From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Postmodern dictum: There is no truth, there are only versions.
"One important consequence of the new sensibility [is] that the distinction between "high" and "low" culture seems less and less meaningful." --"One Culture and the New Sensibility", Susan Sontag, 1965, illustrating what would be termed nobrow.
“Modern architecture died in St. Louis, Missouri on July 15, 1972 at 3:32 pm when the infamous Pruitt-Igoe scheme, or rather several of its slab blocks, were given the final coup de grace by dynamite.” -- Charles Jencks
"Pop in the broadest sense was the context in which a notion of the postmodern first took shape, and from the beginning until today, the most significant trends within postmodernism have challenged modernism's relentless hostility to mass culture." -- After the Great Divide (1986) - Andreas Huyssen
The postmodernisms have, in fact, been fascinated precisely by this whole “degraded” landscape of schlock and kitsch, of TV series and Reader's Digest, of advertising and motels, of the late show and the grade-B Hollywood film, of so-called paraliterature, with its airport paperback categories of the gothic and the romance, the popular biography, the murder mystery, and the science fiction or fantasy novel: materials they no longer simply “quote” as a Joyce or a Mahler might have done, but incorporate into their very substance. --Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism , Fredric Jameson, 1984
"The demolition of the Pruitt–Igoe complex is the end of modernist architecture and modernism itself. The building of Centre Pompidou constitutes the official inauguration of postmodern architecture and postmodernism itself. Most cultural movements are heralded by architectural structures. They are evident in the streets, and are the surest way of invading the thought of mainstream culture."--Sholem Stein
Postmodernism is a term applied to a wide-ranging set of developments in philosophy, architecture, art, literature, and culture, which are generally characterized as either emerging from, in reaction to, or superseding, modernism.
Postmodernism (sometimes abbreviated Pomo) was originally a reaction to modernism (not necessarily "post" in the purely temporal sense of "after"). Largely influenced by the disillusionment induced by the Second World War, postmodernism tends to refer to a cultural, intellectual, or artistic state lacking a clear central hierarchy or organizing principle and embodying extreme complexity, contradiction, ambiguity, diversity, and interconnectedness or interreferentiality.
Postmodernity is a derivative referring to non-art aspects of history that were influenced by the new movement, namely the evolutions in society, economy and culture since the 1960s. When the idea of a reaction to—or even a rejection of—the movement of modernism (a late 19th, early 20th centuries art movement) was borrowed by other fields, it became synonymous in some contexts with postmodernity. The term is closely linked with poststructuralism (cf. Jacques Derrida) and with modernism, in terms of a rejection of its bourgeois, elitist culture.
The term was coined in 1949 to describe a dissatisfaction with modern architecture, leading to the postmodern architecture movement. Later, the term was applied to several movements, including in art, music, and literature, that reacted against modern movements, and are typically marked by revival of traditional elements and techniques. Postmodernism in architecture is marked by the re-emergence of surface ornament, reference to surrounding buildings in urban architecture, historical reference in decorative forms, and non-orthogonal angles. It may be a response to the modernist architectural movement known as the International Style.
If used in other contexts, it is a concept without a universally accepted, short and simple definition; in a variety of contexts it is used to describe social conditions, movements in the arts, and scholarship (incl. criticism) in reaction to modernism.
The term "Postmodern" was first used around the 1870s. John Watkins Chapman suggested "a Postmodern style of painting" as a way to move beyond French Impressionism. J. M. Thompson, in his 1914 article in The Hibbert Journal (a quarterly philosophical review), used it to describe changes in attitudes and beliefs in the critique of religion: "The raison d'etre of Post-Modernism is to escape from the double-mindedness of Modernism by being thorough in its criticism by extending it to religion as well as theology, to Catholic feeling as well as to Catholic tradition."
In 1917, Rudolf Pannwitz used the term to describe a philosophically-oriented culture. His idea of post-modernism drew from Friedrich Nietzsche's analysis of modernity and its end results of decadence and nihilism. Pannwitz's post-human would be able to overcome these predicaments of the modern human. Contrary to Nietzsche, Pannwitz also included nationalist and mythical elements in his use of the term.
