CCTP-748: Week 9: Discussion

Postmodernism to Post-postmodernism: Overview of Postmodern Theory and Current Issues

Postmodern theories, with their mix of discourses and terms, are easy to parody, but there are useful models for thinking to consider as we look at cultural history over the past 100 years.

Lyotard, Jamison, and many others focus on:

History, Ideology, Belief

After Modernism: The disenchantment with beliefs and ideologies behind ideas of the grand trajectories of history (Metanarratives, Master Narratives)

Examples: the myth of Progress or Marx's view of the inevitability and necessity of capitalism coming to its own end.

At root is a questioning or reflection back on Western beliefs in a telos (Greek, end, goal), the problem with a teleology (belief or their of the end-directedness of history) whether religious (Christian eschatology [literally, "the hidden things" "final things"] or belief in "end times" or conclusion of human history in a divinely ordered plan) or secular/material (many argue that Marx's view is a secular version of a religious eschatology).

Modernism-as-instrument-to-find-Utopia, as envisioned by political philosophers, Bauhaus designers, architects, artists of the pre-WW2 era, seemed to have completely failed.

The belief in history as a social-political movement with a necessary outcome, an irresistible inevitability, had supported both Fascist and Communist movements with disastrous consequences from the 1930s-1960s.

The Grand March views were no longer sustainable: telling people you are either with the necessary and irresistible direction of history (i.e., on "our side") or a "counter-revolutionary" (on one side) or "unpatriotic" (on others), and therefore can be eliminated, was impossible to defend.

Cultural Hierarchies, Styles and Histories, New Genres, Popular Culture

The loosening of control over cultural production and hierarchies of culture after WW2 and mass media, the mixing of styles and histories in both popular culture and "high" official culture, in architecture, music, art, photography, film, new media.

Combining a mass-cultural retreat from the "buy in" required in Grand Narratives, in the belief systems or ideologies with Utopian teleology or religious ends, with greater freedom in hierarchies of culture, we get the beginnings of Pop art, avant garde music, postmodern architecture.

Style Becomes Stylization

In architecture and art, what was once a period style with all the historical and symbolic associations with a rootedness in a material moment, now becomes stylization, the remix of styles and mediums in new contexts never possible when keeping to strict contexts and a narrative of development.

Earlier views of tradition within a form (architecture, art, music, fashion, all media) held to a story of development, a sequence necessary steps from one move to another, one context to another. This belief entailed the commitment to creating the new as an interpretation of the possibilities in tradition, not a break with it.

Old styles and sources can be remixed in new contexts for new meanings.

--Martin Irvine

Thinking with postmodern theory: collapsing genre hierarchies

Andy Warhol, Gold Marilyn, silkscreen ink and metalic paint on canvas, 1962
Andy Warhol, Gold Marilyn, silkscreen ink and metalic paint on canvas, 1962

Stylization: Film Noir merged with cyberpunk
Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982)

Architecture: Frank Gehry

Suz S.

“But the fact in most developed societies remains: as an artistic, philosophical,and social phenomenon, postmodernism veers to-ward open, playful, optative, provisional (open in time as well as in structure or space), disjunctive, or indeterminate forms, a discourse of ironies and fragments, a “white ideology” of absences and fractures, a desire of diffractions, an invocation of complex, articulate silences.” - Hassan

Irvine’s notes about how postmodernism is about the "loss of 'master narratives' of cultural and national origins that justify or give meaning to present-day identities, destinies, or inevitable or predetermined futures” brings to mind such works as Memento, where the film is shot in flashbacks but cuts to haphazard moments in the story, so that we’re never quite at ease as to what we can or cannot understand.


The main character Leonard never understands his world as a linear narrative, because he suffers from short-term memory loss and his world is constructed through other characters’ framing of events. He tattoos himself to remind himself of his mission, and this attention to surface—the violent self-infliction of the tattooing helps him remember what is “real” to him. However, he doesn’t always know who or what to believe and neither does the audience. The anti-linear narrative also makes the movie audience pay more attention to the very way we tell stories on screen by being antithetical to the norm. In this way, the movie is very playful—playing with our expectations of what we understand as cinematic narrative (and we have to understand the norms in order to feel challenged by the new), and what we and the main character understand as reality.

