A few final, summarizing points on the discussion of the last two days...

NOTE: If you're just getting to this, you might want to start with the post from 2.04.04 below.

The emergence of a postmodern register in contemporary writing and speaking about art has spread to dominate the ways in which we textually or orally frame the artwork we encounter. Many of the words of postmodernity have been invented or mutated from their original meaning by the authors of their theories --- words like, abject, text, interdiscursivity, simulacra, etc. These words have gained legitimacy as postmodern theory has come to dominate academic disciplines concerned with cultural studies via the node to node travel and replication of them within those social networks (much like the spreading of viral DNA [1] [2] [3] [4] from host to host; everyone connected by the network eventually gets sick).

Eventually, the sickness spreads into other networks or fields of relations over time, like the spreading of disease from continent to continent; students indoctrinated (inoculated) with the postmodern register travel from the ivory tower and inhabit various nodal positions in other fields/organizations such as galleries, museums, art magazines, auction houses, etc. In these new “bodies” or areas of the network, the viral language continues its replication, gaining legitimacy in those spaces as well. In any field, legitimacy is access to acquiring power, or cultural capital that improves your position within the network. Thus, commanding the postmodern rhetoric as a curator or writer grants you status in the art world.

However, as examined over the last two days, the language of these theories can deteriorate and lose the substantive tie to their original (often complex) theories. The words become vacant, and fail to communicate any tangible, useful data; “it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Thus, the node-to-node transmission of data fails as well. Instead of communicating information, the words convey a thin veil of institutional legitimacy, some bit of power that elevates the object to which it is describing, the artwork and artist’s own place and status within the network. The words that constitute the postmodern register become simulacra to themselves, signifying nothing.

NOTE: Here I’ve flagrantly used a theory to describe the crisis-like condition of theory in language. Inevitably, the snake eating its own tail rears its ugly head in argument, if only to say, isn’t this all just useless?? An awareness of your own role in reproducing this language is absolutely necessary.

And so a potential conclusion/consequence?? Maybe the individuals within the network will rally against the inoculation of this non-communicative way of speaking about the objects that give the institutions of the art world its meaning (and jobs). In an outcry, we might try to kill off this type of language, attempting to destroy it by eventually getting at its roots in academia. Maybe. Regardless, it is the power afforded by its institutional legitimacy that must be thwarted.

But what would be next? Who will write the new language? What will it sound like? How will it feel? What will it communicate and how?

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