Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Discussions about art can be sketchy (pardon the pun) especially when expectations are high. Over the years I have sat through some pretty dry and overly intellectual seminars that I thoroughly enjoyed. Last week’s talk at the ICA was not one of those evenings. Leaving my cave, I succumbed to the need to prolong post-modern musings in my head and hear about artist, Barbara Kasten with the specific topic being POMO’s relevance now. I never understood why the whole era was ditched, virtually overnight. This had a devastating affect on artists who’d immersed themselves in October Magazine and couldn’t adapt to becoming Jeff Koons, the best example of an uber-artist, post-POMO. To stay in fashion, I use his cologne.
The term used next was Neo-Geo. What did it mean?! Debord-like Situationism and anarchy I can understand, but you take it with a grain of salt. After a fairly cool decade (90’s) where installation ruled and painting waned, we find ourselves in an endless epoch (almost 2 decades!) where both ends of the spectrum flourish. Booming art and auction sales are great for an expanding pool of blue chip (dead) painters while international Biennales serve the contemporary, non-objective circuit. Is Alex Katz blue chip? You bet! So, it is interesting to see anyone at a museum mention the term, (long out of favor) “Post Modernism.” Today, we say “Blue Chip/Modern and Contemporary.” I touch on this dichotomy in my hilarious, unpublished novel, WORK SHY.
Youthful curator, Alex Klein – perfect name for a museum employee – set the stage for an interesting evening with a brief run-down of the period. She even mentioned Blade Runner. The 1982 film is now easy code for POMO and encapsulates the long gap between 1985 and 2015. Why Klein left out our own iconic architects Robert Ventura and his wife Denis Scott-Brown (the inventors of POMO!) is curious. The two luke-warm artists showing PowerPoint presentations didn’t improve the situation.
To condense things is possible. Take one aspect of post modernism imaged by Blade Runner: historical mash-up. My theory is that Philip Dick’s story Androids Often Dream of Electric Sheep (published 1968) was the first film (see also Brazil, 1985) to present “now” as futuristic dystopia. This leads us to time-travelogue. Today, we casually refer to this ubiquitous “time travel” as if it was a simple state of mind. Or worse, a life-style choice. This is writer’s, J. G. Ballard’s, “inner space” which describes perfectly our use of technology to create fantasy worlds instead of flying to real ones in suspended animation.
Bladerunner came to represent Steam Punk, year zero. The term was quite rightly put in place well after the fact. I, myself often pretend to be an Edwardian dandy in futuristic rock clubs. Both steam, punks and rain surrounded Harrison Ford as he hunted rogue Replicants. The ICA should note that every film after Bladerunner owes something visually to director, Ridley Scott if not the writer, Philip K. Dick who barely lived to see it. These days, the best illustration of our historically mixed condition is a sad, cheapo satellite dish on the roof of decaying Victorian house.


David Salmanson said...

Speaking of dystopian futures: what's Logan's Run? Soylent Green? THX1138? (or even Fritz Lang's Metropolitan?).

And those of us who identify periods by their economic formations never stopped using post-modern to describe the current moment.

Christopher Hall said...

Good movie. I hope Harrison Ford decides to keep his word since the plane crash and make a second Blade Runner. I'm convinced, however, that the first Postmodernists were just as instrumental in creating the Postmodern condition as reacting against it. There are good points and bad points. As for myself, as an artist who paints, I rejoice in the supposed death of Postmodernism - but am cautious about what might replace it. Neo-Geo? Hmmm.... I'm such a fucking savage/dinosaur.

James Rosenthal said...

My concentration on Blade Runner purposely discounts the hundreds of science fiction films that preceded it because it is distinct. It can be used as a short cut to understanding the post modern moment which (if you were not there) is easily lost in the profusion of daily information. It also targets the idea of what is human (vs. artificial intelligence) and that is totally topical.