of crap. Modernism is nothing if not honest, calling it brutal isn't really honest though. Functional maybe, unappealing to some, but honest at least. Statement of money and power? What then is the frivolity of which you speak? What is postmodern architecture if not an expression of money and power out of a time period of wanton greed that left in its wake the seeds of our own present-day destruction?

I don't know if postmodernism is dead but I know Andy Warhol is.

The terrible roar of objection centred on the top—the broken pediment

Yeah, that's because it sucked.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:02 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is there a grave somewhere that I can dance on?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:02 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


michaelh: "I think I've managed to go a full year without encountering that word until now."

So you graduated last year, huh? Congrats.
posted by lesli212 at 12:05 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


there is no one in charge, and as individuals we get to create our own narratives. There's no higher authority telling us what is wrong and what is right.

Without an objective moral compass, there is only and only ever will be the rule of the mob.
posted by DWRoelands at 12:06 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Without an objective moral compass, there is only and only ever will be the rule of the mob.

I have never seen an objective moral compass. Where could somebody purchase such a thing?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:10 PM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Without an objective moral compass, there is only and only ever will be the rule of the mob.


See when people slag on postmodernism, they often say things like this, which is why rhetoric like the above comment sounds so similar to what you hear from right-wingers who say things like "How can atheists live moral lives if they don't follow the code of morality set about in the Bible?"

And what is an "objective moral compass" anyway? There's no such thing as absolute "objectivity" just lesser degrees of subjectivity.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:10 PM on August 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


bill shakespeare: dead
posted by ReWayne at 12:11 PM on August 18, 2011


Certainty in a moral compass has been used over and over as a reliable way to convert a group of individuals into a mob.
posted by Babblesort at 12:11 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have never seen an objective moral compass. Where could somebody purchase such a thing?

Ollivanders Wand Shop in Diagon Alley, London has a pretty good deal, but you have to sign a two-year contract with Verizon.
posted by macross city flaneur at 12:12 PM on August 18, 2011


Declaring things dead that probably aren't dead: dead.

The recursion... it hurts my brain!
posted by dammitjim at 12:14 PM on August 18, 2011


Dick Laurent: dead.
posted by Theta States at 12:18 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Without an objective moral compass, there is only and only ever will be the rule of the mob.
posted by DWRoelands at 12:06 PM on August 18 [1 favorite +] [!]


The real mindfuck occurs when you realize that, historically, "objective moral compasses" have been used both to control the masses and as tools of the masses. "Moral compasses" are just tools, like hammers. And every good hammer is looking for a good face to smash.
posted by Avenger at 12:19 PM on August 18, 2011


PLEASE HAMMER DON'T HURT THEM.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:20 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Death To Everyone
posted by philip-random at 12:22 PM on August 18, 2011


punks not dead

But post-punk is. I went to the wake.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:29 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's no such thing as absolute "objectivity" just lesser degrees of subjectivity.

Is that an objective fact, or your subjective perspective?

The former is a contradiction - it's an objective fact is that objective facts don't exist?

If it's the latter, then your imposing your subjective viewpoint on the non-existence of objectivity on someone else.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:29 PM on August 18, 2011


... incredulity toward metanarratives.

Which makes for one helluva metanarrative.


Of course, and Lyotard, if you read him (and he really should be required reading), addresses this at length. It's the crux of the problem, the postmodern condition, this ascension or acceptance of existing in paradoxes, etc.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:34 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh most definitely, I was just being smug and precious (smecious, if you will). Devoured Lyotard in my studies of the Frankfurt School (as a sorta contra Horkheimer, et al. counterbalance, etc.) - so, mad respect to Lyotard.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:36 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ouch, that article is harsh! It manages to insult audiences, artists, and critics in equal measure, though my favorite is, "In the beginning, postmodernism was not merely ironical, merely gesture, some kind of clever sham, a hotchpotch for the sake of it. It became these things later in lesser works by lesser artists: Michael Nyman, Takashi Murakami, Tracey Emin and Jonathan Safran Foer."

I more or less dislike the work of on that list (except Michael Nyman, who I'd never heard of before), but I suppose I agree with the V&A that postmodernism is dead/dying because those artists, to me, fall into a very similar category -- but it's not postmodernism. Instead I'd describe them as the New Sincerity". I first heard that term in reference to The Sound of Young America, and to me it described perfectly with the elements I disliked about that show. I love that the interviewer guy, Jesse Thorn, is all DIY and scrappy, but Jesus, must he be so self important about it? I feel similarly about Miranda July as well.

I think it's because I still have one foot firmly in 90s irony, and I have a difficult time accepting "sincerity" on its face. But at the same time, the 90s, to me, are also intimately connected to a grass roots DIY ethos - for example, zines and web startups -- that I do like and appreciate. So when the author writes, "If we tune in carefully, we can detect this growing desire for authenticity all around us," I agree wholeheartedly, but just as postmodernism attempted to overwrite both the bad and good elements of modernism, so too does new sincerity attempt to destroy both the superficiality and the skepticism associated with postmodernism. The author rightly identifies a movement away from Warholian spectacle as art toward art as a painstaking process, but he forgets that spectacle of art grew out of a deep and important questioning of every aspect of society in a way that furthered the anti-artistic-establishment questioning of modernism.

