Post-postmodernism

new sincerity

Post-Postmodernism is a general term used to describe new developments emerging from Postmodernism. It is a positive idea that faith, sincerity, and trust can be better for society than Postmodern irony.

The term ‘Post-Postmodernism’ was initially coined by seminal cultural theorist Alice Sanders in her magnum opus ‘The Shadow of the Rainbow.’

Modernism began in the late 19th Century as a rejection of tradition and an attempt to see the world differently. It is associated with the Enlightenment. Events such as WWII and the Great Depression made many feel Modernism had failed. This led to Postmodernism, which is cold and skeptical of the grand narrative of Western Society.

Postmodernism is seen as a theory for explaining 20th Century culture, and with the 20th Century now behind us and a new century beginning, many have suggested that Postmodernism is outdated in our current world. Advances such as the Internet, mobile phones, and television have changed the way we live, making the world a smaller place but also making communication and interaction with things around us less intimate. Post-Postmodernism takes this as a key reason why a return to sincerity and authentic expression is the way forward for the 21st Century.

Zygmunt Bauman uses the term Liquid Modernity to refer to the freedom of ideas, information and people. It draws upon the global nature of society. Distinct cultures, ideas and categories are meeting and fusing in the 21st Century. It has been called ‘a world of fragmented and incommensurate identities and personae.’ Liquid Modernity is a powerful reaction to Postmodernism as it states that through privatization and the global economy, we are now free to determine our own existence and path in the world.

In 2010 Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin Van Den Akker wrote an article called ‘Notes on Metamodernism’ that characterized life today as an oscillation between the realism of Postmodernism and the idealism of Modernism. They believe the two can work together, and that modern culture is based on navigating these oppositions. They list as opposing forces that a big variety of artists, theorists and creatives constantly alternate between.

Jesse Thorn’s public radio show ‘The Sound of Young America’ put forward the phrase ‘New Sincerity.’ Thorn says that some people and things in modern life are so entertaining and genuine that they can only be enjoyed sincerely, without irony. Using Evel Knievel as an example, he says: ‘Here is a real man who feels at home as Spidey on the cover of a comic book. Simply put, Evel Knievel boggles the mind.’ New Sincerity is a popular culture movement that shares many ideas with post-postmodernism.

As an art movement, Altermodernism is a reaction to what Nicolas Bourriaud calls ‘the standardization of culture.’ It was first discussed at the ‘Altermodern Tate Triennial.’ In his manifesto Bourriaud says that, ‘Increased communication, travel, and migration are affecting the way we live.’ He calls contemporary existence ‘a cultural landscape saturated with signs.’ This means that we are overloaded with information and overlapping of cultures and ways of living. Bourriaud believes art is a way to create new pathways and find meaning in modern society.

Modernism emphasized ‘radical aesthetics, technical experimentation, spatial or rhythmic, rather than chronological form, [and] self-conscious reflexiveness’ as well as the search for authenticity in human relations, abstraction in art, and utopian striving. These characteristics are normally lacking in postmodernism or are treated as objects of irony. Postmodernism arose after World War II as a reaction to the perceived failings of modernism, whose radical artistic projects had come to be associated with totalitarianism or had been assimilated into mainstream culture. The basic features of what we now call postmodernism can be found as early as the 1940s, most notably in the work of Argentinian short story writer Jorge Luis Borges.

However, most scholars today would agree that postmodernism began to compete with modernism in the late 1950s and gained ascendancy over it in the 1960s. Since then, postmodernism has been a dominant, though not undisputed, force in art, literature, film, music, drama, architecture and philosophy. Salient features of postmodernism are normally thought to include the ironic play with styles, citations and narrative levels, a metaphysical skepticism or nihilism towards a ‘grand narrative’ of Western culture, a preference for the virtual at the expense of the real (or more accurately, a fundamental questioning of what ‘the real’ constitutes), and a ‘waning of affect’ on the part of the subject, who is caught up in the free interplay of virtual, endlessly reproducible signs inducing a state of consciousness similar to schizophrenia.

In 1995, the landscape architect and urban planner Tom Turner issued a book-length call for a post-postmodern turn in urban planning. Turner criticizes the postmodern credo of ‘anything goes’ and suggests that ‘the built environment professions are witnessing the gradual dawn of a post-Postmodernism that seeks to temper reason with faith.’ In particular, Turner argues for the use of timeless organic and geometrical patterns in urban planning. As sources of such patterns he cites, among others, the Taoist-influenced work of the American architect Christopher Alexander, gestalt psychology, and the psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s concept of archetypes. Regarding terminology, Turner urges us to ’embrace post-Postmodernism – and pray for a better name.’

