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Postmodern Anxiety & The Aesthetics Of Destruction

2707 words - 11 pages

Postmodern Anxiety & the Aesthetics of Destruction

To borrow a term from the seminal postmodern scholarship of Ihab Hassan, we are living in a moment of indeterminacy. As linearity went the way of modernism, today's culture is one of interconnectivity, webs and networks. We privilege teamwork, democracy, easy and equal access to knowledge above all else. Aesthetics of art and the rhetoric of corporation (that is in turn borrowed from artistic practices) are changing as a result. Formalism has given way to more open creativity. Companies are “flat” or horizontally-integrated, workers may even be skilled beyond menial tasks. But what gets lost in this tangled utopia of webs and equality is determinable truth. Because of the new corporate rhetoric its easy to forget that we are still undeniably situated in a hegemonic, global, (late-)capitalist culture. And although because of increases in technology, the general public has access to more knowledge than ever before, with these advances also comes unparallel access to a proliferation of useless information.

What results from this fetishizing of democratization on all fronts is a tension between revelation and concealment, sense and nonsense. The cultural anxiety, which this in turn creates, has led the United States into a war against a faceless enemy for the second time in only a few decades. The indeterminate form of communism which we once fruitlessly battled has today taken on the amorphous visage of terrorism. Ultimately, this ideology of war, created by the uneasiness of a culture of indeterminacy, is just as transparent as the technological interfaces (computer and television screens) that its images are projected on. Current artistic practices mirror this war-motivating anxiety. In particular, the digital-artworks of interference and destruction—both automatic and otherwise, embody a satirical yet bleak pronunciation of muted truth-- in a culture of indeterminacy; the only thing that is certain is death.

Postmodernity & Interdisciplinary Study

Although artistic practices have arguably always been products and producers of both high and popular culture, the age of postmodernism and the genesis of cultural studies allow a more integrated focus on this relationship. In the introduction to Jospeh Natoli and Linda Hutcheon's compilation, A Postmodern Reader , postmodernity is defined as a “post-1960s period label attached to cultural forms that display certain characteristics,” it is “often a mixing of the conventions of popular and high art,” and as a whole, it has “opened the way for such new counter disciplinary domains as cultural studies” (Hutcheon vii-viii). This counter- or more appropriately, inter-disciplinary scholarship emphasizes the oft incestual connection between socio-cultural politics and art. To be sure, “postmodernity's assertion of the value of inclusive “both/and” thinking deliberately contests the exclusive “either/or” binary oppositions of modernity....

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