The ethos of the New Sincerity is that humanity's all connected and that irony is a wall we put up to keep others from getting too close; but their "sincerity" rings false to me because the plain fact is we're NOT all connected; humanity's certainly not all on the same wavelength. Irony and skepticism can't really die until we are, and prematurely declaring them dead is, to me, just a way of stuffing differences in a dark hole in the futile hope that they'll disappear while we're not looking. It's a way of saying, "Well, that's not the way X is for me, so X objectively doesn't exist." The reality is, those differences, when hidden away, will just grow larger and more difficult to ignore until they uncomfortably explode into daylight. Irony -- especially humor and incongruity -- is one of the best ways of shining a harsh light on difficult subjects.

//And that concludes my VERY sincere tirade.
posted by lesli212 at 12:37 PM on August 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


There's no such thing as absolute "objectivity" just lesser degrees of subjectivity.

Is that an objective fact, or your subjective perspective?

The former is a contradiction - it's an objective fact is that objective facts don't exist?

If it's the latter, then your imposing your subjective viewpoint on the non-existence of objectivity on someone else.


This is why logicians make bad philosophers. If someone stipulates that no empirical truth claim, even their own, can have apodictic validity, it in no way invalidates their claim on the terms of truth which they are asserting. Only on the apodictic terms which you have set.

In other words, this form of argument is just a way of being obtuse.
posted by macross city flaneur at 12:50 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Of course, and Lyotard, if you read him (and he really should be required reading), addresses this at length. It's the crux of the problem, the postmodern condition, this ascension or acceptance of existing in paradoxes, etc.

LOL really? So basically Lyotard says "No-one knows the 'truth,' except for me." That sounds contradictory, but never mind, in this new postmodern condition, we must learn to accept such paradoxes. This sounds like they've reinvented pre-modern authoritarianism.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:54 PM on August 18, 2011


Thank god
posted by New England Cultist at 12:54 PM on August 18, 2011


Some of the most prominent current practitioners of postmodernism are the American right wing and the mass news media. Global warming is just another narrative, not so much wrong as just alternative to non-warming, and attempts to assert its absolute truth are a violation of the postmodern bricolage. The MSM really seems to believe this too; as a minor example, today's Times referred to "claims" that the S&P had miscalculated the US debt, rather than the fact of it. Even Obama's centrism is postmodern, asserting no value but in the combination of existing world-views into some sort of bipartisan compromisogram.

Apart from the political aspect, the art world really shot itself in the foot with postmodernism, at least from a sales point of view. For at least a century, popular and academic interest in art was sustained by a succession of new and/or great works, works which overturned what had come before and redefined what came next. Postmodernism of course rejects such notions, but a flat plain of juxtaposed frames really gets boring after a while. Madonna was interesting as an artist; Lady Gaga is merely a performer. The conservative turn to the "authentic" that the essayist mentions is one way to regain the sense of progress and hierarchy that keeps interest flowing in art, but it's a pretty sad alternative -- essentially giving up on the new in favor of the well-crafted.

Given that in politics at least, postmodernism has been a bit of a disaster -- but its rightwing practitioners would love nothing more than a return to past absolutes -- I hold out hope that something may be devised that can accommodate truths like global warming without reinstating the abusive hierarchies of the past. Until the world gets less shitty, there's still a need for something new.
posted by chortly at 12:59 PM on August 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


Well, at least it was around long enough for American right-wingers to apply its rhetorical techniques to public policy debates and undermine the foundations of rational governance.

So, you know, it's got that going for it.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:01 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


On (lack of) preview:

*shakes fist at chortly*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:03 PM on August 18, 2011


Well that's one of the worst articles on PoMo that I ever read. I don't think he really understands this subject at all, even though he manages to cite some of the major theorists. I mean, for example:

First, that postmodernism is really an attack not just on the dominant narrative or art forms but rather an attack on the dominant social discourse.

No, that's Modernism. I was stunned when I entered art school and the first semester of the Modern Art course began with the French Revolution and ended in 1915. I mean, if you want someone who is attacking the dominant social discourse, you can go find roots from way back, Daumier comes to mind. The idea of "de-privileging" the dominant paradigm and asserting that all paradigms have are equally valid, that sounds more like Deconstructionism. This is the most simplistic, hackneyed model of PoMo, the "map and the territory," looking at the territory through various maps and comparing the cartographers by comparing maps.

Now I mean, seriously, using Madonna as an example of PoMo? Seriously? When I want to pick an example of PoMo, I usually cite the first PoMo sculpture I ever heard of, IIRC it's called something like "Box Containing Scraps Of Its Own Creation." A sculptor built a wooden box with a little plexiglass window, swept up all the scraps from the table and floor, dumped them inside, and screwed down the window. Now if you ask me why that's PoMo, I'm not sure I could explain it.

The most illuminating PoMo moment I ever had was a lecture by the incoming Dean of my art school, a few years after I graduated. He was rumored to be an expert in PoMo theory, and excitement grew as he announced an inaugural lecture, his first exposure to students and faculty. I went into the dank basement auditorium where I attended my first art class ever, 20 years ago. Two paintings were projected on the screens, this was to be an old familiar format, a slide lecture. But when I sat down and looked at what was projected, I was blown away. There were two almost identical paintings, smeary, colorful, abstract and nonrepresentational. I could immediately recognize the painters, Jean Dubuffet and Gerhard Richter. WTF? How the hell could two such dissimilar painters that didn't know each other's or respond to each other's works, produce almost identical paintings? The lecture started, and immediately he raised the issue: these two paintings were executed in the same year. Why is one Modernist and one PostModernist? That's all he needed to say, the rest of the lecture was superfluous. In fact, the Dean himself was superfluous, he was fired about 2 months into his contract.

