is postmodern art? Discuss one aspect with reference to one theory (Jameson or Lyotard) and one work of art.

is postmodern art? Discuss one aspect with reference to one theory (Jameson or Lyotard) and one work of art.
In the following I will analyze the postmodernism as the shift from the art of beauty to the art of narrative according the theory of Lyotard. As the example I want to discuss the Installation art and the work of Julie Tolentino, “A True Story Between Two People” (2005).


It is rather hard to provide the proper definition of postmodern and hard to locate it historically. This concept appears in a wide variety of areas of study and disciplines including literature, art, music, architecture, as well as sociology, technology and even fashion. Generally the post-modernism is the response to some aspect of modernism, but this definition is incomplete and too primitive. To understand the nature of postmodernism art it is worth to explore the works of Jameson and Lyotard, the most famous theorists of postmodernism. Thus, Lyotard tried to explain the postmodernism describing the most specific features.
In the following I will analyze the postmodernism as the shift from the art of beauty to the art of narrative according the theory of Lyotard. As the example I want to discuss the Installation art and the work of Julie Tolentino, “A True Story Between Two People” (2005). This work is the brilliant example of postmodernist art and can be discussed under the thesis of choice.

Postmodernism and modernism

Describing the nature of postmodern art it is necessary to pay an attention to its roots. As was stated above, the postmodern appeared as the reaction and response to the some aspect of modern art, which in return was the response to the art standards of Victorian age. Lyotard stated that postmodernism is the part of modern art. "A work can become modern only if it is first postmodern. Postmodernism is not modernism at its end but in the nascent state, and this state is constant" (p44).

Lyotard sees the difference between modern aesthetics & postmodern aesthetics in the aspect of unpresentable: "modern aesthetics is an aesthetic of the sublim, though a nostalgic one. It allows the unpresentable to be put forward only as the missing contents; but the form, because of its recognizable consistency, continues of offer to the reader or viewer matter for solace and pleasure" (p46).

Because of modernity, we discover the "'lack of reality' of reality, together with the invention of other realities." (p43)
Modernism and postmodernism follow the same ideas, reject the boundaries between low and high forms of art, reject the disctinctions of genres and rigid genre frames, favor the self-consciousness and reflexivity, simultaneity and fragmentation in narrative structure, the emphasis on the destructured, decentered, dehumanized subject and so on. The difference is in the attitude. Modern artists percept the fragmentation as the tragedy and collapse of ideas. Some of them provided the idea that only art can unite the meaning, which was lost and broken in most of modern life. The power of art can overcome what other human institutions fail to do. Postmodernism doesn’t mourn over the incoherence, provisionality, and fragmentation – just the opposite, it celebrates it. The artists of postmodern don’t strive to return the sense to the life and to the art, they aren’t willing to stick together the separate parts, they rather prefer playing with the fragments and with the absence of sense. To the postmodernism art isn’t longer what it means but what it does.

Lyotard in his work “Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?” compares the reflection of the sublime in the modern and postmodern art. The very term “sublime” came from the Kantian philosophy. According to Kant, sublime is the object of high moral, aesthetic, intellectual, or spiritual value, noble, exalted.
"The sublime evokes a contradictory feeling" (The Idea of the Postmodern: A History 133). It is ". . . a strong and equivocal emotion: it carries both pleasure and pain . . . in it pleasure derives from pain." (p43)

Lyotard explores the manifestation of the virtually infinite creative capacity in the avant-garde. His postmodern sublime is "an art of negation, a perpetual negation . . . based on a never-ending critique of representation that should contribute to the preservation of heterogeneity, of optimal dissensus . . . [it]does not lead towards a resolution; the confrontation with the unpresentable leads to radical openness" (The Idea of the Postmodern: A History 133).

Lyotard defines the Kantian sublime to be the legitimating deconstructive postmodernism. The works of famous German psychologist Sigmund Freud also have the significant impact on the works of Lyotard, thus, the latest operates with the terms ego and id. Creating the theoretical support to the postmodern art of surface, sensation and impact, Lyotard compares modernism with the primary processes of the unconscious, or id, and postmodern with the secondary process, or the ego. Thus, according to Lyotard, the postmodernists want to decode the libidinal energies with the language of the art. Their willing has led to some interesting consequences. Among them was the change in meaning of art criticism: it became something of an oxymoron, and the criticism turned to be the art supplement instead of art opposition. The art turned to be the participatory experience for the audience; especially it concerns such kinds of postmodern art as installation or performance. It means the deliverance of the primary processes of the unconscious for artist as well for his audience. The influence of postmodernism on the modern culture is very significant, but I’d like to stop on the thesis defined in the introduction: the shift to the art of narrative from the art of beauty. The beauty is no longer equates aesthetic value in the art of postmodernism Lyotard suggests the aesthetic of the sublime instead of beauty. The aim of the aesthetic of the sublime is to "present the unpresentable”. “Lyotard views the sublime as being a mixture of pleasure and pain, of pathos and grit, of sweetness and sin, of the cute and of the dirt. (Morador, 2007)” Thus, the sublime dominates on beauty in the art of postmodern.

The brilliant example of the postmodern art is the art of Installation. The installation art should be described from the different points of view. Generally it is the art of using images, sculpture materials and media to create something new and to depict the idea of the creator. One of the specific features of the installation art is the usage of space. First, the installation includes not only the object of art but the place of installation, surrounding physical space and objects. Second, the position of a viewer can vary, for example, sometimes an individual has the possibility to look on the object of art on the inside. Thus, the installation by Julie Tolentino, “A True Story Between Two People” (2005) looked like the glass cube, and the viewer was proposed to come inside and to dance on the grass floor. This possibility adds the element of sensory perception.

As the typical art of Postmodern, the installation art has its own strategy of examples, quotations and link to other sources. This strategy is related with the importance of message in the installation art. As was stated by Rob Summers, “Installation artists are more concerned with the presentation of their "message" than with the means used to achieve it (Summers, 2010)”. In the history of visual art usually the beauty, the aesthetic look had the highest priority. The shift to the message as the highest priority is a typical feature of postmodern art.


The postmodern art is the prolongation and the reaction on the art of modern. It has many common features and ideas with the modern art, but the main difference is the attitude. The postmodernists enjoys and celebrates the things that are tragedy for artists of modern. The art of installation is the kind of postmodern art, and the chosen installation, “A True Story Between Two People” by Julie Tolentino proves that the narrative and sensuality is more important that the beauty for the postmodernists artist.


Robert Summers, Art History & Visual Culture., accessed 09 July 2010
Rush, Michael, and Michael Rush. New Media in Art. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005. Print.
Morse, Margaret. 1990. “Video Installation Art: The Body, the Image, and the Space-in-Between.” Edited by Doug Hall and Sally Jo Fiffer. Illuminating Video: An Essential Guide to Video Art. New York: Aperture Press. Pp. 153-167.
Lyotard, Jean-François trans. Bennington, Geoff and Massumi, Brian The Postmodern Condition: A Report On Knowledge United Kingdom: Manchester University Press, 1984.
Lyotard, Jean-François "Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?" in The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.

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