Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Death of Postmodernism: PoMo versus Po-Pomo

The virtual political poltergeist of Joe the Plumber, has finally been banished from this Blog, and I return with pleasure to our past discussion about the direction in which contemporary art and art criticism is headed. In this entry I will meta-critique the article “After Postmodernism?” by David Bate, published in the Web magazine, Lens Culture. Mr. Bate asks a few questions, and I am paraphrasing – Is an ideological vacuum the fundamental characteristic of the Post-Postmodern - where has the Postmodern got to and what has replaced it? .

Just because an ideology does not name itself, it does not mean that there is not one. It may simply be that we have not managed to give a name to this post ‘postmodern’ condition.

Which brings me full circle to my January 17th journal entry, “After Postmodernism,” in which I claimed that the Post-Postmodern has not yet been named. And now, a few days later I wonder if it hasn’t been accidentally named - during the second half of the first decade of the 21st Century - the “Post-Postmodern” or “Po-Pomo” by a group of artists and art critics searching for something to grab hold of.

In his article Bate says that Postmodernism was named in the process of redefining / dethroning (my words) Modernism. That process included dealing with the notion that originality is primary, sine qua non to Modernism’s platform. Instead, the Postmodern claimed that no thing could be completely original, that the present always refers to or in some way quotes the past. That isn’t to say that we learn from the past, only that it is always part of any time and place. Art in that nexus was a recombinant soup of various elements from the past with the present. Thus (my own thought), Postmodernism, a way of thinking that claimed there was no such thing as universality was itself based on at least one all-encompassing concept - more, as we shall see.

Bate also refers to the notion of the text and “inter-textual reference” in Postmodernism leaving out the link between text and image, assuming that everyone knows that the two have become interchangeable.* He equates inter-textual reference with the banality of diurnal life, and the operations of new technological spaces like the internet. As example he uses Cindy Sherman’s work because she often referenced the category, Hollywood B grade films in her self-portraits, except that he calls them “trashy Hollywood films.” Bate continues in a negative paroxysm of Sherman's sliding textual references into a confused reality. He then generalizes that “It seemed, this postmodern culture was leaving behind 'reality' proper for a mediatized world. That is to say, postmodern culture was characterized as an environment of frenzied inter-textual reference,…”* I concur with Bate that sliding and/or inter-textual reference leading to confusion is indeed a characteristic of the Postmodern, though I can't agree that the use of sliding and/or inter-textual reference equates to the trite in contemporary life and the new technologies as well. In that case we would have to do away with Andy Warhol's Campbell Soup can, Brillo Boxes, and all the Serigraph portraiture. I personally am not willing to do away with Andy or any of Modernism and Postmodernism - all of the Twentieth Century simply because it demonstrates the impossibility of achieving a singular truth.

To be continued


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


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.

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.

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.

Wilson, Fred, “What Comes After Post Modernism,” in A VC: Musings of a VC in NYC, Viewed 11:03 AM EST, Sunday, January 3, 2010.

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