Friday, February 15, 2008

The Pseudomodernist Condition



Is 'Pseudomodernism' the cultural logic of Blairism? Such is one of the possible implications of this (surprisingly good) piece in Philosophy Now, via Voyou. Although certain elements of postmodernism still have a terrible grip (students considering anything remotely politicised to be 'judgmental', general flip ahistorical cynicism, nudging and winking etc), the specific aesthetics have died a rather quiet death, particularly in architecture, the area in which the term was coined in the first place. In London the last two postmodernist buildings were finished in the mid-late 90s - the horrendous 'contextual' fortress of Porticullis House opposite Parliament, Terry Farrell's appalling Mi6 Ziggurat - and since then a Modernism of one sort or another has been dominant, perhaps because the grim statism of the aforementioned buildings left a Modernism able to do what pomo supposedly did (playfulness, attractiveness) rather better. Pseudomodernism shouldn't be regarded as some sort of victory for Modernism: instead, it was born directly out of Postmodernism. Consider the career of Terry Farrell and Partners since the 1980s. First, the allegedly witty TVAM (now apparently disused and ruined) - then buildings which conjoured up prestigious real estate out of thin air and in the process said an enormous fuck you to the public sphere: Alban Gate and Charing Cross station, which piled corporate space atop wide roads and rail platforms - and through Mi6, ending up with a very different kind of building for the security state.



Farrell's Home Office Headquarters is Pseudomodernism in excelsis. With its combination of Mendelsohn curves and Van Doesburg patterns with desperate-to-please colours (furnished, as per the Blairite fetish for the 'creative industries' by Liam Gillick) it provides a calm, ostentatiously friendly face for the bang-em-up-and-send-em-off-on-a-'rendition' brigade. Similarly, all of those new towers (named, in infantile, Jencksian style, after their alleged resemblances to Gherkins or Helter-Skelters) make none of the eclectic gestures and mashings together of different historical styles that characterised pomo - and stone has mostly been replaced by glass. Psuedomodernism is the Modernism of the city academy, a Modernism without the politics, without the utopianism, without any conception of the polis - a Modernism that conceals rather than reveals, Modernism as a shell. This return of Modernist good taste in the New Labour version of Neoliberalism has turned architectural Postmodernism, surprisingly, into a vanishing mediator. The keystones, references, in-jokes and 'fun' of 80s-90s corporate architecture were the face of neoliberalism's most naked, brutal phase, for the time when it didn't dress itself up in social concern. In the passage from Norman Tebbit to Caroline Flint, the aesthetic of social Darwinism has become cooler, more tasteful, less ostentatiously crass and reactionary, matching the rhetoric.



The elements of Pseudomodernism mentioned in Kirby's piece imply that Pseudomodernism is an operative aesthetics. If Postmodernism was spectacle as dazzlement, then the Pseudomodernist artefact makes absolutely no sense without the direct participation of the spectator. Pornography in its various forms is used, Big Brother is Warholian catatonia without the telephoned voting, and the paradigm is extended across all those talent shows that Gordon Brown thinks are such a fine example of meritocracy. Think also of MySpace and blogs as examples of forms based purely on the direct participation of the user. If there is a trace of an older Modernism here, it's a surprising one. There's a definite hint, in Pseudomodernist Operativism (it's neologism day, play along) of Brecht-Benjamin-LEF's conception of factography, the operative word, Productivism. In a piece I wrote on this a while ago (a rewritten version is in the forthcoming book) I made this point, that MySpace is a sort of bastard descendant of the 'two-way newspaper' of the Five Year Plans. As Kirby rightly points out, what has been created using these forms is mostly staggeringly vacuous and egotistical. Yet rather than using this as an excuse and taking refuge in print and the peer-reviewed journal, we should be in there using these new apparatuses, filling them with a new content rather than the usual banalities.

23 Comments:

Blogger Jasper Bernes said...

Hmm. . . I didn't really find Kirby's piece very useful, or knowledgeable even. He doesn't seem to have much hold on postmodernism as it was originally formulated, antagonistically or triumphantly. His claims about participatory forms having superseded postmodernism sound like nothing less than Baudrillard, in the 80s, writing about Disneyland. Or Jameson on the Bonaventure hotel. It's hard to see how anything is dead in that sense.

