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• The nice thing about cliché territory? It’s so modern!

By JUSTIN McGUIRK [The Guardian] – With its deceptive surfaces and furniture that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, postmodernism is not just the backdrop to but a metaphor for unbridled capitalism, where a plump balance sheet conceals all manner of sins and where marble-effect formica hides chipboard. But was postmodernism really so bad?

Already we’re in cliche territory. If there were a critic’s rulebook, it would stipulate the need to begin any piece on postmodernism with a pop culture reference and a tone of moral ambivalence. That mandatory disapproval is based not so much on the carnival of bad taste that romped through the 1970s and 80s, but on the fact that this bad taste was only skin deep. For, according to the standard reading, postmodernism was fickle and ironic, obsessed with style for its own sake. Where modernism was about high-minded notions such as essence and truth to materials, perhaps even a social agenda, postmodernism was about surfaces and signs. As Fredric Jameson put it in his brilliant Postmodernism: Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, “it is like the transition from precious metals to the credit card”.

With a major retrospective of postmodernism opening at the V&A Museum later this month, the question is whether we have anything new to say about this phenomenon. Will the show reinforce old cliches, or will it manage to capture some of postmodernism’s complexity?

Continued in The Guardian | More Chronicle & Notices.

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