Week 9 – PoMo

by evanbaden

This week was Post-Modern (postmodern) week. All of the readings were heavily focused on architecture instead of other various art forms.

I found the Jencks piece to be a really great summary of the history of how we came to Post-Modernism, and there were some really great points about art in general in it. One thing that came up in all of the pieces was the idea of the new killing the old and taking it’s place, only to be killed off itself.

When talking about Modernism, Jencks says that originally Modernism “claimed to be democratic and creatively open…But then they became part of the establishment and intolerant in their own way…and it took on the elitist forms and values of its predecessor.” (Jencks, 11) This theme was also emphasized in both of the Jameson readings. Jameson states that “Not only are Picasso and Joyce no longer ugly, they now strike us, on the whole, as rather “realistic,” and this is the result of a canonisation and academic institutionalisation of the modern movement generally that can be to the late 1950s.” (Jameson, 4) Just like with any generational thing, the new soon ascends to the rank of the old, and then is replaced by whatever is new at the time. This happens in families, politics, and product lines.

Jencks also sets out seven ‘stages’ of PoMo. These stages are:

  1. Prehistory: 1870s to 1950s
  2. Postmodern seen as Modern in decline, 1950s to 1970s
  3. Post-Modern as the counter-culture of the 1960s
  4. Post-Modern as pluralist politics and eclectic style, 1970s and early 1980s
  5. Post-Modern Classicism, a public language, 1979 to present
  6. Critical Reactions to the condition of Postmodernity, 1980 to present
  7. Critical summaries of the Post-modern paradigm, 1988 to present

What was interesting to think about here is what modernists were doing during these stages? Modernism was and still is being practiced. He talked about how some of the stages of PoMo overlapped, but did not talk about Modernism overlapping with it.

Jencks also talks about pluralism being a significant part of the PoMo tradition. While me mentions that Modernists were all about control and a single viewpoint, Post-Modernists practice pluralism. In contrast to Modernists, Jencks says about Post-Modernists,”they seek plural codings, and over-codings, precisely the multiple communication his aesthetic of the sublime rejects.” (Jencks, 16) He went on to say,”This open pluralism, both political and cultural, was one of the great accomplishments of the 1970s.” (Jencks, 25)

What interested me was how much of society, not just the art world was moving in a postmodernist vein. I have never looked to apply the postmodernist label to societal aspects outside of the art world. And while Jencks’ piece mostly focuses on architecture, visual art, and literature, he does a nice job for me of summing up what was happening in Western society on a whole.

Something else that came up in both the Jencks and Jameson reading was the notion of parody vs. pastiche.

Parody: a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece ofliterature or writing

Pastiche: a literary, musical, or artistic piece consisting wholly orchiefly of motifs or techniques borrowed from one or more sources.

Jameson provided a nice description of the two and how they are different, which was really helpful. He talked about pastiche specifically as being dry. He talks about how “a good or great parodist has to have some secret sympathy for the original.” (Jameson, 16) Whereas pastiche is neutral in it’s use of other motifs.

I think a good example of pastiche is the comparison of the Graves Portland Municipal Building and Gehry’s own house from the Crimp reading. The reading is not really a compare and contrast, but rather two examples of different ways that postmodernists use appropriations from the past.

Graves draws from a number of different eras. Although the building is not really a parody. It is not critiquing the outmoded architecture of the past, but rather acknowledging a past we all know. Basically, this building (like all buildings) is a conglomeration of what has come before. But instead of trying to escape the past and create “something new and never seen before”, he is simple acknowledging how we have come to this point in time (in architecture).

Gehry does something a little different. Although he is still appropriating, he is using that appropriation in a more literal way. By using an actual house from the 1920s as the base of his house, he is directly acknowledging the past, and instead of demolishing it, he is building upon it.

Just to finish up, the Jameson reading had a really interesting sentence in it. He says, “for some reason, we were unable today to focus on our own present.” (Jameson, 20) That just really struck me as accurate.