It is true, however, that the cultural forms originally designated as postmodernism had a somewhat limited extension. But that doesn't mean that such forms aren't part of a larger cultural formation. The problem with the discourse in the 70s and 80s is that it focused on the most extreme and hateful examples, rather than trying to totalize the entirety of cultural production--good, bad and indifferent. Admittedly, Jameson sometimes does this.

7:15 pm  
Blogger roger said...

Okay, I'm too much the editor not to ask: Psuedo, and not Pseudo? Is there some connotation I'm missing here, like artificial suede or something? Is this a spell check stutter or the real thing? OMG, IT'S A POSTMODERN QUESTION! But how can I not ask?

7:16 pm  
Blogger Jasper Bernes said...

Excuse me: . . . Baudrillard, in the 70s . . .

7:18 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Roger - oh damn, that's always something I misspell...

Jasper, I think you're right, and what I was getting at was that this marks a particular morphing of Postmodernism rather than anything else. But a more useful term, maybe, avoiding the particular semiotic variants that the word evokes: Farrell's architecture for instance.

8:53 pm  
Blogger Murphy said...

TVAM isn't disused, just dilapidated.
and shit.

3:30 pm  
Blogger Murphy said...

Also, there is a small piece of the budget in any large development that has to go on 'public art', very often designed by one of the architects to save time, rather than phoning up a 'public' artist. This often ends up being nothing more than some LEDs under the pavement or something similarly vacuous.

An architecture student said to me recently- 'my work is post-postmodernist', and that, along with this essay, is BS. Surely a great irony of postmodernism is that it negates the idea of post-anything?

I suggest 'Pseudomodernism' in the architectural sense is better thought of as 'polite modernism' or 'lifestyle modernism', which is of course a way of aestheticising (read depoliticising) modernism, which is Pomo thinking through and through.

3:50 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

'Pseudomodernism' in the architectural sense is better thought of as 'polite modernism' or 'lifestyle modernism', which is of course a way of aestheticising (read depoliticising) modernism, which is Pomo thinking through and through.

Sure: good taste modernism, perhaps. I always rather liked the coinage 'idea modernism'. But the pseudo-' prefix strikes me as less reducible to patrician disdain. It diassociates it from 'our' modernism. But as I think I made clear, it should be seen as a version of pomo rather than its supersession.

5:08 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

oops, 'ikea modernism'...

The reason I liked the piece - which is no great shakes theoretically - is that it made clear just how dated the pomo literary canon is by now, and suggested that particular versions of pomo, mainly literary (as ever, literature folk are not conscious of their own irrelevance) are played out.

But for quite different reasons, I liked the term politically, because of the analogue with Blairism. It might not look like Nigel Lawson or Michael Graves, but it is, in its essence, and the appearance of a) modernism or b) social democracy is illusory, and needs to be unmasked.

8:31 pm  
Blogger it said...

I was about to also like the phrase 'idea modernism', until you said you meant to write something else.

I think I still like it.

But 'd' is nowhere near 'k' on the keyboard, so I wonder how you mistyped it. Perhaps you meant it after all. Yes, I think perhaps you did.

11:17 pm  
Blogger Murphy said...

Also, expanding slightly, what's the real difference between 'iDea modernism' now and Art Deco in the '30s, I wonder?

10:41 am  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Well, Douglas, as you know I'm a fan/apologist of all things deco. I would say that ikea modernism, in the sense of the ubiquitous luxury flat, is totally alien to deco/moderne because of its overwhelming beigeness and tastefulness. The interesting thing abt deco is the tastelessness, the glamour and superfluousness, which is often more interesting than yer proper modernism. I.e, I'd take most 1930s Odeons over the work of Maxwell Fry, facade-deep though they were.

But as for idea modernism, by which we could mean either the Jencksian 'fun' modernism of 'Ken's towers' or maybe the 'learning can be fun and a bit like business' model of the Idea Store - that has much more in common with deco, in the concern for the memorable image, the populism, etc. That's one of the things that makes it the rather less offensive of the two options, maybe...

