Jackson Pollock. Frieze, 1953-1955. Oil on canvas, 26 x 86" 166 x 218.5 em). Collection Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine, Sr.

(Photo:

Louise Lawler. Pollock and Tureen 1984)

James Rosenquist. 1947, 1948, 1950, 1960. Oil on masonite, 30 x 87%" 176.2 x 224 em). Collection of the artist. (Photo: Bruce C. Jones; courtesy Leo Castelli Gallery)

Matt Mullican. Mullican Posters (Fate, God, AngelDemon. Heaven, Before Birth Death Hell), 1982. Lead ' paint on paper, each: 60 x 36" 1152.4 x 91.5 em). IPhoto:

Zindman/Fremont; courtesy Mary Boone Gallery)

Re: Post

IIAL FOSTER

I • .,stlllodernism" is a term used promiscuously in art criticism,

oftCll <1.";; u llwn' . .,;;i~DI 1!{)t-!Il\H!('nli~!ll (II" a ~y!llHlylll fill' pll!rali~!Il, A~ ~ud\.

il means lillte-oill~ lH.'rhap~., thai WI,' an- in a l'i"<JClIOilar: Hi

lllllti('rllislH :-;('('lIlS distallt alid n-vivnhsm all too near. Oil tht' (Jilt' hand. thi:-; di:-;t<lHn' is the yf'ry prccondition ill' IHJSlmo(_h'rlli~llI: 011 the otlier. Ihi~ n-vivalism signab tht' Iwed tu cOllceive it <1:-; other than Inere HlHilJloderlli-"JlI.

\\'hat posltllodeI'lIi-,,1Il i:-;. of course. dept'IHb; largely 011 what 11ioderlli~11l IS. t.c .. how it is ddilW(1. As H chroJlolo~i('al terlil. it i:-; oltcu n'slrirkd to tilt' period 1860- }t)::Hl or tlwn>ahtJUIS. thollf!:h mallY extend it tu pu:-;l war art or --Inti:' 1ll0ci(-'l'1lisliL As an ('pi~tt:"llJnlogiraI1t'nli. lIloticrnislll is hur.h-r tu :-;1H"cify (,t'.f!" Ought 0I1i' to ,wei'pt the break Iwlwt:'t'll classicism alld lIIodernity as ddint'd by Miclu-l Foucault? Ought one 10 refer to Kuntiau ~dr-crilicislil as Ck-uu-nt Gn>t'llht.'r~ doesr). III allY cast'. l'ustillodcrui:-iIlL aniculatt'd ill relation to Illt)c\t'rlli:-;IIl., telld:-i to redw'l' it. [s t\H're a 1ll0dt'flli:-i1ll that ('Hil 1)(' so d"lIlIlitt'd':' If su. what would rOllStilUte a hreak with it ':'

( I'ost) noderllism

Tnl'tindly. tlH'orish of postillod('rlli~llI ill arr tl'lId to rOlltaill !IIodi.·rlli~111 ill lal(' 11ioderlli:-;JlI. till' idl'nlogy of whirh is extracted from tht' critical writillt!:-i of CIt'llH'llt Cn't'1l1wl'f! a1HI [\Iidl,wl Fried. Ott this pO:-iitioll. 1II0derlli:-;1ll is die pursuit of "purity" it hnlds tluu =tt« c(JJf('q)/ (d' urt . .. tis) fII{,UUillg/id. or 1l'!1O/("IIlCWlillg(ul. oulv within/he iw/irit/uu/ orts. "j ruu.l dial "lilt, art ohjt'i.'t ihelf CHit lw SUiblitutt'd (nwtaphoricul1y) for it:-i referent. '"2 It i:-i :-;aid to prescrihe.'specilir aren~ of nJmpetl'llCP" and to [ustt-r. ill the artist. a ~('If-rrilintl Ionuulism ill which tilt' Iliherited "('ode" of the 11I('l1iu1I1 i:-; IIHlllip"laH'd .uu l. ill lhe crilii.'. a hi:-;torici:'111 that "work:-; Oil the lit',," alld the diffnt'iIt to dimilli:-iil

HI'j!riHt!'d fruol!'umc!w!t':!h i~jlrilll-! jQg:2, II-F) c-irh .-ili).!:!!! 1'1H1lI)!1'.'i. ,md u pu:;l-"cript. by tht' author

L ~Ii('h;wl Frit'd ... \1'1 alit! Ohjt'l'lhtHJIL" t,.~f;m/fl/?>. 110, 10 (SUlIlllu'r }t)t): : 11.

lkprillied ill Cn>~ury BaHnwk. ed .. lliflilllll! _Ir!: _I (',.ilinii _-llll!w!op:_\' (:\!"\\- York: E Dunon P'(IX" l'!': I I()- H--:' : IIi . .,;; italit':-'i.

