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Lecture Library

Postmodernism lecture
by Steve Anderson

An illustrated lecture on postmodernism


-cultural phenomenon linked to socio-economic structures

-modernism defined by opposition of capitalism & socialism

-post-modernism defined by global, corporate capitalism

Fredric Jameson “Postmodernism and Consumer Society”

-characterizes postmodernism in terms of loss

-conservative diagnosis (though rooted in Marxism)

-mourning the death of the subject

-postmodernism is both a reaction against modernism and an extension of it

-much modern art seems to be already post-modern

-James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Marcel Duchamp, etc.

-in po-mo: art no longer poses a threat to the social order

-collapse of high and low culture (film/TV studies symptomatic)

-end of philosophy (becomes theory)

-end of history (becomes nostalgia/stereotype/pastness)

-“culture of amnesia”

-media exist to help us forget the past

-quotation and allusion become appropriation and incorporation


-styles are composed of random amalgamation of past styles

-however: postmodernism is not a style

-“Late capitalist” phenomenon linked to new world order

-post-industrial (manufacturing moved to 3rd world)

-computerized (primary commodities are information and culture rather than material goods)

-organized around consumerism (people primarily understood as consumers/marketing demographics not “individuals”)

-Po-mo as cultural dominant: nothing is shocking anymore

Two primary features: pastiche and schizophrenia

Pastiche: “blank parody” (parody without a sense of humor)

-unlike parody, which has affection/respect for the original, pastiche simply mimics styles dissociated from individuality

-characterized by fragmentation; juxtaposition

-random appropriation/cannibalization of cultural elements

-e.g., architecture, music

-stylistic diversity and heterogeneity

-death of the subject

-no more individuals

-no more new styles

-innovation impossible


-art about art (rather than about politics or society)

-stylistically flat, lacking in affect or emotion

Schizophrenia: (not like clinical schizophrenia)

-fragmented subjectivity

-resembles split personality but not literally)

-de-emphasis of narrative and logical structuring principles

-localized, temporary moments of intensity


-breakdown of relationship between signifiers

-time (and everything) is an effect of language (Lacan)

-schizophrenics live in a perpetual present

-temporal discontinuity

-words lose meaning

-language becomes material rather than signifying

-importance of images

Film and postmodernism

-film is fundamentally modern

-appeared at the height of the modern era

-linear (successive frames) – like the factory assembly-line

-perception based on cognitive & psychoanalytic effects

Title Sequence for Beavis and Butt-Head Movie by Mike Judge (1996) A title sequence referencing 70's cop action movies, elements of Shaft and Starsky and Hutch are evident.
99 Luft Problems remix by VJ Brewski + Jay-Zeezer (2007) Remix of Nena's 99 Luft Ballons and Jay Z's 99 Problems
Rico Gatson's Gun Play by Rico Gatson (2001) A kaleidoscopic mashup of Blaxploitation films and Spaghetti Westerns
Pharcyde "Drop" Music Video by Spike Jonze (1995) A music video of Pharcyde's 1995 single, effectively uses reverse motion
The Hills Are Alive by Gregg Biermann (2005) An iconic scene from "The Sound of Music" is transformed through a contrapuntal progression of split screen effects. The resulting mosaic reveals haunting melodies and reverberating dissonance.
Cibo Matto "Sugar Water" Music Video by Michel Gondry (1995) An interesting use of the implosion of time/space and splitting the picture frame to tell two seemingly separate stories.
Grey Video by Ramon & Pedro (2004) A mashup music video that combines a simulated TV broadcast of a Beatles performance from Hard Day's Night with a Jay-Z performance.
Fight Club Ikea Catalogue Scene by David Fincher (1999) This augmented reality scene marks an extra-diegetic moment in the narrative of Fight Club.