Postmodernism

What is Postmodernism? The 21st century has been hauled as the century of Postmodernism. But to date the here has been a little agreement on what is considered Postmodernism (2006, Cahoone) and when did it exactly started. Does an art has to be postmodernist when it’s created in the 21st century? In this paper I’m trying to explain what Postmodernism is, the thinkers behind it and designers who are considered post modernist and an analysis of some of their works, and hopefully does justice in explaining this topic that is still going on.

Before talking about Postmodernism we need to understand what Modernism is. Modernism started as an answer to Traditionalist art where art is perceived as only accessible to high class society. While Traditionalist usually depict thing at it is or in a hyper realistic manner. Modernism Modernism in design is more about clarity and simplicity relying heavily on order and grid while the art experiment with shapes and colours while in Architecture the shapes are getting straight and cleaning with the use of glass and concrete. (Design in a Nutshell, OUlearn)

The rise of Photography was also considered as the dead of traditional art where there was the need of realistic pictures or images Pablo Picasso was one artist that was the forerunners in the modernist era. Pablo Picasso used simplified shapes to represent humans in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1995, Appignanesi) something never seen during the traditional art era.

Modernisme is the death of realism that was prominent in the traditional era (2007, Berger). In some explanation the shift from doing religious paintings to more found objects or non religious themes marks the start of the Modern era in painting (What is Postmodernism/Modernism, Sommerset)

Jean Francis Lyotard was a French philosopher and sociologist, Lyotard argued that Postmodernism no longer tells a story (1991, Readings). He also mentioned that there was an attitude of skepticm toward modernism, that postmodernism is to question what modernism has to offer (2004, Hart). Further Lyotard describes Post-modern as “incredulity against Metanaratives” or Meta narrative or Grand narrative is what the story that explains the story. (dictionary.com).

The aim of postmodernism is to challenge what is called as social construct, no truth is absolute (Bonevac, accesed 2014). A social construct is something that is set as truth by the society it could as be term set by somebody to explain something and is accepted as the truth (Bonevac, accesed 2014). A chair is a chair because the society tell you that this certain object is a chair, while postmodernism might challenge that assumption.

Jean Baudrillard a French philosopher devised Post Modernism in several ways. According to Baudrillard we live in a reality beyond reality which he calls as a hyper reality. Our live are based on images that are manifestation of other images again and again. This hyper reality is more important than the thing that is represented by the image.

Saussare’s theory of signs where the sign represented something is annulled by Baudrillard who say that the sign and the reality are the same, the sign is the meaning ( 2003, Berger). Baudrillard also use the term Simulacrum often. Simulacrum according the Oxford Dictionary is an image representation of something. This simulacrum is projected to us through media such as television and advertising. There is also a shifting in the meaning of simulation where originally simulation was something that copies reality in Baulldrillard’s perception it becomes something that has no connection to reality. Reality in Baulldrillard’s become something has been replaced by the virtual that becomes difficult to separate.

Some examples of Baudrillard’s rejection to reality is when the Invasion to Kuwait by Saddam went on he argued those were just images projected by the Network that there was a war going on and it’s not real. (2003, Berger). The gulf war on TV was a Simulacrum a projection and not real. (1995, Patton, Baudrillard).

Jack Solomon, noted that in the Post-modern universe there are no such thing as the person, in this case “me” (2007, Solomon, Berger). Further Solomon explained that everybody is playing a role referring to Postmodern Pop artist such as David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Madonna prominent artis of the 80s. Most them are TV icons from the heyday of MTV era. In the modern era there should be a narrative or story to tell, a beginning – middle and end (2007, Berger), while Lyotard said the narrative is dead and replaced by images or simulation with no story at all.

Frederic Jameson from America is considered one of the important thinkers in post-modernism. Frederic Jameson explained that modernism needed a story or reason to legitimize another story, something that is called as a grand-narrative. The purpose is the create a sense of originality to the personal or individual style (2007, Berger). This personal style generated a void where the universal values are repeated again and again resulting in a parody.

