Sense III

“Johns’s early paintings declared independence from European influence like nothing before them. Incredulous on this score, some observers at the time took refuge in calling him Neo-Dada, but there’s an Atlantic Ocean’s worth of distance between his work, which is dead serious even when playful, and, say, the satiric displacements of common objects by Marcel Duchamp. Tellingly, Johns has never been as esteemed in other countries as he is on these shores. To my mind, his art jibes with America’s chief contribution to philosophy, the pragmatism of Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. It is about how art works work. In addition, despite Johns’s fastidiously ironic detachment, the early paintings could seem to symbolize American imperial confidence at its peak and on the march, waging the Cold War. We know where that went. The “Farley Breaks Down” pictures could be seen to acknowledge the subsequent horrors of national hubris, most irreparably in the blood vat of Vietnam. But here I am verging on yet another wordy thesis about the intentions of Jasper Johns, which, to be authoritative, would need confirming testimony from him. Fat chance.” [Peter Schjeldahl on Jasper Johns]

“Mr. Johns himself is loath to offer biographical interpretations of his work — or any interpretations, for that matter. He is famously elusive and his humor tends toward the sardonic. He once joked that, of the dozens of books that have been written about his art, his favorite one was written in Japanese. What he liked is that he could not understand it…
He says outright that he does not have faith in the process of memory, insisting it is less likely to disclose truths than to twist them. One of his frequent rejoinders is, “Interesting, if true,” in response to statements of incontestable fact...
One thing that Mr. Johns understood at an early age is that language and truth are not the same. Growing up in the South, at a time when its citizens saw no contradiction between the cultivation of perfect table manners and the barbarism of segregation, he was well aware that people were not always logical. Born in 1930, Mr. Johns was the only son of an alcoholic farmer and a mother accustomed to hardship. His parents divorced in 1933, by which time he had been sent to live with his paternal grandfather, the first of many painful dislocations in his childhood. “I was a good guest,” he said, without rancor. “I was always a guest.” [Deborah Solomon on Jasper Johns]

Jasper Johns Untitled 2016

What about the link that Johns establishes between the landscape (mountain) and the human body (lips)? Are the inward-looking eyes pondering our destination, as part of a landscape that is itself a minute speck within something unfathomable (the Milky Way)? Why is the painting’s ground largely blue with hints of orange peeking through? Why has the right edge of “poster” of the Milky Way started to curl up? Was the proportion of the older painting — whose dimensions convey landscape — what bothered Johns? Is this why he made his response on a square, or abstract, format?
Regardless of whether the viewer knows about the earlier painting or not, what “Untitled” conveys is a curiosity about looking, both as an outward act and an inward one, in pursuit of some understanding of our material relationship to time, space, and the world we inhabit. What is the connection between them? How might we see ourselves in the world we must let go of, in the end? [John Yau on Jasper Johns]

Sense II

“The painting has futurist and cubist features: the prismatic breakdown of space and light, which in part refers to the rain and lights, and the use of words and numbers to help establish the two dimensionality of the picture plane, as in the largest 5. the word Blew., and at the bottom of the painting the initials C.D. and W.C.W., referring to the artist and the poet. However, the letters and numbers are used not only to establish the surface plane but also to suggest the opposite: deep space. We see this, obviously, in the diminishing and therefore needing 5s and in the word Carlos, the latter cut off by an element that lies behind the planes of the 5s. The painting is pulled back from being a complete abstraction only by the use of the words and letters and by the presence of the street lamp and distorted buildings. The angularity of the prismatic background is played off against the recurring circles: those of the four lights in the top half, the curve of the streetlamp standard, the bulbs at the lower tips of the 5s, and the quite arbitrary curve at the lower left and upper right of the painting. We feel not only the tremendous activity within the picture but also its final calm and control. Despite the directional lines borrowed from the futurists and the intellectually organized space that comes from cubism, the cumulative effect of immediacy, sense of scale, and clarity is American. Of his relationship to the work of a fellow American painter Demuth once observed, “John Marin and I drew our inspiration from the same source, French modernism. He brought his up in buckets and spilt much along the way. I dipped mine out with a tea spoon but I never spilled a drop.” [Henry Geldzahler on Charles Demuth and William Carlos Williams]

