Post-postmodern self-reflection

Here’s how hanba is post-postmodern, as defined in the previous article.

-Nurses a belief in local food, good food. Trying to reduce the grocery shopping, because it’s depressing and the food has low quality. Ordering organic vegetable boxes delivered to the door.

-Bought a really expensive blender instead of a cheaper one, because after reading hundreds of customer reviews, we realized that we just cannot afford a mid-level priced blender, since they only come with a 6 months warranty and a user base complaining about the poor quality.

-Prefer “proper” beers.

-Took up carpentry for three weeks ago.

And for those of you thinking, oh hanba you’re such a snob, I’d like to add that Hanba doesn’t believe in wasting money on things like housing, transportation or clothes.

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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.

Enter urban jungle

In the art/architecture scene there was a period with green hype around 2009. The cities were to become green again; balconies, windowsills, rooftops were to become local farms – to connect us with the food supply, the nature, all the things good and green. (See for instance here or here).

However, nature is not just home made tomato chutney. Greenization comes with issues. Enter nature, enter the battle between man and nature. How about having insects and/or pesticides all over our cities? I can see the rats loving the new urban farms. Some places have recently suffered from an increase in “city rabbits”, and after them, “city foxes”. What’s next, “city wolves?” How about bugs? The bed bugs, that basically disappeared in the 50s (as a result of DDT), are back, having invaded thousands of hotels, camping sites, malls, movie theaters. They’ve even taken over the ladies’ clothes section of Macy’s in New York. Nature making a comeback.

Recent years have brought forth huge rising numbers of youth unemployment. In the west, there are huge numbers of unemployed young people without a sense of belonging to society. This is a threat to the social contract altogether. Take the riots in England, for example, where the laws appear to be out of the window. Ask any 20-year old from England or elsewhere, if he or she identifies with society. Even if they aren’t out on the streets wreaking havoc, the answer might be no. Maybe they say something about everybody looking out for their own interests, or refer to “the law of the jungle”.

Architecture has at times been notoriously naive about the human nature. Take all the housing projects in the 60s and 70s, that were supposed to be all about the good for the people. Well, many of them have become slums now. So, be careful what you ask for when you make visions of an urban jungle. We might get exactly that.

May 7th 2011 – Manifesto

Have you noticed a change in the world in the recent decade? I think a lot of us have, but we still keep on living as in the 20th century. Here are some myths that still exist from the 20th century (in no particular order).

Myth 1 – It is possible to get an adequate and truthful picture of the world through media. Many of us would agree to this statement, but still consume mainstream newscasts.

Myth 2 – There will be enough money in the system for my pension. I will be able to and can afford to retire. The terms and conditions for pension packages in the western world are unsustainable. Too generous terms, too many old people in relation to the young people. Too few babies as future taxpayers, labor or investors.

Myth 3 – The institutions around me are benevolent. Many governmental as well as private institutions were created post-WW2. This was a different time with different resources and do not function optimally in today’s world. Many of the institutions have become giant behemoths operating on their own inertia, responding slowly to change. They live a life of their own; they are hard to steer and perhaps even immune to the changes in political plane. Governments and ideologies come and go, leaving only a superficial impact on the institutions.

Myth 4 – The young people will have at least as good a standard of living as their parents did, or perhaps better. Increasing housing prices has created a barrier of entrance in the housing market for the young people. Many young people carry unsustainable housing debts. This compared with the next variable makes the ‘western model’ difficult to achieve for the young people.

Myth 5 – Rising youth unemployment does not matter to me. The youngsters can blame themselves if they can’t find jobs. (They’re just lazy anyway.) A person’s identity is well established by the age of 30. When young people (here meaning under 30 years) have no jobs, they’ll stay outside society. The social contract between them and the surrounding environment will be broken, with implications on society as a whole, possibly even leading to a larger scale disarmament of institutions over time. (For instance, it is already harder to find young people to stand up as witnesses in court or to get them to vote in elections.)

Myth 6 – It is possible to have a society with full employment. What do we in the post-industrial west are going to live off of? The factories have already moved to China. How about the ‘know-how’, engineering, design and mid-level management? These positions can be moved to China as well. Maybe the innovation and creativity-type jobs stay in Silicon Valley or Milan, but all the rest can go to China. What will replace this?

Myth 7 – The power is with the voters. The ‘institutions’ are massive, and profound policy changes hard to achieve. Changing the institutions takes longer time than governments or councils sit. The true power politicians have over the institutions is limited and superficial. The bureaucrats often have employment security lasting their whole working life, and it is often the same bureaucrats run the systems regardless of which parties hold the political ‘power’.