In 1921 and 1925, Postmodernism had been used to describe new forms of art and music. In 1942 H. R. Hays described it as a new literary form. However, as a general theory for a historical movement it was first used in 1939 by Arnold J. Toynbee in his A Study of History: "Our own Post-Modern Age has been inaugurated by the general war of 1914-1918."
In 1949 the term was used to describe a dissatisfaction with modern architecture, and led to the postmodern architecture movement, perhaps also a response to the modernist architectural movement known as the International Style. Postmodernism in architecture is marked by the re-emergence of surface ornament, reference to surrounding buildings in urban architecture, historical reference in decorative forms, and non-orthogonal angles.
After that, Postmodernism was applied to a whole host of movements, many in art, music, and literature, that reacted against tendencies in the imperialist phase of capitalism called "modernism," and are typically marked by revival of historical elements and techniques. Walter Truett Anderson identifies Postmodernism as one of four typological world views. These four world views are the Postmodern-ironist, which sees truth as socially constructed; the scientific-rational, in which truth is found through methodical, disciplined inquiry; the social-traditional, in which truth is found in the heritage of American and Western civilization; and the neo-romantic, in which truth is found through attaining harmony with nature and/or spiritual exploration of the inner self.
Postmodernist ideas in philosophy and the analysis of culture and society expanded the importance of critical theory and has been the point of departure for works of literature, architecture, and design, as well as being visible in marketing/business and the interpretation of history, law and culture, starting in the late 20th century. These developments—re-evaluation of the entire Western value system (love, marriage, popular culture, shift from industrial to service economy) that took place since the 1950s and 1960s, with a peak in the Social Revolution of 1968—are described with the term Postmodernity, Influences on postmodern thought, Paul Lützeler (St. Louis) as opposed to Postmodernism, a term referring to an opinion or movement. Postmodernism has also be used interchangeably with the term post-structuralism out of which postmodernism grew, a proper understanding of postmodernism or doing justice to the postmodernist thought demands an understanding of the poststructuralist movement and the ideas of its advocates. Post-structuralism resulted similarly to postmodernism by following a time of structuralism. It is characterized by new ways of thinking through structuralism, contrary to the original form. "Postmodernist" describes part of a movement; "Postmodern" places it in the period of time since the 1950s, making it a part of contemporary history.
Influence and distinction from postmodernity
Postmodernist ideas in the philosophy and the analysis of culture and society, expanded the importance of critical theory, and has been the point of departure for works of literature, architecture, and design, as well as being visible in marketing/business and the interpretation of history, law and culture, starting in the late 20th century. These developments — re-evaluation of the entire Western value system (love, marriage, popular culture, shift from industrial to service economy) that took place since 1950/1960, with a peak in the Social Revolution of 1968 — are described with the term postmodernity, as opposed to the "-ism" referring to an opinion or movement. As something being "postmodernist" would be part of the movement, "postmodern" would refer to aspects of the period of the time since the 1950s, a part of contemporary history; still both terms may be synonymous under some circumstances.
Influence on aesthetics
The idea of Postmodernism in architecture began as a response to the perceived blandness and failed Utopianism of the Modern movement.Modern Architecture, as established and developed by Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier, was focused on:
- the pursuit of a perceived ideal perfection;
- the attempted harmony of form and function; and,
- the dismissal of "frivolous ornament."
They argued for an architecture that represented the spirit of the age as depicted in cutting-edge technology, be it airplanes, cars, ocean liners or even supposedly artless grain silos.
Critics of Modernism have:
- argued that the attributes of perfection and minimalism are themselves subjective;
- pointed out anachronisms in modern thought; and,
- questioned the benefits of its philosophy.
