EDIT: March 23, 2018. I’m so excited, we are going to see Jordan Peterson speak on June 1. He’s done much to expose Postmodern corruption in the culture. In honor of the upcoming event, I’m reposting a previous essay on the topic.
Maurizio Cattelan “L.O.V.E.” marble, 36′
“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?'”
-David Foster Wallace, Postmodern novelist
The quote above does a good job converting the rhetorical question “Does a fish know it is is wet?” into a lightly amusing anecdote, a brief fable which delivers its twist ending of wisdom as if it were the punchline for a joke. What’s not so funny is the truth that the story demonstrates, and its implications for the state of our civilization today.
To understand the crisis we find ourselves in, it’s instructive to look at the cultural assumptions and preferences of our so-called ruling classes. Their presumptions can be tracked based on the visual art they collude to promote and subsidize. The contemporary art market is another weapon in their arsenal, a way they can inflict their will on society in the form of punishment, disorder, degradation, divisiveness, and heavy handed instruction.
In the recent past George Orwell was able to advance an accurate definition: “Liberal: a power worshipper without power.” But what happened in the meantime was the forces of liberalism/progressivism/Marxism/whatever-they’re-calling-themselves-now-ism managed to drag the cultural focus onto favorable terrain for themselves. Our would-be masters have woven a make-believe world where their particular skill sets dominate; for decades their influence has metastasized throughout our institutions. Art just happens to be a field where it’s easy to see the damage they’ve caused. We are enmeshed in the Matrix-like reign of a toxic philosophy which can referred to by the ambiguous term Postmodernism.
It seems so simple, just a description for what happened after the Modern age. Even though many people still refer to any recent baffling example of artistic excess as Modern art, the underlying principles that made art (and by extension our culture) Modern have been dead since the 1960s. Postmodernist thought started in academia, but has since bled out so its dogma now dominates our politics, media, and especially the arts.
Barbara Kruger “Belief & Doubt” installation, The Hirshhorn Gallery, Washington D.C.
I’ve written before on how elitists push this ideology because it makes an effective tool of oppression. To be Postmodern is to be relativistic, cynical, narcissistic, and conformist. For those who might question such an interpretation, we are fortunate to have a document found posthumously among the papers of one of the leading advocates of this world view, French writer Jacques Derrida (July 15, 1930 – October 9, 2004). Hugely influential amongst those susceptible to such pedantic banter, he pretty much summed up his accomplishments with this quote: “I’m no good for anything except taking the world apart and putting it together again (and I manage the latter less and less frequently).”
Derrida left behind a statement that bluntly summarizes the intentions of Postmodernism. I would suggest these days his ideas are like the water that we fish are ignorant of; propaganda so widely disbursed and unquestioned it’s invisible to us, even as we move through it, and are carried along by its flow.
Here is Derrida’s manifesto of Postmodernism: read it, and weep. Afterwards I give my thoughts on some of its precepts, and how I see us getting out of this mess.
1. The art of the past is past. What was true of art yesterday is false today.
2. The Postmodern art of today is defined and determined, not by artists, but by a new generation of curators, philosophers and intellectuals ignorant of the past and able to ignore it.
3. Postmodernism is a political undertaking, Marxist and Freudian.
4. Postmodernism is a new cultural condition.
5. Postmodernism is democratic and allied to popular culture.
6. Postmodernism denies the possibility of High Art.
7. Postmodernism deconstructs works of High Art to undermine them.
8. Postmodernism is subversive, seditiously resembling the precedents it mimics.
9. Postmodern art is pastiche, parody, irony, ironic conflict and paradox.
10. Postmodern art is self-consciously shallow, stylistically hybrid, ambiguous, provocative and endlessly repeatable.
11. Postmodern art is anti-elitist, but must protect its own elitism.
12. To the Postmodernist every work of art is a text, even if it employs no words and has no title, to be curatorially interpreted. Art cannot exist before it is interpreted.
13. Postmodernist interpretation depends on coining new words unknown and unknowable to the masses, on developing a critical jargon of impenetrable profundity, and on a quagmire of theory with which to reinforce endowed significance. Vive le Néologisme!
Long live the new word-ism? No thanks. we’ve had more than enough.
“The art of the past is past. What was true of art yesterday is false today.”
Says who? No one I recognize as any kind of authority.
“The Postmodern art of today is defined and determined, not by artists, but by a new generation of curators, philosophers and intellectuals ignorant of the past and able to ignore it.”
This plays into the Leftist conceit of the New Class: that in the Utopia to come, Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others, and they get to call the shots. It is the dream of every progressive to join this most favored status clique.
