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History, criticism and significance of postmodernism in 2022

When it comes to trends in art, many may think that this does not concern them. All sorts of "modern" is about art galleries, the facades of old houses and books with a bunch of letters. Actually, it is not. Even if you are not related to art, we now live in a time saturated with postmodernity. Even if you don't consciously touch the postmodern, the postmodern touches you in one way or another.


Each cultural paradigm reflects the spirit of its time. Culture does not exist apart from society, apart from the economy and from the broad masses. Moreover, we have long been living in the era of mass culture. After all, everyone already knows how to read and everyone has a smartphone - the center of world culture.

If you rewind time 200 years ago, culture as such was not the property of the masses. And talking about any mass cultural paradigm would be irrelevant.

Postmodern in photography

Since you are on photographer's website, then I will briefly outline the meaning of postmodern photography. And this, oddly enough, will be the simplest notation:

the artist sees

This is the main principle of postmodernism, which can be applied both to photography and other visual arts.

A little later, I will explain why postmodern today concerns not only “high” art, but simply every person existing in the modern information field. For now…

Back to basics

Postmodern emerged at the beginning of the 20th century. Malevich's "Black Square" laid the foundation for this ideology in 1915. I emphasize - not in terms of direction in the visual arts - but precisely as cultural paradigm shift.

The styles of the Black Square are avant-gardism and suprematism. But the idea is postmodern.

black square side view


Because the message of this "painting" is that no technique will be perfect to display reality on canvas. To quote: "It is impossible to display a three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional plane." And since they said that it was impossible, several conclusions follow from this:

  • we will deliberately spit at the viewer in order to poke his nose into a new "brilliant idea";
  • drawing anything, you can denote anything by this, a black square can denote any phenomenon;
  • no need to bother - the artist sees - People hawala.

I use quotation marks in some words to express my negative attitude towards such “art”. My blog is my right. To paraphrase - the author sees so.

But what about postmodern?

Every new cultural movement always wants to trample on the bones of the old culture. But the postmodern does this in a particularly cynical way. Rather, if some currents smoothly flow from one to another, then postmodernism is precisely trampling on the bones.

One of the key characteristics of postmodernism is irony, shocking and nihilism. All this is combined in the Black Square, although at the time of its creation this term did not yet exist. This "picture" tells everyone that it's time to go beyond, it's time to think in a new way by denying everything old, it shocks with its impudence and ironically at the audience and art critics.

The thesis “the artist sees it this way” can be rephrased as “do whatever you want, the main thing is to be good at selling”. And this is the main breakdown of the previous paradigm and the transition to the mass promotion of mediocrity and pontorez.

Where is the art, you may ask?

Postmodern removes the framework. What determines whether a work is considered art or not? - On whether other people believe in him and whether they are ready to pay money for "it".

The black square became art because it sold well. Speak confidently “the artist sees it this way”, go beyond and your creations will also be art. This is postmodern. To win a race, you don't have to run faster than others, you just have to influence the judges.

  • Classic implies obedience to rigid canons and rules.
  • Modernism rethinks the rules, can beat them back, but still acts by the rules.
  • Postmodernism goes beyond and as if asks - and who are the judges? If you drug the judges, you can play with the rules go beyond standard forms, to make fun of everyone, to create not at the expense of your own material, but at the expense of references to others, and so on.

The term "postmodernism" itself appeared in the work of R. Panwitz "The Crisis of European Culture" about 2 years after the Black Square, in 1917.

But these two events - the "Black Square" and the emergence of the term "postmodernism" - are only the origins, but not the mass spread of postmodernism.

The black square created a new paradigm by saying - it doesn't matter what to draw, it is important how to present it. And people believed it. It's true, it's worth pointing out what time and before whom this show was played. At another time and in another place, these show-offs would not have passed. But once it has passed, it can be developed further.

I mentioned going beyond standard forms. If before that there was classical sculpture, where you need to create according to the canons and follow the rules, then the newly appeared postmodernism began to show the world new ugly forms - installations and performances. Since we are promoting the "death of classical art", we will create something new - going beyond the standard forms. For example, the performance with the Homogeneous piano.

