Thursday, December 3, 2009

Alter-Modern and The Return of The Real

Recent discussions about the state of post-modernism have struggled to determine its relevance today. While several theorists and historians contend that it has run its course, it is still widely excepted as the dominant ideological epoch. The frustration concerning the end of post-modernism centers primarily around its formal structure, which unlike its modernist predecessor, is formed defined in negative terms (constructed in contrast to modernism.) This logic suggests that the only feasible end of the post-modern era will come at the re-birth of the modern one. That, anyway, was the premise of art historian and theorist Hal Foster's 1996 book The Return of the Real. Though the subject of its own criticism, Foster's critique of post-modernism provides on of the earliest and most substantial post post-modern propositions.

Another text that has recently revived the debate over post-modernism, is the French curator Nicholas Bourriaud's Altermodern, which for better or worse attempts to brand work being made in today's global context as a reaction against standardization and commercialism. Rather than failing back on modernist principles, Bourriaud describes his new aesthetic era in terms of cultural hybridisation and translation explaining:

"Artists are looking for a new modernity that would be based on translation: What matters today is to translate the cultural values of cultural groups and to connect them to the world network. This “reloading process” of modernism according to the twenty-first-century issues could be called altermodernism, a movement connected to the creolisation of cultures and the fight for autonomy, but also the possibility of producing singularities in a more and more standardized world."

As a curator, Bourriaud's primarily interest is in visual art, but it's not difficult to see how his assertions, if you buy them, can be applied to any other sect of visual culture.

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