Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Notes on metamodernism has relocated!

Dear reader,

Notes on metamodernism has relocated to WWW.METAMODERNISM.COM ! A new look, new writers (don't worry, the old ones are still in place as well), and lots and lots of new observations and ideas! We have conveniently transferred all our archives as well, so you can go back and forth in time at will. We hope you will keep following us! 

You can also follow us on facebook, where we will post links to larger articles as well as fleeting observations and brief thoughts, and where there is all the space for discussion. Do come and find us at

The editors.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Einheitsdenken nach der postmoderne

Notes on Metamodernism
Robin van den Akker & Timotheus Vermeulen
Paper addressed at Thinking in Unity Conference Ludwig Maximilian University Munchen, Germany, 12-13 November 2010

        The ecosystem is severely disrupted, the financial system is increasingly uncontrollable and the geopolitical structure has recently begun to appear as unstable as it has always been uneven. CEOs and Politicians express their ‘desire for change’ at every interview, voice a heartfelt ‘yes we can’ at each photo-op. Planners and architects increasingly replace their blueprints for environments with environmental ‘greenprints’. And new generations of artists increasingly abandon the aesthetic precepts of deconstruction, parataxis and pastiche in favor of aesth-ethical notions of reconstruction, myth and metaxis. These trends and tendencies can no longer be explained in terms of the postmodern. They express a (often guarded) hopefulness and (at times feigned) sincerity that hint at another structure of feeling, intimating another discourse. History, it seems, is moving rapidly beyond its all too hastily proclaimed end. As Linda Hutcheon put it: let’s face it: the postmodern is over.
In this paper, we will seek to outline, or sketch, the contours of this emerging structure of feeling. We will pay particular attention here to the material sphere of economics, the ethical sphere of politics, and the aesthetic sphere of the arts.
We will call this structure of feeling, or sensibility if you will, metamodernism. According to the Greek-English Lexicon the prefix ‘meta’ refers to such notions as ‘with’, ‘between’, and ‘beyond’. We will use these connotations of ‘meta’ in a similar, yet not indiscriminate fashion.  For we contend that metamodernism should be situated epistemologically with  modernism and postmodernism, ontologically between modernism and postmodernism,  and historically beyond modernism and postmodernism.
Some remarks, finally, on our approach. As the paper’s title, ‘Notes on metamodernism’, suggests, we intend what follows as a series of linked observations rather than a single line of thought. We seek to relate to one another a broad variety of trends and tendencies across current affairs and contemporary aesthetics that are otherwise incomprehensible (at least in terms of the postmodern vernacular), by understanding them in terms of an emergent sensibility we come to call metamodern. We do not seek to impose a predetermined system of thought on a rather particular range of cultural practices. Our description and interpretation of the metamodern sensibility is therefore essayistic rather than scientific, rhizomatic rather than linear, and open-ended instead of closed. It should be understood as an invitation for debate rather than an extending of a dogma...

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The door opens inwards (2)

Some weeks ago, Galerie Tanja Wagner curated the first exhibition explicitly linked to the metamodern. It would be an understatement to say that the exhibition was a success in terms of either popular appreciation or critical acclaim. Art glossy Monopol instantly put Wagner on the front page. Art-Magazin called her the ‘absolute Newcomerin’. Der Tagesspiegel spoke of Wagner as the future of the Berlin art scene. And Die Zeit put lavish praise on the five young artists.

Notes on metamodernism decided to have a look for themselves. Timotheus Vermeulen reports.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Limits of Postmodern Theory (from a gaming perspective)

From time to time, we receive an interesting mail in our mailbox. Michael McKenny's mail is one of those, so we will post it integrally, below. Michael analysed the limits of postmodern theory. He argues that postmodern theory is not sufficient for a proper understanding of the gaming experience. The following is an excerpt from his BA Thesis, aptly titled "Paradigm shifts" (2009). If you also have an insightful contribution to make to our blog in particular and our research program in general, send an email to: Meanwhile, enjoy the following post - the editors.