:2. Crai)! (hyt!l:;. "Tlu- A!lt')!ori(',d hupulse: 'I\)\\-an! it Theory of Pq:;llnodt'rnl:;lll Pan

Ite: Post 139

1:.liCh C .. ;il.llplilinl) i~ tI~(' postmntit'fllisl readiJl~ of IlloderliisllL dl

I It' It Il~1 fJlln(\'~ Olin'. tills \\'ill-Io-purit~ was subversive: ill it..; H"" ::''':1'':"[10'1'-,,, .. ,,,1 olle' ,""coded ill the "",th"tie-we n ' delimited if ",,' ,.

"',",:->t d. and tilt' arust. 1I1111J(:"r:-wd ill artistic Iw"·t,',·,, I,',· .. I , I

, • ,_ . _ .t. _. 1::;01 u-ruu.: 11

\\ d." 1t'1!( t'n'd atllulIIllIlOIIS, tnllhct'lHit-'lItalk ('rilic'lI II w'" , ! I calk ill n-'Iros"j _ ., . ", . _ ."" \I tH':' S('('II l Lu

"1" : .' pi ( .. !it.I~. I d ~lIdl('f.!,Y :-'1'l'lIb d('CtJnHIS and pnliticall\' n-rr..

1II H,~ alwh a dl\ 1.-.1011 of lahol' with ill ruhur« \\'Illcl, ,"'" ' ,'I

. " k r I I' . d:-. d U->:-.lI L CHili

p.u-tu t,' (~I )ut I tile :-ilwnul prur .. :;;:;ionaiisill (If IIH' Hcadt'lIlY 'lIltl til ...

('0111111111 _ I' I' . < t rouun.

'" 0' 1 -pro, ",'II"",, indu-trv." It "I", ulfirms ih c- i'dea of ",1 as "

~:-'~1I:~ .. ~~llg(,lIdi'ri'd from a :-ilwcinl history: alit I thi~ is illdt't·d ho\\" art hi"i' q

lk",UIUdOI!,dly pn>:>i'lll('{!: {\ !ilii' \\"ork:-:, u ji!l('<lv{'

I,>rllhc ipo»! hoc. elgol'rtJfI!"r !lIIr) of ill II ""11<"(' alld~eu"tilluitl'

1 hOll~,dl IHstnncal illlt"rH'lIlioll~ (';111 1)(' rl'di'IIIIJt',\", ,i", t'l, -or! 1

B ", . - .~:.. t' \\ (11'1\. ~ I \\

. ""iatHl" .uu-sts ). tllI'l rau also I", ""I"l'lwntlill"-,,"d are '",. ill I"'illal II n- u- '" III t It' anllll-~ard{'. ddiw,d IJ.Y H{-,!lalo PU!!!!I"I,' as

_~_, . ,) "thl' artistic equiyall'lli

tnuls(,t'lIdt'lItal historicisIlL"-' TI ~ _ .. ~~,., . . .. ,

'. . ,. . . . ,. It It 1111 tldllSrt'lHklllal IlistOrl('lSIlI" II>

~t:,IIl:"11 u to,I,ltIi:HIH'II~·jjl. hut II IS nile basi(_' 10 III(xlt'rIiISm-JlO iu.utcr hel\\

:-ot t II( ental or r'Hh("llIy II' . tI . .

hoi " . ::_ I, <. - _ {\\. It' art. It IS usually J'en1tll't"{1. felldt'red [nuul.

~ 1I:"11~IIHI~III. l.a«: uroderuism nlily w\nll'h:.s the t.'ulllradictiull' art is <1\;111

g:anle ".1snlar as it i:; radically historicist-tilt' urust .

, ddYt.':; into arl-hi:-;!iHi.

('OIlVt'lltlOII:-; III order ro hn-ak out of tlu-m.

Such hi:-;toriclslII (tilt' :~, .. ' ' , rl_ I" .

, I I' . I ',' . t\\ d:-o It:-. OWII nH ItIOII) b ()otli <III ori~ill and

(lIt 01 I Ii' mount-o-'mIt'. 'III I '. f . . {

"r ,I I . r,<. - _ .: (_. our- ann 0 postmnderlli:illl i.'i to u-raiu us r;I,11

(.1 11~ Hit W nd 01 Ih IIISilIIWi";lI F··, I I'..· .