The Wikipedia page says describes postmodernism as a "movement away from modernism.” I found that interesting--most of the time, epochs of art are called ‘movements,’ but post-modernism in its very definition is in reaction to, in response to, in defiance of the more tidy bounds of not just modernism, but ‘movements’ as a force to be pinned down, hedged in. Hassan discusses how the name postmodernism is essentially a problem of non-definition and too parasitic on the preceding movement.

Cindy Sherman is one of those artists that always seems to amuse, surprise and provoke me. She took photography and the traditionally-male ‘gaze’, and turned the concept on its head, becoming the subject/object of the gaze as well as the producer/director of the photograph. She plays within tropes of genres, the melodrama, the femme fatale, the victim as well as androgynous characters.


The real trick to me is that though her scenes are set up, against the medium of the photograph (which traditionally was the document of truth-telling in news) they play with what we understand as our mediated reality. She is, after all, really photographing herself, and isn’t the interpretation of the photograph always framed by the context, the viewer, the history, making it never truly “real” to anyone at any time? These ways of seeing through the medium as well as our breaking down our preconceived notions of gender, form, play, and art—through postmodernism, we can focus on the signifier, the vehicle of our perceptions, instead of the object of the signified. We also recognize ourselves as sharing in the meaning-making, where the meaning is only a fragment, not a whole.

Quote from Sherman: I didn't want to make "high" art, I had no interest in using paint, I wanted to find something that anyone could relate to without knowing about contemporary art. I wasn't thinking in terms of precious prints or archival quality; I didn't want the work to seem like a commodity.”

And a bumper sticker from this morning (perhaps they don't understand postmodernism): “Just because no one understands you, doesn’t mean you’re an artist.”

Erin Coleman

The Beatles are a great example of the transition from the modern to the postmodern. The ultimate example of popular culture, The Beatles bridged these two cultural phenomenons with enormous success. While I enjoy their music and find them to be a fascinating lens through which to catch a glimpse of ‘60s culture, I do not claim to be a Beatles expert by any means. However, this is the very reason I chose to focus in on Beatlemania: virtually everyone that has lived (and had a passing encounter with Western culture) over the past half-century is at least moderately familiar with the band and its impact on popular culture.

While their earliest music remains well within the bounds of the barbershop quartet/popular variety, as their musical careers progressed, the Beatles began to meld genres, incorporate elements of high and low culture, and exhibit the sense of fragmentation and multiple identities characteristic of postmodernism. One of the most obvious examples of these phenomena at work is the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, and more specifically, its final track “A Day in the Life.” Here’s a youtube version that shows the infamous cover art (itself a cultural icon that has been imitated in countless forms over the years):

I’ll hazard a guess that everyone in this class has heard the song at least once, but if you haven’t, it’s worth checking out regardless of your musical inclinations. Pay particular attention to what happens around the 1:48 mark. A full orchestra in the middle of a pop song? If that isn’t an example of hybridization and the melding of high and low culture, I’m not sure what is.
The Beatles were a cultural phenomenon that permeated the worlds of art and film. The precursors to the subjects of the MTV generation, the Beatles took their musical act far beyond the boundaries of the realm of music. Pop music to this day (and much more so than in the ‘60s) is inseparable from fashion, television, and film, and it all started with the Beatles and their peers. The band starred in five feature-length films, named and modeled after five hit albums (A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, The Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine, Let it Be) and helped launch cover art into the artistic realm. Look at the two examples of cover art below for a glimpse at the transformation the band went through over the years. The development of MTV in the early ‘80s, specifically the art form of the music video, took the cultural pioneering of the Beatles to a whole new level, but it started here. image beatles-revolver-cover-art.jpgevolver-cover-art.jpg__

external image beatlesiwanttoholdyourhand2wp.jpg

Ariel Leath

Rifling through my English major roommate’s bookshelf I stumbled upon a sliver of a book called “Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction.” Christopher Butler, the author, seeks to define and describe this era in a few pages, to dissect the “they” of postmodernists. It didn’t take him long to make a pretty fantastic claim (page 2, to be exact):

“It [the ‘postmodernist party’] is certain of its uncertainty, and often claims that it has seen through the sustaining illusions of others, and so has grasped the ‘real’ nature of the cultural and political institutions that surround us.”