One of my professors asserted that we are not in a post-PostModernism era. He called it Post-Ism. Some call it Post-Paradigm. This writer knows nothing of that concept, which you better understand if you are going to say that PoMo is dead.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:14 PM on August 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


"We shall not have destroyed everything until we destroy the ruins as well, but the only way I see to do that is to build a lot of fine buildings on top of them." Alfred Jarry (as Pere Ubu)
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:20 PM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Some of the most prominent current practitioners of postmodernism are the American right wing and the mass news media.

Yes. This is one of the most important things to understand in today's political circus. This is partly what that whole "reality-based community" dismissal by the GWB staffer was about.
posted by aught at 1:24 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


If post-modernism is dead, why is Banksy the biggest thing in art?
posted by empath at 1:29 PM on August 18, 2011


why is Banksy the biggest thing in art?

He isn't.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:30 PM on August 18, 2011


charlie don't surf, I didn't quite comprehend your argument as to how the author of the article has misunderstood postmodernism. Care to elaborate?
posted by Anything at 1:46 PM on August 18, 2011


Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer, dead!
posted by klangklangston at 2:06 PM on August 18, 2011


Also, authenticity is a trap. See: Rockism.

And the only time that "new sincerity" is cool is when Le Tigre sings it.

(I liked my old art prof starting both Modernism and Post-Modernism with Luncheon on the Lawn.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:08 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of my professors asserted that we are not in a post-PostModernism era. He called it Post-Ism.

I'd buy that for a dollar. Art (whatever the hell it actually is) certainly preceded all the isms. Why can't it also outlive them?

My two cents (delivered before at MeFi, I'm sure) is that art (note the small "a") is neither the work, nor its context, nor its intent, but a strange magical-mystical "thing" that happens in the soul of someone who gets a certain something. It may be painting by Rembrandt, a mural by Banksy, a Yes concert in 1976, a collage tossed together by angry middle-schooler. It's the connection with the beholder, the communication, that makes it art.

As for that capital "A" stuff, well I'll leave that to the Academy.
posted by philip-random at 2:14 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Luncheon on the Lawn.)

Lunchism. Mmm, grilled cheese.
posted by philip-random at 2:15 PM on August 18, 2011


Unfortunately, the movement based on my first initial never caught on.

Still, jism has a certain appeal.
posted by klangklangston at 2:19 PM on August 18, 2011


post-modernism is a misunderstanding, and thus is very real indeed

philosophically, economically, and artistically

there is nothing at all to suggest that a confluence of narratives had become more historically relevant at any absolute point to distinguish pomo ideologically or artistically. nor does commoditization have any effect on the intangible nature of art (even if the "medium is the message", an artistic medium does not have artistic agency.)

this article seems to insinuate that before the advent of post-modernism, multiple discourses did not exist, and all of perspective was a unified blob of some sort... im going to call that "unified blob theory"

that sounds cooler than post-modernism anyway - every narrative about pomo ends up being a colossally unnecessary endeavor into the nature of whatever the author feels like talking about; the arbitrary nature of pomo is sometimes even recognized by the author, to put a seeming cap on the absurdity of the notion...

thus post-modernism is alive and well, doing all it ever did, talk about itself: the one singular narrative of self-reference that looks like a million different misunderstandings
posted by flyinghamster at 2:40 PM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I am not sure I care to, or am even capable. I wrote for an hour, and then saw that flyinghamster did a pretty good job of what I wanted to say. But I'm not sure that his remarks are any less cryptic than my own.

So instead, I am just going to quote my favorite art joke, by Ian Sholes:

How many deconstructionists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Even the framing of this question makes a grid of patriarchal assumptions that reveals a slavish devotion to phallocentric ideas - such as, technical accomplishment has inherent value, knowledge can be attained and quantities of labor can be determined empirically, all of which makes a discourse which further marginalizes the already disenfranchised.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:47 PM on August 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


to mefite anything:

charliedon'tsurfs post is just one case of rejection of "postmodernism", he doesn't even attempt to criticize meticulously a premise that is intrinsically arbitrary, so asking him to refine his criticism is an unanswerable query...

i just saw charliedont post themselves so i gather i wasn't that far off.

also i like this joke better:

How many deconstructionists doesn't it take to screw in a light bulb?

=D
posted by flyinghamster at 2:51 PM on August 18, 2011


Some of the most prominent current practitioners of postmodernism are the American right wing and the mass news media.

Joe the Plumber: postmodern icon
posted by homunculus at 2:55 PM on August 18, 2011


the answer is 5 by the way
posted by flyinghamster at 2:55 PM on August 18, 2011


49
posted by philip-random at 3:02 PM on August 18, 2011


Very astute, flyinghamster. I would not like to unanswer your reversal of that nonjoke, but I cannot since I am still a Modernist. I guess that since I grew up in the PostModernist era and studied it extensively, that makes me a Pre-PostModernist anachronism.

So this isn't the answer.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:04 PM on August 18, 2011


Postmodernism is a project that reveals the socially constructed nature of reality and the varied interests that are served by particular constructions. Postmodernism is inherently incompatible with biblical Christianity. Postmodernism is a clusterfuck.