In this early part of the twenty first century, the medium of videogames appears to be growing into a level of maturity, as it moves out of the fringes of society and into the realms of popular culture. The evolution of new such forms of communicating a narrative to the masses has profound implications for society, as Marshall McLuhan speculates: “Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men [and women] communicate than by the content of the communication” (McLuhan and Fiore 1996: 8).

I would like to point out how it is tempting to look to the theories laid down through the postmodern discourse in order to conduct this analysis, yet I would also like to highlight the problems with this approach and why established modern theory cannot be rejected; that videogame analysis must be quintessentially metamodern.

Jean Baudrillard’s definition of simulation lends itself to the study of a medium whose very existence lies within digitally created renditions of fictional worlds. Yet the most important point to take from Baudrillard’s contribution to the discourse – from a videogame studies perspective – is the breakdown of established subject-object positions and, subsequently, the individual’s freedom to play with and to freely construct their identity. This in turn invokes Jean-Francois Lyotard’s championing of the rise of the individual’s little narratives, in opposition to society’s metanarratives dictating what its subject should believe.

Videogame players should be understood in terms of an evolution of the active spectator; not only do they negotiate the meaning, they also interact with the narrative, controlling the pacing and the editing. At times they even dictate the order in which the story is told, what dialogue is spoken and the gender and race of the protagonist(s). Despite all of these elements, which would point toward the liberating fervour of postmodernism’s little narratives along with the emergence of bottom up meaning creation, there still exists extensive sets of rules that are dictated by the writers and programmers involved in the game’s production.

This appears to be where the split in this emerging academic area arises: The study of videogames has been largely dominated by a debate between narratology and ludology; that is the debate surrounding whether videogames are an evolution of established narrative forms, or if they are a revolutionary rupture that demand an entirely new analytical model.

Ganzala Frasca epitomises the ludologist’s approach: “Video games imply an enormous paradigm shift for our culture because they represent the first complex simulational media for the masses” (2003: 224); whereas the approach taken by Jan Simons scrutinises the ‘freedom’ that the ludologists’ ‘simulation’ brings, proposing that narrative stories are confined by the author, only “as much as computer-generated simulations are constrained by the algorithms written by the designer of the model” (2007).

It is this space between the two that videogames currently occupy: testing existing notions of fixed narrative production along with the fixed subject-object positions prevalent throughout modernity, yet in many ways, not able to completely break away from them. Rather, these new forms of interactive narratives allow a certain amount of negotiated meaning creation through play and ludic experimentation, yet within a predefined set of rules. Videogames can therefore be viewed as part of a wider movement prevalent in new media, slowly wearing down the old top-down monocratic systems of meaning production, yet from a familiar position that is easy to engage with.

Frasca, G (2003) ‘Simulation versus narrative: Introduction to ludology’ in Mark J.P. Wolf and Bernard Perron (eds)
The Video Game Theory Reader. London: Routledge pp 221 - 236
McLuhan, M and Fiore, Q (1996) The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (Digitalized edition. 1st edition 1967). San Francisco: Hardwired
Simons, J (2007) ‘Narrative, games, and theory’ in Vol. 7 No. 1 (August) [online] available at accessed on 01.05.2009

Michael's biography:
"I Graduated from the University of Bolton in 2009 with a first class BA(hons) degree, joint between Film Studies and Business Studies. I am due to begin an MA in Film Studies at the University of Bradford, but have to wait until September 2011 for personal and financial circumstances to allow. I currently write for Film&Festivals Magazine, providing feature articles and film festival coverage. My particular areas of interest concern contemporary popular mythology; particularly how new technologies and accompanying cultural paradigm shifts are forcing us to revise (though not reject) previous interpretations of myth in popular culture."

