CCTP-725: Cultural Hybridity/Remix Culture: Weekly Seminar Discussion
Week 2

Zachary Allard

Post-modernism (post-modernity, the post-modern) is a complex and often contradictory concept that resists easy definition. Martin Irvine’s rubric/dissection of the term, “Approaches to Po-mo” is an excellent snapshot of the difficulty inherent in such an elaborate concept. It encapsulates the plethora of variant uses, contexts, and definitions which actually plague the term(s) and, for all intents and purposes, appear to make the concept defunct. On the second page alone, there are six very different definitions of the term “postmodern.” It can mean, “after modernism,” “contra modernism,” “equivalent to late capitalism,” “the historical era following the modern,” “artistic and stylistic eclecticism,” and “global village phenomena.” Any kind of fruitful discourse using the term post-modernism and its variants has to spend so much time defining exactly what is meant that it would seem the concept needs to be replaced by a series of terms that are more specific and therefore more useful for discourse.
This is in no way a criticism of the article; rather the term (post-modernism, the post-modern, post-modernity, what have you) itself appears to have collapsed beneath its own weight. This is not to say that the effects and situations described by post-modernism are not accurate or have not occurred. However, it appears to be so loaded with various phenomena that it has lost all meaning. Everything from post-colonialism cultural realities, to the miscegenation of highbrow and lowbrow art falls under its purview. This is why the term “post-post-modern” (or an equivalent) is important. Post-modernism (and its various forms) at this point seems to be little more than a catch-all for any complicated cultural, political, or economic aspect of the last fifty years. Not only is a new term like post-post-modern necessary, it would appear beneficial to give new words for the various strands of everything “post-modern.” An appeal to popular culture and the “low-brow” is one of the earmarks of this time/movement, yet the term remains difficult for even the most disciplined scholar because it can be so cavalierly used. It has essentially become like the word, “everything,” an abstract pronoun that can refer to anything and therefore nothing. The present period or era demands new term because “post-modernism” has been rendered semiotically empty.

The differentiation between pastiche and parody that Jameson asserts in his writing was something that caught my attention in this week’s reading. After reading his definition of pastiche as “blank parody” I began to think about what that truly means, and also if I fully agree with or challenge that definition. Merriam Webster’s dictionary has two distinct definitions of pastiche, __ – neither of which explicitly state the lack of elements of parody that Jameson seems to assert is completely absent in pastiche. One example of a musician whose work has been labeled musical pastiche is Richard Cheese. This artist takes songs, generally rap or hip hop, and rearranges and performs them as lounge numbers. He’s had a bit of success and has even headlined locally at the well-known and loved 9:30 club. Here is his version of Snoop Dogg’s Gin & Juice,

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As I sat watching this Richard Cheese video again, trying to determine if his work was truly pastiche or parody – I also considered the idea of reappropriation. Cheese takes a song that was popular in another genre, reworks the instrumentation, and adds a melody line that works with the new orchestration, and has his own form of art. I wonder where the intersection lies between reappropriation and pastiche. His style would likely not be considered sampling, because he’s taken something that existed in a very different musical form and created something new, but I wonder if critics view his reimagining as art or as a spoof? The definition of pastiche suggests only an imitation of style – not a reappropriation of some portion of existing work, in this case lyrics, which remains entirely intact. However, much of Cheese’s appeal comes from the completely different setting of the music, yet in this instance, I wouldn’t so quickly define it as simply a cover of Snoop Dogg’s Gin & Juice. I’m still struggling to determine if I find Cheese’s work to be aligned with the definition of pastiche, but I do know one thing, if pastiche is blank, as Jameson espouses, then Cheese certainly doesn’t fit the mold.

Jess Perlman

by Alicia Dillon

The postmodern is simultaneously involved in a forward moving, yet often irony based commentary. This irony allows it to both make commentary on current social matters, as well as create work that frames social trends to activate age old ideas of the commodification of culture. In his piece on the Location of Culture, ever dense cultural theorist Homi Bahaba remarks that, "It is in the emergence of the interstices - the overlap and displacement of domains of difference - that the intersubjective and collective experiences of nationness, community interest, or cultural value are negotiated. How are subjects formed 'in-between', or in excess of, the sum of the I parts' of difference (usually intoned as race/class/gender, etc.)? How do strategies of representation or empowerment come to be formulated in the competing claims of communities where, despite shared histories of deprivation and discrimination, the exchange of values, meanings and priorities may not always be collaborative and dialogical, but may be profoundly antagonistic, conflictual and even incommensurable?" So surely, national identity both constitutes as well as forms artistic practices and in exchange our perception of our global bodies.

Today, with the rise of the global marketplace, cultural capitol has cross-bread in across borders, and artists take both this homogenization of global culture as well as the interplay of the Western art-market into consideration when producing work. The TV show Mad Men is an excellent example of the ways in which American culture functions, past and present, as a globalizing force.

The cast of Mad Men demonstrates both the home and work as well as consumerist culture of 60's America
The cast of Mad Men demonstrates both the home and work as well as consumerist culture of 60's America

But it is not 60's America which remains so applicable, most pognant perhaps is the way which as a cultural object MAd Men has inspired a rebirth of the "look and feel" of the era-- notably in fashion collections: further iterating the ways in which we create objects which locate and express our culture.