Postmodernism is what you have when the modernization process is complete and nature is gone for good.

Postmodernism is not a subject, apparently, for polite company.

Postmodernism is merely an intellectual veneer. Actually, postmodernism is a sort of blanket term.

Postmodernism is an immoral and cowardly view. Postmodernism is a threat to Buddhism. Postmodernism is a pile of contrived shit which cloaks its vacuity with seemingly erudite language and concepts.

Postmodernism is not what you think it is. Postmodernism is for kids. Postmodernism is a swollen dead fish. Postmodernism is a dead brass horse.

Postmodernism is impossible.
posted by xod at 3:07 PM on August 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


When it comes to "classical" music I find the examples a little odd. I mean, I'll go with John Adams as being post-modern, but I'm not sure I'd chose Bartok as the best or strongest example of modernism. I'd put up the Second Viennese School before Bartok as paragons of modernism.
posted by ob at 3:15 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


XOD: I just want to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed exploring all of the links in your comment. It was like a box of chocolates.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 3:47 PM on August 18, 2011


I tend to think of the "ism" eras as different ways of handling scientific thought.

In the classical era science is accomplished through the eye. You see the natural world and make judgments on it. The universe is ruled by mystical forces that move through everything, and these must be controlled and modulated for fear of excess. Art is that which best describes nature and the forces that rule it.

In the modernist era science is accomplished through the microscope. You see the natural world at very base-level components, and you manipulate them accordingly. You can turn rocks into electricity and power a civilization, rearrange the building blocks of matter in a beaker to create new materials, and demolish distance and time through the car and the phone. You create systems that create objectively better economies, politics, and art informed by theory derived by experiment.

In the post-modern era science is accomplished through the simulation. We can see things at ever smaller and greater scales, observe wide swaths of human experience. Confoundingly, as our observation gets better, our results become less satisfying. Our ability to manipulate the atom leads to only more problems and more questions. Our economic and political systems invariably fall apart, and make less sense despite having greater data and more competent scientific processes behind them. Art and culture, as they're broadcast through a veritable plague of screens, become degraded, and all barriers between meaning and non-meaning are smashed.

Science becomes less and less satisfying to the problems that it's set to solve. Answers lead to more questions, and rarely return anything approaching a solution. What's left in the wake of this abject, system-wide failure is the market, and its empty world of symbols and commerce. The highest paid members of our society traffic in nothing even approaching reality - instead they shift numbers across byzantine databases, and the numbers don't even really mean anything, although they mean enough so that they're used to extract actual, tangible wealth from the system in the form of material, property, land, and experience.

So post-modernism isn't dead, really, it's just utterly unsatisfying (like the -isms before it). The scientific method didn't save us from brutality - it was used to justify atrocities that even the most bloodthirsty feudal lord couldn't imagine. Marxism didn't save us from capital - its failure was used as justification for doubling down on a life lived in the market based on dwindling resources. Post-modernism didn't save us from the failures of Marxism (which is what most theorists I've read have said is its most attractive feature), it just gave capitalism a sort of egalitarian cultural cache, and lead to a world where no statements are true and all statements are true.

So if you follow this line of thought (dangerous, as it's definitely a grand narrative) people are now looking for another savior mode of thought. I think that this lies in large-scale intelligent computing. If the primary scientific mode of the post-modern era was the simulation, then the next step removes humans entirely from the decision making process. This is already starting to appear, in the way of automated trading algorithms, the observation of social media sites to gather market data, and the robot that picks the next song on Pandora.

I think that the article's idea that we're heading towards an era of greater craftsmanship and authenticity is a nice dream, but probably not what's coming next.
posted by codacorolla at 4:04 PM on August 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I thought the article was interesting for at least two reasons: Out of the various announcements of the death of postmodernism, it was the first I'd read that was fairly sympathetic toward postmodernism. More important is the assertion that people have adjusted to postmodernist modes of expression and relegated them to a similar status as the pre-existing ones.

As to the occasionally expressed notion, also echoed in this thread, that postmodernity is somehow inescapable, I don't quite buy it. It may well be difficult to effectively argue -- because the subject is so abtract -- against the ubiqutous emphasis of the fact that the world can be understood in different, contradictory ways. What has to be argued is that that fact is only relevant to the extent that people's understandings actually differ. I think that could be done effectively if people would start forming a habit of explicitly acknowledging their shared understandings, explicitly in contrast to the notion that shared understanding is supposedly so damn elusive.
posted by Anything at 4:11 PM on August 18, 2011


I've been wanting a return to authenticity for a long time, though I don't mind postmodern literature and games. It seems a bit ugly/alienating in art though. I prefer things like old religious paintings that are hyper-meaningful. Not the dissolution of meaning but meaning so strong it shines through natural reality.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:30 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been wanting a return to authenticity for a long time, though I don't mind postmodern literature and games. It seems a bit ugly/alienating in art though.

Oh jeez. You obviously haven't seen Stuckism. It is authentically awful.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:52 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know about Stuckism, and I love reading about Billy Childish. I agree with this:

Post Modernism, in its adolescent attempt to ape the clever and witty in modern art, has shown itself to be lost in a cul-de-sac of idiocy. What was once a searching and provocative process (as Dadaism) has given way to trite cleverness for commercial exploitation. The Stuckist calls for an art that is alive with all aspects of human experience; dares to communicate its ideas in primeval pigment; and possibly experiences itself as not at all clever!

