Monday, October 17, 2011


Postmodernism was a response to Modernism. Where Modernism was all about experimentation, innovation - new is better, individualism, seriousness, purity - in the way that it stops taking influences from other disciplines; postmodernism however was the opposite. The conditions in which it was characterised by were exhaustion, mixing sources, pessimism. It was also found to be a reaction to modernism's expressions to technology, new materials, communication and modern life.

The 1960's were the beginnings of postmodernism, however it wasn't until the 1970's until a man called Charles Jencks established it as a term. By the 1980's postmodernism was now a recognisable style and come the 1980's and 90's it was a dominant theoretical discourse. Today however it seems as if postmodernism is becoming tired and it is slowly simmering out of fashion.

According to Charles Jencks - The Language of Postmodernism Architecture (1977), on 15th July 1972 at 3:32pm, Modernism dies. This was the point where the demolition of Pruitt - Igoe development, St Louis took place. They had built something that they thought would 'save the world' but in reality it had failed to meet its purpose. Another example where modernism did not meet its standards was Park Hill Flats in Sheffield. It was built in the 1960's, a modernist work, however over the years it became run down and people did not want to live there anymore. The people living there would have rather the place be knocked down in order for them to be re-housed elsewhere; however the building itself had a grade 2 listing on it because it was classed as a prized modernist piece of work so it had to stay in its place. Modernism ignored human needs for principal, so where modernism failed, postmodernism stepped in. There was a proposed regeneration by Urban Splash to redesign the surrounding area to make it more of an attractable place to live.

During the postmodernism style, the 'high art/low art' divide began to crumble. Roy Litchenstein created a piece named 'This Must be the Place' (1965), however this was actually a copy from a comic book, by doing this Litchenstein took something that people wouldn't normally notice and make it of interest in the public eye; from then on comics became acceptable. Postmodernism was also seen as a parody, the opposite to seriousness, an example to this would be Andy Warhol's response to Jackson Pollock's work. 'Oxidation Painting' (1978) was created from copper metallic paint and urine on canvas, where you could say he was literally taking the 'piss' out of Pollock's work. 

Through all of this, it began to emerge that it was becoming a recyclable culture. Fredric Jameson pointed out that postmodernism held 'a new depthlessness' - a culture of 'retro' styles. For example previously when Van Gogh produced 'Peansant Shoes' it showed meaning, it told you certain things that people may not have noticed before, people are able to look at things in a different light now. Compare this to Warhol's 'Diamond Dust Shoes'  however and you see that it bares no meaning at all, you don't learn anything new from it, it holds depthlessness.

Even though postmodernism had flaws it did however make things become more accessible, you were able to sample elements from different styles and eras. It bought along freedom, new possibilities, multiculturalism, sexual diversity and women's rights.

In relation to my discipline, postmodernism contributed to many major films titles. 'Blade Runner' for example portrayed the postmodernism attitude to the city and the technology. The world was permanently dark, technology had failed to liberate the human race (this refers to the fact that modernism was all about 'new is best', that the world was developing and new technology would make it a better place.) Also as postmodernism bought about multiculturalism, there was a French comic illustrator called Moebius who was bought in by the American film company to design one of the last scenes for Blade Runner. He also designed the costumes for 'Tron'. There was now a cross over between cultures.

Postmodernist film tended to go against the normality of narrative and characterisation.  It would 'break down the 4th wall' where the character would interact with the audience. This not only appears in theatre and film, but also video games. The 4th wall in this instance could be the words telling you what to do - it brings you back to reality, you are conscious of what is going on and not in disbelief. In 'Metal Gear Solid' the characters make references to the gaming apparatus, specifically the controller which too makes you re-aware that you are playing the game. Another example of this would be the TV series 'Malcolm in the Middle' where Malcolm would pause a scene and directly talk to the viewer. Many films with a Postmodernist attribute to them will tend to quote other films within it. 'Blade Runner' for example quotes old detective movies, 'Once Upon a Time in the West' also does the same, it quotes directly from another film called 'High Noon'. Most things you come across today all have taken inspiration or attributes from other things. Nothing will be truly original, which you could say relates to the postmodernist way of producing films by having elements from other films incorporated into it. 

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