Charles Demuth O’Keefe 1923-1924

Probably the closest any of Demuth’s posters really comes to Pop is I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold, the William Carlos Williams one, where the advancing figure 5s compare with Jasper Johns’ inert rows of numbers or with Robert Indiana’s emblazoned numbers; Indiana did model his Demuth Five, 1963, and other of his paintings upon it. Otherwise, they are quite different, in purpose as well as form. Their seemingly haphazard and random objects and words were meant to evoke the presence of a friend or associate from Demuth’s world of art and letters by alluding cryptically to his or her interests, or style of art or writing. More than that: I’ve come to see that the very means of arrangement of the objects—their number and shapes—suggest the personality of the “sitter.”
There are eight, perhaps nine posters (rather than the seven I once believed there to be), including one of a nonposter character: a picture of calla lilies rising out of a shell that had been intended as an object-substitute for an actor and female impersonator named Bert Savoy, to whom Demuth (a homosexual) had been introduced backstage by his friend Robert Locher. A shell in this Savoy painting had already appeared in a painting by Georgia O’Keeffe of 1919, Music—Pink and Blue No.1, and it belonged to her: “I knew one of his girl friends who gave me a beautiful shell because she knew he had always wanted it, and she wanted him to see that she gave it to me. The shell is in that large portrait of calla lilies at Fisk.”4 Demuth saw, then, in the erotic suggestiveness of the undulating flower, an appropriate object-substitute for one who traded on the aura of sexuality. [Abraham A. Davidson on Charles Demuth’s Poster Paintings]

Charles Demuth Love Love Love Homage to Gertrude Stein 1928

Charles Demuth (1883-1935) is in many ways an unlikely herald of a new and dynamic sensibility celebrating technology. He was a dandified, langorous figure who with his moustache bore a resemblance to Joris-Karl Huysmans, the leader of the fin de siecle French Decadent Movement and thus remembered for his fantasy novel, “Against Nature.” Demuth was burdened: His homosexuality was a definite problem in that era and he was also plagued by diabetes and a bad hip. 
Yet these poster portraits (this show marks the first time all of them have been assembled together) are fairly bursting with energy. They have a strong basis in billboard and magazine advertisements, as is thoroughly explained in the catalogue by the curator Robin Jaffee Frank, but countering this very public aspect is their ultimate recondite and cryptic character. [William Zimmer on Charles Demuth]

Charles Demuth Poster Portrait of Arthur Dove 1924

The Hell Hole (the “Golden Swan” in the Village), the Baron Wilkins (a cafe) in Harlem, a costumed ball at Webster Hall, Cafes Brevoort [The building occupies almost half its entire block and many revelers from the old Cafe Brevoort probably wandered eventually into the Cedar Tavern that became the famous hang-out of the Abstract Expressionists until its building was torn down to make way for an annex to this building known as the Brevoort East at 20 East Ninth Street] and Lafayette were Demuth’s favorite places about 1915-16 and he used to take me along. . . .
He had a curious smile reflecting an incessant curiosity for every manifestation life offered.
An artist worthy of the name, without the pettiness which afflicts most artists; worshipping his inner self without the usual eagerness to be right.
Demuth was also one of the few artists whom all other artists liked as a real friend, a rare case indeed.
His work is a living illustration of the disappearance of a “Monroe Doctrine” applied to Art; for today, art is no more the crop of privileged soils, and Demuth is among the first to have planted the good seed in America. [Marcel Duchamp on Charles Demuth]

Sense I

“This is about inventing an image that had not been in the world. I don’t want it to look like I painted an object. But as I work I get to the point where images make sense to me, and maybe you might recognize something in them. The problem is I can’t explain for you what that something may be. I do think my work is a little representational, but I just can not tell you what they are representational of.” [Tomma Abts in conversation with Christopher Borrelli]

“Abts’s canvases present themselves as events, in which color and form are only the most visible occurrences in a series of decisions, revisions, corrections, and adjustments that are suggested by the ridges and seams of underlying layers. “I try to define the forms precisely. They become, through shadows, texture, etcetera, quite physical and therefore ‘real’ and not an image of something else. The forms don’t symbolize or describe anything outside of the painting. They represent themselves.” Indeed, the paintings are self-reflexive, and this effect is furthered by the artist’s titling rubric: once a painting is complete, she names it after an entry in a dictionary of first names from a particular region in Germany. The names selected for the titles are neutral and abstract and thereby resist direct references to gender.” [IAC Press Release for Tomma Abts]

Is it true that you used to go out with Chris Ofili?
The smile falters. “I won’t talk about that.”
I tell her that I hope she did.
Because then you could be characterised as a former golden couple, the Posh and Becks of the art world. (Ofili won the Turner Prize in 1998.)
Abts looks horrified.No comment! I don’t think these private things should be part of art, in a way.” Without naming names, she goes off on a riff about self-cannibalising artists who make their careers by rummaging about in their own detritus. “It [the Turner] used to be such a personality-based prize and I think that’s not appropriate, necessarily, for art. I think it should be about the art and not the personality. These private things should not be mentioned.” [Tomma Abts in conversation with Emma Brockes]


