POST-MODERNISM… NOT A THING

September 7, 2011

WARNING! THE FOLLOWING IS  THE MOST PRETENTIOUS, ESOTERIC, AND WHOLLY UNIMPORTANT PSUEDO-ACADEMIC ANALYSIS THAT HULK HAS EVER WRITTEN. ENJOY!

HULK TOOK A QUESTION TO HULK’S TWITTER A FEW WEEKS BACK:

IS THERE SUCH A THING POST-MODERNISM?

IF WE’RE GOING THE COGITO ERGO SUM ROUTE, THEN SURE IT EXISTS. PEOPLE SAY IT A THING SO IT A THING.

BUT HULK NOT NECESSARILY A FAN OF GOING THAT ROUTE. THAT ROUTE NOT… WHAT’S THE PHRASE… HELPFUL IN ANY SORT OF WAY. LARGELY BECAUSE HULK BELIEVE  “CLARITY OF DEFINITION” ONE THOSE VERY IMPORTANT THINGS IN ACADEMIA. VAGUERY OF DEFINITION = THE ENEMY OF CLARITY AND CLARITY THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF CONVEYING INFORMATION. AND IF WE NOT CONVEYING INFORMATION HERE, WHAT THE HELL ARE WE EVEN DOING?

CLARITY ESPECIALLY RELEVANT BECAUSE IF YOU’VE EVER TRY TO GRADE A COLLEGE FRESHMAN’S PAPER YOU WOULD SEE SUCH A BREADTH OF PURPOSEFULLY-VAGUE INTELLECTUAL CONCEPTS MASHED TOGETHER WITH THE CARE OF A TODDLER. THE INESCAPABLE TRUTH THAT HULK WOULD RATHER TAKE A PAPER WITH 4TH GRADE LANGUAGE AND A CLEARLY EXPRESSED IDEA OVER THE HIGHEST-AIMING VAGUERY EVERY TIME.

THIS NOT IMPLY THAT BEING VAGUE NOT SOMETHING WE ALL GUILTY OF. EXPRESSING AN IDEA VERY DIFFICULT THING (ESPECIALLY WITH HULK-SPEAK). BUT THE SAD TRUTH THAT ONCE YOU DISLODGE YOUR FEAR OF BEING FOUND OUT AS “NOT-SUPER SMART” AND ACTUALLY LOOK UP WORDS YOU DON’T KNOW, IT BECOME VERY EASY TO READ SOMETHING AND KNOW IF THE WRITER HAS ANY CLUE WHAT THEY ACTUALLY SAYING.

WHAT ALL THIS HAVE TO DO WITH POST-MODERNISM?

A LOT OF THINGS ACTUALLY.

IT NOT THAT PEOPLE JUST BULLSHITTING WHEN THEY TALKING ABOUT POST-MODERNISM, IT THAT THEY SO WILLING TO ACCEPT THE ACADEMIA-BOUND VAGUERY  THAT GO ALONG WITH IT. EVERYTHING ABOUT POST-MODERNISM INVITES VAGERY. THEREFORE, IT INVITES BULLSHIT.

AND MOST OF ALL, HULK CONVINCED POST-MODERNISM NOT REALLY A THING AT ALL… SO ONE SUPPOSES MOST OF THE PROBLEMS STEM FROM THERE. AND ONCE AGAIN, BE WARNED: IN ORDER TO TALK ABOUT SOMETHING THAT’S SUPER-BULLSHITTY, HULK GOING TO HAVE TO GET A LITTLE BULLSHITTY HULK-SELF.

COOL? COOL.

LET’S DO IT.

PROBLEM #1 – THE POPULAR CONCEPTION

SO LET’S ESTABLISH THE POPULAR NOTION OF POST-MODERNISM. HULK ASKED THE QUESTION ON TWITTER, AS GOOD A PLACE TO CROWD SOURCE AS ANY OTHER, PRECISELY BECAUSE IT IS NOT ONE OF HULK’S MANY OBTUSE, LITERATURE-FOCUSED MESSAGE BOARDS WHERE EVERYONE WOULD GIVE 5 PARAGRAPH ANSWERS. NO, TWITTER A PLACE WHERE THE ANSWER WILL NOT GET BOGGED DOWN IN LONG-WINDED EXPLANATIONS AND BLISSFULLLY LIMITED TO 140 CHARACTER TWEETS.  SOME OF YOU MAY THINK CROWD SOURCING TWITTER IS IDIOTIC, BUT 1) HULK’S FOLLOWERS PRETTY SMART IF YOU ASK HULK 2) THE REQUIREMENT OF BREVITY NECESSARY TO HULK’S UPCOMING POINTS AND 3) YOU TOO WILL REALIZE THAT MOST OF THESE RESPONSES ARE THOUGHTFUL, FUNNY, AND STRIVING TOWARD A RELEVANT POINT. SO WHAT HULK REALLY WANTS YOU TO CONSIDER IN THE FOLLOWING IS THE WIDE RANGE OF ANSWERS:

catch42_ Matthew Ruddle

Modernism: “Even geometric shapes can be art!” Post-Modernism: “Define art, lolz”

Smile_cat Elizabeth

Not all things modern postmodern. Postmodern not have to be rational or for socio-technology progress. Modernism sort of does.

T_Lawson Trey Lawson

Here’s my take: modernism reworks myth in search of meaning. Postmodernism deconstructs myth to prove the absence of meaning.

tomnomnomnom Doctor Tom

Modernism: seek, gain, lose (always lose) narrative. Post-modernism: don’t even bother. The narrative is a lie.

Sam_Strange Sam Strange

In Shakespeare’s plays you can see how the final bunch looks back and comments on his whole career. That to me is PM.

otakucomics Otaku Comics (Gerry)

modernism includes a sense of nostalgia. Pomo does not.

jettek Jette Kernion

I’m just happy not to hear anyone use the expression “po-mo” anymore. Gaaah.

nuitsilencieuse Tim Baumann

Peter Barry says it has to do with outlook. Modernism is sadly nostalgic, post-modernism is optimistic and vaguely campy.

JasonGBCam Jason Morrow

“Moe” from “Simpsons” explained PO-MO as “Weird for the sake of weird.” Does that make it different from modernism?

teeneyteeney Teeney Hood

Post-modernism is what you want it to be, maybe that’s modernism.

bigtotoro patrick mcdaniel

Breathless? Depends on what you consider modernism.

keithcalder Keith Calder

True post-modernism is what I call earnest-whimsy. Realism tempered by the understanding that it’s possible to deconstruct. Of course I’d never call that “post-modernism” because I think the term is ridiculous.

TheLazy1 Lara P.

Post-Modernism thinks it exists therefore it does. It’s descartesque, really. :)

OKAY…

SO THESE ARE A HANDFUL OF THE INITIAL RESPONSES BEFORE HULK STARTED THROWING OUT HULK’S THEORIES ON EXACTLY WHY POST-MODERNISM NOT A THING. NOTICE HOW THERE (SORT OF) A WAY IN WHICH SOME OF THE COMMENTATORS ARE (SORT OF) TALKING ABOUT THE SAME THING, BUT THERE ABSOLUTELY NO GOOD WAY TO CONSOLIDATE THEM INTO A SINGULAR COHESIVE IDEA.

WHY THAT SO IMPORTANT? BECAUSE EVERY SINGLE  CONCEPT, HIGHLY ACADEMIC OR OTHERWISE, SHOULD BE ABLE TO BE EXPLAINED WITH A SINGLE SENTENCE. NOT THE TOTALITY AND RANGE OF THE IDEA, BUT THE CRUX OF THE IDEA ITSELF.(1) SERIOUSLY, IF QUANTUM MECHANICS CAN BE EXPLAINED IN A SINGLE SENTENCE, THEN SO CAN ANY CRITICAL GROUPING OF AN ARTISTIC MOVEMENT.