,', .t..: _ _ ' . .' l. 01. as I H' (bCUUrSe ot tilt' nmtilHl(lll

Ih~OIl~'b!ll I'tTilIlP:-; iulu-n-urlv: it (,OIH'('IVI'S tiliH' a...; a lotalil\ (wlH'rdn "n'\"

1,llIlUlh art' IWH'I' Ilion' 11":111 1I1U11I,'i1b of t'olisciOlhIW' ," . 'I .' I '

tlhj'j"t II' ' :-0:"1 .lIlt IIl<tII<lstwtloh

~ Ct . lIIlJal1 ('Olls('lUII:iIH'SS is at 011(,(' p(ISiled ,tlHI n_;n-" I I, . '

disi..'Olltillui .·s . 0" ~ I . ' . 0 . • ( "t'{ a:-. :"10\"t'I't'lglI .• 111,1

I: I. I t':"1hh i. . us ballY dl'(_'(_'lltt'l'!llf{ of tlH' sllbject l. whether hy da:-.'

family. or language). I" art. of .. our-c. the "'''jed "I' tit is hi,torici,,,, is the artist and it:; space is lhe mUSP\IIH: there. history is prest'llted as a nnrrauve-r-' eontllllloUS, hOlllUgl'IH'Ous. alH.l Hilthropo('entric-of great 111t'11 uud muster-

works_

Purity as all end alld denwlIlIl as all effect: histnrit'islII as all uperatioil

and the museum as the COIlh'xt: tht.' artist as uriginal and tht' art work as 1I1i'l"e-tlw,,' are tlu- u-uus wlu .. h lI"",lertlis", I'ri\ikg"s "lid again" whi .. h 1""tIH,,,I,,rtlis,,, i, uru .. ulated. In I'"stmoriernislil. Ih,,1 form a praeti .... 11011' exlHHlstt:'(L wliost' nHl\'elltiullalilY can no kmgel' he inllected. Pledged to purity.

the InediulliS have rellied-III-·J\ce. postllludt'l'lIist art exists belwl'(,IL across. or uutside rlu-m. or ill Ht'W or lIep;it'fted m1'(liwHs (like video or phutngraphy) Historicizt-'d by the 1l1l1St'1I1l1. {'OllllllOditit'd by th« gallery. till' art object is Heutralizt'd-lWllce. POSlIIW(\t'rtlist art occur::; ill altet'nCilin' spaces and ill Itlall: forllls .. oftell dispersed,_ u-xtuul. or eplwllH:,raL As dlt' plac(' of art i:; I'('-funned. so too is till' roli-- or tilt' arti",\. and the vulue- that iwrt'iofun' Huthelltlcated art

arc qUt'stiolli,d. ill shurt . ih« ('ultun.il tJllt'lied up.

TIH" ticld lrallsforllwd i::i dw til'Si l.'olHlitinn (If pustlHoticrnislII. III "Sculp-

iurc III tlu- Expanded Field. Hosalilld Krallss sketches buw IIliHIt'l'tl snllplU!'i.· 1",s,,'<1 Irom a I,,~i(" of hislnric pla .... -the lllUlIlllllt'lIt (lr statue-t" 0111" "f ""lulIOIIiOUS form-the pure. silt,Ies::; objt'c1. Indeed. she argues. by Iht' tu ne' uf Itlinilllalislil Hluth-I'll sculpture had euu-re'd a cOildilioi\ of"pllre IH'~ati\"ily: lht' cumbinatioil ur exclusiolls . lit 1 was now lilt' category that I't':-iuhcd [nuu Iht, additin!l of the llof-/(lIU/S(UPI' 10 tlU' Iwl-urc/titt'cttlre,,·q Tlu-v- it'nlb an' silllpl~ the u-nus "architecture'" uiul "huHlsrapl'" inverted: st't witlt others. they Iorrn a "quatl"rnary lidd which bUlh mirrors 1111' original up position alld at th .. suuu: lilllt' "l'"!" it. . W It l:-i ill thi:--l-'lo~icaHy expanded tidd." ::;u:;l'clldcd belweell thest' tenus. iluu the jli.Jstlllodi.'l'llist fnrllls-"siH'-Collstrlldinll." "axiulllatii' strllt'tllrt's:' alld --Illarkt.'d sites"-(-'xisl with sculpture. To Krauss. ilu-v break wuh lIlo(\erlli:-:-;t practice. <Hlil so nUlllol lit' tlli"II~ht of in terms of hisloricism. lh-rt-. art-lii:;toricul rouu-xr will lIot :;lIflict' us tnel.willg. for pilstlllmkrnisill is artirulHled not withill the lIlediullls but ill rdatioll tn cuilural u-nus. These Iunus are ci)ll('cin,d IOf!icaHy. not derin·d tli::;torit'ully HlIlI sf) unn-r \u' regarded

ill terms or -arut-nuv.

