Post-postmodern stuff

Postmodernism is over, at least according to V&A museum in London. On 24th september a new exhibition is opened, titled postmodernism.It’s really interesting to see what’s coming after. A few posts back I covered “Alter modernism” as  a suggestion to what might come after. Now I came across an article in Prospect magazine’s, where Edward Docx describes what he believes is on the rise. He believes what’ll come after can be defined as specificity, authenticity and values. He exemplifies it as the rise of the local food movement, of the bar menus that use the word “proper” to describe beers. A revival for craftmanship, in short, something “real”.

My favourite blog Partial Objects refers to this article. The article in Prospect magazine made the blogpost author Pastabagel think of Arcade Fire’s lyrics:

Now the kids are all standing with their arms folded tight
Kids are all 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
I said some things are pure, and some things are right
But the kids are still standing with their arms folded tight

So young, so young
So much pain for someone so young
Well, I know it’s heavy, I know it ain’t light
But how you gonna lift it with your arms folded tight?

-”Month of May” by Arcade Fire

In this article, a future with the end of “cool” and “I couldn’t care less” – type of trend is proposed. According to the article and its comment thread, there are people who expect the future to be a bit optimistic, naive even, featuring things “pure and right”. Commentators suggest for instance, that new idealism related to environmentalism or optimistic absurd existentialism may be on the rise.

The discussion inspired hanba to find a few artworks to illustrate the comments.
Here is an artwork by an Alter Modernist Pascal Marthine Tayou exemplifying environmental idealism. Erin Hanson can serve as an example of optimistic absurd existentialism. A comment about not keeping the arms folded, doing something pure and right suggests idealism, which makes me think of the Alter Modern artist Bob and Roberta Smith. (of course you can see it as irony that the artist is charging for the postcards portraying “things pure and right”)

The comment thread also lifts up a question about all the people who don’t “fit in” the alter modern world. Who don’t subscribe to the creolization and are anti-immigration. The question is if this “flip side of multiculturalism” is also post-postmodern? The author of the blogpost, Pastabagel, describes that the last line in the Arcade Fire excerpt sounds like a grandfatherly advice. Perhaps the next generation will look up to the grandparents’ generation for “things pure and real.” Well, the grandfathers fought wars affiliating with a national state. Borders and fronts were in vogue. Perhaps the rise of neo-nationalism and anti-immigration can be seen as an undesired effect of being inspired by the grandparents’ generation?

Can post-postmodernism mean both alter modern and the negation thereof? Sure this “creolization” is going on, but the anti-immigration narrative is also on the rise (speaking with an European perspective here.) For example, a nationalist anti-immigration party in Finland had a very long art manifesto in its party program, suggesting state funded art grants be given to artists that portray Finnish national values and the Finnish experience.

Postmodernism started in architecture, and in architecture it has ended for a long time ago. Can we use architecture as a crystal ball to see how the post-postmodern narrative will turn out? Let’s see what’s the fashion in architecture today. The answer is white, plastered, simple lines. Only a few ornaments, lots of light. Bauhaus is as cool as ever. In other words, neo-modernism is in vogue. Neo-Bauhaus is here, suggesting we may well see more influences from the grandparents’ generation.

Is the rise of the “pure and right” a form of good old modernism rising its head again? Back to idealism, back to the modern project, man on his way to the moon? Can post-postmodernism be a form of neomodernism? Environmentalism, for instance, can be considered an idealistic project. (I guess one difference between modernism and post-postmodernism is that the latter seems to have risen from the grassroots rather than top-down.)

Time will tell what will happen. I think we’ll see the rise of things “good and pure”, but that it means quite different things to different people.


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