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Postmodernism: A Response from Keri Marion

My friend and fellow artist, Keri Marion wrote a detailed response to my article, Postmodernism Revisited, which I have published (with her permission) in full below. I like her point of view and mostly agree with what she writes. My point about postmodernism being better described as "late modernism", refers more to  philosophical  relativism than to postmodern art and cultural activity.

Here is what Keri has to say: 

"- Pre-modernism was defined by powerful external forces like the church and the monarchy. "Reality" was whatever the chief or the shaman said was "real"."

There's also the fact that we are learning creatures. The "Old Masters" were interpreting space as "reality" in the sense that they were attempting to depict the three-dimensional world in a two-dimensional space. This served both a learning purpose and a functional purpose of recording history visually. Of course, we all understand that the recording was created from one person's perspective, and therefore completely unreal or non-relative in Modernist terms. The Church and Monarchy had great influence on the propaganda that was to be displayed, yes, but truthfully it was the "visual image maker" or "artist" that created the work, therefore in reality it was completely up to (more often than not) "him."

Think Carravagio, the dirty-foot master! The only reason his pieces were commissioned was because he was so skilled at what he did - otherwise, he was more of a nuisance to the Church. Things don't change that much, really.

"- Modernism was characterized by humanist rationality - the search for "universal" truth - think of Descartes, Voltaire, Spinoza, Darwin, etc."

In the quest for learning and exploring, as humans are naturally driven to do, Modernism found itself in the midst of a technological revolution: Industry. Of course the Modernists started to explore their reality in a flat way. Why continue working in three dimensions when you can consider the medium itself, offering a new sort of validity? The Modernists, like every era, were seeking Truth. They were no longer interested in depicting pictorial images because the "truth" was that "this is a canvas" or "this is paint from a tube" or "this is wire" or any sort of self-referencing material is what it is and nothing more than that.

"- Postmodernism in my view isn't really "post" modernism at all, but a term used to describe late modernism."

I believe Postmodernism actually is Postmodernism. It is clear to me that the ideas presented in Contemporary Art (the genre, not the timespace) are, in fact, established from a different point of reference and in that Postmodernists seek a different truth than Modernists. In some ways Postmodernists can revisit the Old Master philosophy of "pictorial art" but then take it further: dissect it, rearrange it, use it in different contexts, etc. There are some crossovers in every era - some people working way ahead of their times and other people working way behind the times. Either way, one can clearly see a shift in art-making since 1970.

"1) Eclecticism - there is no longer the need to find the "One Right Way", or the Universal Truth. Every person has their own version of what is real. ***This is sometimes misunderstood to mean that all versions are equally valid*** I think that this is what you (rightly) object to."

I think this clearly marks the transition from Modernism to Postmodernism. The term I've like to use in the past is "metahistorical" meaning in Postmodernism we can't say "this is truth" or "that is truth" because we recognize the perspective. What is truth for me isn't truth for you. We have our own version of what is real because reality is conceived by our experiences. In other words, we see with our experiences, not with our eyes. That marks the biggest, most solid difference between work made today and work made 400 years ago. And yes, it gets a little muddy here and there because every era had free-thinkers.

I do agree that the definitions of these things are "high minded parlour games" but at the same time I think it's fun to discuss. Thanks for giving me an excuse!

Keri Marion

Make Nonsense out of Something
http://www.kerimarion.com

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Published on Categories Fluxus

About Allan Revich

Allan Revich is a Toronto artist and writer. His work has appeared in numerous publications, in international exhibitions, and on many websites. He is active in the international Fluxus community. He currently writes poetry, creates visual poems, and works with photography. His work includes Web-based art, mixed media art, and mail art. His books, Headline Haiku 2006, Headline Haiku 2007, and Fluxus Vision are available internationally on Amazon.com and its affiliates, as his most recent collection of poems, "Flux You!".

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