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.