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Domestic politics in metamodern times

'The 1990s', Charles Krauthammer once famously wrote, ‘have been a holiday from History.’ After the turmoil of the 1960s and, to a lesser extent, the 1970s and, to a much lesser extent, the 1980s, the 1990s were marked by relative (geo)political stability and economic prosperity, at least from a western perspective. The so-called 'peace' brought by the steady rise of Empire and the formation of the European Union, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall; and the so-called 'wealth’ brought by the deregulation of the financial system and the transition to a white-collar economy, the flexibilisation of the job market and a credit-driven consumerism all seemed to confirm Fukuyama’s thesis in The End of History and the Last Man (1989).
This was reflected in the realm of domestic politics. For it can be argued that the postmodern era led, slowly but surely, to the appeasement of political oppositions and the blunting of ideological contradictions, up to the point where the Left and the Right were barely distinguishable. Consider, for example, the continuation of Thatcher & Reagan’s 1980s rightwing Neoliberalism by Blair & Clinton’s 1990s leftwing Thirdway-ism, a development that was neatly summarised by Dutchman Wim Kok (former-Union-leader-cum-Prime-Minister and ‘spiritual father’ of the Third Way) as ‘shaking off the ideological feathers’. In the 1990s, all was quiet on the Western front. Or, so it seemed.
Meanwhile, however, History resumed its course. The 2000s were haunted by the specters of immigration and multiculturalism, terrorism and populism, climate crisis and credit crunch, the failed attempt to establish a Constitution for the European Union, the demise of American unilateralism and the rise of the BRICs. Looking back at the end of the decade it is easy to see that the realm of domestic politics altered accordingly, as the political centre eroded and political contradictions resurfaced. A few examples of recent trends and tendencies suffice, here, to demonstrate these developments...

Thursday, 14 October 2010

What meta means and does not mean

Over the last few months, there has been much discussion online as well as at parties, galleries and conferences, about the meaning of the prefix meta- in metamodernism. Now, of course, each and everyone is free to define, re-appropriate and use it in any one fashion. Metamodernism as a term - but not as a concept - is or has been associated with altermodernism, reflective modernism, reflexive modernism, and a counterstrategy within modernism. And it has been applied to developments and disciplines as diverse as economics, politics, architecture, data analysis, and the arts. But (or So) we feel compelled to once more establish what WE mean with the prefix meta - and, perhaps even more important, what we do not intend by it. In a previous post we described it as follows:
The prefix 'meta' has acquired something of a bad rep over the last few years. It has come to be understood primarily in terms of self-reflection - i.e. a text about a text, a picture about a picture, etc. But 'meta' originally intends something rather more colloquial. According to the Greek-English Lexicon the preposition and prefix ‘meta’(μετά) has several meanings and connotations. Most commonly it translates as 'after'. But it can also be used to denote qualitative 'changes' or to designate positions such as 'with' and 'between'. In Plato's Symposium, for example, the term metaxy designates an ontological betweenness (we will return to this in more detail in a later post). The Online Etymology Dictionary gives the following description:
prefix meaning 1. "after, behind," 2. "changed, altered," 3. "higher, beyond," from Gk. meta (prep.) "in the midst of, in common with, by means of, in pursuit or quest of," from PIE *me- "in the middle" (cf. Goth.miþ, O.E. mið "with, together with, among;" see mid). Notion of "changing places with" probably led to senses "change of place, order, or nature,"
When we use the term 'meta', we use it in similar yet not indiscriminate fashion. For the prefix 'meta-' allows us to situate metamodernism historically beyond; epistemologically with; and ontologically between the modern and the postmodern. It indicates a dynamic or movement between as well as a movement beyond. More generally, however, it points towards a changing cultural sensibility - or cultural metamorphosis, if you will - within western societies.
Thus, although meta has come to be associated with a particular reflective stance, a repeated rumination about what we are doing, why we are doing it and how we are doing it, it once intimated the movement with and between what we are doing and what we might be doing and what we might have been doing. When we use the prefix meta- we do NOT refer to the former meaning. Meta- for us, does NOT refer solely to reflectivity, although, inevitably, it does (and, since it passes through and surpasses the postmodern, cannot but) invoke it.