The intellectual scholarship regarding postmodernism and architecture is closely linked with the writings of critic-turned-architect Charles Jencks, beginning with lectures in the early 1970s and his essay "The Rise of Post-modern Architecture" from 1975. His magnum opus, however, is the book The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, first published in 1977, and since running to seven editions. Jencks makes the point that Post-Modernism (like Modernism) varies for each field of art, and that for architecture it is not just a reaction to Modernism but what he terms double coding: "Double Coding: the combination of Modern techniques with something else (usually traditional building) in order for architecture to communicate with the public and a concerned minority, usually other architects." In their book, "Revisiting Postmodernism", Terry Farrell and Adam Furman argue that postmodernism brought a more joyous and sensual experience to the culture, particularly in architecture.
Literary postmodernism was officially coronated in the United States with the first issue of boundary 2, subtitled "Journal of Postmodern Literature and Culture", which appeared in 1972. David Antin, Charles Olson, John Cage, and the Black Mountain College school of poetry and the arts were integral figures in the intellectual and artistic exposition of postmodernism at the time. boundary 2 remains an influential journal in postmodernist circles today.
Some other significant contributions to postmodern culture from literary figures include the following:
- Jorge Luis Borges experimented in metafiction and magical realism
- William S. Burroughs wrote the prototypical postmodern novel Naked Lunch and developed the cut up method (similar to Tristan Tzara's "How to Make a Dadaist Poem") to create other novels such as Nova Express
- Samuel Beckett attempted to escape the shadow of James Joyce by focusing on the failure of language, schizophrenia, and humanity's inability to overcome its condition, themes later to be explored in such works as Waiting for Godot.
It is possible to identify the burgeoning anti-establishment movements of the 1960s as the constituting event of postmodernism. The theory gained some of its strongest ground early on in French academia. In 1971, the Arab-American theorist Ihab Hassan was one of the first to use the term in its present form (though it had been used by many others before him, Charles Olson for example, to refer to other literary trends, as discussed above) in his book: The Dismemberment of Orpheus: Toward a Postmodern Literature; in it, Hassan traces the development of what he called "literature of silence" through Marquis de Sade, Franz Kafka, Ernest Hemingway, Beckett, and many others, including developments such as the Theatre of the Absurd and the nouveau roman. In 1979 Jean-François Lyotard wrote a short but influential work The Postmodern Condition: A report on knowledge. Richard Rorty wrote Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979). Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, and Roland Barthes are also influential in 1970s postmodern theory.
The postmodern impulse in classical music arose in the 1970s with the advent of musical minimalism. Composers such as Terry Riley, John Adams, Steve Reich, Phillip Glass, and Lou Harrison reacted to the perceived elitism and dissonant sound of atonal academic modernism by producing music with simple textures and relatively consonant harmonies. Some composers have been openly influenced by popular music and world ethnic musical traditions. Though representing a general return to certain notions of music-making that are often considered to be classical or romantic, not all postmodern composers have eschewed the experimentalist or academic tenets of modernism. The works of Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, for example, exhibit experimentalist preoccupation that is decidedly anti-romantic. Eclecticism and freedom of expression, in reaction to the rigidity and aesthetic limitations of modernism, are the hallmarks of the postmodern influence in musical composition.
In the 1970s a group of poststructuralists in France developed a radical critique of modern philosophy with roots discernible in Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger, and became known as postmodern theorists, notably including Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, and others. New and challenging modes of thought and writing pushed the development of new areas and topics in philosophy. By the 1980s, this spread to America (Richard Rorty) and the world.
Techniques: appropriation (art) - collage - deconstruction - death of the avant-garde - eclecticism - fragmentation - intertextuality - montage - nonlinearity - parody - pastiche - playfulness - the techniques of Pop Art - randomness - self referentiality - relativism
Preceded by: Modernism
- Five Faces of Modernity (1977|1987) by Matei Calinescu
- The development of postmodernism
- Aesthetic relativism
- Discontinuity (Postmodernism)
- List of postmodern authors
- Postmodern architecture
- Continental philosophy
- Postmodern psychopathic characters
- Criticism of postmodernism