What are some postmodern principles

Art dictionary

It is to be seen as a counter-movement to modernity, which is increasingly perceived as sterile and totalitarian:
Postmodernism, an intellectual and cultural movement that began in the second half of the 20th century.

“I have no intentions, no system, no directions; I have no program, no style, no concern. " (Gerhard Richter, 1993)

I. History and definition of the term "postmodernism"

The terms "postmodern" or "postmodern" were already used at the end of the 19th and then increasingly at the beginning of the 20th century, but only in the 1950s in the sense of their present-day meaning. At the end of the 1970s, two authors primarily contributed to establishing the term as a constant: Jean-François Lyotard with his work “La Condition postmoderne” (“The postmodern knowledge”, 1979) and Charles Jencks with the essay “The Rise of Postmodern Architecture «. With the introduction of the term »postmodern«, modernism is defined for the first time as a closed historical epoch (like antiquity or the Middle Ages before). As a stylistic term, »postmodern« has prevailed above all in architecture.

II. Basics of postmodernism and the demarcation from modernity

Lyotard and other theorists describe the spiritual foundations of modernity as an unshakable belief in a steady progression of the ever more detailed comprehensibility of the world and the gradual approach to perfect knowledge. The totalitarian systems of the 20th century permanently discredited the absoluteness of such models. Here are the reasons for the need to define postmodernism as a conscious break with modernity. Postmodernism rejects not only the modern’s belief in progress, but also the existence of a comprehensible objective reality. Postmodern theory and aesthetics assume that all knowledge, all perception and every area of ​​consciousness and existence are subject to relativity. A key concept of postmodernism is "plurality". The lowest common denominator of postmodern theory and aesthetics can be called the acceptance of diversity and the rejection of the modernity's striving for innovation.

III. Postmodern aesthetics and stylistic features

The desire of modernity to constantly create something new, and the artistic means used to achieve this, are considered automated, established and outdated in postmodernism. The principle that nothing new can be created makes the use of quotations an essential stylistic feature of postmodern art.

The demand for openness in the concept of art and the individual work of art opens up almost unlimited possibilities on the one hand: Postmodernism opens up a variety of new forms of expression by crossing genre boundaries. A frequently used technique of postmodernism is collage. This term, coined at the beginning of the 20th century for Dadaist adhesive pictures, is much broader in postmodernism. It includes, for example, large-scale installations, cinematic techniques or musical composition processes.

Authors such as Umberto Eco ("The Name of the Rose"), architects such as Friedensreich Hunderwasser (Hundertwasserhaus, Vienna) and artists such as Keith Haring try to bridge the gap between the elitist understanding of art and mass culture - this, too, is an essential aspect of postmodern aesthetics.

Many postmodern works, especially in the performing arts, do not want to be understood as a perfect result, but as an experimental arrangement. The presentation is fragmentary (literature: Roland Barthes, "Fragments of a Language of Love") or a "Work in Progress" (dance theater: William Forsythe, "The Scott Work") in different stages of its development. The conception of trilogies or series is also typically postmodern. The individual parts of such series are usually self-contained works that can be perceived alone, together or in any combination (film: Krzysztof Kieslowski, »Three colors: blue, white, red«).

In many cases, the influence of deconstructivism is noticeable. The term goes back to the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. For deconstructivism there is no unity of word and meaning, and it is therefore not possible to fix the meaning of a text firmly. In postmodern art this is extended to the meaning of signs and codes, which we attach to certain contexts of meaning with our perceptual habits. They lose this connection (film: Peter Greenaway, "The draftsman's contract") or - like the search engines on the Internet - they are references from which countless other references originate (film: Matthew Barney, "The CREMASTER Cycle").

IV. Postmodern literature and film

Characteristics of postmodern literature include a reflexive handling of what is available in the form of quotations and allusions and playing with literary genres. The construction of numerous, often broken levels of action and references is also characteristic.

Probably the best-known postmodern novel is Umberto Eco's "Name of the Rose". With a highly complex literary structure in the guise of a detective novel, Eco actually succeeded in bridging the gap between so-called high and mass culture. The numerous historical, literary and art-historical quotes and references make the book an educational novel or even a literary quiz. But even those who are not interested in it can enjoy Eco's work as an exciting crime thriller. In a similar way, Peter Greenaway combined the historical film genre with the thriller in his 1982 film "The Drawing's Contract", but unlike Eco, he does not solve the riddle. Although the plot provides numerous classic clues, all of them lead nowhere.