To deny history is to deny any accountability for their achievements, any objective measure of their performance. So self-serving.
“Postmodernism is a political undertaking, Marxist and Freudian.”
Of course it is. The culture must be sacrificed to avenge their feelings of envy and inadequacy.
“Postmodernism denies the possibility of High Art.”
They deny it because they lack the means to accomplish it. Sour grapes.
“Postmodern art is self-consciously shallow, stylistically hybrid, ambiguous, provocative and endlessly repeatable.”
Real art is deep enough to support extended contemplation. It makes a definitive presence. Ambiguity is wishy washy compared to evoking enduring Mystery. To provoke is a minor reaction compared to inspiring. There is a magic inherent in the unique object made by human hands, heart, and mind working in conjunction each other.
Post modern art basically fails to actually function as art in every significant way.
“Postmodern art is anti-elitist, but must protect its own elitism.”
Postmodernists attempt to deny judgement, ratings of quality and effectiveness, because their own offerings are so feeble. The elitism they draw upon is the status in the herd, the correct observations of the obligatory declarations of loyalty and subservience to the hive mind, and the opportunity to bask in the reflected glory of their controllers.
“Postmodernist interpretation depends on coining new words unknown and unknowable to the masses, on developing a critical jargon of impenetrable profundity, and on a quagmire of theory with which to reinforce endowed significance…”
Real intelligence actually communicates very clearly and concisely. What the Postmodernist suggests is like mumbling to hide the fact you don’t know the answers. This world of sophistry and distraction is crumbling. The elitists are panicking, and attempting to convert their minions into shock troops to protect the status quo hierarchy.
From Banksy, the anonymous millionaire creator of half-baked editorial cartoons
The perpetrators of Postmodernism have gone beyond parody with their ridiculous posing, but it’s no longer harmless. From on high, the supplicants of the art world are receiving their orders: the culture must stop changing so the current power brokers remain in charge.
The obedient little fishes synchronize swim down the polluted stream issuing from practically every channel, doing the bidding of smug social media giants, partisan networks, repressive universities, biased newspapers, establishment politicians, empty headed celebrities, corrupt Hollywood, despotic foreign governments, and compromised corporations.
At the same time the little fishes flatter themselves that they are brave rebels, fighting the power. That’s what their masters are telling them that they are.
That disconnect takes an especially determined kind of ignorance.
Exhibit A: Shia Lebeouf, being divisive
There is already a sound artistic philosophy ready to take the place of the defeated dead end of Postmodernism.
Remodernism is a reboot of the culture. It takes the energy, vitality and exuberance of the Modern era and integrates art back into the mainstream. Remodernism reverences art as a means to bring communion and connection. Billy Childish and Charles Thomson created an open source art movement which is in perfect sync with this new era of renewal.
Come on in, the water’s fine.
“Remodernism discards and replaces Post-Modernism because of its failure to answer or address any important issues of being a human being.”
-Billy Childsh and Charles Thomson, The Remodernist Manifesto
UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.
49 thoughts on “COMMENTARY: Establishment Art’s Ingrained Indoctrination and the Postmodern Manifesto”
Again, another Instapundit citation! Congrats. Again, proof that well reasoned thought does not exist in vain. You people are very brave, for your resistance is a challenge to the very heart of their power (art/culture). They will respond in the same way the Counter Reformation did to what was in their minds wayward clergy……..severely.
Don’t know if my first comment made it, so Congrats on Instapundit again. Also you people are very brave in that you are defying them in what is the very heart of their power (art/culture).
I’d like to expand on that thought. There is I believe a lot of similarities between now in culture/art etc, and the time just before the Reformation. Lefties like to base their arguments and positions from culture (philosophy, art, intellectualism, etc) for in the end these subjects are based on faith and so almost any claim can be made without having to make much of a reasoned defense (I’m smarter than you, so take my word for it). And so it was true also in pre Reformation religion. This continued for centuries until enough people said “we don’t believe you” and the whole power structure evaporated. In the interest of disclosure I am Catholic.
What the left doesn’t understand is that once faith is gone there is no getting it back, oh you might get assent, but it will be by coercion of the unwilling.
keep going please, this is important area has so little attention. wouldn’t the thing that is is missing be… a particular school of art/artists? I’d be interested to see who you could curate to represent your ideas?
The (I’m smarter than you, so just take my word for it) is what a leftist would say.
