Other Post-Postmodernisms: a glossary

Confetti Death, by Typoe
Confetti Death, by Typoe


The previous blog focused on pseudo-modernism, on whether it was a sufficient successor to the dominant cultural paradigm. In my research, I realized that there were way too many “posts” to postmodernisms that I needed a program to tell them all apart. 
As for pseudo-modernism, it is interesting to note that the creator of that concept, Kirby has re-christened it as digimodernism, the contraction of “digital modernism.” This redefinition re-centers the original conception as the intersection between textuality, and digital technology, where the text is “reformulated by the fingers and thumbs – the digits – clicking and keying and pressing in the positive acts of partial or obscurely collective textual elaboration.” (Digimodernism, p. 1)

In this 2009 book, Kirby scales back from his early overstatements in his provocative paper and concedes that digimodernism is more of a “modulated continuity” than a rupture with postmodernism, largely because it is historically adjacent and is expressed through the same cultural forms. (Digimodernism, p. 2) Instead of postmodernism’s absolute break in human experience, digimodernity is just “another stage within modernity, a shift from one phase of its history into another.” (p. 3)

If digimodernism/pseudomodernism is just another stage within modernity, then it does not necessarily constitute the entire cultural paradigm, and that it may coexist with other “-modernism” candidates, such as automodernism, complexism, hypermodernism, altermodernism, and post-postmodernism. Really.

In 2009, an exhibition at Tate Triennial announced the revival of the Avant-Garde, a new era fed up with the “marshy delta” of postmodernism, and celebrated a return to art. Bold curator Nicolas Bourriaud proposed “altermodernism” as an extension of hypermodernism, where socio-globalization and autonomy are blended with “aesthetic universalism.” In its manifesto, altermodernism will replace multiculturalism with”creolization,” an aesthetic framework that starts from the globalized viewpoint, which means artists or writers travel through cultures and invent new pathways between various formats of communication. In essence, the ultimate purpose of altermodernism is the translation of cultural values of varied groups and connect them to the global network. Basically, the artist has gone rogue, independent of her home culture, freed of her theoretical and aesthetic chains.

However, it must be said that this emphasization on a global network or the globalized viewpoint hearkens back to the old modernist reality of a monolithic culture, and seems to be a retromodernist relapse of the older cultural paradigm. Many critics have already disparaged this pretense to aesthetic progression as a sinister, politically twisted theory. Personally, I see altermodernism as an unironic remake of postmodernism, but formatted in a classic manifesto from the early 20th century. Altermodernism is postmodernism rebranded.

Science, as technology, is a liberating factor and constitutes the ideological ground of automodernity. Robert Samuels asserts that the capacity of automated technologies to allow the individual a greater share of control actually erodes the experience of cultural and social negotiation. He accuses postmodern theorists of neglecting the psychological aspect of individual autonomy. Instead of postmodernism’s denial of universal ideals, automodernism proposes that modern technology grants the individual “technological neutrality, universalized information, and individual power,” even if it appears illusory.

In other words, privileging psychological determinism over social intervention, automodernism reveals how the current generation, via technologies, are promoting the discourse of globalized politics. Instead of postmodernist skepticism of agency, automodernism returns autonomy to individuals. Indeed, some sense of agency is to be celebrated, but then again, this fetish with subjective psychology only obscures or presents a masquerade that hides its postmodern roots. Plus this brings up an interesting point – why would a world full of autonomous individuals be at all concerned with the patronage of any cultural ism? :noidea:

Phillip Galanter proposes complexism, a new cultural paradigm that goes even further in regarding the synthesis of technology and art, where the sciences & the humanities are reconciled “through a higher synthesis of the modern and the postmodern.” Although Galanter favors postmodernism’ tolerance of racial, ethnic, religious & sexual difference in the political and aesthetic sphere, he rejects its ironic and self-referential meta excesses. Moreover, Galanter accuses the native skeptical and nihilistic disposition of postmodernism that permits an intellectual apathy that submarines all foundations as mere shared realities and word play entirely relative to a presupposed culture.

Instead, complexism is oriented towards a reality of co-evolution where the hierarchies of modernism are converted into mutual relationships that allow robust discourse. Galanter praises the old Futurists who championed a dynamism inherent in the racecar, a cultural ideology that the blazing speed of new technological systems are expressed in art. This in turn inspires a visceral aesthetic experience in the spectator, and helps include her and the artist in a collective sharing of experience. Unlike digimodernism or automodernism, complexism is all about how the subject experiences art. Moreover, unlike the narcissistic intent of automodernism, the complexist aesthetic experience is dependent on automatic physiological reflexes. Therefore, autonomy is not necessary, as it is in digimodernism where anxiety is solved by the manipulations of technology for the user’s own goals. Unlike digimodernism, complexism affirms the characteristic chaos of postmodernism, although it admits that a “visceral appreciation of the world can be deterministic yet unpredictable” should be promoted.

Coined in the mid 1990s, hypermodernism is likely the oldest of the “posts.” Much like complexism and digimodernism, hypermodernism is all about reuniting science with the art, although it remains loyal to the diversity that postmodernism championed. But hypermodernism goes further in the discourse of globalization. Ronnie Lippens, the clearest exponent of hypermodernism, claims that the international socio-economic/political/technological development has resulted in a “globalized space where social energies are whirling unbounded… through obsolete boundaries from the past… to be used in ever proliferating de/re/constructions, de/re/differentiations, de/re/traditionalizations, and de/re/subjectifications.” (Chaohybrids, p.)

The hypermodernist heroine is more free, since she lives in a society where technology and standards are always evolving. This both intensifies and redeems the modernist experience, which is in complete opposition to postmodernism’ denial of a reality that improves for the better, regardless of whether the present is more valuable than the past. Alas, the hypermodernist yearning for an accelerated, liberal modernist experience is only a nostalgic glance towards the past while wielding the technological improvement of the future.

Post-post? Sounds like a stutter or a bad joke. In 2012, Nealon published a book titled Post-Postmodernism: or, The Cultural Logic of Just-in-Time Capitalism, a take off of Fredric Jameson’s 1984 classic of postmodernism. It basically argues that instead of moving beyond postmodernism, we are experiencing an intensification of postmodern fragmentation. Nealon confesses that double P is not something different from the original P, but an indicator that it has grown beyond its original state back in Jameson’s eighties.

Unlike modernism or postmodernism, the failure to actually build a robost method of criticism prevent these candidates from emerging as the authoritative ideology of the zeitgeist. Moreover, the very existence of contesting ideologies, each asserting supremacy, only reinforces the inherent fragmentation of postmodernism, the splintered state of truth, which is interestingly enough similar to the early days of modernism. It all comes down to two things: either the candidates have not successfully determined an ideology, or they are all abortive attempts of redescriptions of postmodernist ideology. All these candidates to the epitaph of postmodernism have a little maturation to go before they can successfully knock off the champion of the current paradigm.

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...a philosophisticator who utters heresies, thinks theothanatologically and draws like Kirby on steroids.

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