THIS WOULD BE AN APT PLACE TO INCLUDE THE DEFINITION OF POST-MODERNISM, BUT HULK WANT TO NOT GO THERE FOR A SECOND, FOR REASONS THAT WILL BE CLEAR IN PROBLEM #2.

HULK JUST WANT IT TO SUFFICE TO SAY THAT THE POPULAR CONCEPTION OF POST-MODERNISM IS ANYTHING BUT AGREED UPON OR CLEARLY EXPRESSED.

PROBLEM #2 – POST-MODERNISM = THE SAME THING AS MODERNISM

OKAY, SO MOST LITERARY/ARTISTIC MOVEMENTS TEND TO BE A REACTION TO THE PRECEDING ONE. FOR EXAMPLE, RENAISSANCE PAINTING WAS A REACTION MEDIEVAL AESTHETIC, ROMANTICISM WAS A REACTION TO NEO-CLASSICISM, ETC. ETC. GOT IT? GOOD.

SO IN ORDER TO DEFINE POST-MODERNISM WE REALLY HAVE TO DEFINE MODERNISM FIRST. SO HERE, HULK HAS AUGMENTED A PRETTY GOOD DEFINITION OF MODERNISM FROM WIKIPEDIA: “Modernism was a revolt against the conservative values  of realism [including the] rejection of tradition and its reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody in new forms.”

THE MOST OBVIOUS WAY THIS EXPRESSED WAS IN THINGS LIKE PAINTING, WHERE WE EMBRACED ABSTRACT FORMS. WITH LITERATURE, WE FRACTURED THE NARRATIVE. MODERNISM WAS ESSENTIALLY THE CONFIRMATION OF ABSTRACT THOUGHT, MADE LITERAL IN ARTIST EXPRESSION. AND BY NATURAL EXTENSION, IT QUESTIONED THE VALUE OF REALITY/SINGULAR DEFINITIONS OF WHAT THESE FORMS MEAN/ARE SUPPOSED TO BE.

MAKE SENSE? OKAY.

NOW HERE THE WIKI-DEFINITON OF POST-MODERNISM (HULK INCLUDING THE LONG VERSION FOR A REASON): “Postmodernism is a philosophical movement away from the viewpoint of modernism. More specifically it is a tendency in contemporary culture characterized by the problem of objective truth and inherent suspicion towards global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. It involves the belief that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs, as they are subject to change inherent to time and place. It emphasizes the role of language, power relations, and motivations; in particular it attacks the use of sharp classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial. Rather, it holds realities to be plural and relative, and dependent on who the interested parties are and what their interests consist of. It attempts to problematise modernist overconfidence, by drawing into sharp contrast the difference between how confident speakers are of their positions versus how confident they need to be to serve their supposed purposes.”

PHEW, THAT A LOT OF DESCRIPTION.  THE FIRST THING YOU WILL NOTICE THAT THE WIKI DEFINITION NOT EVEN THAT CLEAR ABOUT WHAT POST-MODERNISM REALLY IS… THIS IS A PROBLEM OF COURSE, BUT YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO LOOK PAST THAT VAGUERY AND GET A SENSE THAT POST-MODERNISM MOSTLY CONCERNED WITH OBJECTIVE TRUTH IN OUR SOCIETY, OR SOMETHING. YES, YOU COULD PROBABLY READ THAT DESCRIPTION AND THINK: “OKAY I GET IT. I SEE HOW THE TWO THINGS ARE DIFFERENT.”… BUT IT WOULD BE AT THAT POINT WHERE YOU WOULD BE, RATHER DISTINCTLY, WRONG.

AND THAT’S BECAUSE MODERNISM SAID/DID THE SAME EXACT THING.

HULK MUST RESTATE: THEY NOT DIFFERENT WHATSOEVER. THE ONLY THING THAT’S DIFFERENT IS THAT THEY SOMETIMES CENTERED AROUND DIFFERENT SUBJECTS OR POINTS IN RECENT HISTORY.

LET’S RETURN TO MORE OF THE WIKI DEFINITION OF MODERNISM: “Modernism rejected the lingering certainty of Enlightenment thinking and also rejected the existence of a compassionate, all-powerful Creator God[8][9] in favor of the abstract, unconventional, largely uncertain ethic brought on by modernity, initiated around the turn of century by rapidly changing technology and further catalyzed by the horrific consequences of World War One on the cultural psyche of artists.”

FIRST YOU’LL NOTICE HOW THAT SOUNDS A LOT LIKE TODAY, AND SECOND YOU’LL NOTICE HOW POST-MODERNISM THINKS IT IS SO CENTERED AROUND THE FUNDAMENTAL NOTION OF CERTAINTY AND DEFYING TRADITIONAL AESTHETICS.

THINK ABOUT IT. JUST HOW IN THE HELL IS POST-MODERNISM MOVING AWAY FROM MODERNISM?

FOR EXAMPLE, THE GOAL OF MODERNIST ABSTRACT ART WASN’T JUST TO SAY “ART CAN BE ABSTRACT!” BUT TO SAY “ART CAN BE ANYTHING.” THAT’S LITERALLY WHAT THEY WERE TRYING TO DO, TO INVERT OUR CONCEPTION OF WHAT IT COULD BE. AND THE PROOF WAS THAT PEOPLE SAT AROUND AND LOOKED AT MODERN ART AND ASKED “IS THIS ART?” THE PROOF IS IN THE PROVERBIAL PUDDING. THEY HAD THE EXACT SAME CONCERNS AS TODAY’S MODERNIST CULTURE AND THE DIALOGUE CENTERED AROUND THE LANGUAGE WAS THE EXACT SAME IN IT’S NATURE.

SO WHEN AN ARTIST TODAY MAKES A FOUND OBJECT SCULPTURE, OR SOME IDIOT PUTS A CROSS IN A JAR OF PEE AND SAYS “IT’S POST-MODERN” BECAUSE THEY’RE INVERTING THE CONCEPT OF WHAT ART CAN BE, THEY’RE LITERALLY DO THE EXACT SAME THING IN THE EXACT SAME GOAL AS MODERNISM. YES, OF COURSE, FOUND-OBJECT ART IS DIFFERENT FORM THAN ABSTRACT PAINTING, BUT JUST BECAUSE IT COMES LATER IN THE MOVEMENT DOESN’T MEAN IT’S NECESSARILY DIFFERENT. IT’S NOT EVEN A DISTINCTION. THINK ABOUT IT. THE FOUND-OBJECT SCULPTURE IS NOT SAYING SOMETHING AGAINST ABSTRACTION. THEY’RE DOING THE SAME THING IN A DIFFERENT, LATER ART FORM. THAT’S IT.

THE TRUTH IS WE REALLY HAVEN’T MOVED PAST MODERNISM.

FOR EXAMPLE, IN TERMS OF LITERATURE, JAMES JOYCE’S ULYSSES AND FINNEGAN’S WAKE ARE CONSIDERED THE SEMINAL WORKS OF MODERNISM (PRETTY MUCH ALL JOYCE, REALLY(2)). BUT THERE NOT A SINGLE CONCEPT, FORM, OR IDEA USED IN POST-MODERN LIT THAT CAN’T BE FOUND IN THOSE BOOKS. AGAIN, THOSE BOOKS WHICH ARE USED TO DEFINE LITERARY MODERNISM. REALLY, IT’S TRUE. YET TIME AND TIME AGAIN HULK SEE PEOPLE REFERRING TO POST-MODERN ART AND LITERATURE: THE WORK OF ANDY WARHOL. TIM HAWKINSON. THOMAS PYNCHON. DAVID FOSTER WALLACE. THERE NOTHING POST-MODERN ABOUT ANY OF THEM, BECAUSE THERE IS NOTHING THAT ISN’T MODERNIST ABOUT ANY OF THEM. DOES THAT MAKE SENSE? HULK WANT BE SURE THIS MAKES SENSE. AND KEEP IN MIND HULK ADORES ALL THOSE PEOPLE, BUT THEY JUST CURRENT MODERNISTS STRIVING TOWARD THEIR OWN PARTICULAR BRAND OF IDEAS.

