home‎ > ‎Writing‎ > ‎Essays‎ > ‎

The Pity of Postmodernism

The Pity of Postmodernism

Art in the Modern World Final Exam: Essay

Written by Tarl N. Telford

December 19, 2006

 

Eva Hesse defied conventional wisdom by incorporating very simple items in a pastiche that flew in the face of all that was considered traditional in art.  She saw differently than her American contemporaries, as she grew up Jewish in the Hitler-oppressed Germany.  Her view of art was to show absurdity and peculiarity in modern life.

Hesse's sculptures use everyday items such as foil, wood, rope, and paper thrown together in nonconforming ways.  Her sculptures draw the audience in to try to determine the meaning of the sculpture.  In many instances, the title is the hook to invoke a spirit of pathos in the viewer.  Point in fact:  her sculpture "Hang-Up" looks like an empty picture frame with a wire that extends outward into the viewer's space.  Is this title an invitation to hang-up the picture?  Or is it showing the frustration of modern conformity?

There is nothing inside the frame.  Perhaps there was nothing worth framing.  Perhaps the hang-up is that the artist did not have an image or an emotion to convey, and that is the irony.  The sculpture could very well be of a search for meaning in a thoroughly bizarre modern society.

Similarly, Jean Tinguely created works that questioned the role of order in society.  He is most famous for his works of destruction.  His performance pieces always ended up destroyed, and that was the art of the piece.

In his piece, "Homage to New York", he celebrated the creation of destruction.  He and an engineer gathered junk and cobbled it together in a kinetic monstrosity designed to simply be.  It contained parts of a player piano transformed into a painting machine, a weather balloon, and a other scavenged machine parts.  Like something from a horrible science fiction movie, this hulking beast roared to life, and quickly caught on fire.  Tinguely summoned a firefighter to put out the burning wreck, then asked him to complete the destruction with his axe.  This fulfilled the entire purpose of the machine - destruction.

But is it art?  Of course.  Anything that questions the traditions and foundations of society must be art.  If it is understandable only as something other than what it is, such that a casual viewing of it would not grant the viewer the entire scope of its magnitude, then it must be art.  Since the beginning of the postmodern era, tradition has been looked on as a prison for "free thinkers" and must be questioned, ridiculed, and belittled.  There is nothing sacred in postmodern art.  There is, in fact, no longer an envelope to push, as the Post Office is considered part of the foundation of society.  Therefore, the art simply must be.  There is nowhere to push, because there is no limit.

Postmodern art, through its questioning of all that is essential and good in society, has become a ritualistic mockery of religion.  The true artist creates his vision of the world and he is true to his own muse.  Postmodern art is mute without an audience.  While traditionalists can create in silence, Postmodernism needs the assurance that their rebellion is acceptable.  The reason Postmodernism survives is because it gives voice to those who trample under their feet that which other people consider sacred.

Tarl Telford

 

Comments