4:45 pm  
Blogger Charles Holland said...

i'm a bit torn here but in general i think it striking that architects are convinced that there is a relationship between form (what things look like) and social or progressive content. post modernism is therefore forever linked to city office blocks and M15 headquarters as that is shorthand for 'bad, sinister, thatherite' when it was equally applied to liberal programes such as art galleries, housing and town halls. a sentimental, or simply taste based, affection for the forms of 1920's modernism does NOT make you a social radical. ikea modernism is bland and uninteresting true, but the radical shapes of contemporary architecture are equally unable to carry radical content i you ask me. visual radicalism i can handle and my split between content and form is used here expediently, but don't claim that pediments or giant egg cups are vacuous please. and i LIKE tv am. it's very deco.

10:30 am  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

aha, i was hoping from a response from you, for obvious reasons! ok then...

post modernism is therefore forever linked to city office blocks and M15 headquarters as that is shorthand for 'bad, sinister, thatherite' when it was equally applied to liberal programes such as art galleries, housing and town halls.

'socially progressive pomo'= that french new town in Brazil, I should think. But 'equally applied' is tricky here: Hillingdon town hall and lots of Barratt Homes maybe, but on the whole it was a style which came to the fore under neoliberalism, and hence was mainly used for neoliberal purposes (like mass spec housing, trading floors etc - and the expansion of galleries and museums in the 80s is misread as 'liberal'). i don't think pediments are 'vacuous': on the contrary, they evoked the glib populism and smug anti-intellectualism of the period pretty nicely. any direct style-epoch-politics link is going to have its lacunae, but i think pomo as a thatcherite aesthetic is really not too large a leap...

a sentimental, or simply taste based, affection for the forms of 1920's modernism does NOT make you a social radical.

well, this much is clear, and was my point all along. the home office doesn't stop being illiberal because it's in a building that nicks off erich mendelsohn, any more than mi6 is illiberal because it looks like timmy mallett doing lev rudnev.

12:28 pm  
Blogger Charles Holland said...

well of course i refrained from commenting at first to avoid being too predictable but the other comments got my gander up.

of course architectural forms have meaning 'outside' traditional architectural discourse, so in that sense they might become meaningfully connected to an era (thatcherite or otherwise) but Terragni was a paid up fascist and that doesn't seem to worry most of the architects who flagrantly and unimaginatively rip him off today.

it would be absurd to claim that a building such as the clore gallery extension by stirling is somehow connected to thatcherism or neo liberalism. perhaps you should try. you might equally claim (especially given their backgrounds) that ABC or The Human League are Thatcherite and that is obviously silly. or indeed constructivsm and stalinism.

and why is it always glib populism? poor old populism. its very unpopular in actuality. funny. why not deep populism? you know. just for once. intellectualism doesn't always mean taking on all the tropes of the intelligentsia.

but anyway, i enjoy your stuff so why quibble eh!

3:05 pm  
Blogger owen hatherley said...

Likewise, and point taken on the populism.

But I like a challenge, so the reasons why Clore gallery is a thatcherite building (i am only three-quarters joking here) - well, for one thing the fact that it's the Clore Gallery: the phenomenon of entire wings of galleries being named after their plutocratic benefactors is very much an 80s phenomenon, all those spaces named after sundry de Bottons, Ondaatjes and so forth; Chin Tao-Wu's book Privatising Culture is very good on this process, usually a consequence of a) the decline in public art funding under Thatcher and Reagan and b) art collecting as tax avoidance. Obviously Stirling wasn't directly dictated to by these conditions, but the forms he was using from Stuttgart onwards had this 'hey kids, art is fun and not statist and dull!' element which pandered to a certain 80s jollying up of forbidding, frequently critical art into the atrium-dressing we know and love today. So not a Thatcherite building as such, but pretty inextricably tangled up with it.

The thing with architecture, as any fule kno, is that clean hands are kind of tricky: the power that builds, builds. The Human League or ABC (actually Heaven 17 would be perfect here for their mock-corporate pose) were able to be both critical of and part of the 80s' conjuncture in a way that architecture, as object, isn't really able to do. But of course I'm not saying that any given example of pomo is inherently neoliberal, that would be silly - though the connections are really pretty frequent.