SO WHAT GIVES? HOW THIS ACADEMIC + POPULAR MISCONCEPTION KEEP HAPPENING?

HULK BELIEVE THE ANSWER COMES FROM A COMPLETELY UNFAIR PRACTICE: THE RETRO-ACTIVE CHANGING OF THE DEFINITION OF MODERNISM TO REMOVE ANYTHING WITH SO-CALLED POST-MODERN LEANINGS.

LOOK, HULK UNDERSTAND THAT ALMOST EVERY HISTORICAL LABEL IS A BROAD STROKE TO IT’S SUBJECT. NEO-CLASSIC WRITERS WEREN’T SITTING AROUND THINKING ABOUT FALLING IN LINE WITH THE RULES OF THEIR CURRENT ERA. THAT WOULD BE ABSURD. AS SUCH, THERE A DEGREE TO WHICH WE CAN REVISE HISTORICAL GROUPINGS OF PEOPLE TO MAKE SENSE OF CONCEPTUAL TRENDS. BUT THIS MODERNISM/POST-MODERINISM SCRAMBLE IS SOMETHING DIFFERENT. THIS IS STRAIGHT UP MIS-CHARACTERIZATION. GO BACK AND LOOK AT THE TWO DEFINITIONS OF MODERNISM AND POST-MODERNISM. TO BE HONEST, IT’S LIKE POST-MODERNISM NEVER EVEN BOTHERED LOOKING UP THE REAL DEFINITION OF MODERNISM.

THE WAY IT IS STATED, POST-MODERNISM STRIKES HULK AS NOTHING MORE THAN THE BASIC INTERPRETATION/GOAL OF MODERNISM, TAKEN TO IT’S FURTHEST LOGICAL/CONCEPTUAL POINT. IT IS A CONTINUATION. AN EXTENSION. AND THERE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING “POST” ABOUT IT.

HULK FLOATED THE IDEA THAT MODERNISM AND POST-MODERNISM WHERE SAYING THE SAME EXACT THING IN THE SAME EXACT WAY  ON TWITTER (SPECIFICALLY THE JOYCE POINT, ALBEIT IN TRUNCATED FORM) AND PEOPLE RESPONDED ONCE AGAIN. PLEASE NOTICE THAT MOST OF THE REACTIONS ARE COMING FROM A PLACE OF GENUINE CARE AND THOUGH, BUT ALSO NOTICE THE RANGE OF ANSWERS:

otakucomics Otaku Comics (Gerry)

Mod = peeling artichoke and enjoying the heart lament the waste Pomo = peeling onion, nothing in center, but fuck it, eat.

not familiar enough with FW, but always thought it was more mod. Crying of Lot 49 is true Pomo.

TheLazy1 Lara P.

Well, they are similar but mainly b/c postmodernism is really a consequence of modernism.

Modernism asked questions to which it sought logical answers. Postmodernism recognized there were no answers.

bg_ohthehorror Brett G.

I think post-modernism is just a little more cheeky/cognizant of meta concerns.

Not that modernism wasn’t meta (FINNEGANS WAKE is a good example), but it generally let the art stand.

But really, I think we feel to need to constantly categorize things as eras wear on. What are we in now? Post-post-post mod?

Smile_cat Elizabeth

Excellent points, but self-identification should not be discounted. If Pomo people say they not Mod, not fair to say they are.

nuitsilencieuse Tim Baumann

Modernism got interrupted by history the way that no other critical movement has been, I think. That’s why it seems that way.

zackschuster Zack Schuster

Postmodernism is different in attitude than Modernism, but not in technique.

What would you call the era we’re in right now? Neomodernist or Post-postmodern? Or something else?

Kilgoar Billy d0x Walshe

Hulk, we can’t arrive at absolute truth because of sensory and lingual barriers.

Jarimor Scott Hawkes

Post-modernism only works until it explains itself through semantic slight of hand, devouring itself with its infallibility

Post-Modernism it is an attempt to plug self-explaining logic into Modernism in order to make it all-encompassing, a fallacy

bg_ohthehorror Brett G.

Oddly enough, wouldn’t post-modernism be the one type of movement that would point itself out?

Carpie2112 Jesse A Carp

I remember discussing post-mod in every class the first two years of uni… by year four it was no longer a ‘valid’ concept.

B_Kritz Bryan Kritz

It doesn’t exist in reality and can never be fully formed. Same as tomorrow, when you are there it’s today. :)

Sam_Strange Sam Strange

my take, and still based primarily on Shakespeare: good postmodernism is an artistic reaction to precedent…

done well, pm storytelling forges new storytelling methods by knowingly diverting from normal narrative paths.

it’s a narrative response to the art form, but not a textual one. I think this is the difference between pm and meta.

warmandpunchy John Cameron

not sure about this – modernism carried with it a certain volume of conservatism as well (in lit anyways)

vs. postmodernism which in multivalent perspective + voice opened doors for feminist/marxist/etc thought in arts

viously an oversimplification but i’d argue that modernism was about style vs. postmodernism being about substance

which it should be pointed out is not hierarchical – contemporary art/thought has benefited from both in fairly equal measure

XtianHardy Christian Hardy

In many ways Moderism became THE method of delivering literary realism see also: viriginia woolf #tryharder

for more info on Post-Modernism see the 1980s-90s, they want their critical theory back

Finnigan’s Wake is post-Ulysses however, which is the arch-text of literary modernism. So yes in a way, FW is post-modern.

Why am I arguing about modernism with the Hulk? Isn’t he supposed to be all smashy-smashy? I suspect @FilmCritHULK is really the Grey Hulk.

AND LASTLY:

tomnomnomnom Doctor Tom

Completely disagree with this logic if you’re attempting to conflate ideals of modernism and postmodernism into one thing.

This is akin to saying that Saussure and Bakhtin because they operated under a mechanism of broad questions and disentangling

…these problems of language and text that they invented and solidified the same theories. This is obviously problematic.

Modernism is concerned with the process of the loss of humanity, the process of the loss of dignity, process of the loss…

of the familiar, of language, of Narrative. Po-mo exploits the lacuna left over as a means to re-create this idealized loss

I would point you to a comparison of Ulysses and House of Leaves – or L’Eclisse to Slacker. #toobigfortwitter

TO BE FAIR TO THESE RESPONSES, HULK WAS TALKING IN BROAD STROKES ON TWITTER (AS THEY WERE) AND COULDN’T EXPLAIN HULK’S THEORY AS IN DEPTH AS ABOVE, BUT NOTICE THE FREQUENT ISSUES OF POST-MODERNISM DEFINITIONS THAT SAY THE SAME AS MODERNISM, ETC. AND HULK COULD RESPOND TO EACH ONE OF THESE TWEETS AND SAY WHY HULK DISAGREE BUT THAT WOULD BE SILLY AND A RELATIVE WASTE OF TIME. HULK JUST WANTED YOU TO THE FULL RANGE OF DIFFERENT RESPONSES. SUFFICE TO SAY, HULK NEVER GOT AN ANSWER THAT CONFIRMS THE TWO ARE DIFFERENT WITHOUT RADICALLY AND UNFAIRLY LIMITING THE SCALE/INTENT/INTERESTS OF MODERNISM.

