Post-Modernism, Modernism, and Pre-Modernism in Chart Form

by Paddy Johnson on October 4, 2011 · 4 comments A Brief History Of

From Charles Jencks What is Post-Modernism? Click on this chart to view at its full size.

Phillip Niemeyer of Double Triple forwarded me this excerpt and chart from Charles Jencks 1986 book, “What is Post-Modernism” in response to yesterday’s post on Post-Modernism. Does the V&A Post-Modernism show in London just reflect the ism’s own nature; to endlessly spin cycles and trends?

A generation in the art world, a new “ism”, now lasts at least two years — one for discovery, the next for promotion. Movements and trends are declared ‘dead stock’ before they can mature. No matter how good or bad artists may be, or how slow or fast they want to develop, they have to acknowledge this world media system and its fashion-go-round, if only to reject it …

The situation may not looking promising, but there are positive aspects to it. For one thing there are a good many artists working outside the market nexus who are waiting to be discovered: the pluralism of Post-Modernism is very real, and it hides a great deal of talent. For another things, as the international art world approaches the conditions of fashion, the shape of time again becomes reversible, but in a new way. One can predict the cyclical transformation of old trends, and a fashionable artist, suddenly rendered obsolete by the two-year swing of taste, can wait until the trend comes around again in a new guise in ten years’ time. Development is not impossible under these conditions; it is just made while the artist is in and out of fashion.

The two trend year cycle still seems more or less correct to me, though I wonder if artists feel that pluralism (or whatever it is) makes it difficult to be seen. From my perspective, it seems that many more worlds of art making are visible than was once the case. Also more apparent is how isolated many of these communities are from the art market. I know very very few artists who make much money from their art at all.

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  • Holly Woodhouse

    I agree with your point on isolation, yet as David
    Harvey argues, we can “no longer conceive of the individual as alienated
    in the classical Marxist sense, because to be alienated presupposes a coherent
    rather than a fragmented sense of self from which to be alienated.”  

    And to really put a spin on the Postmodern merry-go-round,
    we should consider Deleuze and Guattari:

    “We are segmented form all around and in every direction.  The human
    being is a segmentary animal…  We are segmented in a binary fashion,
    following the great major dualist oppositions…We are segmented in a circular
    fashion…We are segmented in a linear fashion…Sometimes the various segments
    belong to different individuals or groups, and sometimes the same individual or
    group passes from one segment to another.  But these figures of
    segmentarity, the binary, circular, and linear, are bound up with one another,
    even cross over into each other, changing according to the point of view.”

    Mmmmm…our Postmodern condition.  Don’t we
    all feel so special being so f***ing complex!

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