When we use the prefix meta- we refer to the latter intent. Meta, for us, signifies an oscillation, a swinging or swaying with and between future, present and past, here and there and somewhere; with and between ideals, mindsets, and positions. It is influenced by estimations of the past, imbued by experiences of the present, yet also inspired by expectations of the future. It takes into account and affect the here, but also the there, and what might or might not happen elsewhere. It is convinced it believes in one system or structure or sensibility, but also cannot persuade itself not to believe in its opposite. Indeed, if anything, meta intimates a constant repositioning. It repositions itself with and between neoliberalism and, well, keynesianism, the "right" and the "left", idealism and "pragmatism", the discursive and the material, the visible and the sayable. It repositions itself among and in the deconstructed isms and desolate ruins that rest from the postmodern and the modern, and reconstructs them in spite of their un-reconstructableness in order to create another modernity: then one, then the other, one again, and yet another. Bas Jan Ader's quest for the miraculous, Charles Avery's quest for an imaginative elsewhere, Mona Hatoum's search for another socio-personal identity, Sejla Kameric longing for another ethnic-personal epistemology, Mariechen Danz's longing for the pre-discursive, Ragnar Kjartansson's desire for what is always just beyond his reach…

Meta- does not refer to one particular system of thought or specific structure of feeling. It infers a plurality of them, and repositions itself with and between them. It is many, but also one. Encompassing, yet fragmented. Now, yet then. Here, but also there. 

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Russel Brand from mannerism to metamodernism?

A remarkable bit of television on the BBC last week. Embodiment of the postmodern Russell Brand no longer wants to be postmodern. He professes to yearn for something else, something beyond irony, eclecticism, mannerisms, and the cult of celebrity. Something "truthful". Religious freak, metamodernist, or hypocrite? You decide. Revelation around 14th Minute.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Hard boiled wonderland - from pomo to metamo

It has become somewhat of an axiom to associate certain artistic practices to specific discourses, and specific artists to certain sensibilities. It has become a truism, for instance, to link practices as diverse as eclecticism, parody, pastiche, detachment, flexi-narrative, and parataxis to the postmodern, and strategies like ‘optimism’, self-consciousness, formalism, functionalism, purism, and streams of consciousness to modernism. It has become as much of a platitude to call artists as different as David Lynch, David Fincher, Jeff Koons, Gregory Crewdson, Bret Easton Ellis and Haruki Murakami postmodern, as that it is a cliché to assume that Fritz Lang, Sergei Eisenstein, Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondriaan, Marinetti, Ezra Pound and Virginia Woolf are modernists.

It is easy to criticize such assumptions. Too easy. For we all need to order and schematize practices and discourses, artists and sensibilities, so that we can appreciate what any one particular stylistic choice or artist’s feature might intend or mean. Indeed, if this blog does anything at all, it is ordering and schematizing otherwise incoherent trends and tendencies by tying them to this sensibility we have come to call metamodernism.

We need to from time to time revise these clichés. Rearrange practices, reshuffle sensibilities. It is by occasionally readjusting what belongs here and who goes there that we keep the commonplaces up to date. It is by readjusting that our everyday definition of a discourse retains its aptitude for the next generation, our appreciation of an artist its value for the generation after that.

In what follows, I will do just this. Rearrange and reshuffle.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Vectors of the Possible

Waiting for the Demonstration at the Wrong Time
Lagomarsino & Tirén (2003/2007)
Last week the group exhibition Vectors of the Possible opened at BAK in Utrecht, the Netherlands. As the press release looked promising (very promising, indeed), and the exhibit was curated by Simon Sheikh, some of our writers decided to attend the opening
"The exhibition examines the notion of the horizon in art and politics and explores the ways in which art works can be said to set up certain horizons of possibility and impossibility, how art partakes in specific imaginaries, and how it can produce new ones, thus suggesting other ways of imagining the world. Counter to the post-1989 sense of resignation, curator Simon Sheikh suggests that in the field of art, it is the horizon - as an "empty signifier", an ideal to strive towards, and a vector of possibility - that unites...and gives...direction. The art works in this exhibition can be seen as vectors, reckoning possibility and impossibility in (un)equal measures, but always detecting and indicating ways of seeing, and of being, in the world. The exhibition thus suggests an ontology of the horizon..."
Although most of us could relate to the intentions of many of the works on display, we could not avoid feeling slightly disappointed by the lack of expressiveness of the exhibition as a whole. An intention to transgress boundaries was still too often expressed by means of mere deconstruction, so that instead of a moving apparition of the future, the horizon more often than not became a haunting specter of the past. This is not to say that Vectors of the Possible is not worth the visit - it most definitely is. 
For us, two pieces are particularly worthwhile. The billboard art of FREEE and Matthew Buckingham's depiction of Mount Rushmore, 50.000 years from now. We will extensively review Vectors of the Possible and these pieces at a later date, but for now we are keen to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Galerie Tanja Wagner opens its doors - onto the metamodern