Watching the short video on Frank Gehry seemed to appeal to this idea in the truest sense; that, as an architect (and architecture has a distinct formula, a method) Gehry saw through what other’s determined to the “way” to create a structure. His method wasn’t linear and it created a product that had elements of myriad predecessors, but was created in a wholly new method. One of the interviewees described Gehry as “creatively living in the moment,” and I am starting to realize that this is what a lot of postmodernist creators may be doing.
I wasn’t too surprised when the Susan Sontag interview pretty much echoed this same idea:

“So it wasn't this is "here," and that's "there," and I can make a bridge. It was that I understood myself to have many kinds of experiences and pleasures, and I was trying to understand why that was possible, and how you could still maintain a hierarchical sense of values.”

I couldn’t help but think of today’s music when reading these opinions and expressions.

Britney Spears – Hold It Against Me

Ok, opinions aside, I think this video is an excellent example of postmodernism. The video starts out with a view of Earth from space, with the words “Earth 2011” shown in a futuristic style. This vintage sci-fi allusion sets the stage for what ends up being a mash of elements of vintage sci-fi (the titles, fonts, special effects) with incredibly modern staging and costumes. But wait, it gets better. Post-verse, Britney transforms from the sexed up “mod” dancer to a more classic “Britney” – (1:02). Britney is calling on all sorts of genres as well as elements from her own musical past, creating a visual map of her current and past successes. She is portraying living in the moment (lustfully seeking a stranger in a weird, futuristic club) while notably calling on past elements.

The Books – A Cold Freezin’ Night

Double whammy – the video AND song (is that what this is called?) are appropriate here. The Books, as I’ve said before, use audio and video samples found on old tapes (sometimes from consignment stores, sometimes from home collections) to create a type of music that I consider unique, though it comes directly from pre-existing elements. This seems incredibly postmodern, in my opinion – taking what already exists and taking it completely out of context to create a medium that has no regard to the preconceived “rules” defining music.
This song is a mash-up of children talking incredibly honestly about each other and themselves. The video follows the same trajectory, while it is spliced so that it follows the beat of the music and the lyrics. Butler describes postmodern visual art in a way that I think can also describe this music:

“Postmodern art… it resists the master narrative of modernism, and the authority of high art which modernism itself takes from the past, and it worries about its own language”

Is this post-postmodern? If you have some time:

Stephanie Stroud


15th Century Aztec Fan by Albert Watson

Q. If no ideas are original, how are new genres born?
A. By combining pre-existing ideas.

While I can't deny the existence of postmodernism and post-postmodernism, I don't agree that it can be characterized by neo-Luddism; new age religions, Alternative family units and - most especially for me - promiscuous genres. Hassan stated it best: The term postmodernism is not only awkward; it is also Oedipal, and like a rebellious but impotent adolescent, it can not separate itself completely from its parent. In other words, we define postmodernism in relation to the genre from which it was born: modernism… and I would argue that this is exactly the relationship between all genres and their "parents". Yes, we have experienced shifting values, new mediums for self expression and promiscuous genres, but ultimately, when haven't we? Promiscuity - within culture, masculinity/femininity, morality, art, law, religion, relationships, etc - has ALWAYS existed, and it has ALWAYS been a driving factor for change. Many "new age" religions aren't new in any way, and humans have "been there done that" with alternative family models. In short, postmodernism, is no more or less promiscuous than any other genre.

The shifting boundaries between human and machine, and the emergence of hypermedia has definitely been transformative and definitive. Some of the strongest evidence I see for the existence of a new genre lies within business. Companies are struggling mightily to adapt to technology and figure out viable business models. Lyotard writes:

The pertinent distinction would no longer be between knowledge and ignorance, but rather… between units of knowledge exchanged in a daily maintenance framework (the reconstitution of the work force, “survival”) versus funds of knowledge dedicated to optimising the performance of a project.

On a personal level, we are struggling to adjust to all the information at our fingertips. And again, I have my doubts as to whether this is distinctly "postmodernist". A note on communication overload from The 99 Percent:

Complaints about “information overload” date back as far as the invention of the Gutenberg press (“What are we supposed to do with all these books?!”), and we’re experiencing similar anxiety in the face of a wave of new devices and social media tools. While it may be natural to take a “poor me!” approach to communication overload, it’s foolish to pretend our own output doesn’t play a huge role in what comes back to us.