(also the liking of Eisenman for Terragni is not particularly inconsistent of him, cf this hysterical Archinect interview)

1:23 pm  
Blogger Charles Holland said...

i take my hat off to you on the clore gallery. not a bad attempt! i saw the worst case of benafactorism in america at the new museum where even the escape stair had a benefactors dedication. but i still don't see why a building like the clore is dismissed as a 'jollying' up thatcherism. the problem is that once again, the forms are meant to have this immutable connection with a system of fixed meaning and therefore will always mean the same thing and will always be verboten to use. which makes them all the more appealing to anyone trying to resist the hedgemony of 'tasteful' modernism. a tactic of appropriation very familiar to the modernist avant garde of course. all the terms describing po mo are all pejorative. 'jollying' up, glib populism etc. how about the case for the staatsgalerie as tragic ruin, or eloquent articulation of cultural difference? why is it jolly? i see no jollification, only formal dissonance.

however i thought Alan Kirby's article a bit odd and am moved to respond a bit more at length.

incidentally i share your enthusiasm for dutch brickwork particularly michael de clerk who's work is wonderful and strange. and i bet you loved our wimby! project at that conference!

7:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,按摩棒,跳蛋,充氣娃娃,情境坊歡愉用品,情趣用品,情人節禮物,情惑用品性易購,A片

免費A片,AV女優,美女視訊,情色交友,免費AV,色情網站,辣妹視訊,美女交友,色情影片,成人影片,成人網站,A片,H漫,18成人,成人圖片,成人漫畫,情色網,日本A片,免費A片下載,性愛

A片,色情,成人,做愛,情色文學,A片下載,色情遊戲,色情影片,色情聊天室,情色電影,免費視訊,免費視訊聊天,免費視訊聊天室,一葉情貼圖片區,情色,情色視訊,免費成人影片,視訊交友,視訊聊天,視訊聊天室,言情小說,愛情小說,AIO,AV片,A漫,av dvd,聊天室,自拍,情色論壇,視訊美女,AV成人網,色情A片,SEX

情趣用品,A片,免費A片,AV女優,美女視訊,情色交友,色情網站,免費AV,辣妹視訊,美女交友,色情影片,成人網站,H漫,18成人,成人圖片,成人漫畫,成人影片,情色網


情趣用品,A片,免費A片,日本A片,A片下載,線上A片,成人電影,嘟嘟成人網,成人,成人貼圖,成人交友,成人圖片,18成人,成人小說,成人圖片區,微風成人區,成人文章,成人影城,情色,情色貼圖,色情聊天室,情色視訊,情色文學,色情小說,情色小說,臺灣情色網,色情,情色電影,色情遊戲,嘟嘟情人色網,麗的色遊戲,情色論壇,色情網站,一葉情貼圖片區,做愛,性愛,美女視訊,辣妹視訊,視訊聊天室,視訊交友網,免費視訊聊天,美女交友,做愛影片

av,情趣用品,a片,成人電影,微風成人,嘟嘟成人網,成人,成人貼圖,成人交友,成人圖片,18成人,成人小說,成人圖片區,成人文章,成人影城,愛情公寓,情色,情色貼圖,色情聊天室,情色視訊,情色文學,色情小說,情色小說,色情,寄情築園小遊戲,情色電影,aio,av女優,AV,免費A片,日本a片,美女視訊,辣妹視訊,聊天室,美女交友,成人光碟

情趣用品.A片,情色,情色貼圖,色情聊天室,情色視訊,情色文學,色情小說,情色小說,色情,寄情築園小遊戲,情色電影,色情遊戲,色情網站,聊天室,ut聊天室,豆豆聊天室,美女視訊,辣妹視訊,視訊聊天室,視訊交友網,免費視訊聊天,免費A片,日本a片,a片下載,線上a片,av女優,av,成人電影,成人,成人貼圖,成人交友,成人圖片,18成人,成人小說,成人圖片區,成人文章,成人影城,成人網站,自拍,尋夢園聊天室

5:25 am  
Blogger sex said...