In Postmodernism the individual style is dead according to Jameson, Jameson explained that the artist and the writers of the present can’t no longer produce new styles and worlds, because they all have been invented this causes art becoming an endless recycle of the past. (2007, Berger) In this case Post-Modernism will recreate what has been done in the Modernisme era, mix it, and create something ‘new’. Jameson argued the cause of this is because of capitalism and the change of what is considered as goods or ideas and usually not for sale become a commodity. This situation manifested into a disabled contemporary culture that can’t create unique statements. (2007, Berger).

Jameson underlined that the result of a ‘mute culture’ has increased the volume of recycling, taking what’s from the past and making it into something ‘new’ which resulted in the disappearance of history. (2007, Berger). The blending of past elements by post modern artist to create something ‘new’ is what Jameson called as ‘Pastiche’ (2007, Berger).

Post-Modernism was an answer to all the disappointment caused by Modernism, Where science brought Weapons of Mass Destruction and World War II continued by the cold war and the arm race. Many argued when it started, but the demolition of the modernist building at 3pm on March 16, 1972( Postmodernism: Design in a nutshell, OUlearn).

Some characteristic of Post Modernism are the use of strange colour combination, usually bright and glossy, theatrically and exaggeration. The 80s is considered as the start of Post Modernism Movement with the rise of punk and post punk, new wave, consumerism. Strong examples are shown through MTV particularly through video clips and artists such as David Bowie, Madonna and Michael Jackson (2007, Berger). The artist each shows different personality or roles whenever their album comes out.

Post Modernism relies on complexity and contradiction as opposed to Modernist simplicity and clarity. Other characteristic of Post Modernism the re-use and recycle of the past through appropriation for example that gives new meaning to an art or new found objects.

Postmodernism in different countries takes different shapes, what was explained were mostly Post Modernism in the west. In the Southeast Asia Post modernism takes place in the form of fading between original product and counterfeit one. This Counterfeit products dominates 20% of the market and generates a lot of money. (1995, Appignanesi). As Bauldrillard said the reality is blend with hyper reality, the fading between the original and the counterfeit, nowadays its easy to find a counterfeit of almost any products especially DVDs, CDs, Fashion items, electronic items.

David Carson
David Carson in my opinion is one of designers that can be categorized as a postmodernist.
All of David Carson’s designs challenges what most of modernist do, for example using a tight grid or using limited fonts to express the article.

raygun1994David produced a layout of an article in his magazine ‘Raygun’ (picture shown above) where he used ZapfDingbat as the main font. Zapf Dingbat is a typeset mainly consisting of symbols, which if put in a sentence order doesn’t have any meaning. Although still using a grid the chosen font is clearly the opposite of modernism where understanding is vital.As stated by Wim Crouwel who said that the meaning is in the context of text not the the typeface (Helvetica, 2007). The reason of this unique choice of font is that David Carson thought that the interview was boring and not worth reading thus choosing the dingbat font. His argument was that something that can be read clearly doesn’t always mean it communicates something. (Helvetica, 2007).

CARSON

Another example is David Carson’s book David Carson: 2ndsight. While modernist relies heavily on tight and consistent grids, David Carson has a different grid for every page and emphasizing extreme fonts (either large, small or the combination of both). Inconsistency is something that is considered Post-Modernism (2007, Berger).

DC-1David Carson tries to communicate with bright colours, weird layout, and sometimes pixelated images which asked the viewers to interpret the meaning. A postmodern art is open to interpretation since there are no narratives or grand narratives behind it. David Carson himself didn’t do this because he want to challenge modernism (2007, Helvetica). Only after learning about Modernisme he understood that he has been challenging modern concepts of graphic design and layouts.