As a recent Boston Globe piece points out, it takes two to tango:
A new technology does not act alone, after all, but in concert with our ambitions for it. Overload has long been fueled by our own enthusiasm — the enthusiasm for accumulating and sharing knowledge and information, and also for experimenting with new forms of organizing and presenting it.

Garden of Eden by Jacques Olivar

Brittany Coombs

What do the Clash and John Cage have in common? At first, seemingly nothing – it’s British punk-rockers against an American composer best known for four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence. But Jameson points out how even such ostensibly unrelated artists have one thing in common – they are postmodern because they subvert dominant social and cultural foundations about music and art. While Lyotard was the jargon-slinging academic who filled in some key theoretical holes for me regarding postmodernism, Jameson brought the theories home with constant concrete examples. I was spurred to go to Wikipedia and look up the various genres of postmodernism that Jameson refers to, and I was at first confused when I saw that many postmodern works of art are simultaneously ascribed to different, even conflicting, po-mo movements. But then, it occurred to me: Lyotard’s point that postmodernism defies categorization and rules because it is looking for new categories and new rules applies even within postmodernism itself, as a whole.

Johns' "Flag"
Johns' "Flag"
Consider Jasper Johns’ famous 1954 work Flag
– oil and college on fabric mounted on plywood. People view Flag and understand it’s a representation of the American flag but are not emotionally moved by symbolism because Flag is not swinging from a flagpole, or being folded decorously, or saluted at dawn, or anything that real flags have done to them. Flag is often categorized as abstract expressionism and pop art, although these po-mo movements are often viewed as reactionary or contradictory to one another. It’s impossible to view Flag and not think, despite how obvious and rudimentary the thought is, “Hm, this is not a real American flag.” As Lyotard says, it’s a presentation of the unpresentable by calling attention to the difference between what could be there (“the conceivable”) and what is there (“the presentable”).

I was also really intrigued by the discussion both Jameson and Lyotard have regarding kitsch. I’m not sure, but they seem in slight disagreement. Lyotard calls wearing Parisian perfume in Tokyo while eating McDonald’s food kitsch in a disparaging way, as if “kitsch” means lazy confusion on the part of consumers to distinguish between cultures. But Jameson seems to think kitsch is postmodernbecause of how it blends cultures. Both relate this to postmodernism’s assault on the academia's ivory tower, which represents the great wall between high art and common commercialism. A great example of both points is found in the recent trend of orchestras performing video game music. Music is an aural experience; video games are primarily visual. Classical music has a niche market, while video games epitomize mass consumption. (No one waits in lines around city blocks to get the new digitally remastered Chopin.) Classical music is a European/Western tradition, and many of the orchestras that perform video game music are Japanese. Does that mean when the Tour de Japon performs the main theme ofFinal Fantasy VII, it’s a postmodern experience?

I’ll leave with a meandering thought about the “hipster.” Almost every generation in human history has had only three ways to look – above-standard due to wealth or high status; standard; and non-standard due to low status. Is ours the first era where there’s a fourth category – intentionally non-standard, i.e., hipster? Hipsters are walking examples of po-mp, with almost every style element chosen for its subversion of established codes and decontextualization of traditional fashion pieces (e.g., suburban kids wearing trucker hats, Generation Y-ers wearing accessories that stopped being cool before they were born, etc.) Is this why people hate hipsters – because subverting for the sake of subverting is lame?

Joshua Weaver

Hassan highlights a sort-of duality in the use and implications of postmodernism - a temporal identifier among the continuum of terminology for the theoretical period hodgepodge on one hand, and a stylistic identifier for the idiosyncratic art of pop, mass culture, play and "stylistic eclecticism" (Irvine 2), as well as the geopolitical and philosophical realms . Along with this duality comes the desire and utility of some form of calendrical line of demarcation to delineate between that which is modern and that which is postmodern. And, while with most every period of changing political, philosophical and artistic wavelengths, e.g. postmodern architecture, there's an emergence and a departure, postmodernism as a term works to confine movements in style, art, philosophy, etc. to a seemingly esoteric period of time that, albeit after "modernism", does not have a designated terminus. And, thus consequently pigeonholing "modernism" to an equally discretionary time frame before it. It seems that, rather than serving as an extension of "modernism", postmodernism represents many things antithetical to the tenets of modernism. This is demonstrated by the fact that two of our readings have charts that aim to differentiate "modernism" and postmodernism in linear, symmetric fashion. If modernism was defined by the sense of a "unified identity", then postmodernism is defined by the "fragmentation of identity." And, although these contrasting tendencies are only presented heuristically, one in particular piqued my interest -- the "rejection" and/or "suspicion" of the master narrative. In reading this, I immediately conjure up the American Tea Party Movement, as well as the slew of equally revisionist movements in many parts of Western Europe, etc. The congruently postmodern concept of "play" may allow us to scrutinize many of these narratives; however, these narratives seem to hold currency in aspects of society, especially in those closest to our conceptions of national identity.

