Postmodernism describes a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture and criticism which marked a departure from modernism. While encompassing a broad range of ideas, postmodernism is typically defined by an attitude of skepticism, irony or rejection toward grand narratives, ideologies and various tenets of universalism, including objective notions of reason, human nature, social progress, moral universalism, absolute truth, and objective reality. Instead, postmodern thinkers may assert that claims to knowledge and truth are products of social, historical or political discourses or interpretations, and are therefore contextual or socially constructed. Accordingly, postmodern thought is broadly characterized by tendencies to epistemological and moral relativism, pluralism, irreverence and self-referentiality.
The term postmodernism has been applied both to the era following modernity and to a host of movements within that era (mainly in art, music, and literature) that reacted against tendencies in modernism. Postmodernism includes skeptical critical interpretations of culture, literature, art, philosophy, history, linguistics, economics, architecture, fiction, feminist theory and literary criticism. Postmodernism is often associated with schools of thought such as deconstruction and post-structuralism.
Origins of term
The term postmodern was first used around the 1880s. John Watkins Chapman suggested “a Postmodern style of painting” as a way to depart from French Impressionism J. M. Thompson, in his 1914 article in The Hibbert Journal (a quarterly philosophical review), used it to describe changes in attitudes and beliefs in the critique of religion, writing: “The raison d’être of Post-Modernism is to escape from the double-mindedness of modernism by being thorough in its criticism by extending it to religion as well as theology to Catholic feeling as well as to Catholic tradition.”
In 1921 and 1925, postmodernism had been used to describe new forms of art and music In 1942 H. R. Hays described it as a new literary form. However, as a general theory for a historical movement it was first used in 1939 by Arnold J. Toynbee: “Our own Post-Modern Age has been inaugurated by the general war of 1914–1918”.
In 1949 the term was used to describe a dissatisfaction with modern architecture and led to the postmodern architecture movement, and a response to the modernist architectural movement known as the International Style. Postmodernism in architecture was initially marked by a re-emergence of surface ornament, reference to surrounding buildings in urban settings, historical reference in decorative forms (eclecticism), and non-orthogonal angles.
Peter Drucker suggested the transformation into a post-modern world happened between 1937 and 1957 (when he was writing). He described an as yet “nameless era” which he characterized as a shift to conceptual world based on pattern, purpose, and process rather than mechanical cause, outlined by four new realities: the emergence of Educated Society, the importance of international development, the decline of the nation state, and the collapse of the viability of non-Western cultures.
In 1971, in a lecture delivered at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, Mel Bochner described “post-modernism” in art as having started with Jasper Johns, “who first rejected sense-data and the singular point-of-view as the basis for his art, and treated art as a critical investigation.”
More recently, Walter Truett Anderson described postmodernism as belonging to one of four typological world views, which he identifies as either (a) Postmodern-ironist, which sees truth as socially constructed, (b) Scientific-rational, in which truth is found through methodical, disciplined inquiry, (c) Social-traditional, in which truth is found in the heritage of American and Western civilization, or (d) Neo-Romantic, in which truth is found through attaining harmony with nature and/or spiritual exploration of the inner self.
Postmodernist ideas in philosophy and the analysis of culture and society expanded the importance of critical theory and has been the point of departure for works of literature, architecture, and design, as well as being visible in marketing/business and the interpretation of history, law, and culture, starting in the late 20th century. These developments—re-evaluation of the entire Western value system (love, marriage, popular culture, shift from industrial to service economy) that took place since the 1950s and 1960s, with a peak in the Social Revolution of 1968 — are described with the term “postmodernity”,as opposed to Postmodernism, a term referring to an opinion or movement. Postmodernism has also been used interchangeably with the term post-structuralism out of which postmodernism grew; a proper understanding of postmodernism or doing justice to the postmodernist concept demands an understanding of the post-structuralist movement and the ideas of its advocates. Post-structuralism resulted similarly to postmodernism by following a time of structuralism. It is characterized by new ways of thinking through structuralism, contrary to the original form. “Postmodernist” describes part of a movement; “Postmodern” places it in the period of time since the 1950s, making it a part of contemporary history.
- Martin Heidegger
- Jacques Derrida
- Michel Foucault
- Jean-François Lyotard
- Richard Rorty
- Jean Baudrillard
- Fredric Jameson
- Douglas Kellner
Influence in art – Graphic Design
Postmodern designers were in the beginning stages of what we now refer to as “graphic design”. They created works beginning in the 1970s without any set adherence to rational order and formal organization. They also seemed to entirely pay no attention to traditional conventions such as legibility. Another characteristic of postmodern graphic design is that “retro, techno, punk, grunge, beach, parody, and pastiche were all conspicuous trends. Each had its own sites and venues, detractors and advocates”. Yet, while postmodern design did not consist of one unified graphic style, the movement was an expressive and playful time for designers who searched for more and more ways to go against the system. Key influential postmodern graphic designers include Wolfgang Weingart, April Greiman, Tibor Kalman, and Jamie Reid