To bi' St-TII ,b such. IJOS111llHlel'IIisIU must posit a break: tlti::; oue. with

ttl{' Im,di\l111~ and \\'itl! historicism., is (Tucial-it seals lI\odt'rlli~1ll and Opf'lh lhe cultural span,' of POSllllUdt'J'nism, Douglas Crimp and Craig Owens also posit slich a rupture. though. focused on other artists. they detail its advent somewhat dillerellily. If. for Krauss. the signal of postllHHierllislll is all expanded iield of art. fnr Crimp it i::i a n-turu of ·-t!H"1.tH·':· (tabo(wd by lale Hloderuislll). and fill' Owells un ·-t·rllptitlll or language" (als()"repre:,;~('d") nnd, more ill'l'"rtallth' a III"W p",tll,,,d('rn;S[ ill'p"ise. --allegorical" or d('("o'btrudi\(' ill

nature.

IH'\\"IH':;S Hlltl lllitiO'ale dillen'lH'e ";j p.' " . '.' I

I li _ . t'"'. . dill Illg, scu ptun.-", alld arcilik,

I ~IIS~I:,tlll(,t. aucl art (,X Ish pnllH:.rly olily within theiu: each art 11<1 ..... ;1. uauu«. uncl art pro('ced:-i as !Iii-' ('(Hie i~ reveuled. the nuture IHlI".!..'.t·, I ('XlnUIi'OliS,

\), Krau,.;,.;, "L\pall1hl Field, ' p. :)() (lu-r itulicsl. \0, 11,;.1" I' -Ie

Halt'osler 190

He: "ost 191

(Above left) James Casebere. Street with Pots. 1983, Black-and-white h "

seven, (Photo: courtesy Diane Brown Gallery)' (Top !eft) R btL P ~to,graph, 30 x 24 (762 x 61 em). Edition of

Charcoal and graphite on paper, 8' x 5' (2A4: 1,53 m], an~ ~~tit~~g~;o nt!t!ed,.from M_en in ~he City series, 1981, ca~t .aluminum bonding, three pieces, each: 60 x 40" (152A ~ 102 em), (P: M~n IfI ,the City senes. 1981. Lacquer on

Remng (Robert Longo), 1982); (Top ri ht) Dan Flavin M oto~ Louise Lawler, A:ranged by Janelle

98 x 36" (250 x 91.5 ern]. Edition of flv;, (Photo: court~Syo~:om;;~t~~~~il:~~~n(A~967, ~O~\ :hlte, fluorescent light,

From The Living Series, 1983, Trans Lux News Jet each' 24 x 87 x 16" ,ove ng t _ ~~ny Holzer. (Both)

courtesy Barbara Gladstone Gallery) " (61 x 221 x 40,6 ern}. Edition of three, {Photo:

Re: Posl

Again, these critics first pos(' posuuoderuism against late modcruisru. whosr classic rex: is seen as the essay·· Art and Objrctliuou" by Michael Fried." Therein. Fried objects to the implicit "theater" of minimalist sculpture: "art dcgcnerut« ... , (IS it approaches tlu: condition oj theater. " runs the oheuquoted line. with "theater delined as "uliat iii's between tlu. arts ... To Crimp. this intuition signals modernism's df'lllist": the irnportuur work of the seventies exists precisely hetween the HIls: moreover. such work-especially video and pt'l'fonllHllce-exploits tilt' very "theater" (or "preoccupuriou with tiine-Illore IJrt·cisely. witll tlw duration of experieuce") that Fried (let'llled dt'f!:(,Ilt'I'Hte, In effect. miuimalisms implicit "theater" becomes explicit, 1\luch COli temporary art can he derived b~ this cxuupolariou. or so Crillip ns:;('l'ts in Ihe essay "Pictun':::·

{lIlIOIl," (~r Ihc.'w artists can be «aid /0 luu»: becll apprenticed ill tlu: .fidd

fttr'li/!liU/t',)·tti.

bep.:llll lu rcrcrst: its prioritie». /tlukl/lK (l/lie hlent/ situation and duration (~ttllf' pCI/unlled crcnt (l tableau u-hos« presel/ce cu«! leltlp()Ht!;~l'lI'er{' III1('r~l'V\:ldJ()/()~;::..ed: PCI.!()F!muu'c 11f'f'oltU'sjus/ ONe of a number ofu-av» (~l"staf!:illg" ({ picture. I::

