Thursday, 29 September 2011

Postmodernism ay?

Yesterday I travelled into town due to winning free tickets for a screening in the eve. As usual I had to pay a ridiculous amount of money to travel, so I went up ealry(ish) to cram in lots of things to make sure I gained the full use of my travel card. Sometimes it gets to the stage where I am aimlessly travelling around on buses just to make the travel card worth it, it's definitely a different way to spend the day. However, there were no long bus journey's yesterday, it was straight off to the V&A for the Postmodernism: Style and Subversion exhibition.

This exhibition was a strange choice for me, because I actually really didn't like Postmodern art, perhaps due to ignorance, the lack of understanding of it's root, I just wasn't a fan. I however think it's important to experience a more diverse array of subject matter, even if it's work you don't necessarily like or appreciate initially. Of all the movements, Postmodernism is perhaps the most controversial, it is the unstable mix of theatrical and theoretical. The exhibition itself begins with the death of Modernism, and moves onto the birth of Postmodernism, that claims to have begun in many different places at many different times. Coming from the either/or ideas of Modernism, Postmodernism I have learnt was the both/and, which I felt to be, in an ideal instances a wonderful way to approach creative subject matter.

'The Other Figure' (1984) Giulio Paolini

Melancholy was one aspect of the Postmodern regard for the past, which I didn't fully appreciate. I was kind aware of their attitude to the past, and I now realise that that may be a reason for my distaste for Postmodern art. Despite their use of bright tantalising colours, and playful designs there is that feeling of disconnect, disillusionment. I feel a lot of sorrow attached to the Postmodern art movement.

The idea that no single strategy binds postmodernism together is an idea I have time for. The movement was a convergence of like-minded practitioners, having the feeling of one large collective. In saying that, I find it quite typical that a popular style would be the method of Bricolage, the cut and paste technique. My favourite example of this from the exhibition was Alessandro Mendini's "Proust Chair" (1978), above. It is a classic Postmodern bricolage, it's title is taken from literature, it's form from Baroque furniture, and the decoration from Pointalist painter, Paul Signac.

As we move on, we are then introduced to the New Wave. The desire to combine subversive statements with commercial appeal. It was I think the late 80s, and for this generation there was no space between avant-garde and commercial spheres. The complete blending of the two was itself a Postmodern phenomenon. The exhibition carries on into Postmodernism's downfall, we gaining an understanding here of how the movement became entangled in the very circuits of money and influence that it had initially sought to dismantle. 

I feel as though I may be boring some now, I have tried to highlight certain areas of the exhibition I enjoyed and things that I had learnt, but if I continue I'll only end up ranting and no one would want to be reading that. So instead I shall recommend you take a visit down to the the V&A (half price tickets if you've got an ArtFund card) if you want a learning experience, the exhibition is essentially a historical account of the art movement. In all honesty the exhibition was really enjoyable, it was the first time I actually understood what postmodernism was and found it to be wonderfully accessible. I still wouldn't say I am a fan of the movement, but I do feel now that I appreciate it far more than before and I think the exhibition/work definitely asks you to engage which for some may be too much, but I am sure there are those of you out there who would enjoy the challenge.

One last thing. The image above, by Jenny Holzer is the image I chose to end on because it was an all purpose admonition to herself and others. It encapsulates perfectly the ambivalence about commodity culture felt by many in the 1980s - and still felt by myself today.

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