PROBLEM #3 – BOTH PERIODS ARE POORLY NAMED

IN SOME WAYS, THE VAST MAJORITY OF PROBLEMS STEM FROM THE FACT WE CALLED MODERNISM “MODERNISM” AND NOT SOMETHING MORE SPECIFIC. PROBLEMS INCLUDE: A) IT’S A VAGUE TERM TO BEGIN WITH UNLIKE, SAY, “ROMANTICISM” WHICH VERY SPECIFIC AND DESCRIPTIVE PHRASE. B) THE WORD “MODERNISM” EXPLICITLY BEGS TO BE THOUGHT OF AS WHATEVER TREND IS CURRENT. AND C) THEN CALLING THIS NEW PERIOD POST-MODERNISM IS LIKE CALLING “WHATEVER IS AFTER THAT ALREADY BROAD, VAGUE THING. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT REALLY, AS LONG AS IT’S AFTER.” … YEAH WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT THE PHRASE “POST-MODERNISM” IS QUITE POSSIBLE THE MOST THOROUGHLY INACCURATE NAME FOR A TREND EVER.

SO YEAH, THIS ISN’T A LONG PROBLEM TO DISCUSS, BUT STILL NOTEWORTHY.

PROBLEM #4 – WE’RE TOO CLOSE TO “IT” TO BE LABELING ANYTHING

THE BALL DIDN’T DROP AND ALL OF SUDDEN EVERYONE CHEERED “YAY, IT’S THE RENAISSANCE!”

IT IMPLICITLY TAKES HINDSIGHT TO SEE A TREND. TO SEE WHAT STRIKES A CHORD IN OUR CULTURE (OUTSIDE OF ECONOMIC IMMEDIACY). HULK KNOW SOCIETY IS SO INTERCONNECTED TODAY AND TRENDS MOVE SO FAST (INTENET MEMES CAN BECOME BORING WITHIN… MINUTES?) SO SOMETIMES IT’S BETTER TO WORK WITH FORMS OF ART THAT ARE MORE READILY APPARENT THAN PAINTING, OR LITERATURE. MOVIES ARE ACTUALLY A GREAT EXAMPLE. WHY? BECAUSE THEY’RE SO EXPENSIVE SO THERE IS LESS CONTENT AND ARE SUCH A NEW ARTFORM (ONLY JUST OVER 100 YEARS OLD) THAT THERE IS A MUCH SHORTER TIMELINE TO INTERACT WITH, MAKING IT SO MUCH EASIER TO PUT THE PIECES OF INFLUENCE + HISTORY TOGETHER. FOR EXAMPLE: AMERICAN NOIR WAS A DIRECT RESULT OF GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM. ITALIAN NEOREALISM WAS A DIRECT RESULT OF ALL THE SOUNDSTAGES IN ITALY BEING DESTROYED IN WORLD WAR II. STUFF LIKE THAT. NONE OF THEM REALIZED AT THE TIME THEY WERE PART OF ANY MOVEMENT (THE FRENCH NEW WAVE MAY HAVE BEEN CONSCIOUS THAT THEY WERE PART OF “SOMETHING NEW AND DIFFERENT” BUT THEY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THEIR LEGACY AND TIES WERE UNTIL A FEW YEARS LATER). EVEN WITH SOMETHING AS SIMPLE AS BLOATED 90′S ACTION CINEMA IT WAS JUST CONSIDERED THE “CURRENT” AESTHETIC AT THE TIME, BUT WHEN WE LOOK BACK WE CAN SEE THE OBVIOUS AND INANE TREND.

THIS NOT TO IMPLY THAT THIS OVER-WILLINGNESS TO LABEL CURRENT TRENDS RUNS COUNTER TO HULK’S BELIEF THAT “CLARITY OF DEFINITION” REALLY IMPORTANT. THERE HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LABELING A SPECIFIC THING TO TRY AND GET TO THE HEART OF WHAT IT’S DOING/SAYING, AND THE INCLINATION TO HAPHAZARDLY LUMP SOMETING IT INTO SOME GLOBAL ALL ENCOMPASSING TREND. FOR EXAMPLE OF WHAT HULK MEANS BY THAT, HULK WOULD FEEL VERY COMPELLED TO TRY AND EXPLAIN/DEFINE WHAT CUARON’S “Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN” MEANS IN A SINGLE SENTENCE. BUT HULK WOULD FEEL LESS COMPELLED TO EXPLAIN WHAT THE LATIN AMERICAN “NEUVA WAVE” MEANS IN A SINGLE SENTENCE. MAKE SENSE?

WHAT’S FUNNY IS THAT THIS “GLOBAL TREND” POINT JUST HIGHLIGHTS THE IRONY THAT POST-MODERNISM THINKS IT DISMISSES THE NOTION OF GLOBAL TRENDS, AND YET ITSELF, CAN ONLY EXIST AS GLOBAL TREND. IF THEY DO NOT, THEN POST-MODERNISM IS JUST NOTHING MORE THAN  STRUCTURAL NIHILISM OR CHAOS THEORY.

SO IF POST-MODERNISM IS WHATEVER THIS “CURRENT” ART FORM/CULTURE TREND IS, THAN TO LABEL SOMETHING AS POST-MODERN IS, AT BEST, GETTING AHEAD OF ONE SELF, OR AT WORST, TAKING ADVANTAGE OF ALL-INCLUSIVE BUZZWORDISM.

LABELING IS WEIRD. ONCE WE FOR REAL IN SOMETHING ELSE CULTURALLY (PROBABLY WHEN A TECHNOLOGICAL/SOCIETAL SHIFT DRAMATICALLY AFFECTS THE PRODUCT OF ART, LIKE IF WORLD WAR 3 HAPPENS,  THE ECONOMY DIES, OR SOMETHING MORE INNOCENT LIKE IF WE STOP PUTTING BOOKS ON PAPER), THEN THE REALITY OF WHATEVER THE HELL WE THOUGHT POST-MODERNISM WAS, WILL BE OBVIOUS. (3)

PROBLEM #5 – IT CAN’T EXIST BY IT’S OWN DEFINITION.

THIS ONE A LITTLE BULLSHITTY, BUT ONE OF THE DEEPEST PROBLEMS OF POSTER-MODERNISM IS THAT IT TECHNICALLY CAN’T EXIST. POST MODERNISM BELIEVES THAT THERE NO OBJECTIVE TRUTH, AND ALL CONSTRUCTS ARE RELATIVE. BUT BY PRODUCING A WORK THAT IS “POST-MODERN” EVEN IN IT’S REFERENTIAL STATE, YOU ARE STILL CREATING A DEFINITE CONSTRUCT. EVEN BY WRITING DOWN THIS IDEA, HULK MAKING A CONSTRUCT. THIS MEANS THAT (TECHNICALLY) YOU CAN’T WRITE A POST-MODERN BOOK AND CALL IT A BOOK. YOU CAN’T CREATE POST-MODERN ART AND CALL IT ART.

IT SORT OF A SCHROEDENGERS CAT THING, BUT IT PROOF THAT ANY ATTEMPT TO EVEN BE AMBIVALENT ABOUT OBJECTIVE TRUTH, IS THEREFORE TRYING TO MAKE A DEFINITIVE STATEMENT THAT TRUTH IS OBJECTIVE.

HOORAY FOR PARADOXES.

AND HULK JUST KNOW PEOPLE WOULD IMMEDIATELY JUMP ON HULK’S/SOCIETIES INABILITY TO DEFINE POST-MODERNISM AS PROOF THAT POST-MODERNISM EXISTS BECAUSE THAT WHAT IT SAYING, THINGS CAN’T BE DEFINED, BUT THAT, IS ACTUALLY, IDIOTIC BECAUSE IT RUNS DIRECTLY COUNTER TO THE POINT HULK JUST MADE. IT DOESN’T MAKE POST-MODERNISM “POST-MODERN” IT MAKES WHAT THEY THINK “POST-MODERNISM” IS, MERELY A REFLEXIVE STATEMENT… THAT IT.

