What is modernism?
Modernism is a movement that is defined by the belief that the values of the Age of Enlightenment (18th Century) had fallen appart (science, reason and logic), thus creating a center that could be characterized as a void. While some societies are comfortable with void as their center, Western societies were not and thus they began to fill their centers with myth, heores, and machines. These new centers were part of the movement's view of themselves as creators of new rather than preservers of old (Powell, 1998).
Some notable modernists includ Nietzsche, Hemingway, D. H. Lawrence, T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and William Butler.
One of the major problems of the modernist movement is that it found that along with progress also came destruction. Another main problem was that the art of the modernist movement fell into two categories, high brow and low brow, which left out those who fell in the middle (Powell, 1998).
What is postmodernism?
While some theorists disagree over the specific definition of postmodernism, it essentially is an attempt to make sense of what is going on currently. Storey (2009) defines postmodernism as "a a current term inside and outside the academic study of populare culture" that has "entered into discourses as different as pop music journalism and Marxist debates on the cultural conditions of late or multinational capitalism" (181).
Postmodernism in the 1960s
The new sensibility movement (Sontag & Fiedler) in the late 1950s and 1960s was a "revolt against the canonization of modernism's avant-garde revolution", specifically "modernism's official status" as " the high culture of the modern capitalist world" (Storey, 2009, 182). the subversive, shocking modernist culture had lost its power to undermine the bourgeois culture because it had become the bourgeois culture. In addition, this new sensibility had turned against cultural elitism and felt that the levels of culture (high and low) had become meaningless. Instead of Matthew Arnold's notion of culture, postmodernism preferred "Williams's social definition of culture as 'a way of life'", specifically the pop art of the 1950s and 1960s (Storey, 2009, 183).
Andy Warhol, along with Lawrence Alloway, key figures in the theorizing of pop art, felt that there should not be a distinction between commercial and non-commercial art. Warhol saw ''commercial art as real art and real art as commercial art'" (Storey, 2009, 183). While Warhol's art ended up in galleries and thus became high culture, John Rockwell argues that this was not the intention. In addition, he argues that "art . . . is what you perceive as art' (Storey, 2009, 184). This movement in art began to take cultural power away from the wealthy ruling class and gave it to those with other perspectives.
Huyssen (1986) argues that the context of the American counterculture and the British underground scene was important to the understanding of the relationship between pop art and pop culture. It was "generational refusal" for "high modernism" that lead to pop and postmodernism (Storey, 2009, 184). It was the American counterculture of the 1960s that Huyssen saw "as the closing chapter in the tradition of avantgardism" (Storey, 2009, 184).
The Postmodern Condition: a report on knowledge
The Postmodern Condition, published in france in 1974 and translated into English in 1984, was originally "an account commissioned by the Council of Universities of Quebec" that details the status of science and technology (Powell, 1998, 22). The report found that 'science has increasingly investigated language, linguistic theories, communication, cybernetics, informatics, computers and computer languages, information storage, data banks, and problems of translation from one computer language to another (Powell, 1998, 22). Lyotard states that these technological changes will impact knowledge, arguing that knowledge that cannot be translated into computer language and stored on computers will not survive. in addition, he argues that information will be the new territory that nations will fight over (Powell, 1998).
As correct as he is on the status of knowledge in our world, The Postmodern Condition is best known for Lyotard's understanding of knowledge in realtion of metanarratives. Modernism created a move away from centers or metanarratives, such as Marxism and Christianinty, which were filled by myth and machine. However, in postmodernism there isn't a need to fill the void but creation through chance and randomness (Powell, 1998). This allows for the "increasing sound of a plurity of voices from the margins, with their insistence on difference, on cultural diversity, and the claims of heterogeneity over homogeneity" (Storey, 2009, 185). For Lyotard this created an issue for the status of knowledge.
Lyotard discusses scientific knowledge and its ability or inability to legitimate itself. Ultimatley, Lyotard argues that the nature of scientific knowledge and scientific discourse does not allow for it to legitimate itself. It need a narrative dicourse in order to be legitimated. Lyotard argues that in the Enlightenment, the narrative discourse of scientific knowledge is the way to gradually emancipate hunmankind. In this way science assumes a metanarrative. But since WWII, this metanarrative has lost its power, because of "blossoming of techniques and technologies" that have shifted emphasis from the ends of action to its means" (ST, 465-6). Lyotard uses the academy as a comparison for this move in knowledge, arguing that when "stripped of the responsibility of research . . . .they limit themselves to the transmission of what is judged to be established knowledge, and through didactics they guarantee the replication of teachers rather than the production of researchers" (ST, 467). This it is through performativity that scientific knowledge is legitimated.
