Wednesday, 16 November 2011


After spending a long time searching through books in the LRC, wondering why it was so hard to find a definition of postmodernism, I figured it is so hard to put a definition on postmodernism. I found a quote by Bruce Handy:

"Basically, postmodernism is whatever you want it to be, if you want it bad enough!"
I feel that this short, sharp sentence defines postmodernism very well, alas it is not a definition. I think that it is extremely transparent and obscure, in quite an unsatisfying way; No matter how much we make out that we don't care for a meaning behind everything, as human beings it is natural to want to know exactly what defines it. I think that this quote captures the confusion that surrounds the term postmodernism, as it seems as though the more people who've lost track of the meaning, the wider the definition has become. How can you really put a clear definition on a movement, how can you recognise it and reflect upon it, if we could still possibly be living in it?

I feel that everything written about postmodernism is subject to being deemed incorrect. Maybe this is because none of us know what defines it, or because the main definitions that we have been exposed to are very pretentious, so uncertain and vague. Or maybe because popular culture seems to question everything... I don't know.
From what I understand, some people believe that postmodernism seems to reject ideas of modernism, rebelling against certain aspects that made up that movement, but others believe that it is the revision of modernism.
Handy went on to say:
"It can mean anything that's sort of old but sort of new, a little bit ironic or kind of self-conscious - like movies that steal bits from old movies, or photographs of the photographer."
I know I probably could have taken a quote in a less humorous form, but I feel that this ironic, jargon-filled style of publication may be a good example of postmodernism writing.

Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson, 1970

I've read that some people believe the expansion of the category of sculpture to include land art, to be one of the many shifts into postmodernism. Although the term can't be defined by a particular medium, with art ranging from giant earthworks to the use of the rapidly expanding range of technologies, there is no wonder it is difficult to define it. 

The Postmodern Preface - reading on postmodernism in American culture and Society, BERGER, Arther Asa, 1998
Postmodern Culture, FOSTER, Hal, 1997

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