OOOH AND THERE’S ANOTHER GOOD PARADOX TOO. HULK’S FAVORITE PART OF THE POST-MODERNISM DISCUSSION IS WHEN PEOPLE CALL SOMETHING POST-MODERN BECAUSE IT EMBRACES THE “NEW MYTH” AND USES MODERNIST CONSTRUCTS TO REBUILD AN OLD GENRE, LIKE A TRADITIONAL ROMANCE OR SOMETHING. THIS IS HILARIOUS BECAUSE SAYING THAT POST-MODERNISM IS ACTUALLY TRYING TO BUILD A NEW-MYTH TRUTH IS THE EXACT OPPOSTITE OF THE SUPPOSED POST-MODERN DEFINITION. THERE’S A FURTHER IRONY, THAT THEY ARE PROBABLY MAKING THIS STATEMENT BECAUSE BUILDING THE “NEW MYTH” IS GENUINELY A REACTION TO MODERNISM (WHICH TO INCLUDES POST-MODERNISM IN HULK’S EYES) THUS MAKING THE IT A GENUINELY “POST-MODERN” CONCEPT! WHICH MEANS THAT IS WHAT WE SHOULD BE DEFINING POST-MODERN AS! (IF WE’RE GOING TO USE THAT HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE PHRASE).

ALL WE’D NEED TO DO IS FIGURE THE CONSTRUCT OF THOUGHT THAT ALL LINES UP.

MAYBE IT COULD BE NEO-ROMANTICISM. OR NEO-HUMANISM. HELL, HULK COULD TOTALLY ARGUE WE GOING THROUGH A NEO-RELIGIOUS ARTISTIC MOVE (ONE THAT HASN’T REALLY BEEN ALL THAT REFLECTED IN ART). THE POINT IS WE WONT’ KNOW IF IT’S PART OF ANOTHER SIGNIFICANT TREND UNTIL SOME TIME HAS PAST. BUT IN THE MEANTIME? YOU CAN CALL IT NEO-ROMANTIC PIECE THAT USES MODERNIST LANGUAGE. AND GUESS WHAT? THAT’S A TOTALLY MORE ACCURATE WAY TO DESCRIBE THAN CALLING IT “POST-MODERN.” WHICH, IN CASE HULK HASN’T MADE IT TOTALLY CLEAR AT THIS POINT, COULD FUCKING MEAN ANYTHING.

DAVID FOSTER WALLACE’S RECENT UNFINISHED BOOK IS A MODERNIST APPROACH TO THE MEMOIR. EVERYONE THROWS OUT THE WORD POST-MODERN TO DESCRIBE  IT (AND TO BE FAIR, IT DOES FEEL QUITE REVOLUTIONARY AND NEW) BUT TO DESCRIBE LIKE THAT WOULD ALSO BE VERY, VERY WRONG. IT’S A MODERNIST APPROACH TO THE MEMOIR, THAT MIGHT BE, VERY NEO-HUMANISTIC.

ULTIMATELY, POST-MODERNISM IS SO FUCKING EITHERAL AND VAGUE WHY HAS NO ONE EVER STOPPED AND SAID, “YOU KNOW WHAT? THIS IS REALLY STUPID. WE’RE TRYING TO LUMP A LOT OF CONCEPTS INTO A SINGULAR THING THAT DOESN’T EVEN MAKE SENSE, AND WORSE ARE THEORY ITSELF ARGUES AGAINST EVEN DOING SO.  AND MAYBE THIS IDEA DISAPPEAR UP IT’S OWN ASSHOLE SO FAST THAT CALLING SOMETHING POST-MODERN IS TO INSTANTLY SAY ‘I HAVE NO WAY OF DEVELOPING THIS IDEA IN CONCRETE TERMS SO I’M GOING TO USE A BULLSHIT PHRASE’ OR ‘I DON’T WANT TO USE CATEGORIZATIONS THAT HAVE BEEN AROUND FOREVER SO I’M GOING TO MAKE UP A NEW ONE THAT CAN’T BE DEFINED.’”

OKAY… THAT’S SUPER HARSH… HULK SORRY. BUT BEYOND THAT, THE WHOLE REVOLUTIONARY IDEA OF WHAT WE’RE SUPPOSED TO GAIN FROM POST-MODERNISM IS, QUITE FRANKLY, FUCKING OBVIOUS. OF COURSE CONSTRUCTS ARE A FUCKING FABRICATION. OF COURSE WE SHOULDN’T TAKE THEM LITERALLY. BUT CONSTRUCTS ARE WHAT WE USE TO HOLD UP SOCIETIES. THEY ARE, QUITE FRANKLY, THE MOST NECESSARY THING ABOUT OUR HUMAN BRAINS BECAUSE THEY ALLOW US TO MOVE BEYOND CLUBBING EACH OTHER OVER THE HEAD AND STEALING EACH OTHER’S WALLETS.

THE PART OF THIS RANT LABELED A “CONCLUSION”

WHAT PERHAPS REALLY TOUGH ABOUT THIS, IS THAT HULK JUST CAN’T GO AROUND CALLING SOMETHING “MODERNIST” WHEN WE LIVE IN A CULTURE THAT THINKS THIS VAGUE POST-MODERNISM IS ACTUALLY A THING. IT’S LIKE TRYING TO PAY AT THE CORNER STORE WITH MONOPOLY MONEY, MODERN ACADEMIA IS JUST FUCKING USING THE PHRASE AND THAT MIGHT BE THAT.

BUT JUST SO YOU KNOW, HULK BEEN ARGUING WITH THOSE ACADEMIC TYPES FOR YEARS ABOUT THIS (MANY WILL LIKELY TAKE ISSUE WITH THIS ARTICLE TOO). BUT ALL THAT’S REQUIRED TO MAKE IT WORK WITH THE OTHER ACADEMIC TYPES IS FOR HULK TO MAKE HULK’S USE OF THE LANGUAGE RATHER WELL-KNOWN AT FIRST BEFORE QUALIFYING.

AND HULK, QUITE OBVIOUSLY, NOT THE FIRST ONE TO EVER SUGGEST POST-MODERNISM NOT A THING, NOR HULK EVEN REMOTELY CLOSE TO DOING IT AS GOOD AS SOME EXPERTS. IN FACT, HULK REALLY NOT HAPPY WITH THIS EXPLANATION. IT WHOLLY INCOMPLETE AND HULK MAKE WAY TOO MANY UNQUALIFIED STATEMENTS. BUT HULK SHOULD REALLY BE ABLE TO WRITE A COLUMN THAT NOT 12,000 WORDS. AND BESIDES, THIS HAS BEEN THE LEAST FUN COLUMN HULK HAS EVER WRITTEN SO THE THE IDEA OF WRITING ABOUT POST-MODERNISM FOR EVEN ANOTHER PAGE OR SO ENOUGH TO DRIVE HULK TO THE BRINK OF MADNESS.

HONESTLY, IT NOT THAT HARD TO DO.

ALL HULK REALLY WANTED OUT OF THIS WAS FOR YOU TO THINK ABOUT THE SUBJECT A LITTLE BE… TO NOT USE PHRASES WITH A LACK OF CLARITY… TO NOT USE THE TERM “POST-MODERN” WITH SUCH DEFINITIVENESS… AND TO MAYBE BE A LITTLE MORE SKEPTICAL WHENEVER SOMEONE USING THE TERM.

AND BESIDES, HULK THINK OVER-LONG CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORM ITSELF = ABSOLUTELY THE MOST BORING CONVERSATIONS ONE COULD HAVE. THEY JUST NOT THAT IMPORTANT CULTURALLY, NOR DOES HULK THINK THEY’RE THAT IMPORTANT ACADEMICALLY (QUALIFYING LITERARY DOCTORATES AND REQUIREMENT OF “NEW” LEADS TO MOST OF THE PROBLEMS HERE). HULK KNOW LOTS OF PEOPLE DISAGREE. BUT HULK THINK IT REALLY NOT THAT IMPORTANT COMPARED TO ACTUAL INTENT OF SUBJECT.