The actual paintings are pretty good - remind me a bit of Gothic outsider art.

I've been to a few exhibitions, and postmodernism again just seems like a joke. And I realize that's the point, but I'd prefer art not be a joke. Compare it to Renaissance painting and things like Carravagio - even if what they portrayed isn't what I agree with they're trying to portray something they believe in 100%.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:55 PM on August 18, 2011


The desire for Authenticity is the desire for God. Demanding a Creator worked hard on something, that the Love (presumably, though any emotion would do) they felt for it be incorporated into the work itself, what is that but a yearning for a connection with that creator? Why else would we call mass produced goods soul less?

Demanding Authenticity in art is fine, demanding it in politics? People are full of angels and demons and I'll have neither running the country. Give me a technocrat, a rational pragmatic person working towards the betterment of all, for the rational pragmatic reason that altruism works better than selfishness. Spare me your passions, I want well crafted legislation. Is this too not an art?

Once we establish that politics is an art, we see no room for Authenticity. Postmodernism can't die for it never lived. Dada dada fish.
posted by Peztopiary at 6:54 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The desire for Authenticity is the desire for God.

Non-sequitur much? But thanks for sharing your...narrative.
posted by FreedomTickler at 7:05 PM on August 18, 2011


Once we establish that politics is an art

the art of hell
posted by philip-random at 7:08 PM on August 18, 2011


It may well be difficult to effectively argue . . . against the ubiqutous emphasis of the fact that the world can be understood in different, contradictory ways. What has to be argued is that that fact is only relevant to the extent that people's understandings actually differ.

A key postmodern insight is that these understandings do not differ - they are all inescapably provisional, contingent, and flawed. I'll turn it over to Richard Tarnas:

It is recognized that human knowledge is subjectively determined by a multitude of factors; that objective essences, or things-in-themselves, are neither accessible or positable; and that the value of all truths and assumptions must be continually subjected to direct testing. The critical search for truth is constrained to be tolerant of ambiguity and pluralism, and its outcome will necessarily be knowledge that is relative and fallible rather than absolute and certain . . .

The inherent human capacity for logic and symbol formation is recognized as a fundamental and necessary element in human understanding, anticipation, and creation of reality. The mind is not the passive reflector of an external world and its intrinsic order, but is active and creative in the process of reception and cognition. Reality is in some sense constructed by the mind, and many such constructions are possible, none necessarily sovereign . . . all human knowledge is interpretation and no interpretation is final . . .

One can at best attempt . . . a never-complete rapprochement between subject and object. Less optimistically, one must recognize the insuperable solipsism of human awareness against the radical illegibility of the world . . .

Since there are no indubitable foundations for human knowledge, the highest value for any perspective is its capacity to be temporarily useful or edifying, emancipatory or creative - though it is recognized that in the end these valuations are themselves not justifiable by anything beyond personal and cultural taste.

posted by ryanshepard at 7:12 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


The desire for Authenticity is the desire for God.

Well yeah. I desire some sort of meaning. In the absence of God it doesn't mean we should abandon all meaning - we should create our own symbols and invest them with pure meaning, shining out of the dark and creating things that are beyond jokes and games. Its post-modern in the sense that anything can have that meaning if you believe in it enough, but you must believe in it to make that meaning shine through.

Or maybe I'm mixing up art theory, neurosis, and Mage: The Ascension.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:35 PM on August 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Its post-modern in the sense that anything can have that meaning if you believe in it enough, but you must believe in it to make that meaning shine through.

You forgot your cite, (Tinkerbell, 1953)
posted by codacorolla at 8:06 PM on August 18, 2011


JM Barrie, actually.
posted by philip-random at 8:14 PM on August 18, 2011


... or is post-modern to confuse the work with the creator?
posted by philip-random at 8:14 PM on August 18, 2011


RyanShepard essentially has it. For all the scads and scads of crap that cloak themselves in 'postmodernism' to dress up what is at best their adolescent cleverness the fundamental significance of the phenomena that the many and contradictory definitions of post-modernity try to capture is a fairly important change in the epistemological register. Simply put, that claims to certainty, whether based in religion, tradition, rationality, common sense, or whatever, are inherently limited in one way or another simply because we cannot 'know' things in-themselves, but only as they are given to us in experience.

Some of the fallout of this realisation of the limits of certainty is good, such as the recognition and rejection of the unspoken qualifier of 'high' in 'serious' treatment of 'culture'; while some is bad, such as the rejection of rationality and science in portions of American political culture mentioned up thread.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:42 PM on August 18, 2011


If we de-privilege all positions, we can assert no position, we cannot therefore participate in society or the collective and so, in effect, an aggressive postmodernism becomes, in the real world, indistinguishable from an odd species of inert conservatism.

This part of the article really resonated, in that Post-modernism required a sort of instant fluency with art history, especially Modernism, and Classicism, that led I think for many people coming of age in the midst of post-modernism to a sort of silencing based on there not being a universal position from which to speak from or make a statement from, because all authority and all history and art in the past was suspect.

And in that way for a movement based on giving equal weight to all subjective experience, and anti-authoritarianism, it established it's own recursive and exclusive authority. Especially in the art world. I think it was maybe only Punk that seriously embraced the nihilism at the heart of that and said "Fuck it. Just do it. Just fucking say it, and say it from you gut without apology or shame and fuck anyone who tells you theirs' a heirarchy in this or a "right or proper way" to express yourself. Just let the energy and speed and loudness blow all that shit away..."

