Hutcheon.Theorising the Postmodern

Document Sample
Hutcheon.Theorising the Postmodern Powered By Docstoc
					               Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

[Postmodrnism received] a negativised rhetoric: we hear
of discontinuity, disruption, dislocation, decentring,
indeterminacy, and anti-totalisation. 76

 I would like to begin by arguing that, for me,
postmodernism is a contradictory phenomenon, one that
uses and abuses, installs and then subverts the very
concepts it challenges – be it in architecture, literature,
painting, sculpture, film, video, dance, TV, music,
philosophy, esthetic theory, psychoanalysis, linguistics,
or historiography. 76
             Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

 Postmodernism cannot simply be used a synonym for the
contemporary. And it does not really describe an
international cultural phenomenon, for it is primarily
European and American (North and South). 76

Although the concept of modernism is largely an Anglo-
American one. 76

 […] What I want to call postmodernism is
fundamentally , resolutely historical, and inescapably
political. 76-77
              Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

 Its contradictions may well be those of late capitalist
society, but whatever the cause, these contradictions are
certainly manifest in the important postmodern concept
of ‘the presence of the past’. 77

This was given to the 1980 Venice Biennale which
marked the institutional recognition of postmodernism in
architecture. 77
    Postmodernity and Architecture

Paolo Potoghesi: La Strada Novissima
         Postmodernity and Architecture
 In July 1980 the Venice Biennale inaugurate its first
  international architecture show entitled “The
  Presence of the Past.”

 Thanks to the spectacular Strada Novissima
  realized expressly for that occasion, the exhibition
  has become almost the symbol of Postmodernism.

 With the title of the exhibition “The Presence of the
  Past,” we hope to take hold of a phenomenon which
  has its symptoms in the fifties, in the courageous
  turn of direction in the research of the masters of
  modern architecture, but has carried on, with a slow
  and arduous rhythm, transformed only in the past
  few years into a radical and definite effort.
            Hans Hollein
     Façade Strada Novissima
Corderie of the Arsenal, Venice, 1980
                Postmodernity and Architecture

Paolo Portoghesi and The Presence of the Past

The Ideology of modern architecture thought it had rid itself of this
whole of languages, human institutions, and conventions with a
stroke of the eraser, proclaiming its obsolescence in the new times.
But it had actually continued to live in the memory of man, renewing
itself constantly since it was fed by the “presence of the past,” by
messages that continue to originate from that set of tangible things
called historical heritage as a whole, and from a new viewpoint
produced by the contents of the “human condition.”
The return of architecture to the womb of history and its recycling in
new syntactic contexts of traditional forms is one of the systems that
has produced a profound “difference” in a series of works and
      Joseph Paul Kleinhues
     Façade Strada Novissima
Corderie of the Arsenal, Venice, 1980
                Postmodernity and Architecture

Paolo Portoghesi and The Presence of the Past

projects in the past few years understood by some critics in the
ambiguous but efficacious category of Postmodern.
The reproposed “presence of the past” is neither simply ironic, nor,
least of all, purely unncessary and consumerist. It contains a great
deal of truth because it realizes its impotence in elaborating a real
psychological conflict.
The past whose presence we claim is not a golden age to be recupe-
rated. It is not Greece as the “childhood of the world” which Marx
talked about, ascertaining the universality, duration and exemplari-
ness of certain aspects of European tradition, The past with its
“presence,” that can today contribute to making us children of our
Robert Venturi

Façade Strada

Corderie of the

 Venice, 1980
                 Postmodernity and Architecture

Paolo Portoghesi and The Presence of the Past

time, is the past of the world. In our field, it is the whole system of
architecture with its finite but inexhaustible sum of experiences
connected or reconnectable by a society which has refused a
monocentric culture, a main tradition with no competition.
The architects’ interests in history and in the recycling of forms and
traditional compositional systems should also be seen in relation to
this self-interrogation, to this census of still valid or confirmable
conventions, to the restitution of the role of subject to the community
of its users, after the long parenthesis of the claim of this role only by
the “technicians of form,” made legitimate by the theory of the
Modern Movement.
                Postmodernity and Architecture

Paolo Portoghesi and The Presence of the Past

The end of prohibition and the recycling of traditional forms marks
the definite separation in architecture from the near past, from the
inextricable mixture of Illuminism and Romanticism making up the
modern tradition
                 Postmodernity and Architecture