THERE A GOOD/SUPER-ON-THE-NOSE SCENE IN A DEAD POET’S SOCIETY WHERE THEY READ FROM A PASSAGE ABOUT CHARTING THE “IMPORTANCE” OF A POEM. IT’S VERY SQUARE AND STUPID AND THE REJECTION OF THIS CONCEPT OBVIOUS. BUT IN ANOTHER WAY, THEY ARE ESSENTIALLY, REJECTING OVERT CARE ABOUT THE SEMANTICS OF FORM. AND TO HULK, THE POST-MODERN DISCUSSION IS NOTHING BUT THE OVERT CARE ABOUT THE SEMANTICS OF FORM. BY TALKING TOO MUCH ABOUT THE FORM/POLITICS OF MODERNISM/POST-MODERNISM WE ARE ACTUALLY DOING THE SAME THING, STRANGLING THE VERY THING THAT IS CRITICAL TO OUR HUMAN OPERATION.  HULK THINK IT’S DOING A GREAT DISSERVICE TO THE PIECE OF ART. WHAT MAKES DAVID FOSTER WALLACE GREAT IS NOT THAT HE FRACTURES A NARRATIVE. HULK LOVED WALLACE BECAUSE CARED ABOUT OUR CULTURE DIRECTION IN A DEEP AND PROFOUND WAY. THAT’S THE CONVERSATION HULK WANTS TO HAVE.

SAY WHAT YOU WILL, BUT TO HULK? POST-MODERNISM… YEAH… NOT A THING

… BUT IF POST-MODERNISM IS A THING HULK PRETTY SURE IT MAYBE ONLY EXIST IN ARCHITECTURE… OR MARIA BAMFORD.

BAMFORD!

ENDNOTES:

(1) YES, ALL IDEAS SHOULD HAVE A CRUX. AND YES, HULK FULLY AWARE THAT POST-MODERNISM ARGUES THAT SUCH SINGULAR DEFINITIONS ARE FALSE, BUT THE FACT THAT IT CAN’T MAKE THAT ARGUMENT IN A SINGLE SENTENCE ODDLY ENOUGH PROVES HULK’S RELATIVE POINT: POST-MODERNISM ISN’T EVEN THAT GOOD AT WHAT IT’S TRYING TO NEBULOUSLY EXPLAIN.

(2)IF YOU EVER WANT TO TEACH KIDS JOYCE AND ALSO KEEP THEM AWAKE, TEACH PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN. YOU SORTA NEED TO BE IN YOUR TWENTIES TO TACKLE ANYTHING ELSE BY HIM.

(3) HULK SHOULD POSSIBLY QUALIFY THAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT AMERICAN/WESTERN CIVILIZATION HERE. CULTURAL TRENDS ARE, WELL, RATHER DIFFERENT SORT OF DISCUSSION IN FIRST WORLD CHINA OR THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES.

RANDOM ENDNOTE #1: LOTS PEOPLE CLAIM SHAKESPEARE THE FIRST MODERNIST. POST-MODERNISTS CLAIM HE THE FIRST POST-MODERNISM (EVERYONE WANTS A PIECE OF SHAKESPEARE. HE THAT GOOD). PLAYING THE LEAD IN THE TEMPEST, IN THAT ROLE, THAT NOT POST-MODERN?

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31 Responses to “POST-MODERNISM… NOT A THING”

  1. Sir_Roco said

    Since I’ve coincidentally bought “Philip K. Dick: Exhilaration and Terror of the Postmodern” by Christopher Palmer just a few days ago (although I’ve not read it yet), I’ll take the opportunity of this Essay to ask Hulk, if he likes Philip K. Dick.

  2. Maintainer said

    Puny Banner = Modern
    Hulk = Postmodern

  3. Interesting read as always. I think of PM being what you do when the modernists have already broken all the rules. They broke art by making it anything and now you have to try and do art again while knowing this. As you suggest, how to do this is still being worked out. Does writing criticism as the hulk to break the mold = modernism whereas doing it because it works for what you want to do and all the molds were broken long ago = postmodern? (I’m no kind of knowledgeable here)

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      SEE THE THING IS THIS GETs INTO SORT OF DIFFERENT CONVERSATION. HULK ARGUE POST-MODERNISM NOT THAT NEW. HELL, PLATO’S ALLEGORY OF THE DEN (WHICH YOU KNOW LIKE THE FIRST BLOCKBUSTER-ALLEGORY/SEMIOTICAL DISCUSSION) IS STRANGELY ENOUGH A DISCUSSION OF OBJECTIVE POST-MODERN TRUTH. WHICH MEANS THAT EVEN THOUGH OUR LANGUAGE HAS CHANGED AS WELL AS OUR ABILITY TO DEFINE, REALLY OUR WAYS OF THINKING ABOUT THE WORLD IN GRANDEST FASHION, HAVE NOT CHANGED FOR A FEW THOUSAND YEARS. AND HULK NOT REALLY SURE THEY SHOULD. 3000 YEARS IS A BLIP ON THE TIME SCALE OF GENETIC AUGMENTATION (BUT UNFORTUNATELY NOT ON FOR TECHNOLOGICAL AUGMENTATION, WHERE THE WORLD CAN BE REVOLUTIONIZED IN A FEW YEARS)

      … HULK HAVE NO IDEA WHERE GOING WITH THIS. WHAT WAS YOUR QUESTION?

  4. Bevin said

    I have to admit I’ve never had a full working knowledge of modernism, post-modernism, or admittedly this argument against the term, although I find all of them interesting. “Post-modernism” was one of those words I just heard used in a specific context from different sources and cobbled together a sense of what it might be, the way people tend to do when they run into words they don’t know. There was one twenty-minute lecture on the definition of modernism for the sake of defining post-modernism before watching “Mulholland Drive” in a class I had, so that’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to understanding it as a full concept. Once I tried to explain it to someone else I realized I couldn’t reconstruct the same logical progression my professor had and I just sort of gave up.

    Weirdly, the professor I heard about it from the most wasn’t a film or art prof but my Japanese prof. He wasn’t into academia or overly-analytical discussions about anything, he liked cold, hard facts that you could map out on a piece of paper. But he kept referring to Japan as the world’s first post-modern society, so I guess he picked up the term, too.

    It’s definitely food for thought but I’m in no shape to challenge anyone I know who’s dead-set on it being a thing.

  5. This is fucking awesome. I have an issue, but I don’t think it’d last too long in a face-to-face discussion on the subject. Despite that, I don’t think I’ll be using the term freely anymore.

    THIS ARTICLE CHANGED MY LIFE

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      HULK LAUGH. ONE OF THE BEST ARGUMENTS TO MAKE AGAINST HULK IS THAT THE MODERNISTS WHO WENT “POST-MODERN” WITH THEIR WORK (JOYCE), WERE IN FACT ENGAGING IN POST-MODERNISM DESPITE THE AUSPICES OF MODERNISM. MEANING POST-MODERNISM ISN’T REALLY A MOVEMENT BUT JUST WHENEVER SOMEONE CONCENTRATES THEIR MODERNIST WORK ON THE SUBJECT OF OBJECTIVITY. WHICH HULK GUESS MAKES SENSE, BUT HULK DISAGREES BECAUSE THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT A MOVEMENT OR A TREND AND JUST AN AIM.

      HULK FEEL LIKE POST MODERNISM SHOULD REALLY BE CALLED OBJECTIVISM, ONLY SOMEONE ELSE ALREADY INCORRECTLY USURPED THAT TERM TO MAKE, WHAT IS EASILY, THE WORST THING EVER.

  6. [...] criticism (though he does that too), but whatever he turns his big, green mind to. Today it was Post-Modernism, which [...]