Jameson's "Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism" piqued my interest, primarily because of its analysis of postmodern architecture. Having grown up in a city notoriously built by oil, money and the economy built more than homes and families in Houston, they built both cultural arts and one of the nation's most "postmodern" skylines. Postmodern's facet of "play" is evinced in the melange of architectural styles congealed into the city's many towering mid-1980s skyscrapers. "…the complacent eclecticism of postmodern architecture, which randomly and without principle but with gusto cannibalizes all the architectural styles of the past and combines them in overstimulating ensembles." (Jameson 10) Phillip Johnson's 56-story Bank of America Center, which was completed in 1983, exhibits the idiosyncratic juxtaposing of distinct architectural styles in an almost ostentatious fashion. The architect gained inspiration from the gothic architecture of The Netherlands' small canal houses and project it onto a 800-foot building. Another example is the 71-floor Wells Fargo Plaza, just blocks away from the Bank of America Center. Also built in 1983, the building still holds the title of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere made only of glass. Similar to L.A.'s Westin Bonaventure, the glass of the 1,000-foot building seemingly shuns the outside world by allowing passer-bys "only the distorted images of everything that surrounds it". The building's architecture is infused with symbolic grandeur. The ostentatious ornateness of the old buildings that lie in its shadow would be wasted at the Wells Fargo Plaza, rather the entire building - shaped as an abstract dollar sign, represents the power of wealth in an era of prosperity. These two examples of architecture emphasize the ironic and kitsch-like dynamic of postmodern art and architectural style, as well as the unbridled power of money and "late capitalism".

external image Bank_of_America_Center.jpg

external image Wells_Fargo_Bank_Plaza%2C_Houston%2C_from_base.jpg

Siyang Wu

when we use words like destructive, playful ,irony and doubles words to describe postmodernism, we are trapped in the thinking of Dichotomy. Attempt to compare postmodernism and modernism and make a list that clearly write down the difference between them seems too rational to obey the principle of postmodernism. Postmodernism is not trying to overcome and surpass modernism, but provide a new angle to view and handle the social issues, culture, history, art in new historical environment.

Every individual is a point of social net. I think postmodernism values the idea of different individuals which are too trivial to be unified. Postmodernism which tries to free people’s mind and thus looks like difficult to be defined and constrained. Rational and unified logical in modernism are corresponding to the logic in science and technology. However postmodernism is more likely to try to involve every individual’s idea into its system. it appreciates the existence of difference, admits and value the bias. Even facing the same issue, different people can gain different sense and capture different truth. That’s why I appreciate Jameson’s method to approach to history, “history is only accessible to us in narrative form”. Now the films always try to interpret history from the angle of normal people, describe their daily lives and experiences and provide audience the hints to track historical issues and to understand the social and political environment in a specific historical point. Unified judgement about a public idol, a famous social affaire and historical event are unacceptable now.

On Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest describes what happen in a mental institution, no word is given in the movie to discuss American social condition at that time. Michel Foucaul in his masterpiece Madness and civilization valued modern mental institution as an important organ of authority. As a movie in 1975, On Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest used metaphors to reveal the conflict in ideology and social institution, encouraged audience use their activities to grasp the truth for them own. And from audience’s perspective, great influence culture thought of anti-tradition, anti-order and anti-mainstream put on the art can be seen in this movie, which I think provided the basic idea of modernism.



Perhaps there is an aporiatic problem in making and defining an epoch. What kind of methodology do we use? history, academia, religion, politics, medicine, etc., all have their own periods of division imposed on them by historians and theoreticians, but culture and philosophy divisions are a little more difficult to establish because they are sort of 'metaepochs.' So Lyotardian incredulity towards metanarratives that is characteristic of postmodernism is paradoxical in the same sense that, according to Derrida, the center is both within and outside of the structure. So is the idea of petit recits a kind of metanarrative in that is is defining the sum of cultural activity? Perhaps bracketing a parenthetical "epoch" to ascribe a purported uniformity of characteristics to it is a kind of quixotic enterprise.