Paolo Portoghesi and The Presence of the Past

The Modern Movement originated as a great pluralistic program
attempting to reify the spirit of the time, the Zeitgeist, catching it in its
initial stages in the different cultural realities of the European and
American horizons. After thirty years of free experimentation, (Art
Nouveau, Protorationalism, Expressionism, the modern classicism of
Behrens, the creative eclcecticism of Sullivan and Wright) the Modern
Movement, beginning in the twenties, tended to translate into a set of
constraning rules, into a real orthodoxy, three fundamental dogmas:
the functionalism analysis as a starting point for architectural
research; the annihilation of the traditional grammar of architecture
with all its differences corresponding to places and civilizations; the
    Views of
Strada Novissima

Corderie of the

  Venice, 1980
                Postmodernity and Architecture

Paolo Portoghesi and The Presence of the Past

identification between architectural progress and the use of new
technologies understood as potential generators of language.
Historical documents demonstrate that at least since the twenties,
the Modern Movement has imposed on the entire world an
unprecedented levelling of the linguistic means of architecture,
imposing the destrcution of archetypes upon which its system of
communication was based, along with the annihilation of its local
codes which explained, in the differences in cultures, the differences
among men and their collective identity.
                Postmodernity and Architecture

Paolo Portoghesi and The Presence of the Past

The Strada Novissima with its twenty façades presents all the possible
degrees of the process of reappropriation of memory and the victory
over inhibitions inherited from rebel fathers.
In order to focus on the intensity of the relationship with historical
memory, it is necessary to show parallel and opposite movements
from which the meaning and the value of the relationship arise. These
two movements are similar to those of an oscillating pendulum; one
turned toward the past, the other toward the “removal” of the past,
and therefore to its actualization. The instruments used to realize the
first movement are the direct quotation, the abstraction of the model,
the individualization of an archetype to be evoked. The instruments
                Postmodernity and Architecture

Paolo Portoghesi and The Presence of the Past

used for the second movement are simplification, caricatural
deformation, the inversion from a positive to a negative form,
metaphoric irony, and plastic reinterpretation.
 Charles Moore and Robert Stern
    Views of Strada Novissima
Corderie of the Arsenal, Venice, 1980
               Postmodernity and Architecture

Paolo Portoghesi and The Presence of the Past

This program is the hope of giving a lost concreteness back to art, a
materialistic and symbolic base through the reemergence of arche-
types. Architecture carries the concept of  (arkhè) inseparably
immersed in the word designating it. In Greek mythology the Muses\
were born from Mnemosyne, to mean that there is no art except that
originating from memory, and in some way a repetition.
 Charles Moore and Robert Stern
    Views of Strada Novissima
Corderie of the Arsenal, Venice, 1980
 Christian de


Strada Novissima

Corderie of the

  Venice, 1980
                Postmodernity and Architecture

Paolo Portoghesi and The Presence of the Past

Leaving critical consciousness aside, some worry if this indiscrimi-
nating use of the historical memory is in itself a backward attitude,
and therefore one which intentionally denies “progress.” How can
this retrospective attitude escape the risk of relating to and being
resonant with reactionary and regressive political attitudes? The
answer is simple. Reintegrating historical forms into the repertoire
of present architecture, comparing this patrimony to the positive
heredity of the Modern Movement, and making these two aspects of
the “past” interact is anything but a traditionalist choice. It is related
less than ever to regressive political attitudes. As always in history,
the new tendencies have aimed at the objective of differentiating
                Postmodernity and Architecture

Paolo Portoghesi and The Presence of the Past

themselves from what came before, from the attitude of their fathers
and older brothers.
Totalitarism, the principal feature of 2oth century architecture is not
only the result of socio-political systems. Blind faith in progress, the
mythology of science and technology, the huge numbers involved in
the increasing population, pluralism confused with chaos, all this has
created the belief than man himself does not know how he must dwell
and live. And that in its place it is up to architecture to know.
              Postmodernity and Architecture

Paolo Portoghesi and The Presence of the Past

The greatest error of architecture, born from the spirit of
the Charter of Athens (1943, Le Corbusier), is the rupture
in the continuity of culture.

It must not be forgotten that the destruction of the
Traditional town was done in the name of sublime ideals:
the right of man to a brilliant life, to sun, to contact with
             Postmodernity and Architecture

Paolo Portoghesi and The Presence of the Past

The heritage of the past has been put into a kind of museum.

The architecture of our century opposes ideology to life,
projects to reality.