免費視訊聊天,辣妹視訊,視訊交友網,美女視訊,視訊交友,視訊交友90739,成人聊天室,視訊聊天室,視訊聊天,視訊聊天室,情色視訊,情人視訊網,視訊美女,一葉情貼圖片區,免費視訊聊天室,免費視訊,ut聊天室,聊天室,豆豆聊天室,尋夢園聊天室,聊天室尋夢園,影音視訊聊天室

威而柔,自慰套,自慰套,SM,充氣娃娃,充氣娃娃,潤滑液,飛機杯,按摩棒,跳蛋,性感睡衣,威而柔,自慰套,自慰套,SM,充氣娃娃,充氣娃娃,潤滑液,飛機杯,按摩棒,跳蛋,性感睡衣
情惑用品性易購,情境坊歡愉用品

色情遊戲,寄情築園小遊戲,情色文學,一葉情貼圖片區,情境坊歡愉用品,情惑用品性易購,情人視訊網,辣妹視訊,情色交友,成人論壇,情色論壇,愛情公寓,情色,舊情人,情色貼圖,色情聊天室,色情小說,做愛,做愛影片,性愛
情境坊歡愉用品,情惑用品性易購,aio交友愛情館,一葉情貼圖片區,情趣用品

徵信社,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣精品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,情趣用品

辣妹視訊,美女視訊,視訊交友網,視訊聊天室,視訊交友,視訊美女,免費視訊,免費視訊聊天

網拍設計,網頁設計

5:05 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

看房子,買房子,建商自售,自售,台北新成屋,台北豪宅,新成屋,豪宅,美髮儀器,美髮,儀器,髮型,EMBA,MBA,學位,EMBA,專業認證,認證課程,博士學位,DBA,PHD,在職進修,碩士學位,推廣教育,DBA,進修課程,碩士學位,網路廣告,關鍵字廣告,關鍵字,廣告,課程介紹,學分班,文憑,牛樟芝,段木,牛樟菇,日式料理, 台北居酒屋,燒肉,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,台北結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,造型系列,學位,牛樟芝,腦磷脂,磷脂絲胺酸,SEO,婚宴,捷運,學區,美髮,儀器,髮型,牛樟芝,腦磷脂,磷脂絲胺酸,看房子,買房子,建商自售,自售,房子,捷運,學區,台北新成屋,台北豪宅,新成屋,豪宅,學位,碩士學位,進修,在職進修, 課程,教育,學位,證照,mba,文憑,學分班,網路廣告,關鍵字廣告,關鍵字,SEO,关键词,网络广告,关键词广告,SEO,关键词,网络广告,关键词广告,SEO,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,居酒屋,燒烤,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,小套房,小套房,進修,在職進修,留學,證照

4:20 pm  
Blogger dinoibo said...

Sesli sohbet Sesli chat
Seslisohbet Seslichat
Sesli sohbet siteleri Sesli chat siteleri
Sesli Chat
Sohbet Sesli siteler
Sohbet siteleri Chat siteleri
Sohbet merkezi chat merkezi
Sesli merkezi sesli Sohbet merkezi
Sesli chat merkezi Sohbetmerkezi
Sesli Sohbet Sesli Chat
SesliSohbet Sesli chat siteleri
Sesli sohbet siteleri SesliChat
Sesli Sesli siteler
Seslimuhabbet sesli muhabbet
sesli sohbet sesli chat siteleri
sesli sohbet siteleri sesli chat
seslisohbet seslichat
seslikent sesli kent
sesli sohbet sesli sohbet siteleri
sesli chat sesli chat siteleri
seslisohbet seslichat

5:48 pm  
Blogger DiSCo said...

Really trustworthy blog. sesli Please keep updating with great posts like this one. sesli sohbet I have booked marked your site and am about to email it

to a few friends of mine that I know would enjoy reading.. sesli chat

12:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here what i found -> vision correction

12:21 pm  
Blogger ekle paylas said...

nice blog Thanks for sharing. voicesohbet was really very nice.
sesli chat siteleri sesli sohbet
sesli sohbet siteleri sesli chat
seslichat seslisohbet
sesli siteleri chat siteleri
sohbet siteleri sesli siteler
voice sohbet sesli sohbet siteleri
sesli sohbet seslisohbet
sohbet siteleri sesli chat siteleri
seslichat sesli chat
herkesburda herkes burda
sohbetmerkezi sohbetmerkezi

9:23 pm  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home