Sunday, February 28, 2010

Post-Postmodern: Conclusion

The following is total speculation. I make no claim to rigorous scholarship. Instead, I am playing with a particular notion.

During the past two months I have written about the Postmodern (Pomo) Versus the Post-Postmodern (Po-Pomo), primarily a monologue about a contemporary critical and metacritical approach to the visual arts. Finally, I came to a four-part conclusion. First, many of my readings that speculate about Post-Postmodernism indicate that a characteristic of the Po-pomo is the use of new technologies to slide any viewer away from a centered position into confused realities. Instead, this is a characteristic of both the Pomo and Po-Pomo. Second, an actual / real new Po-Pomo characteristic seems to be the artist’s intent to inflict discomfort while refusing to communicate a specific message. * Third, It is too soon to be certain about the complete contents of a Po-Pomo philosophical bag of tricks. Fourth, I am certain that the Postmodern and Post-Postmodern must be intimately related, sort of like a dog chasing its own tail. They are not opposed to one another, and that means that the change from one to the other does not represent a paradigm shift.

The two month on and off lengthy discussion of the Pomo versus the Po-Pomo also started me to thinking about extreme change in the arts, and in the culture at large, an actual paradigm shift, like the change in the visual arts at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, from the 10,000 year history of representational art to the concerns of extreme abstraction and non-objective Modern Art. That change in the Arts had been preceded by the shift from monarchy to democracy in both the American, and the French Revolutions. And, it was accompanied by the destruction of the monarchy in Russia. Thus I maintain that a paradigm shift is often accompanied by extreme political, social, and/or cultural upheaval. An actual paradigm shift would be like a massive social earthquake followed by a long period of recovery and pronounced change.

Today, in the United States of America, no matter how much change anyone predicts we continue to limp along in the same direction the West has maintained for hundreds of years, binary opposition in all matters. It is always one political party versus the other, one race versus the other, one religion versus the other, one sexuality versus another, one theory versus another, and one art form versus another. For every idea there is an equal (perhaps not so equal) and powerful opposite. All of our processes whether philosophical, spiritual, political or intellectual are reduced to one thing versus another. Instead, as the structuralists through to the Postmodern deconstructionists in various fields demonstrated, binary oppositions while they may be the most important way humankind thinks, are at the very least problematic.*2 They provide an easy way to avoid a much more complex structure that is more appropriately graphed on a three-dimensional matrix rather than the single one-dimensional line of opposition.

I’m not wishing for a paradigm shift in the Arts, because, as I observed above, an actual paradigm shift in the Arts is usually heralded by something like the First Russian Revolution of March 1917 in which the Tsar and his family were deposed. That revolution unfortunately led to the Bolshevik Revolution of the following October which led directly to the murder of the Tsar and his family, and finally to the excesses and genocide of the communist government under the megalomaniac, Joseph Stalin. Then there is the French Revolution of 1789 that led to the “The Reign of Terror” and masses of guillotined aristocrats and ordinary citizens. I could provide more examples, but you see my point. Never the less, being immersed in all the argument and division caused by our myopic oppositional vision is extremely frustrating, and the temptation to react in an emotional contrary motion to any perceived direction is, as both the revolutions mentioned above demonstrate, inaccurate and probably unhealthy as well. So, I’m reduced to a condition of stasis, just as our own political system seems to be paralyzed in a paroxysm of oppositional frenzy.

Instead, I would much rather see a paradigm shift in which we attempt to turn away from binary opposition toward a more complex model of thought. What about substituting the 3-dimensional matrix for the single one-dimensional line created by binary opposition? That would be a drastic change in the way Western culture approaches the universe. Why not push that model forward, and how might that be accomplished? Would it be taught in schools? What would be the effect of such a drastic change in the way we conduct our intellectual lives? And, by extension, what new kind(s) of political system(s) – other than anarchy and revolution - would such a model encourage? How would such a change affect human spirituality and religious institutions? What changes might we see in the way science is performed in our culture? Or is that the way science is supposed to be performed? And, most importantly to me, what new direction(s) would we take in the arts?


* The first observation was based on my reading of David Bate among others.

• Bate, David, “After Postmodernism?” in Lens Culture,, © 2005. Viewed 10:35 EST, Friday, January 15, 2010.

*2 I make this observation based on some of the following readings.


Derrida, Jacques. Of Grammatologie. Trans. with intro. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.
---. The Truth in Painting. Trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian McLeod. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987.
---. Writing and Difference. Trans./Intro. Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.

Fleck, Ludwig. The Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1981.

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality: Volume 1, An Introduction. trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Random House, 1978.
---. The History of Sexuality: Volume 2, The Use of Pleasure. trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Random House, 1985.
---. The History of Sexuality: Volume 3, The Care of the Self. trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Random House, 1984.

Frankel, Vera, The Body Missing Project. Toronto: 1995. On line. Available from http// (Jan. 21, 2000).

Holly, Michael Ann. Past Looking: Historical Imagination and the Rhetoric of the Image. New York and London: Cornell University Press, 1996.

Kirby, Alan, Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure our Culture. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd. (2009).
---------------- “The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond,” Philosophy Now, No. 58, 2006. Viewed on line 9:-- AM EST, Wednesday, January 6, 2010.

LeVautour, Bernard P. Provencher. “The Death of “Pseudo-Modernism” and Beyond; A Return From “Critical Realism.” In Le Vautour Chronique, Viewed 10:50 AM EST, Sunday, February 7, 2010.

Levi-Strauss, Claude, Structural Anthropology. New York: Basic Books (1663).

Lyotard, Jean-Francois. “What is Postmodernism.” reprinted as an
appendix to the English edition of Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition, 71-82. Harrison and Wood, 1008-1017.

Schaffner, Ingrid and Matthias Winzen (eds.). Deep Storage: Collecting, Storing, and Archiving in Art. Munic: Prestel, 1998.

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