Shorter version: Postmodernism = intellectual tiny hands
Thanks, someone has to say it
I agree about the spirit of these times, there is a major revolution brewing against monopolistic control on the society, and the powers that be are largely powerless against it
We are building the movement. We were inspired by the Stuckists, who have been fighting elitist art since 1999, and have become a global presence. Remodernism is the overarching framework which launched their revolution.
Yes, followed up with, “or we will destroy you!”
There are many worse things that philistines who mistake the contemporary glitz for art. The hook up culture is much worse. I get the message here that one leads to the other, that the force that corrupted art first has corrupted ordinary life as well. But still the ordinary effects are more pernicious and that’s where our concern should go first. After all, if you think Jeff Koons is art — so what. It’s like eating popcorn at a movie. It’s not nutritious, but many other things are far more harmful. However, if you live life in a hook up culture — you miss out on love. Rare are the people who become great artists. But anyone can marry and can have a genuine love. Yet a hook up culture gets young people to trade away honesty that you can never get back. If you dismiss the idea of love without ever having even searched for it then what becomes of marriage, family, adorable little children, true friendship, self-respect, a life well lived, a comforting old age? These are the things that get tossed when the other more vital aspects of life are brushed away by false themes.
Most people are not artists. Most people visiting a museum are out on a lark. Some people are searching for real understanding — for history, beauty, culture, a sense of mystery. Some people faced with the great art of the past are swept up in it. And that is wonderful and as long as that kind of genuine innocence exists there is always hope. I believe that kind of innocence is a product of Nature, so it will always remerge in various times and places.
And as for artists, the only corrective for false art is true art. You get at true art through honest seeking. It involves a lot of hard work and there are no guarantees. But the payoff of an honest search is that whatever you learn is etched into your soul. When you believe that the soul is real, then that payoff is obviously the only one that matters. And it’s a private search — let’s face it.
The big white room exhibits still hold sway in “The Art World” — in the officialdom. But whenever I visit a bookstore I notice that the how-to-draw books have pushed out all the other art selections. Many people genuinely hunger for the ability to depict things — urban sketchers, daily painting, portrait parties, all sorts of ordinary art are sprouting up like weeds breaking up concrete. Nature will reassert herself — of that you can be sure.
Someone like Derrida is more worthy of one’s pity than one’s fear because he was like a man whistling by the graveyard. But Life is not something of our making and Life goes on.
Thanks for you insights on the connections of love, art, and life!
Have you ever noticed that when a civilization (nation, empire) starts erecting a lot of buildings (especially public ones) in cut stone, it’s at that moment you can mark the end of vitality for that civ, nation, empire, etc. I’m trying to think of an analogy in art, perhaps the proliferation of award shows (music) or hideous art in public squares. I noticed something of the sort in the Atlanta airport in one of their long hallways. It had art that an entire continent (Africa) would disavow.
At some point the civilization fossilizes and needs renewal-we are way past that point already
While late to this post, it reminds me of my Dad commenting on Viet Nam War demonstrations. We were watching the news, and I as a grade schooler didn’t understand the what’s and why’s. He explained that liberals always work to destroy traditions and institutions but have nothing material to take their place. Over the last few decades it seems they do have that something: a one world, globalist fantasy.
Right now suffering from early morning existential angst derived from conservative blog binging, it has been clear for some time that the “war” on the establishment has been won. Conservatives are now the counterculture. How do we “Alinsky” the left without becoming them?
Thanks for your thoughtful comments-we beat them, not by becoming them, but by remaining true to our principles and allegiance to the aspirations of Western Civilization.That being said, part of the Western tradition is to be ruthless warriors in pursuit of our interests. That’s the spirit we need now.
Thanks for this. It articulates clearly what I have been dimly perceiving for some time. That post-modernism is vapid has occurred to a lot of us, but just how truly damaging it can be is slowly becoming apparent to me, and this article fleshes out why in language that is necessarily “philosophical” with the baggage of that word (airy, theoretical, abstract), but amazingly relevant.
Thanks. The corruption of those ideas, the severing of the ties between reality and power, is a huge factor in the mess our culture is today.
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I have a friend who is an artist, a doctoral candidate, and works for a major Midwestern university. Some time ago she chastised me for my appreciation of opera, because opera is elitist. Later, she let me read an academic paper she’d written recently. Needless to say, it was chock full of obfuscatory neologisms and also created a new victimclass (see what I did there?) of which she found herself to be a member; that membership giving rise to the insights sine qua non the paper could not possibly have been written. Golly! Not a scintilla of elitism there! Viva la neologisime indeed!
It’s absurd how they hide their power grabs and ignorance behind lots of wordy wankery. The opposite of intelligence, which can communicate clearly and simply.
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