In his 1999 book on Russian postmodernism the Russian-American Slavist Mikhail Epstein suggested that postmodernism ‘is […] part of a much larger historical formation,’ which he calls ‘postmodernity.’ Epstein believes that postmodernist aesthetics will eventually become entirely conventional and provide the foundation for a new, non-ironic kind of poetry, which he describes using the prefix ‘trans-‘:

‘In considering the names that might possibly be used to designate the new era following ‘postmodernism,’ one finds that the prefix ‘trans’ stands out in a special way. The last third of the 20th century developed under the sign of ‘post,’ which signalled the demise of such concepts of modernity as ‘truth’ and ‘objectivity,’ ‘soul’ and ‘subjectivity,’ ‘utopia’ and ‘ideality,’ ‘primary origin’ and ‘originality,’ ‘sincerity’ and ‘sentimentality.’ All of these concepts are now being reborn in the form of ‘trans-subjectivity,’ ‘trans-idealism,’ ‘trans-utopianism,’ ‘trans-originality,’ ‘trans-lyricism,’ ‘trans-sentimentality,’ etc.’

The term ‘post-millennialism’ was introduced in 2000 by the American cultural theorist Eric Gans to describe the epoch after postmodernism in ethical and socio-political terms. Gans associates postmodernism closely with ‘victimary thinking,’ which he defines as being based on a non-negotiable ethical opposition between perpetrators and victims arising out of the experience of Auschwitz and Hiroshima. In Gans’s view, the ethics of postmodernism is derived from identifying with the peripheral victim and disdaining the utopian center occupied by the perpetrator. Postmodernism in this sense is marked by a victimary politics that is productive in its opposition to modernist utopianism and totalitarianism but unproductive in its resentment of capitalism and liberal democracy, which he sees as the long-term agents of global reconciliation.

In contrast to postmodernism, post-millennialism is distinguished by the rejection of victimary thinking and a turn to ‘non-victimary dialogue’ that will ‘diminish […] the amount of resentment in the world.’ Gans has developed the notion of post-millennialism further on his website,’Chronicles of Love and Resentment,’ and the term is allied closely with his theory of Generative Anthropology (the theory that human culture is a genetic or ‘generative’ development stemming from the development of language).

A systematic attempt to define post-postmodernism in aesthetic terms has been undertaken by the German-American Slavist Raoul Eshelman in his 2008 book ‘Performatism, or the End of Postmodernism.’ Eshelman, who coined the term ‘Performatism’ in 2000, attempts to show that works in the new epoch are constructed in such a way as to bring about a unified, aesthetically mediated experience of transcendence. Performatism does this by creating closed works of art that force viewers to identify with simple, opaque characters or situations and to experience beauty, love, belief and transcendence under particular, artificial conditions. Eshelman applies this model to literature, film, architecture, philosophy and art. Examples of performatist works cited by Eshelman include Yann Martel’s novel ‘Life of Pi,’ the film ‘American Beauty,’ Sir Norman Foster’s renovation of the Berlin Reichstag, the philosophy of Jean-Luc Marion, and the work of performance artist Vanessa Beecroft.

In 2006 the British scholar Alan Kirby formulated a socio-cultural assessment of post-postmodernism that he calls ‘pseudo-modernism.’ Kirby associates pseudo-modernism with the triteness and shallowness resulting from the instantaneous, direct, and superficial participation in culture made possible by the internet, mobile phones, interactive television and similar means: ‘In pseudo-modernism one phones, clicks, presses, surfs, chooses, moves, downloads.’ Pseudo-modernism’s ‘typical intellectual states’ are furthermore described as being ‘ignorance, fanaticism, and anxiety’ and it is said to produce a ‘trance-like state’ in those participating in it.

The net result of this media-induced shallowness and instantaneous participation in trivial events is a ‘silent autism’ superseding ‘the neurosis of modernism and the narcissism of postmodernism.’ Kirby sees no aesthetically valuable works coming out of ‘pseudo-modernism.’ As examples of its triteness he cites reality TV, interactive news programs, ‘the drivel found […] on some Wikipedia pages,’ docu-soaps, and the essayistic cinema of Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock. In a book published in 2009 titled ‘Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure our Culture’ Kirby developed further and nuanced his views on culture and textuality in the aftermath of postmodernism.

In 2010 the cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker introduced the term metamodernism as an intervention in the post-postmodernism debate. 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. In their article ‘Notes on metamodernism’ they assert that the 2000s are characterized by the emergence of a sensibility that oscillates between, and must be situated beyond, modern positions and postmodern strategies. As examples of the metamodern sensibility Vermeulen and van den Akker cite the ‘informed naivety,’ ‘pragmatic idealism,’ and ‘moderate fanaticism’ of the various cultural responses to, among others, climate change, the financial crisis, and (geo)political instability.

Aesthetically, metamodernism is exemplified by practices as varied as the architecture of BIG and Herzog and de Meuron; the cinema of Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, and Wes Anderson; musicians/sound artists 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 Bolaño and Jonathan Franzen. They are each typified by a continuous oscillation, a constant repositioning between attitudes and 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 and relativism, between a desire for sense and a doubt about the sense of it all, between hope and melancholy, sincerity and irony, knowingness and naivety, construction and deconstruction.

One Comment to “Post-postmodernism”

  1. Did you read Alan Kirby’s book called Digimodernism? Very interesting….I recommend it!

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