And as for literature, I think PM was devastating. Without a position or a mutual language or understanding of exploring inner worlds that can connect with others, I think a lot of that was like stabbing in the dark.

But, here's the thing. almost any art or action put through enough repetition and amplification and attention establishes it's own language and it's own structure and formailty. But applicable only to itself.

I guess with post-modernism you give up a universal language for a dialect that's deep, but not broad.
posted by Skygazer at 9:15 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yippee!!!! Does that mean we can just make our art now? I going for some quasi-rocco, neo-classicism, with a sardonic twist on the intensely emotional parts. Well, in simpler terms, I don't care much for taxonomy, but making art is good stuff.
posted by Oyéah at 9:41 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is there a grave somewhere that I can dance on?
posted by Chocolate Pickle


Or one I can stand over 'till I'm sure that it's dead?
posted by carping demon at 10:36 PM on August 18, 2011


For all the scads and scads of crap that cloak themselves in 'postmodernism' to dress up what is at best their adolescent cleverness the fundamental significance of the phenomena that the many and contradictory definitions of post-modernity try to capture is a fairly important change in the epistemological register.

There has to be an easier way to say this.
posted by philip-random at 11:01 PM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dick Laurent: dead.

Bela Lugosi: dead, undead undead undead...
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:21 PM on August 18, 2011


and how does Neil Diamond figure into all of this?
posted by philip-random at 11:48 PM on August 18, 2011


This was a really interesting article. I have a different overarching theory that riffs on it, but I just want to thank spiderskull for putting it out there because it would make a great introduction to postmodernism for someone who didn't really understand what people meant when they used the term.

I think what's really going on here, with any cultural movement or moment like postmodernism, is power, economics and generational shifts. All art is connected to experience and that experience will always be generational (even if you are clique within a generation).

Generations like to define themselves, and they want to carve out positions of power for themselves. Young people lash out at those above them; older people stamp down on the ones below. The most articulate members of the groups involved say - "the dominant discourse is ours now - we get to say what's good and what's bad".

Postmodernism was a late-boomer / generation X thing. It's cynicism towards metanarratives reacted against postwar idealistic movements.

Now new generations are rising up. They want their own cultural space, which means casting aside the empty cynicism in favour of - well, a bunch of things. Empty but benign playfulness, for example (Scott Pilgrim, Kate Beaton, Erfworld). High camp fascism (Frank Miller, Michael Bay, Zack Snyder). Retro-magpie surrealism (Lady Gaga, Michael Chabon).

Certainly, one element of postmodernist DNA that still seems a part of the culture is the refusal to be completely straightforward - a sort of camp swerve into insincerity. All the cultural figures I mentioned above dodge meaningfulness somehow. Sadly, the best way to do that is to refer to something else - not to make a point about metanarratives, but to escape being laughed at.
posted by lucien_reeve at 3:50 AM on August 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


This way of talking about art as a kind of manifestation of a Hegelian world-spirit going through different Ages-of by some transcendental logic seems like the first thing postmodernism should have debunked.
posted by mbrock at 4:47 AM on August 19, 2011


All the cultural figures I mentioned above dodge meaningfulness somehow.

There are some hyper-romantic, meaningful moments in Scott Pilgrim. And there is utterly sincere, earnest music and art being made. You just need to look for and cherish it. That sort of thing is what's healing and sustaining. Some of us need those narratives, structures and reassurances. The fractured, winking, ironic jokes of some postmodernism (in music and art) can feel like an attack on the soul.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:11 AM on August 19, 2011


Postmodernism is the "contemporary" take on medieval scholasticism: academics prancing round the point of an argument
posted by Crustybob at 6:01 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a serious question. I got A Thousand Plateaus after Simon Reynolds quoted from it a billion times in Energy Flash. Was that book intended to make sense? Who was it written for?
posted by empath at 6:11 AM on August 19, 2011


I have a serious question. I got A Thousand Plateaus after Simon Reynolds quoted from it a billion times in Energy Flash. Was that book intended to make sense? Who was it written for?
posted by empath at 9:11 AM on August 19


I don't know who it was written for, but I thought it made sense. I also think it might be the philosophical work that is most relevant to our time.

And if there is one single cultural artifact that represents what comes after Postmodernism, it's the Arcade Fire:

The kids are still standing with their arms folded tight
The kids are still standing with their arms folded tight
Well some things are pure and some things are right
But the kids are still standing with their arms folded tight
...
The kids are still standing with their arms folded tight
The kids are still standing with their arms folded tight
I know it's heavy, I know it ain't light
But how are you going to lift it with your arms folded tight?

posted by Pastabagel at 6:41 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read the quote that you just linked to and I feel that he probably has a good idea there, but it's so couched in nonsense phrases that it's impossible to decipher. And it doesn't read to me as precise technical jargon, but as someone intentionally obfuscating what they are saying.
posted by empath at 7:07 AM on August 19, 2011


Postpost:

[...] Theory is only something that could “die” in the last five years because it was an import from a country, France, that had discontinued the model, while the most visible American inheritors were exegetes and epigones, translators and disciples—therefore mediocre. Theory’s death was also literal. Hardly any of the old heroes are alive. The exceptions are Baudrillard (alive, but cynical), Habermas (old and healthy, but German), and, incredibly, Claude Lévi-Strauss. Might Althusser be alive, imprisoned? No, dead. Pan-European successor candidates, the likes of Žižek, Badiou, Ferry, Virillio, Agamben, Negri, Vattimo, Sloterdijk, Luhmann, Kittler, seem somehow, well, small by comparison. Optical illusion? No, they really are smaller. Or up to something different.