Owen;.; al;.;{) ('itt,:; the Fried dicuuu .. b late-lilOdt'J'lIi:;t la\\ which lit' relates. as a ··helief ill the atJ:;(Jiute d1Ien'flCl' of verbal and visual art. - to tile lH'(H_-lw;~ieal order (i,('._ IIw {('Illpora! urts. IUH·try, etc., otvr Ihe ;.;pali<ti nns. painti!!;.:. I'tL'.1.'l Slid, a hivrurrhv i~ ha~('d nil it ··!illglli~ti(' crilel'ioll.' UlIt' \\·hidJ til(' moderllist visual arts l'epn':'lst'(l. The t'lIlt.'r~t'lIn' of rinu-. intuiu-d II\' FrinL i:-; tlU'1I marked IJY all ··t'IIIt'I't!t'IHT 01' (b("ollr~t:'

11. This ~',;,;ay \\-(_t,; nm] I'; or prill 11' illl!,orl<HI('l'-a {'illaly . ..;1 i For :-illlidbll!l'~ n-ne-nun.

IIi..; "Lcm-r 10 tlu- Editor." lr~fiJl'lIfIl (). no. ~ iOnuiwl' j<)(); : -t . rt'Prillit'd ill Holx-n Smithson. Tl« JI rill'lIp:S Il Hohert Smithson. ed, I\HHt'y Ilnlt [:\cw York . 1\(,,,- \!lrk l ui\I'r,-;ily Pn',;,;. It);tJ i, I~' :)1-L i Fried IllljCi'tt"d hI flU' ··PtT"{'f . ..;il~ _. of lllilli!!wlism-ih dcviution Irum tilt' huc-modcrui-a will to '-purity. ' Other. k~,; Iwrspiciwious. critic, n't.'JII"i! miuimuii-au <.1:-> tilt' 1/(' pll/.~' IIllm of III1Hkl'llisl n-durtiou. That it ,;hoHld (,Ilfold ,,,lid I a t·ollll'adi('lillu--llw lIIot!I'mi,";1 illlpul'i" 10 lilt' Ihillg-ihl'lf um l !II\' POslllludemj,..;t illipubl' 100Htrd "dl('a!ri('alil~" or -'IJi'IYI:rsity"-llligll! ill fact II lake miuuuulism tilt' ,,("('IW of It .-;Ilift III ,;t'lbiililily. tilt' n'r~ Drislln' nf (Po.";llIllOd('rni'i!l1. ~i'(' also ~lidl;1t'1 Fri{,(L ,-IIJsflfp({'UU and 'tYlI'ulril'lllity: I)uilllillf!. IIwl Nf'lw/der /'(/ 1/11' ,jg(' 1:( IJidwo( [Bl'rk('I"y: l ~!linT.-;jly (If California Pn',;,;, It}B()

volunu-. ,;p. I'.i '""? jilt'!'!', (:rilllp n-r.uu-, an [ol)liqlll" hisrorir-i-au. Ihollt!!! til!' pa,..; . ..;agl' 'ih,,\\..; rh.u ir (wI'd 1101 III' rvnten-d nil allY olli' uu-dium.

1:1. Crail! O\\"(,IIS. "Earlliwonl.-;," Uctotnr. n«. l() l-ull It);t};, 1:!;-)-:2{),-\nd Y('I !JHHJt'n1I'i11l i . ..; -a'r-n. al k-a-t (Irif!in;dly, n-, a n'\'ol! ugaills/ tl\l' JIt'oda,;,;ical order it,; I'ollg~'all'd

till'S!' nn- ~,!,i,;!)(k..; tlu-v IwYnliwlc,'i'; qlH',..;tinll allY Cliar<H'HTizalloll 411' m.uk-rui-au i1."; a dot'!rilw PI' (/1'1'I}f'f1l1l alolw. 11ldlTd, til!' "cri!iljlw (If n'!)j'(',;('Hllf1ill!l" j,; originall:' ;t lll!ldn!li,";1 inqx-ra(1\\'

193

Figul'es and I'ields

Hall'oster 196

but it must also "shake" the sign itself. (The pieture-ulluerneath-ill" I" thus has more to do with Derrida '5 graunnatolo(!v; the notion that III.