I start with these observations in order to place in proper context the current conditions of production, dissemination, and reception of contemporary art. Contemporary art today is refracted, not just from the specific site of culture and history but also – and in a more critical sense – from the standpoint of a complex geopolitical configuration that defines all systems of production and relations of exchange as a consequence of globalization after imperialism. It is this geopolitical configuration and its post-imperial transformations that situate what I call here “the postcolonial constellation.” The changes wrought by transitions to new forms of governmentality and institutions, new domains of living and belonging as people and citizens, cultures, and communities, define the postcolonial matrix that shapes the ethics of subjectivity and creativity today. Whereas classical European thought formulated the realm of subjectivity and creativity as two domains of activity each informed by its own internal cohesion, without an outside, such thought today is  consistently questioned by the constant tessellation of the outside and inside, each folding into and opening out to complex communicative tremors and upheavals. Perhaps, then, bringing contemporary art into the context of the geopolitical framework that define global relations – between the so-called local and the global, center and margin, nation-state and the individual, transnational and diasporic communities, audiences and institutions – offers a perspicacious view of the postcolonial constellation. [Okwui Enwezor The Postcolonial Constellation]

Ugo Rondinone Zweiundzwanzigsterjulineunzehnhundertachtundneunzig No. 108 1998

The Anthropocene is the space of a new promiscuity, a brutal bringing-together of all reigns and spheres in a space suddenly devoid of boundaries. This image of a universe without fixed boundaries (without skin) allows us to better understand the ambition of Pierre Huyghe: “Not to exhibit something to someone, but to exhibit someone to something.”In the Anthropocene, everything is being exposed, and the subject has lost its monopoly on the gaze. In 1964 Jacques Lacan proposed a strikingly similar thesis: the world is an “omnivoyeur,” he explained, but without reference to the notion of human consciousness: “I see only from one point, but in my existence I am looked at from all sides.” He continued: “In our relation to things, in so far as this relation is constituted by way of vision, and ordered in the figures of representation, something slips, passes, is transmitted, from stage to stage, and is always to some degree eluded in it — that is what we call the gaze. This difference between vision and the gaze “in our relation to things” and “ordered in representation” could well be the key to allowing us to address the new status of the subject in the art of today.
Contemporary art plays host to a productive entanglement between the human and nonhuman, a presentation of coactivityas such: indeed, the universe is made of multiple energies working side by side or together; the work of human beings is nourished by bacteria, other mammals, or the flow of nature. In many artworks, organic growth proceeds with the operation of software, and human relations are entangled with marketing channels or algorithms. All relations among different regimes of the living and the inert are in tension. [Coactivity: Between the Human and Nonhuman by Nicolas Bourriaud]

Pierre Huyghe Zoodram 5 2011

BACK IN 2009, Nicolas Bourriaud explained in the manifesto accompanying his “Altermodern” exhibition at Tate Britain in London that “multiculturalism and identity is [sic] being overtaken by creolisation.” Setting it apart from multiculturalism, which is based on the fusion of different categories of race and gender, Bourriaud defines creolization as a process of cultural nomadism, where one can wander, identity unfixed, among a globalized “archipelago” of signs and codes.
While I agree with much of what Bourriaud says, I bring him up because I’m tired of white male thinkers who keep dismissing identity as if it’s some denim cut that’s no longer in fashion. Try telling an Egyptian waiter in Amsterdam that he’s no longer burdened by his ethnicity and religion, that he is now free to wander as a cultural flaneur. He’d tell you to fuck off. Today, given the world’s turbulent waves of racial unrest, Bourriaud’s comment couldn’t be more out of sync. I’m also unsure how creolization can “overtake” identity when creolization has always been a part of identity; translation, global connections, and shape-shifting have been essential to who I am. [Cathy Park Hong on Artists and Identity]

We have reached a point where we cannot have one homogenized narrative, one view of the future, a singular idea of what constitutes the good life, even though we have inherited certain monolithic cultural, social, and political ways of thinking about the world. This monolithic narrative has become increasingly untenable and can no longer hold. That’s why George W. Bush and the neocons’ version of enlightened despotism did not take hold in Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s why there are multiple insurgencies occurring around us—political, intellectual, philosophical, economic. There is a search for alternatives.
One must rethink what the multiple frames of reference might be, what other paths might constitute new versions of the future, and the direction each might take. What if, say, in Nigeria we don’t get it right? And we don’t become like London, don’t have the same luxury brands, along the same streets, owned by the same two companies? What if Beijing does not become like Washington? Is it possible to have multiple ways of looking at social conditions that are not necessarily in alignment with the dominant Western ways of thinking? [Okwui Enwezor in conversation with Michelle Kuo]


Rirkrit Tiravanija, DO NOT EVER WORK (Chair edition) 2016

The Altermodern, as coined by Bourriaud, assumes the end of post-modernism. He argues that though post-modernism has  an inherent value, it is no longer necessarily relevant in today’s world. There is a pervasive fear of the shifting dynamic of society and global culture; of the unfamiliar allegiances and relationships that are being created that negate the idea of a sole, identifiable origin. Post-modernism, according to Bourriaud, was obsessed with this idea of the artist’s origin and how culture, traditions, and geographical biography played a part in their work. The artists chosen for the Tate Triennial “are starting from a globalised state of culture — not anymore working as logotypes of their own culture, or their own tradition. The question is not anymore where are you coming from but where are you going to?” The exhi­bition includes artists such as Subodh Gupta, Tacita Dean, and Gustav Metzger, and examines how their work fits into, and is emblematic of, this theory of the Altermodern.” [Niamh Coghlan The End of Postmodernism]

