Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fredric Jameson / postmodernism: depthlessness

Fredric Jameson - Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism - summary 
part 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - Review

The first characteristic of postmodernism defined by Fredric Jameson in "Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism" is that of depthlessness. A modern painting, Jameson suggests, invites interpretation, a hermeneutic development and completion of the world which is beyond what is represented. In a postmodern work, to put in simply, what you see is what you get, and no hermeneutic relations will be developed with the representation. This depthlessness is seen by Jameson as a new kind of superficiality.

Jameson illustrates his point of depthlessness by two thematically related works: Van Gogh's "A Pair of Shoes" which represents high modernism and Andy Warhol's "Diamond Dust Shoes" which are obviously postmodern.

Jameson quotes Heidegger's interpretation of Van Gogh's works as one which invites the reconstruction of a whole peasant world and dire life and offers another possible interpretation of his own which follows the basic notion of addressing something which is beyond the actual shoes in the painting.

In contrast, "Diamond dust shoes" do not "speak to us", as Jameson puts it. Different associations are possible when looking at a Warhol's work, but they are not compelled by it nor are they necessarily required by it. Nothing in the postmodern work allows a lead into a hermeneutic step.  

Warhol's work is therefore an example of postmodern depthlessness because we cannot find anything which stands behind the actual image. Warhol is of course famous for stressing the commercialization of culture and the fetishism of commodities of late capitalism, but the stress in not positive or negative or anything at all, it just is. The depthlessness of cultural products raises the question of the possibility of critical or political art in late capitalism, especially when Jameson argues that aesthetic production today has turned into a part of the general production of commodities, an assertion which will be addressed later on.

Fredric Jameson - Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism - summary 
part 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - Review

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