For deconstructivism, the text is not the creation of an ingenious subject, but a crossroads at which a variety of texts and text references overlap. Ultimately, a machine writes the text, such as the "Landsberger Poetry Machine" by Hans Magnus Enzensberger (Kunsthalle Würth, Schwäbisch Hall).

V. Architecture

In the mid-1970s, Charles Jencks introduced the term »postmodern« into the architectural discussion. In this way, the postmodern discussion reached the general public for the first time.

The stylistic principles of postmodern architecture had already clearly emerged at this point. A democratic, communicative architectural language was required, the aesthetics of which should not only be based on the function, but also on the content of meaning. A plea was also made for the inclusion of fictional elements, such as was known, for example, from Gothic, which saw an image of the heavenly Jerusalem in the cathedral.

At the same time, the tendency to preserve and redesign historical buildings increased. The most prominent example was the Gare d'Orsay in Paris, which opened as the Musée d'Orsay in 1986. Such historical buildings influenced the language of postmodern architecture, which from the beginning was strongly determined by quotations. In order to avoid a new historicism, the motto was that eclecticism - which was expressed, for example, in the use of columns, bay windows and lattice windows - should be ironically broken.

The spectrum of postmodern architecture developed particularly in the museum building of the eighties and nineties. In addition to Hans Hollein's Museum Abteiberg (Mönchengladbach), James Stirling's State Gallery (Stuttgart) is considered a successful and characteristic product of postmodernism. In Stirling's design, numerous allusions to historical architecture - from Egypt to Classical Modernism - merge with the colors of pop culture and the typical regional materials of sandstone and travertine to create a coherent, contemporary shape.

In recent times, when it comes to museum building, the experience character has come to the fore more and more than the educational requirement. Instead of meditative viewing art, stagings are required, and the architecture itself is staged with surprising views and theatrical effects. The first public visits are taking place more and more often, even before the pictures are hanging, so that the architecture can be experienced.

Deconstructivist tendencies are on the rise in the course of this development. Although deconstructivism often defines itself as anti-architecture, sometimes even propagating the disappearance of architecture, the sculptural quality of the buildings by architects such as Zaha Hadid (fire station, Weil am Rhein), Daniel Libeskind (Jewish Museum, Berlin) and Frank O. Gehry (Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao) made the museum itself a showpiece.

VI: Fine arts

The use of the term "postmodernism" is rejected by many theorists and artists, especially in the field of the visual arts, given the broad spectrum of forms of expression. The rejection of the modern’s belief in innovation is also one of the foundations of postmodern aesthetics in the visual arts. Postmodernism ties in with art-historical categories that were rejected by modernity, such as narrative and mythological structures. This already begins with Andy Warhol's depictions of the icons of the 20th century, from Elvis to Jackie O. Pop Art also marked the break with modernity in the 1950s by saying goodbye to abstraction. In the seventies, like the architecture of the era, the visual arts emphasized the importance of sensual, emotional and traditional aspects compared to theory and concept. In the eighties, the "New Wild" (including Georg Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz) broke the supremacy of the minimalist and conceptually working avant-garde with their expressive, representational painting. There were similar trends in the USA and Italy. After the whirlwind had settled around the "New Wilds", tendencies took hold that focused on reflecting on the medium of painting and on sensual experimentation with painterly means (Sigmar Polke, Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter).

Characteristic of the epoch are two artists whose work incorporates the aesthetics of sub- and mass culture: Keith Haring and Jeff Koons. Haring succeeded in combining elements of graffiti art, comics, computer sign language, children's drawing and early history painting into a very poetic sign language that is understandable in many cultures. Jeff Koons made a name for himself in the early 1990s with the provocative banality of his subjects. The material he uses is often of high quality, but its surface design cites the world of knickknacks and kitsch, such as the life-size, partially gold-plated porcelain figure of Michael Jackson with his chimpanzee Bubbles.

The demand of postmodern aesthetics for pluralism, subjectivity, turning away from abstraction, inclusion of the mass media, blurring of genre boundaries and acceptance of quotations as an artistic medium has brought color and movement into the art and museum landscape. The final recognition of photography and film as a medium of art may well be regarded as a lasting result of postmodern tendencies. Temporary high point: In the summer of 2002, the Cologne Museum Ludwig is showing the five films of Matthew Barney's "CREMASTER Cycle", which has just been completed, as part of a large exhibition.

02/18/2003 Andrea Gern