Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunic. The Rasin Building, also known as the Dancing House or “Ginger and Fred,” Prague, Czech Republic. 1992-96.
Las Vegas, Nevada.
What characterizes postmodern architecture? The 1972 book Learning from Las Vegas argued that the visual complexity of Las Vegas, with its competing sign systems, created a condition of contradiction that was inclusive, not exclusive. How does the new spatial order epitomized by Las Vegas reflect the postmodern condition? How would you describe Robert Venturi’s “difficult whole”? Among the most itinerant artists of our increasingly nomadic postmodern era are its architects. Responding to competitions that will lend individual sites in the “world metropolis” a sense of being unique, they design monuments to national and corporate identity. How have architects responded to environmental concerns in their work? One useful way to define the “postmodern” is to create a list of words—like “uncertainty”—that define it. What other words help you to define the postmodern?
Frank Gehry. Gehry residence, Santa Monica, California. 1977-78.
Frank Gehry. Gehry residence, Santa Monica, California: Axonometric drawing. 1977-78.
Frank Gehry. Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain. 1997.
Frank Gehry. Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain. 1997.
Santiago Calatrava. Design for Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) station, World Trade Center Site, New York. 2004.
Renzo Piano. Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center, Nouméa, New Caledonia. 1991-98.
Emilio Ambasz. ACROS Building (Fukuoka Prefecturial International Hall), Fukuoka, Japan. 1989-95.
How does postmodern theory reflect pluralist thought? The roots of postmodern theory rest in the linguistic model of meaning established in French structuralism. How would you describe that linguistic model? How does the poststructuralist thought of Jacques Derrida build on and differ from Saussure’s example? How would you describe deconstruction as a philosophical methodology? Chaos theorists posit that biological and mathematical patterns that appear random, unstable, and disorderly, are actually parts of larger, more “difficult wholes.” How does the fractal geometry of Benoit Mandelbrot counter traditional Euclidean geometry? What is the butterfly effect? How has chaos theory helped us to understand the human body and begin to cure disease?
Herzog & de Meuron. The Bird’s Nest—Beijing National Stadium. 2004–08.
Zhang Hongtu. Bird’s Nest, in the Style of Cubism . 2008. 36" × 48”.
Benoit Mandelbrot. The Mandelbrot set.
How are pluralism and diversity reflected in art and literature? The postmodern sense of inclusiveness authorized a wide variety of experimentation in painting, often mediating between the competing and contradictory demands of realism and abstraction. How do artists like Gerhard Richter and Pat Steir approach this problem? Postmodern literature pursues meaning where meaning is always plural, multiplicitous, and fleeting— frustrating any kind of significant final answer. Multiple, contradictory centers of thought exist simultaneously and independently of one another. In fiction, a novel like Thomas Pynchon’s V . creates a world of uncertainty and ambiguity, similar to Paul Auster’s City of Glass , in which the line between fiction and reality totally collapses. How do poets like David Antin and John Ashbery approach the problem of meaning in their work? The mobility of modern artists has led many to feel they have multiple identities. How do artists like Chris Ofili and Yinka Shonibare mediate between their British training and their Nigerian roots? How does the work of Yasumasa Morimura collapse the boundaries between East and West, male and female? In the United States, the encounters of Hispanic with North American society, especially in California, led to political murals and theater. How does “Spanglish” reflect this encounter? In the late 1960s, the American Indian Movement (AIM) sought to restore power to Native American peoples, the plurality of whose cultures was itself enormous. How do artists like Jimmie Durham and David P. Bradley address the confrontation between native and Anglo cultures? Finally, how do Islamic artists like Shirin Neshat and Shahzia Sikander negotiate the boundaries between Islam and the West? Artists have also used new electronic media in creating new artistic spaces. Artists like Eleanor Antin make installations designed to be viewed for a specific length of time and then be dismantled. Bill Viola creates video installations that take advantage of the medium’s ability to evoke the world of dreams, memories, and reflections, and Viola’s especially immerses the viewer in the flow of time, the cycle of life and death. How do films like Peter Fischli and David Weiss’s The Way Things Go and Superflex’s Flooded McDonald’s address the contemporary historical moment? How do Pipilotti Rist’s videos address popular culture?
Louise Lawler. Pollock and Tureen . 1984. 28" × 39”.
Gerhard Richter. Meadowland . 1992. 35-5/8" × 37-1/2”.
Gerhard Richter. Ice (2) . 1989. 6'8" × 63-7/8”.
Jean-Michel Basquiat. Closer Look: Basquiat's Charles the First. Three panels. 1982. 78" × 62-1/4”.
Pat Steir. Yellow and Blue One-Stroke Waterfall . 1992. 14’ 6-1/4" × 7’ 6-3/4”.
Postmodern Architecture: Complexity,Contradiction, and GlobalizationWhat characterizes postmodern architecture?• Architects and builders exemplify the affluent nomads of the newpostmodern society. Current technologies are “designed formovement.” One of the key elements of Frank Gehry’s success washis ability to ensure that the “organization of the artist” prevailed.Santiago Calatrava is known for the dynamic curves of his buildingsand bridges.• One of the newest approaches to contemporary architecture takes intoconsideration the compatibility of the building with its environment.• Discussion Question: How does Las Vegas influence postmodernarchitecture?
Pluralism and Postmodern TheoryHow does postmodern theory reflect pluralist thought?• Structuralism — The roots of this idea lie in French structuralism,which argues that meaning occurs not through identification but throughdifference.• Deconstruction and Poststructuralism — the chief practitionerof deconstruction was the French philosopher Jacques Derrida.Deconstruction is not synonymous with “destruction,” but rather itsuggests that the “text” be analyzed and taken apart in order to showwhat has been left out our overlooked.• Chaos theory — Chaos theorists posit that biological andmathematical patterns that appear random, unstable, and disorderly areactually parts of larger, more “difficult wholes.”• The Human Genome — Chaos theory is being usefully applied togenome research: the Human Genome Project was initiated in 1990.
Pluralism and Diversity in the ArtsHow are pluralism and diversity reflected in art and literature?• A Plurality of Style in Painting — By the end of the 19602, artistfelt free to engage in a wide spectrum of experimental approaches topainting. Richter repaints photographs which create paintings of thegraspable and visible. Steir adapted Pollock’s drip technique to herown ends, allowing paint to flow by force of gravity down the length ofher canvases to form recognizable waterfalls.• Multiplicity in Postmodern Literature — The pursuit of meaninglies at the heart of postmodern literature, but because meaning isalways plural and fleeting, attempting to find any permanent meaning inthe postmodern world can only lead to frustration. A working definitionof postmodern fiction might include any form of writing that defeats thereaders’ expectations of coherence. One of the principal strategies ofpostmodern poetry is to take advantage of the indeterminacy of certainwords.
• A Diversity of Cultures: The Cross-Fertilization of thePresent — American English has become the international languageof business, politics, the media, and culture. Japanese artists havebegun to directly engage the West. The British-born Nigerian painterChris Ofili uses his West African culture as a source of inspiration forhis art. Latino culture has become increasingly Americanized, and aninflux of Hispanic immigrants helped Latinize American culture. TheAmerican Indian Movement helped to revitalize Native Americancultures and furthered interest in traditional art forms. The tensionbetween political reality, cultural identity, and personal identity isespecially evident in the work of Middle Eastern women artists.• A Multiplicity of Media: New Technologies — Just as theelectronic media have revolutionized modern culture, so too have thearts been revolutionized by these media, particularly through themedium of video.• Discussion Question: Discuss the effect of globalization on theenvironment and indigenous cultures.