Why we have not yet come out of the Post-Modern era


In the 1950s and 1960s, the US and western Europe rose out of the ruin of World War II, and the capitalist societies were about to reach the height of their prosperity. For example, the average annual increase in the U.S Growth National Product (GNP) was over 3% between 1948 and 1959, and in 1950, the U.S manufacturing output accounted for 62% of all the major industrial countries combined (Rosenberg, 2002). As many civilisations had previously demonstrated, the economic ascendance was eventually translated into the proliferation of American culture, and any art appearing in Europe at that time, which was derivative of it, was thus the manifestation of what Adorno and Horkheimer (1944) called the “culture industry.” Around this time, in the context of contemporary art, the word “post-modernism” emerged. The French thinker Francois Lyotard, the American scholar Frederic Jameson, and the architecture critic Jurgen Habermas frequently used the term. 

First, people thought that the art world entered a new phase in the wake of Modernist art, such as Impressionism peddled by the likes of Monet, Manet, Seurat and Signac, and geometric abstract paintings of Mondrian and Malevich. Modern art often vaguely refers to kinds of art that appeared after Modernity emerged. Modernity was born out of Enlightenment underpinned by scientific advancement that allowed the West to wake up from the religious dogma that had constrained the Western world for many centuries prior to then. Hence, the Impressionist artists that painted “plein air” seemed to starkly contrast how painters painted before then, although the old-masters also painted outdoors. Impressionism was ensued by various other art movements such as Surrealism, Futurism, Dada, Cubism, and so forth that challenged the pre-existent ideas of what art was. 

After the optimism of Modernity was punctuated with two bloody world wars, the world entered a new phase, that is, the third world war, which was ideological in nature. Then enters the term post-modernism into the picture. As it has always been the case, art became the amplifier of a narrative that underpined the society of a time. 

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