Stephen Prina, galesburg, illinois+, John Cage, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois, April 1983, Photographer unknown. All documentation of John Cage’s visit to Knox College in February 1972— including photographic documentation and an audio recording of his talk—is missing from the Knox College Library. This photograph holds the place of the earlier event., 2015

“Prina’s project presents the small Midwestern city of his birth via an aerial photograph (Harbor Lights Supper Club, Galesburg, Illinois, 1947–1986, former site, 2015, Photography: Foley Photo Studio, Galesburg, Illinois, 2018), artifacts (a penny acquired as change at a Galesburg drug store and a photograph from the Knox College Library in Galesburg), and two anecdotes, which appear as wall texts in the gallery. In one of these epigraphs, the artist describes an unexpected cameo by his hometown supper club in a video screened at the Kitchen in New York. In the other, Prina recounts performing in a band at the local Taco Hideout Lounge, only to discover that John Cage may have been in the audience.
These stories about the collapse of perceived distance (physical or cultural) add another dimension to his long-running series Exquisite Corpse: The Complete Paintings of Manet, 1988–, in which the artist produces brushy monochromatic analogues of each work in Manet’s catalogue raisonné. Monochrome painting was once seen as a transcendent conclusion to the progression of modern aesthetics. But within the exhibition’s matrix of personal biography, the 45-degree (right-handed?) back-and-forth strokes of Prina’s abstract ink-wash drawings are notably grounded in the ineffable complexity of context while offering deadpan matter-of-factness to the supposedly subjective gesture.” [David Muenzer on Stephen Prina]

“The next real literary ‘rebels’ in this country might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles. Who treat plain old untrendy human troubles and emotions in U.S. life with reverence and conviction. Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue. These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Dead on the page. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that’ll be the point. Maybe that’s why they’ll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. Today’s risks are different. The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the ‘Oh how banal!’ To risk accusations of sentimentality, melodrama. Of overcredulity. Of softness. Of willingness to be suckered by a world of lurkers and starers who fear gaze and ridicule above imprisonment without law.” [David Foster Wallace on the end of Postmodernism]

There is a permanent collapse between image and text in this film. It is a filmic language that I have been experimenting with for a while – a language against the grammar that we would normally be used to, and which is deeply rooted with conventional norms. There is no ground you can just walk on, you need to create a path while watching, to develop while you are experiencing. I am interested in testing possibilities of new ways of seeing. When you say “beyond meaning”, I think it creates another meaning, but with a permanent collapse somehow. It’s not giving you the comfort of knowing, but it’s mixing images together, and in a way developing something else, knowledge beyond meaning. It is like drifting with images in a more haptic visuality. It functions almost like the sense of touch by triggering all forms of bodily experience.
As the spectator you are totally embodied (embedded?) in the images – the eye is an organ of touch. It travels like the camera on the surfaces, which means it is like caressing and entering (or intruding upon) an image. [Ursula Mayer in conversation with Maud Jacquin]

‘The forces that once drove postmodernism seem now to be depleted, however. Postmodernism rejected grand narratives, including those of religion, the concept of progress and of history itself. Angela Carter’s fiction, and particularly The Bloody Chamber, provides a clear example of the typical postmodernist impulse: in rewriting traditional fairy-tales she subverts grand narratives of gender, sexuality and female subjectivity. In contrast, in today’s cultural climate there appears to be a renewed engagement with history and a revival of mythic meaning-making that the arch-postmodernists would have abhorred. Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being (2013), for example, relates interconnecting histories – among them the story of a Japanese Kamikaze pilot in the Second World War and the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, contextualizing both in a history of ideas, by reflecting throughout on the principles of Zen Buddhism.” [Alison Gibbons Postmodernism is Dead]


… what we traditionally call reality is in fact a simple montage. On the basis of that conclusion, the aesthetic challenge of contemporary art resides in recomposing that montage: art is an editing table that enables us to realize alternative, temporary versions of reality with the same material (basically, everyday life). Thus, artists manipulate social forms, reorganize them and incorporate them in original scenarios, deconstructing the script on which the illusory legitimacy of those scenarios was grounded. The artist de-programs in order to re-program, suggesting that there are other possible usages for techniques, tools and spaces at our disposition. [Nicolas Bourriaud in conversation with Bartholomew Ryan]

If twentieth-century modernism was above all a western cultural phenomenon, altermodernity arises out of planetary negotiations, discussions between agents from different cultures. Stripped of a centre, it can only be polyglot. Altermodernity is characterised by translation, unlike the modernism of the twentieth century which spoke the abstract language of the colonial west, and postmodernism, which encloses artistic phenomena in origins and identities. [Nicolas Bourriaud AlterModern Manifesto]

