Metamodernism is a term employed to situate and explain recent developments across current affairs, critical theory, philosophy, architecture, art, cinema, music and literature which are emerging from and reacting to postmodernism.
The term metamodernism was introduced as an intervention in the post-postmodernism debate by the cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker in 2010. In their article ‘Notes on metamodernism’ they assert that the 2000s are characterized by the return of typically modern positions without altogether forfeiting the postmodern mindsets of the 1990s and 1980s.
The prefix ‘meta’ here refers not to some reflective stance or repeated rumination, but to Plato’s metaxy, which intends a movement between opposite poles as well as beyond. Van den Akker and Vermeulen define metamodernism as a continuous oscillation, a constant repositioning between mindsets that are evocative of the modern and of the postmodern but are ultimately suggestive of another sensibility that is neither of them: one that negotiates between a yearning for universal truths on the one hand and an (a)political relativism on the other, between hope and doubt, sincerity and irony, knowingness and naivety, construction and deconstruction. They suggest that the metamodern attitude longs for another future, another metanarrative, whilst acknowledging that future or narrative might not exist, or materialize, or, if it does materialize, is inherently problematic.
As examples in current affairs Vermeulen and van den Akker cite the multiple responses (such as an ‘informed naivety,’ ‘pragmatic idealism,’ and ‘moderate fanaticism’) to climate change, the financial crisis, and geopolitical instability. In the arts, they cite the return of transcendentalism, Romanticism, hope, sincerity, affect, narrativity, and the sublime. Artists and cultural practices they consider metamodern include the architecture of BIG and Herzog and de Meuron; the cinema of Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Gus van Sant, and Wes Anderson; musicians such as CocoRosie, Antony and the Johnsons, Georges Lentz, and Devendra Banhart; the artworks of Peter Doig, Olafur Eliasson, Ragnar Kjartansson, Šejla Kamerić, and Paula Doepfner; and the writings of Haruki Murakami, Roberto Bolano, and Jonathan Franzen.