The phenomenon of performances, installations and other non-standard forms well illustrated in the following examples:

  • If you put a pile under someone's door in the entrance - this installation.
  • If before that you ring the bell, it will be performance.
  • If a group of people participate in this, it will be happening.
  • If someone accidentally steps into it, it will be environment.

The main goal of the happening is to release energy, energy that is completely absurd.

Environment is the same happening, but less active in relation to the viewer. The viewer can enter the environment completely unnoticed.

My examples are well within such definitions.

The above-described generations of postmodernism began in the 1950s.

But truly mass postmodernism has become today.

Characteristic features of postmodernism (source):

I will put my comments in italics.

  • Plagiarism and citation - a collage of other people's ideas. The author is no longer a creator; this does not stop him from being an author. / as cleverly said /. A prime example is South Park.
  • Pluralism - rejection of canons and authorities, ironic attitude to the classics and tradition. Remember the Black Square.
  • Uncertainty - the rules themselves are created together with the work, blurring the former categories of genre and discourse. Wrote about it above.
  • shocking - the intention of the artist to amaze, surprise his audience with unexpected steps, a violation of seemingly generally accepted norms and rules. Another tool for deconstructing the old era.
  • Multivariate interpretation - the thesis about the absence of one, the only true interpretation of a work of art. Continuation of the previous paragraph.
  • Art as a game - revealing the playful nature of art, identifying it with a game, and not with an ordinary game, but with a non-classical game that does not have pre-established rules and those who win and lose. How else to sell the Black Square to the public? Playfully!
  • fragmentariness - distrust of the "total", of any kind of synthesis. Divide and rule. If you want to conquer the old, divide it into pieces.
  • Loss of "I" - the desire of the author to level his presence in the work he created and the resulting “mask of the author” or even “death of the author”. Who did the installation? It's better for you not to know.
  • Superficiality - refusal of attempts to study deep problems, the desire for simplicity and clarity, a superficial reflection of reality, the dominance of the idea that the world should not be understood, but accepted. Modern social networks perfectly reflect this principle.
  • Mixing high and low crops - erasing the line between elite and mass cultures. This process has been going on for a long time and without the efforts of postmodernists.
  • irony, parody - the interpretation of irony as a means of finding the truth; the desire not to turn something into a stereotype of consciousness, to generate a standard, expected reaction. Probably the only characteristic that truly impresses me. Scary Movie is an example of the purest postmodernism.

Postmodernism in 2022

What is postmodernism in contemporary culture? The entire Internet is postmodernism.


The Internet is built on references in other documents. The Internet began with the HTML protocol, that is, HyperText Markup Language - “hypertext markup language”. Postmodern is built on hypertext. It is not the content that matters, but the game with other people's content, irony and everything described just above.

In addition to structure, the Internet is full of sarcasm, irony, nihilism, superficiality, outrageousness and more. The essence of the Internet is postmodernism.

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned smartphones as the main source of modern culture. What content is this source broadcasting?

Modern content can be described as sketchy, superficial, ironic etc. It's on everyone's phone. This is a way of modern thinking and this is by no means high culture in art galleries. Any person is the creator of such a culture when he posts something on the social network. This is the same mixture of high and low cultures. Culture is already in everyone's smartphone - this is our century.

Why did I decide to write about all this?

I wrote at the beginning, whether you think about postmodern or not, he is in you, as in a man of the modern age. I was surprised to find that on Youtube I create purely postmodern content. Without even thinking about something, we can develop and support it.

To thinking

It is curious that postmodernism is aimed at zeroing out old values, promoting entropy not only in the visual arts, but also in many other areas of human activity. Other areas are a separate and very detailed issue. And one more question - how random is this?

I would be grateful for the distribution of this article on other sites and social networks. In short, reposts are welcome :)

Continuation of this thread: Postmodernism - pros, cons, conclusions

Also read: Metamodern - where did it come from and where is it going