General Writings:

What Comes After Postmodernism?

'It's the end of the world as we know it...'


Postmodernism: another 'ism' or the end of art history? There is a great pressure to accept postmodernism as the be-all & end-all of art. By taking the stance that there can be nothing new or innovative under the sun, that the only valid expression is to rehash older work (with a side order of irony), postmodernism tries to exclude even the possibility of criticism.

Postmodernism tries to have it's cake and eat it: you cannot create anew but merely refer backwards, but to question this assumption is to be niave and shallow. In the worst case, you might even try to be positive, or think that your work might improve anything (a yell of horror as Modernism rears it's ugly head!).

If postmodernism is the end of art history, then it is merely a false end, a blip in the cycle of new schools of art, of the avante-garde becoming the establishment with each generation of new artists.

'Pictures that can talk to us, not merely tell us something, are pictures which have compassion, directness, timelessness, beauty, and which are driven by a quest for the fundamental truths of human existence.'

The buds of a new movement are growing, fertilised by Suzi Gablik# among others, for art that is involved, that has a connection to people, that does not give up on giving something.

Even the young art of photography has a history of at least 160
# years, if not 190#. According to postmodernism, all possible subject matters, approaches & messages have been explored in this time, so nothing really new or innovative is possible.

Part of the problem is 'newness' and 'innovation'. Is there a place for such concepts within art? Postmodernism sweeps the problem under the carpet by issueing a stern NO! without actually exploring the issues. We have a semantic problem. What do we mean by these two words? If we mean work that is based on nothing before it, that has no echoes of what we have seen before, then I am inclined to agree that this is highly unlikely in this age of information saturation. If we mean the familiar or semi-familiar seen from a different angle, filtered through the sensibilities of another person, that is another matter.

It is no use striving for the 'cutting edge' in art, there is no such thing unless you are a slavish follower of art fashions (oh you can't possible like that picture dear, sub-Pollocks are so last season). Instead, strive for the inside edge, hone your sensibilities, and use them like a scalpel to form something individual, not 'new' or 'innovative' or 'in'.

Addendum: as I revise this text, I listen to the radio. Earlier this morning, four jumbo jets were purposefully crashed into strategic points in America. There are no figures on casualties yet, but the World Trade Centre usually contains up to 20.000 people and at least a quarter of these would have been stranded as soon as the planes crashed. I mention this because it is relevant. We are surrounded by light & shadow. Art becomes an appendix if it is not aware, whether or not that awareness is visible in the final work.

Artists have said 'I have produced this work for myself, bugger the audience'. This is not art. This is barely psychotherapy.

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This page last updated in August 2001