  7. [...] ALSO HAS A BLOG. AND ON THIS BLOG HE RECENTLY WROTE A GREAT RESPONSE TO HULK’S POST MODERNISM… NOT A THING! ESSAY. RATHER THAN BE OBTUSE AND PASTE HIS WHOLE ARTICLE, YOU SHOULD CLICK AND READ IT. IT NOT HULK-SIZED [...]

  8. Martuchelli said

    I’m not a philosopher, but, if i’m not mistaken, the term is usually used to refer (in philosophy) to the type of skepticism that the philosophy of Wittgenstein entails. He argues against the idea of a personal language and with it destroys all modern philosophy – a philosophy that has the subject as its foundation. It’s more of a culture climate than a real thing.

    When the term is used to art stuff, i couldn’t agree more with you. Congratulations on the blog.

    P.S.: Sorry for the bad english, i’m not a native speaker.

  9. abrutalkind said

    Hulk, I love this site, I love what you have to say and how you say it, in hulk-speak that is. But here is the issue I have with this article as has been brought up in previous comments. There are two definitions to both Modern and Postmodern. One pertaining to the artistic world and then one pertaining to the scientific/societal/cultural world. Yes, you may argue that artistic world influences the cultural/societal world but I think you are still confusing two ideas and Wikipedia backs me up. If you go to the page for Modernism you will see at the top an italicized sentence asking of you meant disambiguation or if you meant Modernity. This is where you find the correct societal definition of “Modernism” or Modernity, which I will be calling it from now on. Modernity is the cultural and societal reaction to the Enlightenment. From a scientific/philosophical standpoint, which I think affected the cultural more than the art due to the enlightenment and the fact that it had been established as a period for a longer time than art, Modernity was all about scientific truth, what every could be proven through scientific law & observation was true. Rational thought was heralded to be the end all be all of human achievement. This is why I think post-modernism is separate from modernism. Po-mo is all about the fact that we can’t know anything 100%, everything is doubted and ultimately unknown. You recognize this with your very articles you write, you just don’t label it as modern and postmodern. The 1950 -70s was the last generation of a Western Modern society. That is the reason behind the fall of Superman and the rise of Batman. In the modern mindset the world is Black & White, to the po-mo it is grey. That is why Batman is more popular because he more accurately reflects that cultural shift, yes in your article you point out other important factors. But I would call all those factors part of our Modern to postmodern shift.
    All this to say I think you need to do a little more research before attempt such a broad and sweeping topic

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      HELLO THERE! HULK THANK YOU FOR THE KIND WORDS. BUT HULK THINK THERE MIGHT BE SOME CONFUSION AS TO THE INTENT OF THIS ARTICLE. A BIG PART OF HULK’S BROAD SWEEPING STROKES WITH THIS WAS THE INTENT TO PAINT THE ARGUMENT IN VERY GENERAL TERMS. BECAUSE HULK HAS SPENT A LIFETIME WITH THE SPECIFICITY OF MODERN VS. POST-MODERN DEFINITIONS AND HULK EVEN FINDS THE IDEA OF DELVING INTO THAT SPECIFICITY TO BE PROBLEMATIC. SO HULK DIDN’T. AND WHILE YOU CERTAINLY DIDN’T MEAN IT, TO SAY HULK “NEED TO DO A LITTLE MORE RESEARCH BEFORE ATTEMPTING SUCH A BROAD AND SWEEPING TOPIC” COMES ACROSS VERY, VERY GRATING. ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THE FACT THAT HULK HAS WRITTEN ONE OF HULK’S THESIS’ ON THE TOPIC UNDER THE GUIDING HAND OF ONE OF THE ACADEMIC HEAVYWEIGHTS OF PO-MO REVISIONISM. BASICALLY THIS JUST MEANS HULK HAS DONE THE RESEARCH (AND JUST SO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU’RE SAYING SOMEONE HASN’T DONE THE RESEARCH, DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF AND SAY “WIKIPEDIA BACKS ME UP.”) AND HULK COULD ABSOLUTELY ARTICULATE A COUNTER-POINT TO JUST ABOUT EVERY SINGLE THING YOU SAID IN HERE, BUT AGAIN THE ARGUMENT JUST BECOMES SO DAMN REFLEXIVE AND IN THE END WE’D JUST BE ARGUING OVER A MATTER OF LABELING. AND GOING BACK TO ONE OF HULK’S POINTS ARTICULATED IN THE ARTICLE THAT THE MODERN MINDSET IS “BLACK & WHITE” IS AN ABSOLUTE UNTRUTH AND REDUCTION. BUT AGAIN, HULK JUST HAS NO FUN AT ALL TALKING ABOUT THIS TOPIC. SO HULK THANK FOR THE THOUGHTFUL, TRULY INTELLIGENT WORDS (EVEN IF HULK DISAGREE WITH THE ESTIMATION).

  10. abrutalkind said

    Hulk let me just say I wrote that late at night, far too upset to be thoughtful, thorough and polite. I was rushed trying to articulate my thoughts and took too much of an attitude I apologize. Alas once again I am in a rush but soon I would love to talk this over with you. Truly I love these ideas and talking about them and honestly would love to hear your point by point analysis. I am not trying to claim to be more intelligent than you, while I also wrote my thesis upon postmodernism versus modernism, it was more from a societal/theological mindset and so when it comes to the idea of modern and postmodern in the arts I am very lacking in knowledge. That being said I have come to understand, not just through Wikipedia but also through my own research and reading that there is a difference between modernity and modernism and that is what frustrated me about your article. I felt you were using them interchangeably… But please correct me if I am wrong…though received good marks on my thesis so…. But I will say thanks for reply to, in my own retrospect a mean and vindictive article. It has humbled me and I think in the long run fostered better conversation. Thanks

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      HELLO AGAIN. DON’T WORRY BECAUSE HULK TOTALLY UNDERSTOOD IT WASN’T YOUR INTENT AND TOTALLY UNDERSTOOD WHAT YOU WERE GOING FOR. JUST ALWAYS BE CAREFUL IN ASSUMING HOW MUCH RESEARCH ONE HAS DONE. AND THAT’S NOT TO SAY RESEARCH AUTOMATICALLY VALIDATES ANY OPINION, BUT IT NOT REALLY A FAIR THING TO ESTIMATE. BUT ANYCRAP, PART OF THE REAL PROBLEM IS THAT YOU VIEW POINT IS COMPLETELY CORRECT, SOMETHING MANY PEOPLE WOULD SUPPORT, AND SOMETHING HULK CAN IN NO WAY TO COUNTER EXCEPT FOR HOW “HULK THINK IT ACTUALLY LIKE THIS” SO TO SPEAK. AGAIN, IT BECOMES A REFLEXIVE ARGUMENT TO THE POINT WHERE HULK ALMOST FIND THE ARGUMENT ITSELF TO BE A DISSERVICE AND THERE SO MANY MORE INTERESTING CONVERSATIONS HULK WOULD RATHER HAVE. HULK SINCERELY THANK YOU AGAIN FOR YOUR KINDNESS AND THOUGHT. IT IS DEEPLY APPRECIATED.

  11. Martuchelli said

    I’m not sure if our society should be called post-modern. I think the idea of ‘modernity’ of Mark Webber still describes our society well, and it has a lot in common with post-modernism as you described. Then again, i do theorical physics and i didn’t studied this subject rigorously. Damn Dunning–Kruger effect.

    Anyway, Hulk is right when he says the subject isn’t fun. But it’s a word so used that it would be nice if we all knew we were talking about the same thing.

  12. [...] perfectly. But the piece is also boring. There is no ending or climax. Which is why it sets off my postmodernist radar; it has an air of pointlessness and a tendency to piss me off.  It is also why I say the [...]

  13. Unpainted Huffhines said

    I know I am late to the party, but I have a few thoughts stimulated by your article.

