Monday, April 27, 2009

Postmodernity Now

Lately, I find myself revisiting the ideas of the books I read on literary criticism and post-structuralist philosophy (authors like Barthes, Derrida, Foucault. Terry Eagleton's "Literary Theory" is a great starting point) in the late 80s and early 90s quite frequently. The idea of the meaning as unfixed and unstable and "the text" as being a creation formed from the connections between author, reader and other "texts" seem particularly relevant in contemporary, digital pop-culture.

The most peculiar piece of recent pop postmodernity has to be the Burger King "Spongebob" television ads. The ad features the resurrected, retro-nostalgic "king" mascot performing a musical incantation that mashes the worlds of hip-hop and and children's television. There is a 2 minute version but I find the short, 15 second version the most interesting. Has anyone ever packed more fractured meaning and references into 15 seconds? The spot plays like a kaleidoscope of referential shards. (It's awesome and you know it.)

I watched JCVD, a French film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as himself, a broke, has-been actor who gets caught up in a post office robbery. It's very good and oddly, fascinating. Towards the end of the film he floats up to the ceiling and engages the audience directly in a lengthy monologue about himself and his persona. Clever, French, excellently shot, SUBTITLED, crime film, starring Van Damme, playing himself... not much else needs to be said.

The blur between reality and fiction is now a normative feature of the pop-culture landscape. The retrograde glamour that accompanies the unspoken subtext on the lives of the actors in films like The Wrester, Balboa, and Rambo (and Michael Jackson's comeback, if it happens) is a large part of the spectacle and appeal. The twists of fate shown in these faces are arresting stories unto themselves. I like to them as visual press releases.

I was at the bookstore and I picked up a copy of Michel Foucault's book "This is Not a Pipe". The book itself is about signs and meaning. The image on the cover is a painting by Magritte. It features a painting of a pipe and painted text blowing which reads, in french, "This is Not a Pipe". A staff member must have placed a Post-it on the cover to resolve questions and uncertainties about what the book is about and what category it properly belonged to.

I thought it was funny.


a. grippo said...

to add to the discussion can i throw in the fragmentation cause by the very technology we are using to generate these new senses of self, really the self referential loop. Heidegger and "the question concerning technology" i think should be added to the book list. it's a great glue to all the thoughts of play mixed with our own need to create ourselves as gods. it's a bit off from the sign referent relationship but comes full circle when you begin to think of what marketing and advertising in relationship to reinventing those references, the boldness and the ego that is.

binkybink said...

please excuse typos etc in post; i'm pre coffee.

Thomas Sherman said...

the sherman foundation does not penalize poor spelling as I myself am a notoriously poor speller and sloppy typist

i think the big question regarding self is why, as a species are we virtualizing so much of our selves and lives

there is a great book called "the protean self", author is lifton I think, on the fragmenting of self (and its resiliency) in contemporary culture

will check out the heidegger

have you read richard rorty ?

Allan Jackson said...

"...a kaldeidoscope of referential shards..."

You're amazing.
I love you.