hahn~ys ulreudv" articulated by another sign.) b. c

" , ' r odwnge the object itself: this .. to Owens, is the mandan- of 1''''''''''' 101 ... 1I L (~ontlllgeIiL this an exists HI (or as) a web of references., not I WI" loca~.ed ,Ill nny. one form. medium. or site. As the object is destrilctun.d the .';td.~Je(·t (\'Ie~ver) dislocated. e- and the modernist order of the arb d .. ~ere:~. Such art IS thus ;"allegoJ'icar~ in Baturt'.:m Temporal and spatial ,II i

H dbSOIY('.'; tJH', old order: so too. it opposes the "pure sign" of late-mod'I" ~~rt HI~d plays. lIl,stea.:I: on the "distance which separates signifier Iroin sl!.!IJill ~Igii fn~)I11 IIWilJ1I1,lg .. 2'1 BI.II to what does such allegorical art finullv tell; I Ii II t,o a d'~pt'rsal of liH' ~ul)J(_'(,t and a melancholic resignatioll in lilt' fan. fragJllt'lIled aJl(I reifi('d history?

!>Ostlll(){_icrllisHI is thus posed as a ruprun- with tilt' i.wsthetic order of illud'i ~snL And yet tite ('OIH't'jH of ttlt.' field reHwiw;-ev(,1I if oulv as a term to IIS.O\\',n disf.wrsa.l. That ' . .s. postlllO(lernislll is seen within a·gin'!l probJeJl1'llH r:'Pn~~eIl~atl()f.l~~n t.('n~l~ of. types and ('odes. rhetorical ligllres and (,!lllt]1 I fields. As H thseollr!je, III a SIJaCf'. Its \'tTY '·illeuibil,·t\···· ,' .. ",11 -: ' .. 1 .

. . . . . -. C".:" d egtJlI( d. Its hi

s(','Hzophn'IlIH IS strategic. Is it lH'('eSsary (0 think ill terms of fields and J-jU'tll'

of, n.pn~~eJI1'HioJlr. No doubt: and yet criticism thereby remains recuIWr~li\' ,\:., a tt~xtllall~ra{'(I('l" posunodernisr art can Bot be translated: criticism. ill; would Illlt be lis sUI'I'I,.'IlH:1l1. But then what would it IJ1" "'I"lt ,I ....

. , . . '- _ .• n L .0(':, (Titll'hll,

do YI~-';~-~·I~ such HEir Does it PIHer as another codc ill the text of the artr 1)1 (~oes It IJllllah~. ~llt_.. \'(_'r~' play of signs thai is the text ( !\ly question. finally. ] simple. Dn ('nllC~ today engage plJslllloderIli~t art as its textual unum- \\,:1111, I sef'.JIl to deHlaudr":\s Soon as Olle seeks to (1t~IIWnstrale ill this wuv," Oenid.: \'''-I1(-'S: ··tltal there is rw tnulsn'IHJi-'lllal or privileged sigllified a;HI Ihat 111< domain or play of Sigllilictllioll lwnn.forth has 110 limit. Oile must rejcct e\'1'11

the concept and word 'sign' itself-which is precisely what cannot be done." :JO (Should one add: "even the ('olleept and critique itself"?) But this is precisely what cannot be done-such is the epistemological bind of postsuucurralism and posuuodernism. Clearly, this "catastrophe" is marked in theory too.

Now, posuuoderuist art is often termed "deconstructivc," which is to say that it enfolds a contradiction: it must lIS(\ as methodological tools at lease the very concepts that it calls into question. It IHay be too much to assert that such complicitv is a conspiracv. but a couventiou, form. tradition. etc., is oulv decoustrucn-d from within. Deconstruction thus becomes reinscription. for then- is no "outside" (except in the positivist sense or"outside the mediums

H transgression tilat reasserts the lifllil). That is. thefe is no W<1y not to be III a field of cultural terms. for these u-rrus inform us presumptively.

So if p()sllIlodernisl art is referential. it refers only '''to problt:IIIHlize lilt' activity of n:'fen-'IH'!:'." ;-1] For example. it IWiY "sreal" types and images ill all

··~lppn;pritlli()!l·· Lh<tl ns H !ll1<tW's

cOllunodities and of all aesrheu« practice that holds (Ilostalgically) to an art of origillality. AIHI yet. Call a critique be aruculated withiu tilt' n,'ry [onus under eritiqucr Again. yes: how else could it he nrurulated? Such a critique. IHJ\\"t'Y('L cannot hope to displace these forms; at lx-st. it i"dirh theru as "lIlylhologicar' and stresses the need to think and fepn',iCIll otherwise. Another qucsiiou is nut so obvious: are the gin'n mediums not Ilwdiatt'dr That is to SHy. is a medium such as paiIlting givell as static and neutral. or is it III fact re-formed. represl'lIte(L in wltl by tilt' \Try forllls th.u it IIH·di;_ltes(

Appropriation. ft'xtualit) . these tactics seent 1(, preclude un-dium-,

whose lngie is based on autilf'lllicily uud originality. Paintillg per st' is regarded by many critics as problematic. and ('\"1:'11 photography is S('('II to hold a vestige of aura-an auru dun is dahonlh-'d or t''\pullgt'd by mallY artists today. (Ilideed. a certain aura 01' t_'\'('11 cuh of iU<1l1litl'lIliclty is uctiyl:' loday: tile PllriollH'd image is BOW the \:1\\'.) Such denials., wlH'1I extreme. are of mort' interest to allalyst...; thau artists uud critic:';. However. it reuuuus true thai the uu-duuus art' informed by historically specilic logics-of produrtivism. say. or exprpssiollislll (tilt' lirst of which may Iw fo,nplicit(Jus with a superseded poliliral e(,{HlOllly:r.! the second 110\\' with a pop psycllnlogy or the Ilhbt ideological sort).

Hen'lIlIy" or ('(Hlrst'., we han' \\-iuu'ssed it reSIIl}~-eIH't' ill painting. 1101 olll~ a revival or old IIwdt's as if they were new. but also a retreat 10 old values as if they were JH·(TSsary. Much of it is regressivv-or rather. d .. k-usivc. In lile midst of societv suffused with"llIfnrlllatiulI," many Sf:'-('1Il to regard paintillg-its specilirity-a:; critical. Old avatars (crcaliq:' uni-ts. uutheruic art) an' returner]. prt-'cist'ly [n-r-ause- Llle)' are unuruelv. as fon'es to resi;-;I cnlllpleti~ lIH'diatioll h\·hich is 10 sa~- cOlilpiett· absorption in tht' ronsuuu-ris: prugram of 1I1(bs

;-50. Jacqul'~ Dcrrida. "Structure. Si)-:H. and Play:' ill Jrniillf!,' (///lIIJ~!l;'n'I/I"t'. uuus \lall Bass iCbil"<I)-:H: '1'111' l:lIin·rsily ofCilinlf,!o Pu-ss. lq-;Bj. p. 2111

:{ 1. Owvus. ··.\liq.;nrical hupulse (Part :21.'. p. 80. \ Ht'prillli'd ill lIiis vulunu-. Sl'\, p.2Tj.]

:~2 . .k-au RHldrill<inL nit' .1Jirrof" (I l'rodnnion. iran:'. :\brk Plh!I'l' {Sl. Louis. 'rein . ..; Prl'ss. jlr~.) i

Re: Pusl 197

Hal Foster 200

~xpos~s the "impurity" of meaning, And yet unlike self-rellexivirv \\ "I, It IS often conflated), self-criticism does not enforce a closure. II' II!;" ISSLIe III deconstruction (such is really the recent history of critical ii", thallf.postHwdernisHl is truly deccnstrucric» of JnOder;lisIlL, it \\'(11 ill I be a discursivir« within it.

. Certainlv. 10 be regarded as an epistemological break and ",,' "', stylisuc or chronological term. posunodernism must be based 011 " I .. knowledge-and thus on material conditions-substantiallv differenl r .. "" ermsrn>. (1: new technique., for example, rnay enable-I~ut nut initi..r.

way 01 seemg.) Perhaps such a form does exist: to know it will Foucauldean archaeology; to posit it now, 011 the basis of at'still'li,

seems precarious. Recent practice has effected a defurniliarizatioll. all

~nent (quintessentially modernist tenns) that. ill turn. stresses the 1)1--1., r.e.. condinonal. nature of aJ1. And it is no doubt important to iHsist

cultural of Hl()(Jt.rnislll (for i1 i;;

it nuw in tenlls of all absoluu- break SetlliS problematic.

. AJ.HJ yet postmoderIlISJll is defined as a rupture. III this it is liki' l! I'" i

Ism wh~ch. despite historicism. ofteH speaks a rhetoric of discontiflilih nlO~Jerll.lslll !oo~, postJlIoderlliSHI is posed against a past p(_Tceived as J'II' I tI~u:; .1':·!Je~, III part on the olfl imperative of the avaBt-garde and its lilli'