The big mistake right now would be to fail to keep faith with what theory once meant to us. You hear a great collective sigh of relief from people who don’t have to read “that stuff” anymore—the ones who never read it in the first place. But who will insult these people now, expose their life as self-deception, their media as obstacles to truth, their conventional wisdom as ideology? It will be unbearable to live with such people if they aren’t regularly insulted. [...]

Death is Not the End
posted by xod at 7:54 AM on August 19, 2011


In Tony Judt's book, Postwar, he has a passage about post- (industrialism, modernism, communism, whatever) that basically says if all you can do is tag post- onto some category to try and describe what you are doing, you're just faking it.

But then there's the title of his book....

I am now hitting the post comment button.
posted by warbaby at 7:55 AM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I see your Stuckism comments raise you a Flarf reference from the current poetry scene.
posted by aught at 8:11 AM on August 19, 2011


Really, it is long past due for Post-Modernism to be dead. I think it led to the worse rise of reactionary conservatism for one thing, with people hanging on to "acceptable" values, and mediocrity simply for the sake of having a sense of belonging to something.

If that wasn't enough, it was always, except for Punk Rock, and I guess the internet (although the internet, is not a product of Post-modernism, but a parallel technological development, I think...), an elitist movement comprised by trust fund artists, and their friends, along with the exclusive sort of NY art world that effectively disappeared up its own buthole.

Yeah, I said it: Post-Modernism was the game of elitest rich assholes for the most part.


Back to something more real. And I don't mean "real" or "authentic." I mean fucking real and organic (as in making sense, not necessarily "from nature').

I'm sick of things in quotation marks.
posted by Skygazer at 8:34 AM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


if all you can do is tag post- onto some category to try and describe what you are doing, you're just faking it.

Ah yes, but if you tag something as "post-post-," the fake "post-" gets cancelled out and neutralized. Like cancelling out x on both sides of an equation in algebra.
posted by Skygazer at 8:41 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read the quote that you just linked to and I feel that he probably has a good idea there, but it's so couched in nonsense phrases that it's impossible to decipher. And it doesn't read to me as precise technical jargon, but as someone intentionally obfuscating what they are saying.
posted by empath


Call me reactionary and/or hyperbolic (and I usually am before my morning coffee) but this reads as an effective critique of pretty much every piece of so-called Art/Aesthetic Theory that I've ever encountered. Which generally leads me to the same essential question: "Man, what's your f***ing point?"
posted by philip-random at 9:08 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


every piece of so-called Art/Aesthetic Theory that I've ever encountered.

It's so easy to parody. Fun too!


I can guaranteee, no artist worth a dime is sweating it out over theory.


That being said, I'll be happy if Post-Modernism is dead just so I can stop seeing the stupid word that is "Post-Modernism" and also because, looking at this through an era or cultural lense, I'm so desperate for this last 30 year cycle of economic stupidity and neo-conservatism and neo-religiosity, and hyper-capitalism, and everything that went with it for the most part as the "Age of Reagan" comes to a crashing crash ends. And it can take Post-Modernism with it, that great big fuck you to authority that also desperately needed the approval of authority. It was just a mindfuck.
posted by Skygazer at 9:20 AM on August 19, 2011


I look forward to the Post-Mindfuck movement.
posted by Skygazer at 9:22 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did post-modernism, by way of Baudrillard, ever really purport to solve anything? I think a lot of post-modernism is just saying "Welp, capitalism wins. Shit sucks, and the most you can hope for is to get a ridiculous laugh out of how insane and detached from reality everything is." Sort of like The Comedian in The Watchmen.
posted by codacorolla at 9:40 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did post-modernism, by way of Baudrillard, ever really purport to solve anything?

By way of Baudrilliard, I'd say no. But it seems to me several theories are programmatic.

Deleuze and Guattari, mentioned above, propose schizoanalysis; Jameson proposes cognitive mapping, Barthes, jouissance, &tc. All aim toward an expanded agency or sovereignty of the individual.

I take your point, codacorolla, but in a slightly different direction. It seems like a lot of people object to the idea of postmodernity as a selected, interpretative tool of choice. Most theories of postmodernity are, like most any other theory of anything, observations of a given condition.
posted by xod at 10:30 AM on August 19, 2011


Declaring Post-Modernism "Dead," is within itself, the ultimate statement of Post-modernism.

Therefore, it lives??


It's like a horror movie where the monster keeps coming back to life...
posted by Skygazer at 10:39 AM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Xod: All aim toward an expanded agency or sovereignty of the individual.

I really like this aspect of Post-Modernism, as I referred to it in my comment above:

I guess with post-modernism you give up a universal language for a dialect that's deep, but not broad.

Or as "deep" as it were as an individual is capable of mining his/her own solipsism, would be more accurate, but the idea of "expanded agency" and "sovereignty of the individual" as you mention in your comment, is crucial because there's a serious serious tension in that:

Art communicates, but to renounce all established prior forms of art that do that is to make it opaque. So Post-Modernism gave a voice and agency and sovereignty, at the cost of all other things including the ability of the person experiencing that art to understand it through established modes and language.