The cultural or social structures in which we live are nothing more for art than elements to be used, objects that must be examined and formally addressed. That, to my mind, is the essential content of the political program of contemporary art: maintaining the world in a precarious state or, in other words, permanently affirming the transitory, circumstantial nature of the institutions and the rules that govern individual or collective behavior. The main function of the instruments of communication of capitalism is to repeat a message, which is: we live in a finite, immovable and definitive political framework, only the decor must change at high speed. Art questions this message, and reverses it. It is an idea that was actually the core of Relational Aesthetics already, the Marxist idea that there is no stable “essence” of humankind, which is nothing but the transitory result of what human beings do at a certain moment of history. I think this might be the cornerstone of all my writings, in a way. [Nicolas Bourriaud in conversation with Bartholomew Ryan]

We are entering the era of universal subtitling, of generalised dubbing. Today’s art explores the bonds that text and image weave between themselves. Artists traverse a cultural landscape saturated with signs, creating new pathways between multiple formats of expression and communication. [Nicolas Bourriaud AlterModern Manifesto]

Maurizio Cattelan Untitled 2009

The artist becomes ‘homo viator’, the prototype of the contemporary traveller whose passage through signs and formats refers to a contemporary experience of mobility, travel and transpassing. This evolution can be seen in the way works are made: a new type of form is appearing, the journey-form, made of lines drawn both in space and time, materialising trajectories rather than destinations. The form of the work expresses a course, a wandering, rather than a fixed space-time.  [Nicolas Bourriaud AlterModern Manifesto]

this ‘globalised state of culture’ is already a matter of fact: in every spot of the planet, you can see this new cultural stratus, coexisting with the layer of traditional culture and some local specific contemporary elements. Saying that it is the privilege of the artistic jet set is a pure denial of the worldwide violence of the capitalist system, or an extreme naiveness. I think that this theoretical resistance, which consists in sticking to the multiculturalist dogma, is hiding a paternalist pattern : it jails the individuals into their so-called ‘origins’ and their ‘identities’. Let’s face it: artists now have access to information, and they all use the same toolbox, from Stockholm to Bangkok. Or shouldn’t they? We have to get out of this dialectical loop between the global and the local, to get rid of the binary opposition between globalization and traditions. And what is the name of this third way? Modernity, whose historical ambiguity is directed against both standardization and nostalgia. [Nicolas Bourriaud in conversation with Bartholomew Ryan]

Jorge Pardo Untitled, 2017

Altermodern art is thus read as a hypertext; artists translate and transcode information from one format to another, and wander in geography as well as in history. This gives rise to practices which might be referred to as ‘time-specific’, in response to the ‘site-specific’ work of the 1960s. Flight-lines, translation programmes and chains of heterogeneous elements articulate each other. Our universe becomes a territory all dimensions of which may be travelled both in time and space. [Nicolas Bourriaud AlterModern Manifesto]

Meta III

“The thing that’s interesting is this idea of journalism and the actual person or event. I am interested in the combination of journalistic fact, like, Eunice Rivers is a real person. Peg-Leg Bates is a real person. Isaac Hayes is a real person. Captain Lloyd Sealy is real person. And they function both as themselves and as this other presence in the work. It’s about multiple readings of the characters.” [Ellen Gallagher in conversation Brooklyn Rail]

I’m noticing a new approach to artmaking in recent museum and gallery shows. It flickered into focus at the New Museum’s “Younger Than Jesus” last year and ran through the Whitney Biennial, and I’m seeing it blossom and bear fruit at “Greater New York,” MoMA P.S. 1’s twice-a-decade extravaganza of emerging local talent. It’s an attitude that says, I know that the art I’m creating may seem silly, even stupid, or that it might have been done before, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t serious. At once knowingly self-conscious about art, unafraid, and unashamed, these young artists not only see the distinction between earnestness and detachment as artificial; they grasp that they can be ironic and sincere at the same time, and they are making art from this compound-complex state of mind—what Emerson called “alienated majesty.
Much of the most effective work in “Greater New York” also involves the artists’ leaping from medium to medium in madly unexpected ways: Sculpture, music, video, and photography get mashed up; techniques like collage and assemblage are combined with unusual materials like mud, magnets, stolen record albums, and art reviews (even one of my own, in Franklin Evans’s walk-in installation-painting). Mariah Robertson’s long strip of photographs looping along the ceiling and across the floor is photography as sculptural installation, so smudgy and phantasmagoric and unruly that it looks like drawing, a painting, and a filmstrip all at once.” [Jerry Saltz on Sincerity and Irony]

Elizabeth Peyton Practice (Yuzuru Hanyu) 2018

I just have a feeling of urgency that I want to make a picture of somebody. Probably because I’m very inspired by them or there is something I really want to know about or understand in them. So, fascination? Yes. Admiration? Yes. But also curiosity — I get fascinated by what people are doing and what they’re making and how it’s what I need at that moment. [Elizabeth Peyton in conversation with Uwe-Jens Schumann]

The ecosystem is severely disrupted, the financial system is increasingly uncontrollable, and the geopolitical structure has recently begun to appear as unstable as it has always been uneven. CEOs and politicians express their “desire for change” at every interview and voice a heartfelt “yes we can” at each photo-op. Planners and architects increasingly replace their blueprints for environments with environmental “greenprints”. And new generations of artists increasingly abandon the aesthetic precepts of deconstruction, parataxis, and pastiche in favor of aesthethical notions of reconstruction, myth, and metaxis. These trends and tendencies can no longer be explained in terms of the postmodern. They express a (often guarded) hopefulness and (at times feigned) sincerity that hint at another structure of feeling, intimating another discourse. History, it seems, is moving rapidly beyond its all too hastily proclaimed end. [Notes on MetaModernism Timotheus Vermeulen & Robin van den Akker]

Dana Schutz Shame 2017

Meta-reflexivity inevitably spawns a sensibility that my thinking partner Linda Ceriello like to refer to as “Life-As-Movie,” wherein people’s identities are constructed quite self-consciously through a narrative lens. In other words, people regard and “make” themselves, as actor, director, lighting designer, etc. (even audience member) in their own 4-D movies. This self-awareness or witnessing mentality is kind of like a breaking of the 4th wall, and is expressed through popular slang and other cultural expressions prevailing during the metamodern era, such as the use of the word “awesome” to point to the poignant, strange, awkward, exceptionally human — and going beyond its earlier meaning that signified the hyped-up “super-great!”
Meta-reflexivity, of course, points to one of the meanings of “meta” in “metamodernism”: A work that is about itself, or even about aboutness. [Greg Dember After PoMo]

“The long-term effect of the controversy, she said, is that she has internalized the viewpoints of the protesters even when making new work.
“I’ve had so many conversations with people who were upset by the painting,” Ms. Schutz said, adding that she has included them in “my imagined audience when I’m painting. It’s good those voices were heard.”
Ms. Schutz, 42, established her reputation with expressionistic compositions featuring figures that seemed to be pushing at the edges of the picture planes with their limbs akimbo, barely skirting — or is it courting? — disaster.
Either way, emotion and empathy seem to drive her work. “I’m interested in how something feels, rather than how it looks,” she said at her studio, explaining her approach.” [Dana Schutz in conversation with Ted Loos]

Meta II

I began as a mark-maker and I wanted to stay somewhat in that vocabulary. I didn’t want to get into the tradition of figure painting or use perspective or shadows. I like spare, simple paintings. I admire Rose Wylie’s work so much. When I want more courage, I look at the way she draws a leg. It is even one step farther than Philip Guston. She’s very personal. She’s invented a way to make paintings and paint figures.
These are very brave ways to make a painting. And that gave me the self-confidence to do that myself – to not try for it to be right, but to make it expressive of something. I think about why we love Judy Garland so much. It’s because she’s so open. She’s so human. She’s not perfect. I think at the end of the day, what people admire and value is personal openness. [Katherine Bradford in conversation with Jennifer Samet]

Reviving once great artistic styles can be a fraught pursuit, whether or not they are part of an artist’s cultural heritage. Such styles must be transformed into something personal and contemporary that ideally also survives comparison with its inspiration. In her second solo show at this gallery, subtitled “How Iraqi Are You?” Hayv Kahraman largely pulls off this difficult feat, building on the refined figuration of Persian miniatures that are part of her Iraqi background. In Ms. Kahraman’s hands the delicacy and stylization of the source are writ large and on raw linen — evoking the pages of a Persian album — and complicated with allusions to other times, places and styles. The paintings depict pairs and groups of nearly identical women who may or may not be in a harem. Shown in conversation or listening to one of their number, these women have pale skin, gestures and becalmed features that recall both the female subjects of Renaissance painting and the powdered geisha of Japanese woodblocks. Their articulated hands seem puppetlike. Their largely strapless gowns and black bouffants seem of recent American vintage even as the fabric patterns of their gowns elaborate a veritable lexicon of Arabic geometric decoration. [Roberta Smith on Hayv Kahraman]

An allergy is an uncontrolled negative emotional response towards some idea or person. It’s the gut-wrenching feeling that a person you dislike provokes in you, or the feeling of anger and discontent certain ideas or concepts can spawn.
We all have these emotions, but the metamodernist has developed its mind (what researchers call metacognition) to keep these allergies in check, so as not to let them pollute the capability to make objective judgments and fair analysis. The wisdom is, just because something makes you feel bad, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
It’s not your feeling towards something that makes it right or wrong, no, determining the truth and value of something must be based on careful analysis. The trick is to know when your brain is bullshitting you, often one’s emotions will seduce reason to construct truths that correspond with that intuitive feeling. That’s ok if it’ll lead you towards good arguments, but you need to be aware that, that’s what’s going on – that your brain is biased and your emotions don’t tell the whole truth. To be aware of your emotion’s impact on the way you’re thinking is a personal development stage towards a metamodern mindset. Don’t bullshit yourself; become aware of your emotions. [Hanzi Freinacht on Metamodernism]

Drawing on influences such as R. Crumb, Francisco Goya, and MAD Magazine, with an ice-cold splash of Dutch style — e.g. Pieter Brueghel, Hans Memling, and the Van Eycks — Morgan shakes the bottle and pours out a delicious mixture of exaggerated bumpkin-looking characters. This is evident in Family Reunion (2016), which depicts a trio of all-American country folk indulging in a buffet of cake, soda, corn, and Cheezies Puffs snacks, some of which are served on a matriarch’s saggy, bra-less breasts — yummy!
All of the manically detailed complexity and bright color of Morgan’s work may make viewers envy the pair of awesome shades worn by a stoned young man in After Work Sunset (2016). Although the characters are made comically freakish, Morgan’s cartoonish renderings are imbued with a proud sense of charming guilelessness and self-acceptance. In a 2015 interview with Priscilla Frank for The Huffington Post Morgan says, “These characters are blissfully unaware, unruly, wild, and untamed. They are off the grid and free and not affected by anyone or anything’s influence and I’m very attracted to that concept.” [Stephanie O’Connor on Rebecca Morgan]

we can clearly get the idea that, metanarration – specific to the modernist project – is now decentralized, or simply deconstructed, and it is not surprising, as mentioned earlier, that deconstruction is playing a central role in postmodernism. On the other hand, the main concern of metamodernist sensibility, as previously outlined, is to reclaim what has been deconstructed – as if it hopes to fix it – without committing a total decline of the traits of postmodernism – the oscillation. Additionally, searching for a narration based on intersubjectivism is of essential value as to understand the promise of metamodernism, because intersubjectivity, in general sense, is an interpersonal phenomena, a shared understanding “that helps us relate one situation to another” (Bober & Dennen, 2001), moreover, it is also “central to everyday functioning; only through shared meanings can we work and build knowledge together” (Bober & Dennen, 2001). In my opinion, this mode of thought, by taking empathy seriously, can be regarded as a rather naive one, compared to the harsh, deconstructive nature of the postmodern condition, and this contrast, although not so conclusively, illustrates the claimed difference between the postmodern and the metamodern to a certain degree. [İlker Çelen on Metamodernism]

Aliza Nisenbaum Randy 2018

Nisenbaum taught English by way of feminist art history, using the politics of representation as a frame for language instruction. In order to get to know her students outside the context of the class, she asked if she could paint their portraits. The paintings give form to the evolving relationships between the artist and her subjects and among the subjects themselves: Individuals are shown in quiet states of interiority and imagination, and in portraits of two or more people, bodies typically support each other. Veronica, Marissa, and Gustavo, 2013, represents three members of a family variously touching, leaning against, and slinging their arms over one another—and since they are rendered almost without contour, it takes a moment to discern which limbs belong to whom. In keeping with the feminist starting point of her project, Nisenbaum’s work celebrates interdependent ways of being, as opposed to a defensive posture of self-sufficiency and sovereignty. Indeed, the understanding of the subject in relational terms implicit in her practice brings to mind Judith Butler’s positive concept of vulnerability: Emphasizing its foundation in receptivity and responsiveness, Butler posits that it is a precondition for mobilization and resistance. [Emily Liebert on Aliza Nisenbaum]

Meta I

When we say that metamodernism is a structure of feeling, we intend to say, very much like Fredric Jameson and, later, David Harvey when they describe postmodernism, that it is a sensibility that is widespread enough to be called structural (or as the cultural historian Ben Cranfield recently paraphrased it in a brilliant talk about the “emergent” in art at UCL, a “feeling that structures” (2015, unpublished conference paper), yet that cannot be reduced to one particular strategy. For Jameson, for instance, postmodernism was the structure of feeling of endings – the end of History, the end of “ideology”, the end of the social, the end of art; one that was expressed in many different forms: pastiche, eclecticism, the nostalgia film, photorealism and so on. For us, metamodernism is a structure of feeling associated with the increasingly widespread sentiment that each of these debates are kickstarted, not as project perhaps as much as a projection, the premise on which new projects may be endeavoured. This structure of feeling, however, too, finds its expression in many different formal languages that have been described in detail by others: the new sincerity, quirky, freak folk, New Romanticism, new materialism, speculative realism, to name just a few. In any case, the 2000s are the defining period for the shift from postmodernism to metamodernism to occur (just as the sixties were the defining transitional period for the shift from modernism to postmodernism). [Timotheus Vermeulen & Robin van den Akker on Misunderstandings and Clarifications]

Sterling RubyWIDW. RED RIFT. 2018

In a 2015 essay, metamodernism theorist Timotheus Vermeulen proposed the term depthiness to to try to name a certain phenomenon observable in much of contemporary art and culture. He quotes a piece of dialogue from Lena Dunham’s show Girls: “Just because it’s fake doesn’t mean I don’t feel it.” Depthiness, explains Vermeulen, is a play on both Frederick Jameson’s term “Depthlessness” (from his book The Postmodern Condition), and Steven Colbert’s satirical term “Truthiness.” The basic idea is that, whereas modernist art was confident in its ability to evoke a deeper, underlying, “real” truth with its representations, and postmodernism rejected as naive such attempts at depth, and instead made surface its focus, metamodern works play in an awareness of the postmodern skepticism of depth, and yet choose to perform or fabricate depth, or do whatever it takes to render the experience of it. Whether or not Anthony James is aware of the theoretical notions of depthiness or metamodernism, this work of his does seem to render a sensory experience of both. [Greg Dember on MetaModernism]

There is a strand within the newly emerging Speculative Realist philosophies called Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) that seeks to place all objects, rather than man alone, at the centre of existence. Its speculations attempt to escape what has become known as the correlationist trap, described by Quentin Meillassoux in After Finitude as “the idea according to which we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other.” The anthropocentrism that has dominated philosophical discourse since Kant’s Copernican Revolution, and the resultant split that such thinking necessitates between man and the world, is here being radically rethought. As Graham Harman states, “the human/world relation is just a special case of the relation between any two entities whatsoever.” Harman, alongside Levi Bryant, Tim Morton and Ian Bogost, proposes an object-oriented philosophy that would instate a flat ontology, removing the primacy of human-object relations, thus granting all objects similar ontological status. The worldview advocated by OOO approaches something akin to panpsychism, or as Harman prefers to call it, “polypsychism”, whereby all objects are considered to actually “perceive” their relations to other objects. [Luke Turner The New Aesthetic’s Speculative Promise]


Tradition (the pre-modern era, perhaps going back to the depths of humanity’s origins) prioritizes the transmission of knowledge and culture from the past. Its limitations are that it reinforces ways of seeing and doing that are not available to optimization, and it does not promote individuation. Traditional types of cultural artifacts include folk songs and nursery rhymes, communal dances and rituals, nature-based medicine and spiritual healing, liturgical music, grand long-lasting architectural projects built over many generations, myth, folk tales, the notion of “canonical literature” — things that reify the unassailable wisdom of the old and the cyclical nature of reality. [Greg Dember After Postmodernism: Eleven Metamodern Methods in the Arts]

Henri Matisse. Woman with a Hat, 1905

Modernism (circa 1900ish to 1950-ish) attempts to escape Tradition’s limitations by emphasizing invention, intention, seeing below surface layers to (what are perceived as) essential structures, and making clear delineations by ranking, rating or typologizing things. Its own limitation is that it often fails to recognize interrelationships, contexts, and the wisdom of organically evolved knowledge structures and things, perspectives from the margins, etc. Examples: the Bauhaus Movement in architecture, Schoenberg’s Twelve-Tone music, novelists such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, visual artists such as Picasso and Dali, and the origination of motion pictures as an art form. [Greg Dember After Postmodernism: Eleven Metamodern Methods in the Arts]

Postmodernism (1950-ish to 2000-ish) seeks to correct Modernism’s hubris through irony, playful juxtaposition, bringing attention to subcultures that are outside the dominant, the re-elevation of traditional patterns rejected by modernism, etc… Its eventual limitation is that it often nullifies a sense of meaningfulness or purpose and deflates the affective dimension and interior subjectivity. Examples: Minimalist Classical composers John Cage and Steve Reich; rock music in general, and then specifically within the arc of rock music, the Punk Rock, New Wave and Alternative Rock genres of the 80s and 90s; novelists such as William S. Boroughs, Thomas Pynchon and Brett Easton Ellis; visual and conceptual artists such as Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono and Robert Rauschenberg; architects such as Frank Gehry and Robert Venturi who defied modernist austerity and functionalism; film-makers such as Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch. [Greg Dember After Postmodernism: Eleven Metamodern Methods in the Arts]

Stacy Leigh Madolyn 2017

Metamodernism (largely beginning in the late 1990s and continuing in the present) reacts to or embraces aspects of all three prior epistemes. In my formulation, the central motivation of metamodernism is to protect interior, subjective Felt Experience from the ironic distance of Postmodernism, the scientific reductionism of Modernism, and the pre-personal inertia of Tradition. Does it have a limitation, in the way that I’ve claimed for the other epistemes? Probably, but we don’t know yet, because we’re not yet at a point in history where this episteme has played itself out! Representative artists/artworks include: the music of Sufjan Stevens and Jenny Lewis; television shows such as Community and Modern Family; the architect Freddy Mamani Silvestre; film-makers such as Wes Anderson and Miranda July; authors such as Dave Eggers, Elif Batuman and Jennifer Egan. [Greg Dember After Postmodernism: Eleven Metamodern Methods in the Arts]