Re: [-empyre-] forward from Christiane Paul: Is Modernity our Antiquity? - introductory comments

I find myself working to define under which umbrella we walk.Often, in analyzing work, even most new media work, I see strands and strains of so many previous eras/movements/ideologies, all of which have become a part of us, whether we acknowledge it.

I can almost convince myself we can call it (it being now) hypermodernity; however, this is not firm in my mind (not with so many in the world unconnected, disconnected, completely hyperless) or post-postmodernity(a term that drives the writer in me crazy). Unable to put a finger on where we are, so to speak, I shall enjoy this month. By the way, I very much enjoyed the sedition discussion.


----- Original Message ----- From: "Christina McPhee" <>
To: "soft_skinned_space" <>
Sent: Wednesday, March 01, 2006 6:40 PM
Subject: [-empyre-] forward from Christiane Paul: Is Modernity our Antiquity? - introductory comments

From: <> Date: March 1, 2006 3:21:37 PM PST To: <> Subject: Is Modernity our Antiquity? - introductory comments

I must admit that Roger Beurgel's statement on the Documenta topic
for March -- "Is Modernity our Antiquity?" (for reference, I posted
it again at the end of this message) -- came as a bit of a surprise
to me. That we might still be operating under the specter of
modernity to the extent suggested by his statement hadn't really
occurred to me. Granted, any society is shaped by its history of
philosophy, art, science etc. -- which, together, shape culture
(another contested term I guess) -- and no "movement" or school of
thought is ever entirely surpassed but survives in responses to and
modification of itself. Nevertheless, I had been (mostly) operating
on the assumption that contemporary culture is struggling to define
its current climate of "whatever came after postmodernity." Then
again, this is what makes the "modernity as our antiquity" question

I don't think one can use the term "modernity" without being very
specific about the context in which it is framed. "Modernity" and
"Modern" describes a broad range of periods, starting between 1870 -
1910 and reaching into the 60s, depending on context. (My original
background is in literature where the understanding of modernity
covers a shorter time frame and differs quite substantially from the
concept of modernity in art.)

If one checks Wikipedia, one finds a dizzying array of (sometimes
contradictory) classifiers for defining aspects of modernity,
including: "Bureaucracy, Disenchantment of the world,
Rationalization, Secularization, Alienation, Commodification,
Decontextualization, Individualism, Subjectivism, Linear Progression,
Objectivism, Universalism, Reductionism, Chaos, Mass society,
Industrial society, Homogenization, Unification, Hybridization,
Diversification, Democratization, Centralization, Hierarchical
organization, Mechanization, Totalitarianism, and so on."

Some of them are still applicable to contemporary culture, even
though their meaning has changed today (Commodification,
Hybridization, Diversification etc.); others seem to be less
pertinent (Centralization, Hierarchical organization etc.) or at
least one would need to acknowledge that there is a pronounced
tension between centralization / decentralization, hierarchical /
networked organization in the age of information technologies.

So what is the relationship between modernity and present societies?
Are we still living in late modernity, a variant of it
(hypermodernity), or a sub-category (post-postmodernity)?

We are looking at an increased movement of goods, capital, people,
and information (that has resulted in both diversification and
various symptoms of "globalization"). At the same time, parts of the
world seem to be in a phase of returning to pre-Enlightenment stages
of de-secularization and the irrational. I don't think that these
tensions and splits can be still adequately captured by the poles of
modernity / antiquity.

All of my work -- as a curator, teacher, writer etc. -- evolves
around "new media" and information technologies, and I can't say that
contemporary artistic practice in this field comfortably fits under
an umbrella of late or hypermodernity. To be discussed…

Roger Beurgel, the artistic director of Documenta 12, has posted this
new formulation of the Documenta topic for March,
"Is Modernity our Antiquity?

This is the first question. It is fairly obvious that modernity, or
modernity’s fate, exerts a profound influence on contemporary
artists. Part of that attraction may stem from the fact that no one
really knows if modernity is dead or alive. It seems to be in ruins
after the totalitarian catastrophes of the 20th century (the very
same catastrophes to which it somehow gave rise). It seems utterly
compromised by the brutally partial application of its universal
demands (liberté, égalité, fraternité) or by the simple fact that
modernity and coloniality went, and probably still go, hand in hand.
Still, people’s imaginations are full of modernity’s visions and
forms (and I mean not only Bauhaus but also arch-modernist mind-sets
transformed into contemporary catchwords like “identity” or
“culture”). In short, it seems that we are both outside and inside
modernity, both repelled by its deadly violence and seduced by its
most immodest aspiration or potential: that there might, after all,
be a common planetary horizon for all the living and the dead._______________________________________________
empyre forum

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