On the 25th of September, Galerie Tanja Wagner will open its doors with the much anticipated, aptly titled exhibition 'Die Tur geht nach Innen auf'. But what is it that we encounter inside?
"Galerie Tanja Wagner inaugurates its space on September 25 at Pohlstraße 64, Berlin-Schöneberg with the group exhibition Die Tür geht nach Innen auf (The Door Opens Up Inwards).
Doors can prohibit the passage from one room to the other, but they can also facilitate it. Most of them do both. Doors negotiate between a somewhere and an elsewhere; the outside and the inside; between one room and the next.
The exhibition Die Tür geht nach Innen auf presents works by Mariechen Danz, Paula Doepfner, Šejla Kamerić [see also our earlier post, ed.], Issa Sant and Angelika J. Trojnarski. Even though the artists engange with different subjects and materials, they each seek to create a tension between two situations, indeed, between two spaces. All works negotiate between the sayable and the visible: between what can be said and what can be shown, representation and presence. However the first impulse is always set by the art work. 
The works convey enthusiasm as well as irony. They play with hope and melancholy, oscilliate between knowledge and naivety, empathy and apathy, wholeness and fragmentation, purity and ambiguity, while looking for a truth without expecting to find it; which corresponds to what Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker have termed metamodernism."

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The New Weird Generation (part 1)

In the documentary The Eternal Children (see also ‘CocoRosie’ ), Antony Hegarty, lead singer of the pop ensemble Antony and the Johnsons, perceives the waning of a postmodern sensibility, and the rise of something else.

I think this is a more wake period in culture. That was a horrible period. You know, the early nineties, you had like Kurt Cobain. The only thing that could manage to break through that wall was this scream of depression and rage that was Kurt Cobain. But other than that, what was there? Things sort of radically diversified after the new millennium. […] Suddenly, there was this frolicking group of outrageously colourful young people with their eyes wide open. But not like naïve, but almost emerging from a basic need to survive and to live… […] There was something very primary and very beautiful about what they were doing, and creating spaces that had the potential for hope to exist in them. […] It’s not cynical, that’s the thing.
Indeed, something has drastically changed since the beginning of the new millennium. Something, or someone, managed to break through ‘that wall’ - without screaming or raging (as grunge did in the early nineties), or without becoming apathetic (as punk did in the late seventies and eighties). During the past decade a generation emerged that does not turn to anger or defeatism, but instead seeks to create alternate spaces for hope and desire. This generation reflects a cultural shift, a shift from a period of cynicism towards a more ‘wake period’, as Antony tends to describe it. I am talking, of course, about the latest folk revival in western history mostly referred to as free-, NU- or freak folk. A musical genre that is exemplary the rising of the New Weird Generation and (it’s) New Romanticism.

Antony wasn’t the only one though sensing the end of postmodernism in popular music. As early as 2003, Scottish music journalist David Keenan prophesised the emergence of a generation that no longer shares the postmodern attitude. In an article on a two-day music festival held at a cotton mill in the wooded area of Brattleboro, Vermont – the Brattleboro Free Folk Fest – Keenan introduced his readers to the rise of the New Weird America: ‘a groundswell musical movement rising out of the USA’s backwoods [l]oosely called free folk’. With the term New Weird America he referred to the making of a counter culture in the early sixties of the 20th century, when among artists such as Bob Dylan (and The Band), John Fahey and Joan Baez there was a communal counter movement that occurred in reaction to the Vietnam war and excessive capitalism. Just as in Brattleboro, the heart of this counter culture was formed by folk music inspired by the American ‘hillbilly’ and ‘blues’ tradition once recorded by ethnomusicologist and mystic Harry Smith on his still legendary album An Anthology Of American Folk Music. In Invisible Republic (1998) music journalist Greil Marcus called this tradition Old, Weird America.

