Jameson, Frederic · Postmodernism and Consumer Society

Jameson argues that with postmodernism comes an erosion of the boundaries between high and low culture in reaction to the high modernism of the institution. With the emergence of consumer society and late capitalism following WWII, comes two features of postmodernism – pastiche and schizophrenia.

Pastiche is a humorless combination of different style and by schizophrenia Jameson means the breakdown of meaning between signifiers and the signified. Pastiche has no individuality or uniqueness. There is nothing new anymore. Jameson mentions nostalgia films that are a simulacra of the past, a breakdown of time and history. When signifiers lose the signified, they become merely images and add to the increasingly material-obsessed culture.

The author concludes his argument saying that because we have forgotten the past, “a disappearance of a sense of history” (p.143), we no longer remember the real and this schizophrenia leads to a perpetual present. This leads him to question the critical value of postmodern art. Postmodernism, then, can be seen as the transformation of reality into images with no truth or meaning, and the fragmentation of time and the creation of a perpetual present.

Jameson’s extreme argument against postmodern art is very depressing, although his ideas of time and reality are very captivating for someone who believes time exists in a more fluid state. His essay exposes how capitalism fuels the over inflation of select artists and the overall absurdity of the art market and its prospecting of young, emerging artists. If everything has already been done before, how is my art different? What do I have to say? Where will I be situated in art history?

How is Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho (1993) different from a youtube video of Cher blinking for 10 minutes? Gallery context or undiscovered postmodern pop art?

Why do we value certain types of art over others? Tom of Finland is now considered “fine art”. So what changed exactly?

Why are ceramicists not as valued as painters? Ann Agee’s Lake Michigan Bathroom (1992) explores exactly why we value certain objects and things over others and the relation to class, gender, and domestic spaces.

Fashion was what got me first interested in art and although there have always been crossovers , I still feel that it is undervalued as an art form.

When I was about 10 years old I saw the movie Serial Mom (1994) introducing me to the wonderfully postmodern John Waters whose movies have continued to make me laugh and inspire. The separation between his work created for the masses, his literary endeavors, and his “fine art” is really interesting to see.