Maybe we don't passively notice patterns so much as we architect them. This is because in order to define a pattern we must leave things out. As the prototype theory in cognitive science demonstrates, some units in a graded category can be entirely antithetical in the majority of their attributes yet still considered to be in the same family of resemblance. It seems to me that 'noticing' patterns is a kind of function to make sense of things, to make them work, to demonstrate a mastery over them. After all an epoch like postmodernism is just a pattern in history that we distinguish from other patterns. To employ Rorty, maybe postmodernism is just a kind of writing within a kind of writing (cultural philosophical) steeped in the same discourse of legitimation is critiques and deconstructs. As Best and Kellner point out, "For critique to be justified and effective, it should preserve standards by which to judge and evaluate." Habermas pointed out the "performative contradiction" in the postmodernists' "failure to provide normative resources for ethics and political critique" (Best and Kellner). I think this paradoxical conclusion could have acted as a catalyst in ushering in a post postmodernity, which is a kind of Hegelian synthesis of the approach to establishing norms to discover positive truths (thesis: modernity) and the incredulity of metanarratives (antithesis: postmodernity).

The problem with attributing metaepochs to particular disciplines like art, politics, philosophy, urban planning, etc. is the misattribution of causality. The relationship between episteme and techne is complex and it seems that metatheories gloss over it. Is it possible for someone whose cognitive activity is largely governed by modernist ideas to create postmodern art? I think so. Mimesis in subcultures reflects a shift in techne methodology that might not be reflected in episteme. Some might say that it is possible to be postmodern and unaware of it. While I agree, if we accept the Rortian definition of philosophy, then postmodernity is largely confined to academia and its effects only trickle out into culture and the majority of that cultures participants are unaware of it and still thinking according to modernist ideas - a condition and a kind of writing. Perhaps another problem involving postmodernism is that it is an academic critique that proselytizes the activity of mass culture without its participants even knowing what it is.

Qres Ephraim
Postmodern Art and Reproduction

James’s Postmodernism and Consumer Society examines the Death of The Subject: “In a world in which stylistic innovation is no longer possible, all that is left is to imitate dead styles, to speak through the masks and with the voices of the styles in the imaginary museum. …”It means that one of its essential messages will involve the necessary failure of art and the aesthetic, the failure of the new, the imprisonment in the past.” (19)
Jackson Pollock is the first post-modern artist that I became familiar with. His paintings, comprised of disjointed and multi-colored splashes of color, have been hailed as major works of art. The canvasses, in my opinion, look as if a toddler went a bit crazy without parental supervision. It is the shunning of traditional art techniques, specifically that of s subject, that solidifies his work as postmodern.


Professors have told me Andy Warhol’s screen-printed images, such as the iconic Campbell’s Soup or Marilyn Monroe, challenged art conventions simply by creating works by utilizing reproductive tools. The aura, as Jameson would call it, is actually created by reproducing something and modifying an original. “It is appropriate to recall the excitement of machinery in the moment of capital preceding our own, the exhilaration of futurism, most notably, and of Marinetti's celebration of the machine gun and the motorcar. These are still visible emblems, sculptural nodes of energy which give tangibility and figuration to the motive energies of that earlier moment of modernization.” (Jameson Pt. III)

Art like this only works because, as Lyotard notes, “Capitalism inherently possesses the power to derealize familiar objects, social roles, and institutions to such a degree that the so-called realistic representations can no longer evoke reality except as nostalgia or mockery….”(74) Postmodernism is all about revoking the powers that be; in this case, it means painting beyond what art critics and brokers could find value in. This meant that artistic communities were forced to create their own values and standards that were not rooted in the commoditization of art. Despite the ironic fact, that both Warhol and Pollock’s work became hugely popular and reproduced, the basis in the work is that of rebellion and shunning the modernist standards.


So here we are at the ironic end to it all. Unable to escape a term that defines the images on our television and the design of the house in which we consume them, which isn't a design at all but an empty copy of a design, chosen for it's aesthetic value and juxtaposed against the contemporary art that hangs on the wall and the record collection that samples itself.