Barbara Krueger
Barbara Krueger is an American artist who In my Opinion shows strong postmodernism in her work. For example this work “Shop therefore I am”

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She used a found image of a hand and a famous saying that is used in the Modern era “I think therefore I am”. Again the image is not important, the hyper reality is more important, the hyper reality of consumerism where people shop just to make a point they exist. Barbara Krueger tried to question the culture of shopping or excessive shopping something that Lyotard explained as not believing or put a suspicion on culture or questioning a culture.

Another example of Barbara’s work is this picture:

Barbara-Kruger
This picture is actually questioning the male dominance and empowering women. She is using and old poster and gave a new meaning to it. Women has been depicted inferior to man (2007, Berger) and attacking this grand-narrative is one agenda of what is called Post-Modernist. Both of these examples of Barbara’s work show what Jameson called as ‘Pastiche’ where Barbara takes elements form the past or existing photographs, old saying, and blend it into something ‘new’ where it is not necessarily new.

Stefan Sagmeister
sagmeisteraidaThis work from Sagmeister can be considered as a postmodernist work of art. The poster is basically promoting an event called AIGA in Detroit. Stefan asked his assistant Martin to carve the letters on his body.
The poster is meant to convey or to inform an event supposed that are was tp be the image. But the image has become more important than thing captured by the image (2007, Berger).
The sign isn’t actually representing something (the event) it has no relation what so ever to the event. Something done also with United Colours of Benneton with their mind blowing advertising where there are no relation between the image and the product being sold.

Reference list
Graphic Design History : Post Modernism 1975 – 199012/4/2012, 2012-last update [Homepage of Parkland College], [Online]. Available: http://gds.parkland.edu/gds/!lectures/history/1975/postmodern.html [February/8, 2014].
BERGER, A.A., 2003. The Portable Postmodernist. First edn. Oxford: AltaMira Press.
BONEVAC, D., Nov 25, 2013-last update, Lecture 35, Postmodernism, of UGS 303, Ideas of the Twentieth Century, University of Texas at Austin, Fall 2013 [Homepage of Youtube], [Online]. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=we6cwmzhbBE [February/22, 2014].
CAHOONE, L., 2006. From Moderism to Postmodernism, an Anthology. Third edn. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
CARSON, D., 1999. Fotografiks. First edn. London: Laurence King.
CARSON, D., 1997. David Carson: 2ndsight
Grafik Design after end of print. First edn. London: Laurence King.
GAMBINO, M., 23 September, 2011-last update, Ask an Expert: What is the Difference Between Modern and Postmodern Art? [Homepage of Smithsonianmag.com], [Online]. Available: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/ask-an-expert-what-is-the-difference-between-modern-and-postmodern-art-87883230/?page=1 [February/22, 2014].
HART, K., 2004. Postmodernism : a beginner’s guide. Oxford: Oneworld.
HUSTWIT, G., 2007. Helvetica. United states: Independent.
OULEARN, O., May 8, 2013-last update, Postmodernism: Design in a Nutshell [Homepage of The Open University], [Online]. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKomOqYU4Mw [February22, 2014].
PATTON, P. and BAUDRILLARD, J., 1991. The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. First edn. USA: Indiana University Press.
PICASSO, P., 1907. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
READINGS, B., 1991. Introducing Lyotard, Art and Politics. 1st edn. London: Routledge.
SOMMERSET, J., 24 January, 2011-last update, What is Modernism/Post Modernism [Homepage of Youtube], [Online]. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ehh1b6kNWA [8 February 2014, 2014].
VICTORIA ALBERT, M., 24 September, 2011-last update, Postmodernism [Homepage of Victoria and Albert Museum], [Online]. Available: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/p/postmodernism/ [February/8, 2014].

Semiotics

Semiotics or semiology, as it is called Europe is a branch of knowledge that studies signs and its relation to human life. Semiotics can be words, images, sounds, smell, or flavours.

Two important thinkers in the field of semiotics are Ferdinand Saussure and Charles Sanders Pierce while there are also some links to Lacant from the Psychoanalysis. Other prominent figures are Roland Barthes, also a French Philosopher with his books explaining about Mythology and the dissection of meanings in pictures.

Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914) is an American scientist who sometimes considered as the father of Pragmatism that studies the relation between sign and its users. Charles stated that there are three types of signs. The first is called Icon where the sign appears as it is, second is called Index where there is a direct link between the sign and the object and the third is  called Symbol where there is no logical connection between the sign and its meaning.

Sanders classified the signs into three  which are Firstness; the feeling or mood of something, Secondnes; the physical level of fact and thirdness; what connects the sign and the object mentally (Crow, 2003).

Ferdinand de Saussure (1857–1913), is a Swisslinguist who developed a similar theory to Charles although they never met. Saussure as linguist was more interested in words where words it self are a set of signs. Saussure’s idea was that value determines the meaning of a sign and a signs meaning is also determined by other signs in the same system. A value is made of things that are alike that be interchanged and things that diverse that can be contrasted

Saussure’s  classification of signs are Iconic which is the same as Sanders’ Icon  where the signs take after the object it represent and Arbitrary where the signs meaning is made upon a set of agreements or rules. Some important ideas by Saussure are the signifier and the signified where signifier is the form the sign takes and signifier is the concept it represent. The connection or the association of these form meanings of the sign.

A set of signs can be arranged in a linear sequence which Saussure called as  a Syntagm where the value of the sign is determined by the other signs around it. The example of Syntagm can easily be found in language, such as the words which has to be arrange in a syntagmish way to form meanings.

Further Saussure explained that there is also what is called as Paradigm that have two main characteristics where firstly the units in a set have something in common and secondly each unit is obviously different from the other in the set. When we change a unit in the set it creates another paradigm.

I remember one advertising in Indonesian that succesfully used semiotics to challenge the viewers and building a brand awareness. The advert is for Frisian Flag Indonesia, a condensed milk Brand. The situation is two children who are neighbours from two different ethnic group were given milk. The first child said “Ini, teh, Susu!” and the other child protested saying “Teh, kok. dibilang, susu?

The loose translation is First: “Now this is Milk!” the second child “Why do you call milk as tea?”

The creator of the ad clashed two ethnic backgrounds (Sunda-reads Soonda; and Java) who have distinctive dialect and tone although using the same language which is Bahasa Indonesia. ‘Teh’ means tea in Indonesia. ‘Teh’ reads like ‘eh’ added with ‘t’.

For the Sundanese ethnic group ‘Teh’ is also you used as a way to stress on a word coming before ‘Teh’ . (I want to say signifier but I’m not sure its the correct term’). The English equivalent, might be ‘innit’ or ‘ay’. ‘Teh’ is a very informal language but unique to the Sunda ethnic group. When brought against another paradigm it sound funny while using the children’s innocence made the advertisement very successful giving the brand a strong awareness.

As in relation to my practice whether it be Illustration, Comics, Graphic Design, Web Design understanding the universal language that is used in the particular group that would be my target audience through research might help me to execute a successful project.

Reading List

CHANDLER, D., 2002. Semiotics, the Basics. 2nd edn. New York: Routledge.

CROW, D., 2003. Visible Signs. 2nd edn. Switzerland: AVA Book.

LYNDA.COM, 14 Feb 2012, 2012-last update, Interaction design and Gestalt Principles | lynda.com tutorial [Homepage of lynda.com], [Online]. Available:http://youtu.be/LlzuJqZ797U [June/01, 2013].

6 Steps, MA Art and Design Exhibition

Diverse, six students from six different countries, displaying 6 different art pieces.  

Six Steps MA Art and Design Show features the work of  Daniel Udoakah, Phudit Srithongsongsang, Sulaman Raice Sunny, Yu Chen Lin, Konstantinos Tranakidis students of MA Art and Design from the University of Bedfordshire.  The diversity can be seen from the body of work of each student that consisted from the digital works by Daniel Udoakah to the expressive paintings by Yu Cheng Lin and Suresh Puspangathan. In total there were 10 art works on display include each artist project book. All the artwork went through rigorous reflection and thinking that can be read from their project books that are also displayed under a glass case table.