Instead of making our profession a task more and more
complicated and further removed from reality, an archi-
tectural continuity must be recovered which searches for
new fundamental architectural ideas such as style,
method and dogma.
              Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

 Italian architect Paolo Portoghesi’s analysis of the
twenty facades of the ‘Strada Novissima’ – whose very
newness lay paradoxically in its historical parody –
shows how architecture has been rethinking modernism’s
purist break with history. 76-77.

 This is not a nostalgic return; it is a critical revisiting,
an ironic dialogue with the past of both art and society, a
recalling of a critically shared vocabulary of architectural
forms. 77
              Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

 Its aesthetic forms and social formations are
problematised by critical reflection. 77

The same is true of the postmodernist thinking of
figurative painting in art and historical narrative in
fiction and poetry: it is always a critical reworking,
never a nostalgic ‘return’. 77

Because it is contradictory and works within the very
system it attempts to subvert, postmodernism can
probably not be considered a new paradigm. 77
              Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

 [Postmodernism privileges] ‘historical metafiction’. By
this I mean those well-known and popular novels which
are both intensely self-reflexive and yet paradoxically
also lay claim to historical events and personages. 77

Historiographic metafiction incorporates all three of
these domains [literature, history, theory]: that is, its
theoretical self-awareness of history and fiction as
human constructs (historiographic metafiction) is made
the grounds for its rethinking and reworking of the
forms and contents of the past. 77-78
               Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

 Such labeling is another mark if the inherent
contradictions of historiographic metafiction, for it always
works within conventions in order to subvert them. 78

It is not just metafictional; nor is it just another
version of the historical novel or the non-fictional novel.
              Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

Postmodernism works to show that all [discursivity]
are human constructs, but that, form that very fact, they
derive their value as well as their limitation. 79

Postmodernist interrogations of humanist certainties
live within this kind of contradiction. 79

Perhaps it is another inheritance from de 1960s to believe
that challenging and questioning are positive values […],
for the knowledge derived from such inquiry may be the
only possible condition of change. 79
              Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

The 1960s were the times of ideological formation for
many postmodernist thinkers and artists of the 1980s and it
is now that we can see the results of that formation. 79

The political social, and intellectual experience of the
1960s helped to make it possible for postmodernism to be
seen as what Kristeva calls ‘writing-as-experience-of-
limits’: limits of language, of subjectivity, of sexual
identity, and we might also add: of systematisation and
uniformisation. 80
              Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

Interrogating […] has certainly meant a rethinking and
putting into question the bases of our western modes of
thinking that we usually label, perhaps rather too
generally, as liberal humanism. 80

 The characteristics of architecture are also those of
postmodernism at large – from historiographic metafictions
[…] to photography. 80
               Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

All of these art works share one major contradictory
characteristic: they are all overtly historical and
unavoidably political, precisely because they are
formally parodic. 80

In implicitly contesting in this way such concepts as
aesthetic originality and textual closure, postmodernist art
offers a new model for mapping the borderland between art
and the world, a model that works from a position within
both and yet not totally within either, a model that is
profoundly implicated in, yet still capable of criticising, that
which it seeks to describe.
               Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

The theorist/practioners of postmodernism in all the arts –
from Umberto Eco to Karlheinz Stockhausen – are emphatic
in their commitment to the formation of a more generally
shared collective aesthetic code. 81-82

Even the most self-conscious and parodic of contemporary
works do not try to escape, but indeed foreground, the
historical, social, ideological contexts in which they have
existed and continue to exist. 82

This is as true of music as of painting, it is as valid for
literature as it is for architecture. 82
              Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

 In reaction against what modernist ahistoricism then led
to, however, postmodern parodic revisitations of the history
of architecture interrogate the modernist totalising ideal
of progress through rationality and purist forms. 82

 In fact the architecture of the 1970s from the start
signaled a conscious move away from the modern
movement or the International Style as much as for
overtly ideological as for aesthetics reasons. 83
             Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

The social failure of the great modernist housing
projects and the inevitable economic association of
‘heroic’ modernism with large corporations combined
to create a demand for new architectural forms that
would reflect a changed and changing social awareness.

To disregard the collective memory of architecture is
to risk making the mistakes of modernism and its
ideology of the myth of social reform through purity of
structure. 86
             Theorising the Postmodern
Linda Hutcheon

Parody has certainly become a most popular and
effective strategy of the other ex-centrics- of black,
ethnic, gay, and feminist artists –trying to come to
terms with and to respond, critically and creatively, to
the still predominant white, heterosexual, male culture
in which they find themselves. 90

Shared By: