The V&A’s postmodernism exhibition (curated by my teachers – you can tell I don’t get out much) closed this week. Some belated musings…
Following the ascendancy of Lady Gaga, and the opening years of our achingly familiar economic apocalypse, the exhibition was well timed. We are struggling on as the world we grew up with collapses around us, and we’ve turned once again to quotation as the building blocks for our sterile, virtual spaces of distraction. In fact, in the social media age, quotation isn’t just a creative strategy, but a behaviour in which we all engage through ‘social sharing’ and retweeting.
I’m getting my kicks lately off canv.as (check out /bois/, a group for sharing images of androgynous and butch female-bodied people). There, quotation and layering are the order of the day, although “re-posts” are not welcomed but trolled. Original content is demanded, but successful OC is inevitably simply a new way of quoting and layering the familiar. Like the ‘cancer’ of Canv.as’s homeland, degradation and reproduction are paradoxically entwined, at once both seductive and revolting.
No wonder, then, that I’m confronted with a whole host of new “post-” all around me. A poster on Brompton Road advertises “post-pantomime”, the Guardian declares our current world “post-digital”… I haven’t yet read anything labelling cupcakes and ‘Keep calm’ as ‘post-’, perhaps because it’s too easy an observation to make; a post-ambition return to an idyll of quiet forbearance, a post-digital attempt to give up on the fast-paced lifestyle that failed to come into existence for unemployed graduates, a re-post of modernism in the form of ironic subversions of the housewife and endless mobilisations of the sterile, paternal face of Gill Sans.
Edit: Copyblogger just informed me that I live in a post-panda world. I don’t even… never mind.
If the present will be differentiated from the postmodern past by future historians, they might consider calling the years since 2008 the re-post era. Everything is burning, and we have few ideas about how to save the world, let alone the energy to attempt it. The shaky economy is unable to foster growth in much, other than the networked digitisation of memory and the monetisation of performative iteration; social networks and social games. With no original content to remake the world, we have become extremely proficient at reposting.