[-empyre-] Forward from Christiane Paul: Is Modernity ourAntiquity?- empyre and empire

Forwarded to the list in plain text,

From: <Christiane_Paul@whitney.org> Date: March 5, 2006 8:15:11 AM PST To: <empyre@lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au> Subject: [-empyre-]IsModernity ourAntiquity?- empyre and empire

I'm a little behind in plowing through the very interesting questions raised in this discussion and want to pick up on some of the basic ideas.

There seems to be a consensus that "modernity as an aspiration [is] detectable within our feeling of contemporaneity" and "it would be hard to ignore the accomplishments of Modernism and its continuing power to define the field of modernity in our vision" (I'm quoting Dirk).

At the same time, most people here seem to agree that neither the underlying concepts of modernity nor postmodernity can provide adequate foundations for capturing contemporaneity.

Andreas Huyssen, who has been referred to in previous posts, described postmodernism as a direct result of the "successes" of modernism (the quotes are his, and I assume that he meant to suggest that success can only be a contested term in this context). However, Huyssen saw postmodernism -- in relation to art, in particular -- not simply as a 'movement' that defined itself in relation to modernism and as a response to it (although the unfortunate prefix 'post' would suggest that): he understood it as general societal, cultural, and political space of problems that responded to an end of linearity or even teleology since the late 70s or 80s.

In literature, in particular, modernism was characterized by a notion of a loss of centers (a concept that was informed by various fields and influences, ranging from the experience of WWI to the rise of psychoanalysis and questioning of a unified "subject," and the theory of relativity). Subjectivity was one of the few remaining "centers" for an understanding of "reality." Postmodernism, on the other hand, embraced the loss of centers (the subject included) and engaged in its playful exploration. Not coincidentally, entropy seems to have been one of the favorite metaphors of postmodernism, "deconstructed" in multiple ways in Pynchon's novels (or his short story "Entropy"). One of the main failures of postmodernism seems to be its self- indulgence with regard to relativity -- without proposing at least a substitute for a more centered counter-model, a form of stability or master narrative that humanity seems to desire.

And perhaps this is where -- in addition to the remnants of modernity and postmodernity that still inform our contemporary vision -- certain strands of antiquity are revived, among them idealized visions of glory and grandeur or the notion of "empire," which according to Hardt and Negri is alive and well, and the new political order of globalization.

Are the networked and performative artistic practices in which many of us are involved a valuable counter-balance and at the same time the foundations of today's "empire"?


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