:)1 lTISIS (ill the sense of both judgmenr and separation). As noted. sud! 'I III art ten~J to be. recouped instilwionally (in the museum and in art Jlish 11\ l'e(,up~'ratloll wlud~,.alung with pluralism, is the ruain problem of contelll!i";, art. Clearly. a revrsion of the historI(,ism that recoups and reduces ('Vi'! I ,I pr~v~kes< the extreme is necessary. one in which tlie series of breaks. ('II;!I L tenstl(,: oj modernism. are "seen not as an aVHllt-garde succession-in whidl ~~voluuoll of discolltiJluily is substituted for the evolutionism of ('olltinllil\ I" 111 the form of a problematic constellation .. whose svstemarics set off IIH: century as a dec()(lstrllctive svnchronv." :jt,

PropOlwl~~S of POSlIlHH.Jernism 'telld to be highly conscious of hisiHJI, mom en I. 11,1 elleet.. Ihey would displace modernism .. which, pllshed hach 1111, the book 01 ruhurc IS posed in its own reduction. foreclosed Illon~ thau di'I'l ,II stn'l'~ed. H~tt.IH'r than reduction, what is needed is a revision of IlHJderIlisIll: ,II :)!)eJlltlg .of Its supposed closure. And perl laps postrnodermsm is tllis I,,,, r hough I.' recoIlfinlls late-modernist dognuL it also reorders IlHHlerllis( dl f:ourses (lor .exaOII)le .. artists like DudwJnp and Klee are favored, as are crill! ltke B.uldelwre and 13enjarnin), As such .. it rnay be If'sS a break with ruoderni-, II than 'H'.I advnno- ill a dialectic iII which modernism is re-formed, Cenainl, an)' senous notion of postIllodenlislll must be proffered 011 tlw nm\'ietioll "IIJ:II a s~:sleln calli'lg for corrections. translations. opeJlings. alHlllegatiolls is lililf' uSt>h~l. than all llllfofmulHted absence of system-olle mav the,;- avoid tIte Iii I ~n~l-)lI~t~,·.of ~)f~~ttl~> alld, (,:HH~~:'~ 10 the historical chuin of di~collrses .. tht' progn'>~ iprouressus) 01 (iJSl'tlfslnty. )

:)6. Jea/I-Clallilt·IA·ht'll.-izlt'jIL ·'Slar. . Uctolnr. 110. 1 i:;l,rii1f.! ltr;()l: qq, :~-:". Holand IbrrlH':-i. "\\'ri!t'f:-i, ItlldlcclUal:-i. "l'i"""I,,·,,-.·. '! II

., III mcu:c-, usic- Tort. fl. :200

lie: .... st ~Ol

This essav. first written in \vinter 1980, bears the marks of a lime in New York when Art, with a grafl Irom postsuucturalism. seemed reborn as Textwith little critical regard then for its social uses and discursive affiliations. But if this piece is too rarefied, it is also too specific-a local riposte to a loeal advocacy .

"I)ostlllodernislll" was and still is a conflicted concept. Its rupture with modernism is dubious, and vet dearly many modernist paradigms have eroded. And though the term may seem a;lHchro'nislically avant-gardist , it was also alreadv in use in a discourse in which so-called postmodern styles seemed the cover 'for actively antimodem ageHdas. In the midst of all this, I wanted to argue agrlins( a 'modernisill seal:·d ill its own debased (fonualist) linage and Ior a conception of posunoderuism tha: was not merely iustrumental.

By and large .. posunodcruism is conceived in parochial (stylistic) or recupcrative (historicist) u-rms=or grandiosely as the index of a new episteme. a new di~cur:-ii\'(' fOrJll<l!ioil distinct [rom tlu- modern iy·;iti! its siress on historicity spccific to each discipline and go\'crJled by Man ). The problem is that this model call aCf'OllIH for posnnoderuism onlv as a rupture., not as a vrestructurarion." It thus St't'lllS ll('cessary to periodize it in more mutcriallv textual waysill Marxian terms. perhaps, as a conjuncture of specific prohlematics. (In this light the rt'jeetioll of posuuodernisru on the grounds that its elements are to be [ound ill ruodernism Illay be countered with the argUlllt'iIt that they now exist in a new order. uunsfonued in place and effectivity.)

In unv cast', the very lillliis ill' this essay puslu-d me to cOllsidt~r tilt' prohlem of jJOstllHldefllislll ~llon' hromlly (011(' result or whicl: was tilt, colieetinll 71/ejllli-.~csl!/{'lic: Essovs Oil l'osuuoderu Culture}. This in tum has led 10 a w'w· project-to S('l' ill (~)Ost)1Il0derllislll not the rule of one nwjor mode- but the cunllirt of IIHlIl} "minor" forlll~-alld a flt'W imperatin'-lo think Iwyond the limits or critique.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful