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Postmodernism literally means ‘after modernism’. The modernism refers to the modernist movements during late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The reforms involve an array of culture including arts, music, and architecture.
‘O’Donnell (2003, p. 6) said that postmodernism is concerned with non-linear, expressive and supra-rational discourses that have been marginalised and atrophied under the influence of the Enlightenment’.
All these may refer to the spirit of postmodernism itself, whereby people rebel against/reject the normal concept and structure of how things should be. New ideas and concept are implemented, moving away from the standard structure, thus becoming ‘postmodernism’ in form.
Postmodernism is also a concept that empowers people, allowing them to create, improve and reshape as they wish without restrictions (Berman 1983, p. 16). For people that hate to remain in status quo, postmodernism gives them the chance to shift away from the norms and be free from creativity shackles. In postmodernism concept, standard art and traditions may be repulsed by modernists as they consider it to be outdated and should have long been phased out.
Modernists believe that moving away from the norms would allow them to delve deeper into creativity, therefore delivering more new and original art.
The problem of postmodernism is that it cannot be easily defined, and that nobody is sure whether it even exists in the first place (Jameson, p. 55). Postmodernism by its definition, could stretch from anywhere, as even graffiti could be considered as postmodernism. The alteration of any existing or traditional concepts could also be counted as postmodernism. For example, the Scottish bhangra group Tigerstyle’s “Nachna Ondei Ne” is a bhangra remix of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”; the addition of a mustache on replicate paintings of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”; giving a new meaning to song lyrics or poems – all these could be considered as postmodernism.
Due to the changing nature of postmodernism, it can also be argued that the concept encourages deviant behaviour negatively and may even be considered as nihilistic. The idea revolves around change, destruction and reconstruction, which could be a double-edged sword. Can the change, destruction, and reconstruction of social and moral values be attributed to postmodernism? If a person cuts “Mona Lisa” and pieced it up randomly, resulting to the classic gaining an entirely new look, it is certainly postmodernism art. But can, and should such behaviour be tolerated? Another question is that is there any meaning to postmodernism as it has zero or little value to society. The idea is that the rejection of norms could lead to violent reactions that lead to irreversible situations.
According to Hicks (2004, p. 20), postmodern debates display a paradoxical nature as abstract themes of relativism and egalitarianism are thrown about – there is no right or wrong way to interpret a text or nature as all interpretations are equally valid.
In simpler terms, postmodernism means ‘anything goes, according to your own interpretation on what is art’. The content and message does not matter, as everything, and anything can be questioned, dismantled and reconstructed.
Kevin O’Donnell 2003, Postmodernism, Lion
Marshall Berman 1983, All that is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity, Verso
Fredric Jameson 1992, Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Duke University Press
Stephen R. C. Hicks 2004, Explaining Postmodernism, Scholargy Publishing