So, what is New Weird America?

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Fountain - A call to discussion

In their essay Notes on Metamodernism, Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker discuss the way in which metamodernism seems to be characterized by oscillation. As part of their deliberations on the concept of the metamodern, they invoke the words of German thinker Eric Voegelin to help explain the nature of this oscillation:

Existence has the structure of the In-Between, of the Platonic metaxy, and if anything is constant in the history of mankind it is the language of tension between life and death, immortality and mortality, perfection and imperfection, time and timelessness, between order and disorder, truth and untruth, sense and senselessness of existence; between amor Dei and amor sui, l’ame ouverte and l’ame close; …’[1]

In this post, I would like to initiate a discussion of Darren Aronofsky’s 2006 film The Fountain as a metamodern text visually articulating various kinds of oscillations concerning the experience of our mortality. Conceived as a ‘metaphysical post-Matrix-Science-Fiction-Film’[2], The Fountain formulates a central concern that has been a ‘constant in the history of mankind’, namely the meaning of our existence. Ultimately, the film seems to suggest that the journey from life into death is what constitutes humanity. However, this journey is not one with a clear beginning and an end. In stead, the acceptance of our mortality allows us to experience this transition in a metaphysical sense. Life and death becomes an oscillation, rather than a simple beginning with an end. In my view, this challenging film overtly visualizes the formation of the ‘In-Between’, which Voegelin speaks of, in that it structurally oscillates between three distinct narrative lines.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Henrik Vibskov

The Danish fashion designer Henrik Vibskov doesn’t like to be pigeonholed. Besides designing four collections a year for both men and women, Vibskov plays drums in the live band of electronic musician Trentemøller and is part of The Fringe Project, together with visual artist Andreas Emenius. Everything Henrik Vibskov does has only one goal: to create his own surreal universe where the sky is the limit. Vibskov, a true romantic at heart who only applied to the fashion design course at Central Saint Martins because a girl he fancied was going there, finds his inspiration in Nordic folk traditions and childhood memories of his hometown in Jutland, Denmark. But it’s never just about the clothes with Henrik Vibskov; to present his collections he creates extravagant narratives, filling catwalks with bicycles, wooden boats, shiny boobies, humongous hamster wheels and black carrots, like a little boy’s fantasy that has come to life. His style is best described as whimsical and quirky, with show titles as The Fantabulous Bicycle Music Factory (SS08), The Human Laundry Service (AW 09/10) and The Last Pier Pandemonium (SS11) that sound like Roald Dahl stories. Vibskov’s world looks like it’s made of Lego with colorful designs that sometimes seem to belong in the circus instead of on the catwalk, but they never stop being wearable, they never completely lose touch with reality.

Image: Henrik Vibskov's Big Wet Shiny Boobies collection (SS07)
Video: Henrik Vibskov's The Human Laundry Service collection (AW 09/10)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

James Franco

He can’t be serious. James Franco has recently emerged from being an actor with a cult following (with roles in television and film ranging from Freaks and Geeks to Spider-Man to Eat, Pray, Love) to an artist that counts acting among his many other interests: Franco has seemingly become a super-charged, professional dilettante. After dropping out of UCLA after his freshman year, he returned, ten years later, to finish his degree in two years before then going on to pursue degrees in, among yet others, film at NYU, writing at Columbia, and, the piece de resistance, a PhD in English at Yale. After becoming involved in the art world, he emerged as an artist in his own right and garnered a solo exhibition at the Clocktower Gallery in New York. After despairing of a career that was becoming too Hollywood mediocre, he nabbed a recurring role on General Hospital in which his role as “Franco,” an artist, was a self-proclaimed piece of performance art: “I disrupted the audience's suspension of disbelief, because no matter how far I got into the character, I was going to be perceived as something that doesn't belong to the incredibly stylized world of soap operas. Everyone watching would see an actor they recognized, a real person in a made-up world.” Yet, in the fulfillment of his many interests, whether it be as a student, artist or actor, Franco has combined a wandering and cryptic free spirit with a seeming need for the approval of the establishment: is Franco the embodiment of an earnest, overly scheduled, and artistically inclined “Organization Kid”? As Sam Anderson writes in his profile of Franco in New York magazine, Franco is perhaps the “world’s most ironic earnest guy.” It is never really clear whether Franco is just playing around, being played, or playing with us. In any case, at the least, this act has propelled him to even greater fame: you’ve got to fake it to make it.

