like modernism, follows most of these same ideas, rejecting boundaries
between high and low forms of art, rejecting rigid genre distinctions,
emphasizing pastiche, parody, bricolage, irony, and playfulness. Postmodern
art (and thought) favors reflexivity and self-consciousness, fragmentation
and discontinuity (especially in narrative structures), ambiguity,
simultaneity, and an emphasis on the destructured, decentered, dehumanized
But-while postmodernism seems very much like modernism in these
ways, it differs from modernism in its attitude toward a lot of
these trends. Modernism, for example, tends to present a fragmented
view of human subjectivity and history (think of The Wasteland,
for instance, or of Woolf's To the Lighthouse), but presents that
fragmentation as something tragic, something to be lamented and
mourned as a loss. Many modernist works try to uphold the idea that
works of art can provide the unity, coherence, and meaning which
has been lost in most of modern life; art will do what other human
institutions fail to do. Postmodernism, in contrast, doesn't lament
the idea of fragmentation, provisionality, or incoherence, but rather
celebrates that. The world is meaningless? Let's not pretend that
art can make meaning then, let's just play with nonsense.
Source and further reading at: www.colorado.edu/English/ENGL2012Klages/pomo.html
A significant concept
of Postmodernism is the idea that everything is a copy something which
is a copy of something...which is a copy of... ad infinitum. This was
called simulacra by Jean Baudrillard:
has already happened....nothing new can occur, “ and “there
is no real world” (Rosenau 1992: 64, 110). Source:
Perhaps in the same
way that the Dada Movement of the 1910's-20's inevitably self-destructed
(Dadaist: "There are no rules!" Response: "Uh... is that
a rule?"), Postmodernism's nihilism is problematic. If nothing
is original, and if nothing has any sincere meaning, then you may well
ask, why would one bother to make anything?
Hence the rise of
the anti-hero art celebrity. If nothing means anything, and there is
no such thing as true creativity, then what reason is there to create
apart from an attempt to project one's own self?
Two more important
concepts in Postmodernist theory are semantics and semiotics - the study
of signs, signals and signifiers in language (written, oral and visual).
Barthes, along with other French literary critics, has heralded
the Death of the Author. Now meaning is supposed to come from an interaction
between the text and the reader: the reader of literature constructs
the text from his or her own unique perspective. Under postmodernist
theory, everything can be read as a text, and all readings of each
text are equally meaningful, if not valid. Meaning and truth are thus
plural, changing, and subjective. To give privilege to one truth over
another becomes an act of psychic terrorism. Source:
another significant Postmodernist idea. If nothing is original, then
why not just steal shamelessly? Pastiche, collage, deliberate reworkings
of reworkings of other people's words, art and ideas.
One site I love
is the Postmodernist Essay Generator: elsewhere.org/journal/
(the "Adolescent Poetry Generator" from the same site is amusing
too, and equally Postmodernist)
of Postmodernism is deconstruction.
philosophical method of choice for many postmodern thinkers is "deconstruction",
a term made famous by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida,
meaning a taking apart of the belief structures of Western science,
philosophy, and art. More specifically, Derrida seeks to take a text
apart, to reveal its inner contradictions, its hidden assumptions,
its moral and political hierarchies, its "warring forces of signification".
His preferred approach to the discovering of meaning is différance,
which means to defer, postpone, or put off a text's meaning, given
the central postmodernist premise that we should avoid forcing a given
interpretation on a text or person (which is itself based on the further
beliefs that all the world's a text, and that all readings of these
texts are equally valid). Source: www.hi.is/~mattsam/Kistan/postmodernismi/mann.htm
More about the
'debt to Dada':
rejected the modernist emphasis on truth, a variety of postmodern
“artistic” practices have been developed for the purpose
of steering science in new directions (Brady, 1998; Janesick, 1994;
L. Richardson, 1995, 1998; M. Richardson, 1998; Travisano, 1998).
Yet, while there have been some noteworthy attempts to organize
postmodernists around substantial scientific projects (Denzin and
Lincoln, 1994, 2000), no clearly defined postmodernist plan of attack
has yet emerged. Indeed, the inability of postmodernists to mount
a full counteroffensive to modernism has stimulated Lochner (1999)
to propose that postmodernism is simply a poorly repackaged version
of Dadaism, a nihilistic artistic movement. Lochner notes that,
shortly after being recognized as a definable movement in the arts,
Dada’s principal artists disbanded: once they had established
that their movement was opposed to all forms of standardized control,
there was nowhere else for Dadaists to go. Lochner even asserts
that certain leading figures in the contemporary postmodern movement
(Jean Baudrillard, in particular) have intentionally ignored their
debt to Dadaism for two reasons:
would establish that their revolutionary social theory was not,
in fact, terribly original.
This would also indicate that there was no future for postmodernism—either
in theory or practice.
Still, while the motives of some postmodernists may be rather dubious,
I do not think all the goals of postmodernism should be dismissed.
There are many important reasons to question and criticize the modern
world. However, as the Dadaists discovered long ago, the tactic
of abandoning truth is an entirely unworkable strategy (i.e., one
disavows every credible basis upon which to construct or criticize
knowledge). Further, it is not possible to base any sort of “movement”
on such a relativistic, nihilistic epistemology. Consequently, for
postmodernism to move in a more meaningful direction—a move
that has been called for by others as well (Brents, 1999; Campbell,
1998; Kincheloe and McLaren, 1994; Lange, 1998; McLaren, 2000)—I
believe that postmodernists must reinvigorate the roots of their
critique: how is it possible to organize a more just, fair, free,
equal, and democratic world? Oddly enough, these should sound like
familiar questions because they are precisely the same questions
posed by Enlightenment scientists. Source: theoryandscience.icaap.org/content/vol001.001/05mcgettigan.html
(simulacra): Something that replaces reality with its representation.
Jean Baudrillard in "The Precession of Simulacra" defines
this term as follows: "Simulation is no longer that of a territory,
a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models
of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.... It is no longer
a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is
a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real".
His primary examples are psychosomatic illness, Disneyland, and
Watergate. Fredric Jameson provides a similar definition: the simulacrum's
"peculiar function lies in what Sartre would have called the
derealization of the whole surrounding world of everyday reality".
examples of Postmodernism in action (well, Kat's possible examples
since there are no facts...):
Michael Gonry's video for Bjork's song Bachelorette,
the idea of a Simulacrum is explored. As a book she finds in the
forest (entitled "My Life") becomes published and her
popularity rises, the sincerity of both the book and
the accolades it receives diminishes, shown by the increasing
size of the book at the hands of the dodgy Agents and Publishers,
and the increasing artificiality of the audience and environment.
The world around her becomes a theatrical set with the people
around her no longer those she knows, but actors playing their
the end of the video however, she returns to the forest/nature.
This (possibly) positive conclusion is the least postmodern aspect
of the clip though, as postmodernist philosophers would argue
that there WAS no original state (even in nature).
picture book, "Where the Wild Things Are"
by Maurice Sendak, like the nursery rhyme "Row Your Boat"
puts forward the idea that reality could, in fact, be a dream.
Barney's "Cremaster" series of films are an excellent
example of Postmodernism in Fine Art.