    1) I think the need for post modernists to think of themselves as something new and distinct has everything to do with the historical context in which they arose; that is, the ashes of classical Europe. Several post modernist (or at least post structuralist) thinkers, artists, architects had tarred themselves pretty badly with the brush of Nazism during WWII (I’m looking at you, Paul DeMann)…). Not only would saying that meaning depends entirely on context help assuage their subjective and objective guilt, but it makes a clean break with the past, allowing the construction of a new reality. THink of the extent to which poltical discuourse in this country is constructed around the narrative that ‘America’ began in the postwar era, which is just about the dumbest thing ever thought, but it’s an extremely Post Modern approach. I am reminded of NIetzsche’s On the Advantages and Disadvantages of History for Life, insofar as Post Modernism seems to me really to be, in stripping meaning from all human endeavor, to be facilitating the process of starting to throw some things away, in order to lighten the load for future projects.

    I have no idea what number two was going to be now. I liked the essay, and think postmodernism, if if ever did exist, has pretty much run its course, since all it did was come up with a linguistic toolbox which primarily functioned as a means of obfuscation.

    love your stuff.

  14. I really have to disagree with you here, mainly because I have a different understanding of what post modernism is. As I understand it, modernism is all about searching for answers i.e. ‘this can be art, so can this’ it continues the trend of previous art movements that espouse the value in white male superiority (seriously check out how many female artists there have been throughout history up until post modernism shuffled in, see also how many sexist depictions of women also). post modernism is a critique on that, it’s more of a ‘who the hell are you to tell me what to think/do’ it tends to be far more cynical and wallows around not really doing anything.
    post modernism asks questions, always questions, and never produces any definitive answers. also the balance of power has shifted away from the artists being the tortured genius’ who are far more intelligent than the plebs. art critics are now king, because the art world has moved to a space where anyone can be an artist, but only the best and brightest can wade through the muck and pick out the gems.

    • FILMCRITHULK said

      HEY THERE JAY. THE DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDING IS ONE THAT MANY WOULD AGREE WITH YOU BUT THE PROBLEM IS THAT IT’S ESSENTIALLY A LIE THAT MOST ACADEMICS HAVE ADOPTED. THIS IS THE PROBLEM OF RE-WRITING HISTORY. EVERY SINGLE LITERARY AND ARTISTIC MOVEMENT HAS BEEN PRIMARILY CONCERNED WITH “REJECTING THE CERTAINTY OF.” WHATEVER CAME PREVIOUSLY. IT’S REALLY THE M.O. OF ANY MOVEMENT. AND SO THE “WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO TELL ME WHAT TO THINK/DO” IS ABSOLUTELY 100% OF EVERY MOVEMENT TOO. BELIEVE IT OR NOT THE PRIMARY GOAL OF MODERNISM ALSO WASN’T TO PROVIDE ANY ANSWERS. PEOPLE FORGET THIS. AGAIN, LOOK TO JOYCE’S ULYSSES AND FINNAGAN’S WAKE WHICH ARE THE MOST PRIMARY EXAMPLES OF MODERNISM AND YET THERE ARE NO MORE POST-MODERN BOOKS ON THE PLANET. MODERNISM ALWAYS INCLUDED POST-MODERNISM AND NOW, IN OUR COMPLETE RUSH TO OVER-LABEL SOMETHING WE WANT TO BE A PART OF, WE’VE RETROACTIVELY SAID THAT MODERNISM IS SOMETHING MUCH SMALLER AND DIFFERENT THEN WHAT IT ACTUALLY WAS.

  15. sounds like you’re just saying post-modern is rebranded modernism.

    while i do think the metatextualization/semiotic/deconstruction parts and pieces of what we call post-modern art are very important to talk about, HULK is right to point out that Joyce, a modernist, wrote metatextual, semiotic, books that deconstructed life experience. And yeah, once you’re past your 20s, setting aside the time to read Finnegan’s Wake is waaay problematic.

    So sure, all the things we call post-modern were already happening a 100 years ago in Parisian cafes.

    But I want to suggest a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum you have an artist who assumes (even if it’s a lie to make this assumption) total and complete responsibility for communicating to the audience the intended experience. If the artist wants to show a bowl of fruit, the artist draws a bowl of fruit and if someone looks at it and sees a reclining nude, then the artist looks at him or herself and says “I failed.”

    On the other end of the spectrum you have Rauschenberg’s white paintings and John Cage’s infamous 4:33 of silence. On the other end of the spectrum you have an artist who believes the truth is that the viewer or listener makes up literally 100% of the experience.

    One end of the spectrum is classicism. The other end is Post-Modernism, everything in between in Modernism.

  16. Kzr said

    Nice c:

    I’m not entirely convinced about post-modernism not being anything (because we’ve made it into something, even if it doesn’t last much longer and amounts only to a trend obsessed with not being able to define a single thing without missing a slice of the big picture), but you have some very valid points, sir.

    Indeed, using the prefix “post” to mean “something that follows in reaction to” doesn’t necessarily means a rejection of values, or at least not the whole set.

    To my understanding, modernism challenged established aesthetic and moral values, a practice which liberated form through experimentation, specifically abstraction. Their challenge lead to a shift in paradigm,”new art” was born, art with a purpose of its own which could still be narrowed down to a search for truth.

    Post-modernism (let us, for as long as your reading of this comment continues, imagine it is a thing) did embrace modernism’s thing for liberation of art through self-exploration and formal experiments, yet rejected the search for truth by ennunctiating what is, paradoxically, an absolute statement: “the truth is that there is no such thing as truth”, a thought that is, as you said, really old (the most “ancient” text experimented by me in which the idea was thrown around was written by Montaigne).

    Even if the idea was already there, we hadn’t aprehended it completely. You can teach anyone what “I only know that I know nothing” means, but it takes a deeper glance at the phrase to actually feel the weight of every word.

    You kno what? Maybe that’s what has been happening (or had been happening) to us for the last 50 years. Post-modernism is a novelty name for the echo Socrate’s spectral words. As you said, perhaps things have not changed that much even after several thousand years, and it stings real hard. Modernists mourned the loss of splendor, post-modernists suffer an emotional breakdown because they believe there was no splendor at all. If thousands of years of Western Civilization lead us nowhere, the only logical answer they could come up with was that there is no place to go.

    Yes, the world has grown more complex and dense, making it a bit of a problem to state anything without bumping onto the embodiment of an argument that contradicts our point. Is that a good enough reason to lose our shit? No. It only means we should try harder if we really want to understand the world.

    You were spot on when saying postmo is a desperate, half-assed term bumped on anything that presents a real epistemological challenge. If defining the world proves too hard a task for anyone, why not seek others for help? We have better tools now. Let’s make good use of them.

    So, I respectfully disagree.post-modernism is a thing…not an entirely different one from modernism, but still its own thing, If academics are unable or unwilling to define it, that’s a totally different issue.

    Thanks a lot for the read, sir. It was thrilling c:

  17. Stephen @spidersteveman said

    I know this is weird, responding to an article 2 years after it was written. Preface: my frame of reference is mostly philosophy. A lot of “postmodern” philosophers, such as Foucault, Guattari, Derrida even reject the label “postmodern” for many the same reasons. It seems postmodern is mostly applied by those who aren’t to describe what is, if that makes sense. As for what postmodernism is, I always understood it as more of an anti-humanism. Judeo-Christians “brought” God, modernism/enlightenment put man in the place of God, and postmodernism took man and left nothing. I feel Nietzche would be the first postmodernist in that sense, but others have had similar ideas, like Spinoza, Shakespeare, whatever. I do think the label is bad for the reasons you state, plus the fact that those labeled as postmodernism are way to broad to be categorized as one unit.

  18. […] couple of years ago, Film Crit Hulk once wrote a post on how postmodernism isn’t a thing. It’s a fun read, it’s cathartic, and as an aspiring […]

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