Postmodernism Revisited

There are several ways that postmodernism has been defined. One of the ways that it has been defined is as troubling to me as it is to many PoMo detractors. That being so-called "moral relativism". When human beings can no longer tell right from wrong we cease being human beings. I think that view is a corruption of postmodernism. Just because everyone has their own version of reality does not mean that each view is of equal value. If someone's reality is that it is OK for people to suffer needlessly – well my reality is that that person is wrong and should be stopped. But… for me postmodernism is mostly a descriptive term for the era that we live in.

Here is how I would describe it:

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".

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

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

It includes two broad, basic, concepts.

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.

2) Baudrillard's "simulacrum" – the copy without an original. This can best be seen in American television. TV shows an idealized fictional reality which people then emulate and which television then reflects back to them again. Another way of thinking about this is as a hall of mirrors, an endless reflection of reflections.

Beyond those two key factors postmodern philosophy becomes very muddled and confused as it begins to get tied up in knots. It becomes completely useless as a basis for anything besides high-minded parlour games. I mean once people start using rational, logically constructed arguments to "prove" that logic and rationality don't matter, the whole exercise becomes ridiculous.

From an artists point of view postmodernism is really just something to have fun with. Artistic eclecticism opens the doors to all kinds of creativity. Video art, sound art, language poetry, etc. are all examples of postmodern artistic expression. Also, since art has always tried to reflect back an interpretation of the artists reality, the simulacrum is already "built-in" to an artists life and, I think, always has been.

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Allan Revich is an artist and musician living in Victoria, BC, Canada. Artwork includes traditional media including ink and paint, as well as intermedia such as websites, performances, and event scores. Musical activity includes blues bands playing harmonica and lap steel guitar, as well as playing ukulele, guitar, and flute. 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!".


  • Nicolas Carras

    That is not the eclectism that open doors in art , eclectism use the open doors\n\nTo make what I call art without rules, they put everything together to make what I call postmoderne art\n\nThey use Duchamp as a master. There are rules in Duchamp’s way of thinking\n\nI used to listen to all his interviews, everything is calculate, everythings have aura whith Duchanp\n\nA lot of artists made a very bad interpretation of Duchamp’s vision\n\nAll the art of 20 century have to be analyse again and again to understand.\n\nCause you can understand an art explosion like that without taking more and more retrait\n\nEverything have to be analyse again, we need another century for this\n\nNicolas\n\n\n\n

  • Nicolas Carras

    And there is a difference between eclectism and heteroclism, and postmodernism seems to forget this difference

    That is not because you are eclectic in art that you are for heteroclism

    Duchamp was in opposition with what he used to call “pure painting”, he stoped to be a painter at a moment of his life.

    Postmodernism say that you can put a painter with a videaste, with conceptual art etc… Here the heteroclism. Here the big problem with contemporary art

    No direction, no opposition, non sens, everybody together. All the forms in a mix

    It become eclectic and heteroclite

    And in final

    The taste of things disapeard

    Postmodern art have no taste in the works, in the global vision

    You can put progressism with concervatism

    And in final we ask this question “what it is ?”

    But they will say ” why art have to be something”

    “Who are you to say this is art or not art” etc

    They became sectarist, and reactionnar when they say they are against reactionnarism.

    I’m reactionnar, but in a Rimbaud way, in a Duchamp way, in a Dadaist way.

    Oppositions are the sens of art

    Put out oppositions in art and you create a monster



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