Baudrillard discusses postmodernism as "not simply a culture of the sign: rather it is a culture of the 'simulacrum'" ("an identical copy without an original") (Storey, 2009, 187). Examples of a simulacrum are items such as music cds, digital songs, movie dvds, and digital images. All of these are copies of copies and an identical copy can be made from the copy. Baudrillard argues that the simulation process is the destruction of the distinction between the copy and the original and "threatens the difference between 'true' and 'false'" (ST, 481). This simulation is in fact a "generation by models of real without origins or reality: a hyperreal" (Storey, 2009, 187). Baudrillard argues that "Disneyland is a perfect model of all the entangled orders of simulation" that includes "a play of illusions and phantasms" and the social microcosm, the miniturized and religious revelling in real America" (ST, 483). It functions in the "trhir-order similation: Disneyland is ther to conceal the fact that it is the 'real' country, all of 'real' America, which is Disneyland (ST, 483).
Hyperrealism doesn't just exist in theme parks, but exist everywhere in culture and out lives. Evidence of its existence can be found in blogs, advertising, tourist adventures, and television shows. For example some shows make fun of the existence of hyperrealism such as Friend and Beavis & Butthead. Be sure to watch the end of the Beavis & Butthead episode for Copper scene.
Brooke Shields in Friends...Very Funny !!. Watch more top selected videos about: Friends, Brooke Shields
Jameson differs from other postmodern theorists in that his theorization comes "from within a Marxist or neo-Marxist framework" (Storey, 2009, 191). For Jameson, postmodernism is a "'periodizing concept'" that "postmodernism is 'the cultural dominant' of late multinational capitalism'" (Storey, 2009, 191). Using Mandel's model of the three stages of capitalism's development, Jameson developed a model for cultural development with three stages: realism, modernism, and postmodernism (Storey, 2009).
Jameson argues that the "postmodern is . . . the force field in which very different kinds of cultural impulses . . . must make their way" (6). He argues that the postmodern is "the end of the bourgeois ego", "the end of the psychopathologies of that ego" and the end of individual feeling (15). Jameson refers to this as the 'wanning of affect' and describes this as our life being "dominated by categorires of space rather than by categories of time" (16). Secondly, Jameson characterizes postmodernism as a culture of pastiche or a culture in which "the disappearance of the individual subject, along with its formal consequence, the increasing availability of personal style, engender the well-high universal practice today" (16). Pastiche is the imitation of a peculiar or unique, idiosyncratic style, the wearing of a linguistic mask, speech in a dead language" (17). This has created a culture in which "cultural production" is "born out of cultural production" (192) because the culture is "suffering from 'historical amnesia'" (Storey, 2009, 193). Finally, Jameson argues that the postmodern culture is "a hopelessly commercial culture" that is "marked by an 'essential triviality'"(Storey, 2009, 194).
POSTMODERN POP MUSIC
Jameson defines modernist pop music as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, while postmodernist pop music is punk rock and new wave. Goodwin, however, argues that there are too many differences in individual bands to make comparisons, but instead suggests that the technological development of 'sampling' is a better test. But sampling isn't enough because "we need categories to add to pastiche" (Storey, 2009, 197). It becomes more about the understanding of the "'historicizing function of sampling technologies in contemporary pop'" (Storey, 2009, 197).
Unlike music, "television does not have a period of modernism to which it can be post" (Storey, 2009, 198). Collins (1992) argues that television is the epitome of postmodern culture. Collins uses the television show Twin Peaks as an example of a postmodern show that "constitutes an audience as bricoleurs and is watched in turn by an audience who celebrate the programme's bricolage" (Storey, 2009, 198). Collins argues that Twin Peaks at the ecomonic level it targeted a new audience and the multi-eclectic style of the show marketed itself,along with the ability to market related products. Twin Peaks was really the beginning of the television culture that we continue to see today. Now almost every major televsion show has a presence outside of the show airtime. Some of this might include a website, blogs by the characters, fan sites, a store for the show (buy a Michael Scott T-shirt), a wikipedia page, and an online collective intellegence site that allows views to globally participate in the bricolage. Understanding the extent and reach of a television show makes it easier to understand the existence of hyperrealism. Probably one of the most recent shows most similar to Twin Peaks was Lost.
Lyotard tells us that we are moving away from the metanarratives that have dictated 'truth" this changing the face of knowledge. Basically, we have moved away from absolutes and into perspectives. Baudrillard' theory of simulation also confirms this move away from absolutes into a 'hyperreal' world. While Lyotard and Baudrillard seem to have a possitive outlook on postmodernism, Jameson shows us that the lack of center can be a confusing and unstable world calling it a culture that cannot remember its history. The binding themes in all of the theories are a lack of center to our culture, the combining of high and low culture, and the ability of those in the margin to be heard.
With all that is going on this weekend, I would like to pose a couple of personal analytical questions that might make responding easier. Using Baudrillard's theory of hyperrealism, how do you experience hyperrealism in your life? What evidence of this do you leave behind?