Let's describe a hairstyle and comment on the downfall off the academy in one sentence.

Let's be that self-reflexive.

It's not really our fault that Picasso became bourgeois. We can blame our parents, or the Academy, shake our fists at the museums and condemn the middle class for making Brecht so goddamn acceptable, but playing the blame game doesn't really get us anywhere... The fact is, we weren't the ones who canonized oppositional culture, but we're the ones living with the consequences of doing so. I make it sound as if I oppose postmodernism, and while I have my doubts, I do have a fond spot for the new sensibility. I have a BA in film after all, and have spent way too long writing papers about sitcoms and the like, which would have been entirely pointless if it weren't for postmodernism. Plus, I'm a pop junkie. From Bonnie and Clyde to Rebbecca Black, I'll lap it all up and marvel at it's consumption and aesthetic.

To give American Theory it's dues, the French were second to comment on this phenomenon! That being said, the French said a great deal and it was pretty important. While Lyotard's theory of metanarratives proves interesting, I find his focus on the discourse of knowledge in Western society proves most fascinating. Knowledge, according to Lytotard, had become what is economically or culturally valuable as opposed to what is true. The consequences of this adjustment on the Academy perplex me, is it better to learn what is false but functional, or to search for truth (if such a thing exists?)

As for Jameson, and a return to this side of the Atlantic, I have mixed feelings. Much like reading anything by the Frankfurt School, I get very depressed when I read Jameson, mostly because I am unable to disagree with him... I always end up hating the fact I love Back to the Future.

When so much derives from Ctrl + c, Ctrl + v, it's hard to say we're not a culture of quotations. And a temporal one at that, in fact, it doesn't matter what the original was because for us it only exists as the present object. Our culture is schizophrenic, and we have no time for the past. I try to make a point of reading something a little less pessimistic after Jameson to make me feel better about enjoying American Idol, I usually turn to Jenkins or Collins, sometimes Brooker and Brooker, to make me feel better, because while I agree with Jameson, it doesn't actually bother me too much that culture is commercial. I just don't agree that economic value inherently subtracts from other values (aesthetic, moral, political). I guess that means I'm not a Marxist...

And I don't think I'm a postmodernist either, in part, because, like Lyotard, I don't think modernism is quite over. If postmodernity is meant to bring about the collapse between high and low art, why does Warhol sits in art galleries? Why do middle class parents play the Beatles? Why have I watched Grand Canyon in an academic setting? Don't even get me started on HBO or, um, this seminar... You can't help but admire modernism as a wolf in sheep's clothing, fooling us all that Standards are no more... and secretly working to canonize the uncanonizable. What else can be said? Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown?


Zachary Allard

“The fact that the DJ or the programmer or artist uses already existing forms in order to say what they want to say is something that is certainly the most important thing at the moment because it totally goes beyond the art world.” -Bourriaud

The post-modern has become all but passe in American culture and in particular, film. The vanguard of the post-modern in film is (of course) Quentin Tarantino. While his entire catalogue, could be viewed as remarkably--even definitively, post-modern--Kill Bill is an especially apt example. It is a film about an elite assassin bent on revenge after being put into a coma after she leaves her lover/boss. It is a silly-sounding synopsis but an incredibly complex film that mixes different genres and cultural milieu into something entirely unique born out pre-existing cultural tropes.

Probably the best example of this, would be the animated sequence in
Kill Bill Volume 1. The films are for the most part live-action. However, in detailing the past of one particular character, Tarantino opts for an animated sequence in the style of an Asian anime film.

This sequence demonstrates the main indicators that Professor Irvine laid out in his overview.
Kill Bill is an American film from an American director using a style primarily associated with Asian cinema. Thus, it is a perfect example of, “hybrid styles, cross-historical and cross-cultural appropriation.” The character described is a half-Chinese, half-Japanese, American Army “brat” which typifies a , “loss of a sense of “purity” of origins, and an awareness of mixed identities, ethnicities, social classes, nationalities, language communities.” And, there are many more examples that could be taken from this sequence alone. The entire film fuses disparate parts into a new whole. Tarantino combines elements from Kung Fu films, anime, Westerns, and so on like DJ sampling different albums. He, “uses already existing forms in order to say what they [he] want to say.”