Are You Postmodern?

William L. Brown

from an idea by John Neff

July 15, 1972 at 3:32 p.m. marked the death of Modernism. Now that you've lived the last quarter of a century in the Postmodern Era, do you think you successfully made the transition? Are you a Postmodernist, a Modernist? Something else? And, most important, will you be invited to the anniversary party?

Here's a little quiz:
    What event marked the beginning of the Postmodern Era?

    a.) The first Smoke-In on the Washington Monument grounds.

    b.) The invention of the Apple Computer.

    c.) The demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe low-income housing development in St. Louis, MO.

    d.) French philosopher Jacques Derrida says "Nothing is outside-the-text."

If you answered (d) you are close. Derrida's Deconstructionist philosophy is a major foundation of Postmodernism, but the correct answer is (c).

OK, so that's a little obscure. But, now that you're warmed up, you can find out whether you're a Postmodernist right now by deconstructing yourself with the following series of statements. Answer "yes" if you agree, "no" if you do not.

    1.) Modern architecture is great, the Bauhaus precept that "form follows function," is a design concept that needs no amendment.

    2.) Buildings in the International Style--glass and steel undecorated boxes--are "machines for living," their good design leads to good conduct. Intelligent planning of abstract space promotes healthy behavior.

    3.) Marxism is not dead, the fall of the Soviet Union was mere setback, a chance to start over with a clean slate. Death to capitalism!

    4.) Eventually, humans will shed their tribal thinking, backward traditions, and superstitions. and we will all be liberated, rational beings who understand universal truths.

    5.) Matisse, Piccaso, Van Gogh, and Mondrian are your favorite artists. Jackson Pollock is pretty good, too.

    6.) You are a feminist in the Gloria Steinem mold.

If you answered "yes" to all or most of the first 6 questions you are a Modernist, you fossil. Break out the mourning clothes. Prepare for a wake.

If you answered "yes" to #3, you should also order a coffin to lie in (a glass coffin might be appropriate).

If you answered "no" to most of them, congratulations, you are not one of those fusty, debunked, ludicrous Modernists. That doesn't automatically make you a Postmodernist, however. Before you don the party-hat, go on to the next battery of questions

    7.) Modern, International Style architecture is an abomination. It is dehumanizing, an eyesore, and an insult.

    8.) And, so are all these new buildings they've been putting up chock full of Palladian windows and pillars that don't hold anything up.

    9.) You hate abstract art, why can't artists draw things realistically that people can understand?

    10.) Feminism is a crock.

If you agreed with #7 only, you are still on your way to being a Postmodernist. However, if you were in accord with most of the subsequent statements, you are not a Postmodernist, you are merely an anti-Modernist (and, if you recently went through a nasty public divorce, you may be Prince Charles). You will neither celebrate nor mourn the 25th anniversary, you will curmudgonly ignore it as you have the rest of the last century. Perhaps you will hitch the horse up to the buggy and go for a ride that day.

Now try these statements:

    11.) The industrial age is over, this is the postindustrial world.

    12.) You are not so much a scholar as you are a consumer of knowledge.

    13.) Communism is dead, Consumer Capitalism has won. Everything, even art and architecture is a commodity. Design and style is in the service of people, not trying to impose some highfallutin' ideals on them. The examples to follow are Disneyland and Las Vagas. Get used to it.

    14.) You spent the early 80's trying to get your hair to look like Ronald Reagan's pompadour.

    15.) Painting is dead, especially elitist abstract painting. Art should have representational images-photographs, video, live performances, etc. You like collage/montage of media images, especially advertising images shown out of context, exposing the manipulation inherent in them.

    16.) Art is a commodity.

    17.) There are no universal truths.

    18.) Humans will never know or understand everything.

    19.) Words are signs for things. You can give many words for the same thing but you can never express the actual thing. So, there can be no "truth" or "objectivity" or "rationality," or "empiricism."

    20.).You are a feminist in either the Camille Paglia or Madonna mode.

    21.) You love diversity, world music, sampling, rap-music, pop, classical, folk, anything and everything.

    22.) You are a ________-American and you are proud of your heritage. You refuse to be assimilated into generic "American" culture. You outwardly celebrate your roots, and you face discrimination because of your ethnic background.

    23.) You believe Western civilization and science has a lot to learn from other cultures and beliefs.

    24.) Western civilization's empirical science and "reason" gave us: the Final Solution, the atom bomb, Apartheid, the Cold War, and the imminent annihilation of human-kind by nuclear holocaust.

    25.) You love those playful Postmodern buildings with the ironic juxtaposition of elements from different eras.

If you agreed "yes" to all or most of these last statements you are indeed a full-fledged citizen of the Postmodern era . Time to party-hearty!

If your answers don't peg you firmly as Modernist, anti-modernist, or Postmodernist, fear not, you are even MORE Postmodern--reflecting as you do the chaotic, irrational unpredictability of the postmodern paradigm.

---William L. Brown


Book recommendation and Links

Go to: Home, Illustrator, Cartoonist, Parent, Morris Dancer, At-Large Chapter, Finder of Objects

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