What will the future hold if the statements above actually are myths? Maybe Hanba’s wrong and all the ‘myths’ above will hold true. What do you think?

Have you seen a show called the wire? Hanba recommends!

The post-postmodern era has begun?

The current trends, motives and messages of art have ventured so far away from the original postmodernism that the contemporary art can no longer be called postmodern, postulates the French curator Nicolas Bourriaud.

The beginning of this suggested new, ‘altermodern’, era was the Tate Triennal exhibition at 2009. Altermoderism is suggested to deal with the following concepts:

The conflict between the global and local no longer dominates. A different relationship to culture and identity is suggested. We are no longer bound to a nation at a given time. The concept of identity is ‘creolized’, i.e. bits and pieces are gathered here and there. The individual places have lost their concrete meaning due to increased communication, travel and migration. Journey, movement is depicted, across both space and time.

The exhibition itself in Tate Modern had eight themes:

-energy

-travel

-viatorization (viator=to travel – gives movement and dynamics to form)

-borders

-archive (contemporary/history mixed)

-exiles

-heterochronia (existing within many times)

-docu-fiction

Time will tell if the concept catches wind. Hanba is puzzled by the term itself. Alter modern as in alter ego? Different modern? Or alter as in the German word for old? Old modern? Why choose to call the era modern at all? If we really are past both the modern project as well as the critique therof, why even bother with the word modern? Why these nine themes? Is alter modern a thematically narrow era? Surely art can deal with other themes than these nine?

Still, hanba’s excited to think the times are finally changing… 🙂 Personally not interested in any more critique of the modern project or puzzling intertextuality for the ‘already salvaged’.

Examples of artists? Walead Beshty, Bob and Roberta Smith, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Fatimah Tuggar.

Further reading: Tate Modern’s Alter Modern exhibition page.

From Freud to Neuronovel

Do you, behind your computer screen, consist of a set of dopaminergic, GABAergic, noradrenergic neurons firing in a haphazard manner? Consider this suggestion for a minute. Many of us feel an instinctive repulsion towars this thought. Surely there must be more than that? Some, on the other hand, may feel comfort in the thought – this is all we are, phew! There is something that takes the ‘blame’ away from human mistakes or ‘sins’ if it’s all just a matter of chemistry.

People asking themselves how to view the human mind generally fall under one of two camps; the positivist and the hermeneutic. During the 60’s and 70′, many psychologists, social scientists as well as artists preferred the latter branch. The DSM III, a diagnostics manual used by the psychiatrists back then, was heavily influenced by Freud and people believing human behaviour could be interpreted through childhood traumata and different developmental phases of the ‘psyche’, or the ‘mind’.

Since, a more positivistic view has gained ground. Psychiatric conditions have been considered to arise from chemical imbalances, neurons firing astray and from other biological cues. This view has been supported by the Big Pharma, as in the concept of ‘chemical imbalance’ lies a promise of cure through a pill. The current version of the psychiatrists’ diagnostics manual, the DSM-IV, has been influenced by the Pharma. Some diagnoses, such as panic anxiety, became popular first after it was discovered that it can be treated with a specific drug (SSRI, selective serotonine uptake inhibitor).

The last years has seen a rise in ‘positivist literature’, where the human mind is described as ‘neurons firing’,  where behaviour can be interpreted in terms of biological illness, such as flaws in DNA coding (for example through Huntington’s disease), or where encounters between people are reduced to quantum physics.

Here are some examples:

Ian McEwan: Enduring Love

Ian McEwan: Saturday

Mark Haddon: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

John Wray: Loveboy

(here I count even Juli Zeh’s: The Dark Matter)

Thus far, most ‘neuronovels’ have focused on characters with a disorder. Perhaps in the near future we can read about a ‘diagnose-free’ character whose whole life is explained in terms of neurons firing?  (If you already know of such a title, please recommend.)

Here’s some further reading about the neuronovel.

Gossip and art

Detest the yellow press and gossip? Bored with all the ‘stars’ who get their fifteen minutes of fame? Don’t really care for the chitchat and cocktail party yapping?

If you say yes, please consider the following scenario: you are an upcoming artist interested in gaining audience, wondering what way to go. In this situation, I’m not sure if I’d rather try to make my name the new buzzword, or submit my work to an authority figure for approval. The former requires social skills and the latter… well – it’s great if you please the authority figure, but if not, you’re out of the game.

Gossip is accessible, cheap and ‘democratic’, having bypassed authoritarian structures with a selected few as gatekeepers. And it’s the method of choice in today’s world, it seems. Luckily enough, hanba is not an artist.