Expression became more important than understanding.

Having a voice and doing away with "silencing" (the "oppression" of the man, and forms and standards, and sanctioned academic things) became more important than communicating easily.

Maybe that was a surface element though and some deeper language or common understanding of humanity, unfettered by authoritarian or sanctioned (ie: Oppressive), modes was supposed to develop out of all that like some sort of distillation of pure humanity.

I could see that. There was at the very heart of most post-modernism an un-aggrandized and simple honest unvarnished humanity to it.

And that's good that it gave "voice," for creativity and the imagination, but as such post-modernism and the stance of it can't be sustained. Knowledge and universality and even things like craft and ability grow as one does something and learns more and more.

As the saying goes: You can teach someone technique and craft, but you can't teach them the spark (inner life, imagination, dialogue, fantasies, dreams, nightmares, emotions, tones, emotional tones etc...) that moves that...
posted by Skygazer at 11:07 AM on August 19, 2011


Skygazer, I disagree with most of your statements above, but most especially this one:

Art communicates, but to renounce all established prior forms of art that do that is to make it opaque. So Post-Modernism gave a voice and agency and sovereignty, at the cost of all other things including the ability of the person experiencing that art to understand it through established modes and language.

Postmodernism is generally understood to be the return of established codes, genres, intelligible norms, &tc, over and against the relentless positivism and novelty demanded by modernism.

Postmodernism is the return of the figure in painting - Warhol, Salle and Schnabel's visual legibilty against the transcendent abstraction of Pollock, Ad Reinhardt and Rothko.

Postmodernism is the return of genre and realism in literature - Pynchon and Gaddis's representation and metaphor against the atemporal, absolute novelty and neologism of Joyce and Stein.

Postmodernism is the return of classical codes in architecture - Graves and Venturi's populism against the machine and abstraction of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.
posted by xod at 11:45 AM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well, yeah, of course. We're entering a new dark age. Relativism, pomo, all that good shit, things of the past.

We're fucked.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:54 PM on August 19, 2011


j/k (not about the dark age thing though)
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:06 PM on August 19, 2011


Only the future is "post-modern". All claims to the contrary are twaddle.
posted by Twang at 4:53 PM on August 19, 2011


XOD: Postmodernism is generally understood to be the return of established codes, genres, intelligible norms, &tc, over and against the relentless positivism and novelty demanded by modernism. etc...

Thanks for the correction. I'm sort of all over the place a bit. Or just plan wrong. lolz.

I guess, I was trying to simply talk intuitively there from my experience, and I think I may have Post-Modernism, mixed up with Modernism.

Which, is an admitted problem, but how's this then: Post-Modernism retains the anti-classical code of Modernism while injecting classical elements that are put into high relief because of it.
posted by Skygazer at 5:51 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I have never seen an objective moral compass. Where could somebody purchase such a thing?

This! DWRoelands has figured out what it is!

(Also, this is the man page. RTFM.)
posted by jfuller at 7:03 PM on August 19, 2011


Best news I've heard all day.

Postmodernism certainly has made its contributions, in pointing out the limits of knowledge and the examination of the techniques of narrative and meta-narrative just to mention a few, but it became oppressive when it insisted that the only truth is that there is none, depressive when it failed to provide any real alternatives to everything it denied, hypocritical when it was unable to respond to its own contradictions with anything other than more layers of meta, and ridiculous overall in its contortions to discredit any viewpoint or philosophy of the past.
posted by blue shadows at 10:35 PM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


it became oppressive when it insisted that the only truth is that there is none, depressive when it failed to provide any real alternatives to everything it denied, hypocritical when it was unable to respond to its own contradictions with anything other than more layers of meta, and ridiculous overall in its contortions to discredit any viewpoint or philosophy of the past.

Very nihilistic, yeah. To me that's it's most defining feature.

(A thrill when you're younger, and a drag when you're older.)
posted by Skygazer at 10:10 AM on August 21, 2011


Very nihilistic, yeah. To me that's it's most defining feature.

Well, there's nihilism and there's negation. Nihilism is bad as everyone who's seen The Big Lebowski nine times knows. It's the WORST -- those people don't believe in anything. Negation on the other hand is just a tactic, a protest, a means to focus the ongoing argument that is culture. Punk rock did a lot of negating as did so many of the great 70s American movies we still all swoon over (Apocalypse Now, French Connection, Five Easy Pieces, Chinatown, Network). In military terms, negation is akin to laying down a vicious covering fire. The intent is not to destroy anything, just to make certain positive, forward, avant-garde actions possible. Long live negation.

Finally having just re-read the article and a bunch of this thread, two things come to mind:

1. the guy bit off way more than he could chew; even if he does have a point, he doesn't deliver it well, particularly if the best he can do in rapping it up is to sing the praises of Jonathon Franzen and basically say that craft is now more important than ideas. No it isn't. We need both which gets us to ...

2. no mention anywhere of Frank Gehry. Now there's a future I can believe in.
posted by philip-random at 11:39 AM on August 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


... by which I mean, I miss the Frank Gehry mention. I want to live in that future. Just because I stopped with the psychedelics over a decade ago doesn't mean I don't want my big buildings bulging and melting, breathing and convoluting.
posted by philip-random at 12:07 PM on August 21, 2011


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