Thursday, February 21, 2008

What does 'post-post modern' mean?

Good question. To me, 'post-post modern' says a lot things. For one thing, it mocks our society's insatiable appetite for labels. We seem to need a label for everything:

  • modern/classical,

  • pop/ alt.

  • cool/ nerdy

  • gay/ straight

  • pro/ con

  • conservative/liberal

  • Christian/Muslim

  • Coke/Pepsi

  • etc.

Then we even update our labels when they start to no longer fit:

  • neo-conservative

  • post-modern

  • metro-sexual

  • etc.

We just can't seem to let things be—just be—whatever and whoever they are. Whether we intend this to happen or not, it ends up creating barriers. If you're one thing then you can't be the opposite. If something is black, then it is not blue or red or white.

If I call you a liberal, then you can't be a conservative too.

Is that really true, though? Is it right, or accurate to throw labels around. For some things it's harmless. I mean, if I start calling my dog “Kitty-Kat” it won't hurt his feelings too much, I don't think. And, I suppose to some extent we can't help it. How can we talk about things, if we can't identify them.

“Can you pass me that...”


“You know, that, over there?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Oh, for crying out loud! That THING over there.”

“How dare you call it a 'thing'! It's so much more to me than just a 'thing'!”

However, some people have made a great effort to avoid labels in one extremely sensitive area: religion. I'm talking about Taoism (and to some extent its cousin Zen Buddhism). A fundamental principle of Taoism, is that the Tao—despite being given that name—cannot be named, measured or defined. It has no size, dimensions or quantity. It is nothing and it is everything at once. Even the exact translation of "Tao" is up for debate. “The Way” is one option. “The Great Integrity” is another. The general purpose of Taoism is to reach a higher level of functioning—or you might say, to get closer to God—without ever placing restrictive labels on that which you seek. It's similar to how in Islam it is forbidden to attempt to depict God or the prophet Mohammed through pictures or any other art. You just couldn't do God justice, so don't try.

So to me, 'post-post-modern' is a witty subversion on the very notion of labels. It makes fun of people who think they have an answer and a criticism for everything. And also, it's hints to something deeper. It is so 'post-' that it can't be named at all.

“Let's see, if it's not modern it must be like, weird abstract art. Like that sculpture that looks like a giant booger.”

“No, that would be post-modern. This is post-post-modern.”

“So does that mean it's even weirder than abstract art?”

“No, it means it's back to modern. You know, like a double negative.”

“So why not just call it modern?”

“You're right. Maybe it is like booger art.”

“But isn't that called 'modern art'?"


[Brains explode.]

So, to some extent labels are a fundamental component of cognition, one we couldn't avoid even if we tried, as it would make language and communication impossible. But we all could try, at least once in a while, to take a step back and just experience what you see, hear and feel--be it a mountain view, or the rebuttal of your debate opponent--just AS IT IS; without judgment, without labels, without restrictions; in splendid isolation and free of barriers and contradiction. Maybe then, we could start to see things as they really are...

But enough sermonizing. Here are few random pictures that came up from Google Images for 'post-post-modern':

(All images link to pages where they originated from.)


Matt Loeb said...

I think Post-Post-Modernism is just lazy. I mean really, what kind of a name for an art movement was post-modernism anyways. Its just what comes after modernism! Post-Post Modernism? I refuse to use it. lol

rock on, there is some good stuff here.


Ashley said...

I don't think that anyone can remove themselves from the human condition, which is full of contradictions, long enough to create something that represents some thing or being just as it is. People are too messy, even the stoic ones. The Toaist knew that.