Monday, 23 August 2010

The rise of the BRICs

At the beginning of the decade, just after the events of 9/11, Goldman Sachs' chief economist Jim O'Neill coined the remarkably apt acronym BRIC to describe a
group of nations that would become, in his view, the main contenders of Western economic dominance. This group consists of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC), and, since the early 2000s, it has grown into a loose assembly of sorts. In 2009 and 2010, for example, the BRIC countries held their first ever summits.These summits can be conceived of as a reflection of a changing, if not already drastically altered, geopolitical landscape. Or, in the words of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the host of the 2010 summit:
"We are countries where everything happens on a large scale. We represent nearly one half of the world population, 20 per cent of its land surface and are rich in natural resources. Today, the BRICs have become essential players in major international decision-making. As such we are acutely aware of our potential as agents of change in making global governance both more transparent and democratic. This is the message Brazil offered at the second BRIC Summit, held here in Brasilia, where the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China gathered on April 15. [...] We are committed to building a joint diplomatic and creative approach with our BRIC partners in order to challenges."
How to describe this emerging landscape of power? As multi-polar? Perhaps. As multicentric? Maybe. One thing is sure, though. In the coming decades, the so-called West needs to come to terms with the economic and political rise of the BRICs. One way or another.

Illustration: courtesy

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The New Museum goes metamodern?

The New Museum goes metamodern?
Eu desejo o seu desejo / I Wish Your Wish (2003) is installed in the lobby gallery as part of the exhibition "Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other". Visitors are invited to select ribbons printed with a wish to tie around their wrists. When the ribbon falls off, tradition has it that one's wish will be fulfilled. Visitors may write another wish and place it in the empty hole. This work of art is based on a similar practice that takes place at the church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim (Our Lord of the Good End) in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.
Image: Rivane Neuschwander, I wish your wish (2003). Courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

Monday, 16 August 2010


“To engage with CocoRosie requires absolute suspension of disbelief”, The Guardian once wrote about the sister-duo CocoRosie. Anyone who has been to one of their live shows or has seen The Eternal Children, a documentary on the so-called freak folk movement made by Dutch filmmaker David Kleijwegt, knows exactly what The Guardian is talking about. Bianca and Sierra Casady live in a dream world, populated by elves, unicorns, fairies and other dreamlike creatures. This can be tiring at times and I learned the hard way that you’d best restrict yourself to the records and not visit live shows. But when you do succeed in suspending that disbelief, when you get past all that gibberish about elves and whatnot, CocoRosie can be magical. With their junk-shop kiddie instruments, the angelic voice of Sierra and the childlike squealing of Bianca CocoRosie creates her own nursery rhymes, blending hip hop and opera along the way. And although they might seem innocent, their songs are anything but. Heart wrenching is the duet Beautiful Boyz with Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons: Born illegitimately / To a whore, most likely / He became an orphan / Oh what a lovely orphan he was / Sent to the reformatory / Ten years old, was his first glory / Got caught stealing from a nun / Now his love story had begun. True, at times CocoRosie seems too gimmicky, too ironic, to the point where it almost gets cringeworthy, but in the end their enthusiasm prevails. CocoRosie may not make you believe in fairy tales in the end, but you’ve got to appreciate them for trying. And who knows, they might make you wonder if, just if...

video: CocoRosie's first single Rainbowarriors from their third album The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The wondrous post of Anis Shivani

Anis Shivani. Very keen critic or very angry (or disappointed, or hurt, or 'misunderstood') author? You decide. At least his damning critique of pomo writing is very, very funny. Read for example what he has to say about celebrated poet John Ashbery:
More responsible than anyone else for turning late twentieth-century American poetry into a hermetic, self-enclosed, utterly private affair. Displays sophomoric lust to encode postmodern alienation into form that embodies the supposed chaos of the mind. (...) Ran away with postmodern irony, eccentricized it to the point of meaninglessness. Now we have no working definition of irony anymore--thanks, John Ashbery! (...) Among the writers listed here, I want to like him the most--it's too bad he's been a parody of himself for so long.

Friday, 13 August 2010


Quirky is a word that critics apply to American ‘indie’ movies with a tiresome predictability – indeed, it sometimes seems to be treated as synonymous with the contemporary American independent film landscape as a whole. However, while it certainly can be used merely as a tedious buzzword, I would also argue that – properly defined – it may also be the best shorthand we have for one observable strand of recent American film – specifically: the sorts of comedies and comedy-dramas conjured up by names such as Wes Anderson, Michel Gondry, Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze, Jared Hess, Alexander Payne, David O. Russell, Miranda July, and so on. I have recently published an article in the new Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism which lays out in detail my interpretation of the term; what follows is a condensation and reformulation of a few of the arguments that I make in greater detail in that piece.

Quirky is a sensibility that can be recognised most easily by its tone, which we might broadly describe as walking a tightrope between a cynically ‘detached’ irony and an emotionally ‘engaged’ sincerity. This tone is created in a number of ways.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Selja Kameric (1)

It is difficult to describe what Selja Kameric’s work is about. It is about an international conflict (the Balkan wars). It is about the decline of a city (Sarajevo). It is about ethnic cleansing (of Bosnian-Herzegovians). It is about longing for a past that is lost (a culture's, a city's, the artist's). It is about the emancipation of a young girl (the artist herself). Kameric's work is political. But it is also personal. However, one would be mistaken to call the political personal and vice-versa.

One might be tempted to argue it is about deconstruction. Works such as
EU/Others (2000) and Bosnian Girl (2003), which examine the relationship between representation and subjectivity, would certainly vindicate such an assertion. But then one might also suggest it is about reconstruction. The piece Dream House (2002), for instance, situates a refugee camp within parameters that place it beyond its conventional confines. The camp’s spacetime transits from sunset into sunrise, transforms from desolate desert to desirable beach. The work thus constructs the impossible possibility of an elsewhere beyond the now-here.

Similarly, one may feel Kameric’s work is concerned with the past. After all, many of her works address traumas and memories. Yet one cannot but feel it is equally preoccupied with the future. In
Red (2008) Kameric seeks to trace what is lost. She traces marks on red brick walls left by explosive devices. In Green (2007) she tries to find expressions of what cannot be expressed. She photographs names carved in

Monday, 9 August 2010

New Romanticism

The world must be romanticized. In this way its original meaning will be rediscovered. To romanticize is nothing but a qualitative heightening. In this process the lower self becomes identified with a better self. (...) Insofar as I present the commonplace with significance, the ordinary with mystery, the familiar with the seemliness of the unfamiliar and the finite with the semblance of the infinite, I romanticize it. Novalis
These lines were long suppressed by the paradigms of modernity; ignored by discourses dominated by the postmodern. Yet over the last decade or so they have gradually begun to reappear. In the early 2000s they were anxiously uttered at art shows in Berlin and London; they were nervously repeated in polemical pamphlets and papers in New York; they were hesitantly replicated in Frieze, cautiously copied in the FAZ, the Observer, and The New Yorker. But by 2005, they had recurred so frequently, and so widely, that the tone with which they were re-iterated had become more confident. When, later that year, they were reprinted in Hans Hollein’s catalogue Ideal Worlds: New Romanticism in Contemporary Art, they were expressed with such conviction that there could be no further doubt about it: a novel sense of the Romantic had emerged.