postmodernism is dead

Edward Docx says Postmodernism is Dead – in this article in Prospect.

Appropriate that the announcement should come via an exhibition, at the V & A no less.

Docx gives his definition of Postmodernism and says its death is heralded by

three ideas, of specificity, of values and of authenticity, (which) are at odds with postmodernism. We are entering a new age. Let’s call it the Age of Authenticism and see how we get on.

“Authenticism” (to me) sounds rather too worthy but it’s a persuasive line for all that.

Although I sometimes wonder whether there isn’t as much of value in the concept of Trash as Authenticity. Put another way, what, au fond, is more authentic than trash?

But maybe those are post-postmodern questions?

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  1. “Authenticism” is indeed loaded with all kinds of worthy, not to mention New Age associations. Whatever grows out of the postmodern-levelled field, let us hope and pray it is not the New Age, with its shrivelled intellect and sweaty physicality.

    “Trash as Authenticity” suffers from not actually being post-postmodern: as a statement it is in fact postmodernism carried to an exultant extreme in its refusal of any substance even in polar opposites. Nor does this giddy high note signal a falling-away of postmodernism: this is the lethal populist fall-out carried in the postmodernist warhead.

    If we are to transcend postmodernism it is not by abandoning the reins of culture to subatomic punditry. Edward DocX’s article adduces “authenticity” etc. as a panacea to “the world we now find ourselves in”. This gives the game away as regards the level of his discourse, for the same has always been true of every era and of every idea, including those millions which have never attained the status of a movement.

    Postmodernism itself is, after all, an attempt at an authentic interpretation of the world.

    This I think is the key to understanding postmodernism. It is not a movement at all, but a meta-movement, a kindred spirit to every moment in the history of creative art when an artist has transcended their own time’s vocabulary. In its innocent way, it is simply an essay on the essence of greatness.

    What remains, if one thus discounts the “post-” as being an over-excited puffball or manifesto, an almost adolescent rebuttal of whatever happens to be ascendant at that moment, is the legacy of Modernism. The games of postmodernism have not dissolved the structures they were pitted against, nor have the great Modernists been answered or refuted. We are all the more terrified by Picasso and Cezanne. And Eliot of course – horrible old bigot, but “a condition of complete simplicity/Costing not less than everything” is the finest verbal articulation of the Modernist challenge. It is this challenge that Postmodernism flunked in its loved-up, flakey way, which is why it is only a meta-movement, and it is why the kitchen sink prevailed over Cubism.

  2. What the world lacks now is not some rootsy, therapy-stained, PH-balanced “authenticity”, it is reckless heroism to meet the modernist challenge. The poets of old led armies into battle hurling their satires at the opposing king. Galileo went to the stake not as a scientist but an artist. The burning human heart blasts the thatch from the rooves of the meek and demands recognition. It desecrates the insured life, the assured future, the planned retirement, the just reward, the affordable art and all the other sugary homilies strewn before the sleepy herd to get them to eat their hay.

    The first broadside against the puniness of postmodernism came from the Latin artists: “The more personal I become, the more universal I become” as Amaldovar said. The one element that cannot be captured by postmodernism is passion: the pure conviction that, whatever its shortcomings, the white light of individual insight has the force to overturn all vested interests, even that of the self. The great retreat of culture’s ocean leaves the seabed naked and invites the tsunami of Passion, the rampant offspring of postmodernism. Spare me your Frantzens: they are the old ladies knitting in their deckchairs that have an ear for the panicked chatter around them, but no imagination for what it might mean. Spare me your post-po-mo “real artists” – they are just performing seals begging for fish from the proletarian tourists. Spare me above all the damp discussions of bottom-feeding artists hoping to find progress within the cosy terms of postmodernism.

    Whatever the babbling classes think might be “next”, will not be next: for postmodernism has above all succeeded in colonising the entire universe of critical discussion, so that it lolls like a bubble of pus from the syphilitic cock of the cosseted sun-king.

    The hero has learned, like Cuchullain, an absolute discipline in the halls of postmodernism. And yet, like Cuchullain, when his moment comes he will rise up as a terrifying, unruled force and scream “Fuck context! Fuck reference! Fuck investigation! Fuck interrogation! And lo, he will fuck the world, in its eye-socket.

    (Written after only half a bottle of wine and a long day.)

  3. stirring stuff, i hope you finish the bottle, too.

    i agree punditry is often piffling and the “post” in postmodernism may well be such.

    an excess of the self-referential tends to cloy, it is so.

    those terms – modernism – postmodernism – are the taxonomy of the aesthetic – a shifting taxonomy – and i often think that romanticism and classicism are not “dead”, but coexist alongside all the schools and umbrella terms that succeeded them.

    what is “authentic”? the term does somewhat smack of the bromide…

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