This article is from the Postmodern FAQ, by Van Piercy firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
DIGEST OF TWO EXCHANGES ON AN ALT.POSTMODERN
(Contributors: Omar Haneef, Mark Weinles, Gordon Fitch, David F. Black,
Michael McGee, N.S. "Cris" Brown, PRJHC@CUNYVM.CUNY.EDU, Andy Perry,
Allan Liska and Gene Angelcyk)
From: email@example.com (Omar Haneef
Re: aesthetics and contemporary culture
Date: Thu Feb 09 01:02:31 EST 1995
david black f (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote:
> An unfortunate condition of contemporary culture is the
> aestheticization of experience--where images and aesthetic
> interpreting those images come to dominate public life. This
> has a history.
Unfortunate? What you proncounce the "aestheticization of
experience" is really the end of logocentricism. The word is
dead, long live the image. The reasons probably have a lot to do
with saturation of information and the way pictures carry more
information than words. The written word became very important
when the printing press was estabilished because monks carried
around the medieval equivelant of powerbooks with more informa-
tion then anyone could carry in their heads and the elite proba-
bly enjoyed their exclusive ability to read. Now everybody reads,
there is more information "in the ether" then we can handle and
images are cheaply and easily recreated just like words. Welcome
to the era of the image. Why is this unfortunate? This might be
slightly more democratic since we all decode images at roughly
the same rate and the word is so huge and pretentious that it,
perhaps, deserves to die. The "kill your TV" anxiety that you
seemed to be faced with is a hiccup of Leavisism and his mass
cultural fear which probably dates back to the French Revolu-
tion's fear of the masses. You are not alone, there are proabably
plenty of others who agree with you "Amusing Ourselves to Death"
- Neil Postman is a recent example of this line of thinking.
> If modernity meant that the aesthetic category was sepa-
> moral (ethics) and practical (logic) reason (the breakdown of
> sensibility that T.S. Eliot mourned), the postmodern has seen
> of the aesthetic, as a culture of images, spectacle and simula-
> subsumed the other two fundamental elements in human
> aesthetic has become the dominant element in contemporary cul-
ture, and the
> difficult business of making value choices reduced to who or
But postmodernity called me up yesterday and explained to
me that it has collapsed these distinctions. The moral, the
aesthetic and the practical are ONE. Pomo does not revel in the
aesthetic, it revels in all three.
> The revenge of the aesthetic can be dated at least to
> of the early 20th century artistic modernisms. The example of
> Futurists--under their leader and muse, Marinetti--is instruc-
> offering this example, of course, I am indebted to Walter Ben-
> famous analysis of fascist aesthetics in his essay "Art in the
> Mechanical Reproduction." Susan Sontag has also written on the
> topic--with reference to Hitler's filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl--
> Under the Sign of Saturn, an essay entitled "Fascinating Fas-
> Not for nothing did Futurism enjoy special patronage in
> Mussolini's fascism regime. For although direct collaboration
> Futurism and Fascism was limited, Futurism offered an ideology
of use to
> Fascism. Notably, it allowed politics--normally the place
> and logic are brought to bear on human reality--to be
> celebrating speed, machines, the annihilation of history,
> energy, the group of Italian artists, writers, and thespians
> as "Futurists" offered myths, images, slogans and other
> for a fledgling Italian Fascist system.
> The Futurists' oft-quoted slogan from Marinetti's 1909
> Manifesto of Futurism"--"We will glorify war--the world's only
> hygiene--militarism, patriotism, the destructive gestures of
> bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for
> have been written by any one of the contemporary New Right.
> politicians today have been especially adept at taking
advantage of po-mo
> aestheticization; witness Reagan's mastery of the TV medium,
> Gingrich's information society utopianism (with debts to fellow
> Daniel Bell and Alvin Toffler).
Whoah! Postmodernism is aesthetic and relies on images. The
fascists relied on images. Pomos are fascists? Uh-uh. This is a
huge stretch. Everyone has always employed images: the com-
munists, the american, the christians, the muslims, the hindus,
the nazis, the lesbians, the jews, the academics, the media, the
law. Notice how an image may pop into your head when I mention
these "movements" : hammer and sickle, apple pie, the cross, the
crescent, that swastika looking symbol, the swastika, the pink
triangle (or more specificall, black), star of david, pen and
book?, the camera, the balance etc. This hardly means they are
On the contrary, postmodernity is concerned with a
PROLIFERATION of images so that no one image stands out. It is
concerned with the multiplicity of images, a mass of images. It
is anti-fascist in that sense.
(When one talks of the postmodern aesthetic, I can only think of
> I find in Cultural Studies a means to engage and decode
> aestheticization of experience, and a way to talk about values
> admitting that such discussion has now to take place with
reference to a
> world we know largely in picture form.
The world has ALWAYS been "largely in picture form". With
postmodernity DISCOURSE ITSELF is "largely in picture form."
Cultural studies is concerned, partly, with looking at this pic-
toral DISCOURSE while the rest of Lit Crit remains logocentric
examining the written word (even after Derrida pretty much killed
> But a clinical separation of
> moral, practical and aesthetic reason I find impractical.
Then why do you do it?