The exhibition was held at the new glittering Postgraduate Centre building located at Vicarage Street opened with a private viewing on May 31 and lasted until June 7, 2013. The choice of venue was a great move since it puts the work more into the spotlight compared doing the exhibition in the Gallery Space which is a bit cornered.  The Works displayed can be seen from outside through the big glass windows with a coffee shop the venue provides a nice place to drink coffee while enjoying the beautiful work of the artists. Despite a lot of effort has been poured onto the individual work, the exhibition itself needed more things to work on.

The decision to omit any title to the artwork displayed which is probably meant to give the freedom to the viewers in order to provide loose interpretation to  the artwork is somehow confusing because in the end there is still the need to know the title. The shy catalogue itself couldn’t keep up with the great artwork the student has been producing. We missed the catalogue mainly because it wasn’t the first thing that grabs the visitor’s attention when entering the venue. It might be useful if the leaflets were put on the sides of the main partition in the middle. It seems the artists who were or supposed to be responsible for the exhibition are burnt out after finishing their final project.  The promotion of the exhibition also felt a bit of last minute where posters are put up on the day of the exhibition.

Some of the Artist

Igenerate by Daniel Udoakah Source: Daniel Udoakah Facebook

Daniel Udoakah who advocates generative art displayed his art work called IGenerate. The Artwork consisted of two parts, one is a print on Canvas and the other ones are projected onto a screen. Daniel disagreed the French saying:  l’art pour l’art’ or ‘art for art’s sake’, art should appreciate the advanced of technology Daniel imbued. That’s why he chose Wolfram; a computer program, to make his artwork. Daniel developed art works based on complexity, chaos and randomization theory using mathematical instruction involving random shapes and colours producing a lot of combination which were projected to the screen in the gallery. Daniel’s work reminds me of Joshua Davis who uses Flash to create random patterns with random shapes while Daniel’s shape seems limited to the basic shapes. (I believe these are constrains put by the assignments).  Still the drawback to Daniel’s method to create art that one has to have sufficient understanding on how to operate the Wolfram software that makes the art making less accessible.  Still the method can be an alternative for web designers, fashion designers or even as Daniel said architects to decorate rooms or buildings. The printed version of IGenerate is printed on high resolution canvas and came out with strong colours.

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Our Cubic World by Kostas Source: Personal picture

Another interesting art work is “Our Cube World” by Konstantinos Tranakidis. This installation consists of a collage of 25 pictured cubes in one big frame. Each side of the cubes represents something about an artist from the exhibition.  The three artists that are represented are Sulaman Sunny, Phudit Srithongsongsang and Jerry a.k.a. Yu Cheng Lin. The other side  depicts the journey the other artist went through their study in the MA art and Design. Kostas aimed interactivity in the sense that the viewers can touch and rotate each box in oppose to only viewing them.

To give the viewers a real sense of involvement he used direct interaction mimicking the games he used to play and the Rubik Cube the main inspiration of the installation. Kostas ‘s Cube World can be seen as a Paradigm in Saussure’s semiotics theory where each  side represent one paradigm with each unit in the set has something in common and each unit is different from the other.

When we turn one of the cube there would a paradigm shift thus giving the viewers a different paradigm and meaning. Although inspired by the Rubic Cube, the colour scheme that Kostas uses isn’t as contrast as the Rubic that uses six colours. The title ‘Our Cube World’ seems to be out of place on the top of the installation while it either can be placed within the cubes. The good thing is that the installation is the only display that has a title and title becomes immediately memorable.

The Installation seems to lack any invitation to touch or play with it relying solely on the initiative of the viewer. One thing that Kostas wanted to change of this artwork is if he had more funds he would’ve have used better material. In the End the Exhibition can be seen as a celebration for the Artist who finally finished their Masters a celebration that doesn’t need something too fancy, just a beer and friends as this is only one step towards a better future.