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.