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META-MODERNISM WITHOUT THE IRONY – THE RETURN OF AFFECT

In “Theoretically Speaking”, Frieze September 2011 issue 141, Timotheus Vermeulen, spoke of naming the post postmodernist state of culture Metamodernism. I also claimed Meta-modernism as a term to engender my work as an artist, yet my Meta-modernism is a different strain from theirs and I would therefore like to put my ideas forward.

The Grand Narrative is not teleological in the ideal sense as it has been created by choice. Therefore, I would tend to Hegel rather than Kant’s presupposed Telos knowledge as it is there we find a more realistic attempt at freewill through sublation. The ancients too believed in perfection or the casual god of the absolute whether being pushed from below empirically (Aristotle) or attracted to above (Plato). Yet, object idealism suggests an absolute perpetual truth, therefore, freewill cannot exist there as this would indeed be drawing conclusions from the Grand Narrative. Hegel acknowledged and appreciated Kant’s separating desire from will in the moral question; yet his insistence to exalt the immaterial over the material, the conceptual over the sensuous, the logical over the emotional by conceptualising and revering collectively and universally the will in its search for the absolute, is where the problem of polemics of dialetics and hierarchy remain. As we cannot deny that dialectics have governed the development of nature and thought, I will dare to further claim a tendency to Marx and Engels’ Material dialectics, which loose the objective idealism of Hegel. Only, in meta-modernism I will take sublation as material and the true neutral starting base of dialectics, where we now have proof of the absolute in its physical sense, which I will call a kind of Material Monism. In dialectical methods negativity is paramount and ever present; whereas in the “one and multiple” or Meta- modern, positivity is the overriding or should I say underlying factor and a base for freewill.

The discovery of Higgs boson or Higgs particle, the so called god particle, which allows scientists to study the Higgs field shows proof of this non-zero constant far from our manufactured notion of macroscopic time. I say manufactured as, in reality the moment you try and measure something the moment has passed. We see this at a quantum level in that if we know the energy of a particle we can’t know where it is and if we know where it is then we can’t measure its energy. This is the truth of real time, the absolute can be detected, but not measured absolutely, the Sublime as the absolute real detectable but immeasurable time. As Ilya Prigogine points out “Time precedes existence” and determinism is fundamentally a denial of the arrow of time. As, although our universe can be traced back to the big bang, deterministic physics shows us that time is not symmetrical due to the 2nd law of thermodynamics’ increasing entropy or disorder brought about probably by inflation and, yet, at a quantum level it is symmetrical. Therefore, again another time scale is detected proving indeterminism from the arrow of time, yet not denying its existence. Quantum mechanics also shows us that pairs of particles and antiparticles called virtual particles can break symmetry and come into being for a short period of time even when there is not enough energy to create them, more proof of the historically latent absolute.

During the late 90’s and 2000’s artists like me were swimming against the cultural tide of pessimism embedded in the irony of postmodernism and I can say unfortunately still loitering in the Metamodern ideas of Timotheus Vermeulen & Robin Van den Akker. I too set out to give optimism a “viable critical stance” in order to stand up for my work, although I prefer positivism to optimism. Not a new grand narrative but very much the old, though not “steeped in scepticism”. The absolute exists inside and outside our human scale. This completeness is the life force from which we are free to make decisions. There are no spaces in between; no void. The absolute is and always has been resting subjectively and objectively, individually and collectively. Of course our knowledge has grown with evolution, our grand narrative ever changing and adapting both scientifically and culturally. The sublime absolute encounters everything; it is a past present and future constant, omnipresent as the overall mean. A positive force in the sense that it exists +>-. There is no such thing as nothing. From here we have freewill and enter the duration of Bergson, which is real time, not the external measured stopping point time of objective realism. There are no stopping points in the duration/life-force/positive/existence, only a base for the reality of freewill where indeterminism cannot be symbolised, as the future is not representable.

For self-consciousness to become knowledge we need two self-consciousness or self- awareness to come to a consensus, to make a signal a sign. When we talk of the (other) objective world, language, consciousness and how we are affected by them, Hegel insisted words and language fulfil not only a practical need but an intellectual need fuelled by the will which supersedes our sensuous existence as a means to satisfy a lack in the search for the objective intellectual/absolute truth. Hegel thought these thoughts and speech came from outside of the self and sensuous desire is such that it manifests itself as a need for recognition by the other. Therefore, we create language to be accepted by other subjects, or should I say objects, in our search for the truth in a dialectical process. So, for Hegel the absolute is the biggest other of all, the one to provide; the absolute is one and all an idealistic monism. First, Hegel should not have been so quick to dismiss the sensuous world, as the fact is that without his biology he would have nothing to fulfil. Also, there is no thinking outside of either sentiment or the will, and that mere logical thought of the will would bring us nowhere; both are essential, as he quite rightly knows from his contradictory dialectic. But it is his idealist monism that we must now take as material monism.

For Freud desire/libido is the basis of the human psyche’s energy, he favoured the thing, the biological over the idea. As biological needs and demands create tensions, the pleasure principle splits desire into two biological instincts one seeking pleasure the other avoiding pain. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, these two instincts developed to become the life and death drives, the former, eros seeking to create/sexual and the latter death/thantos seeking destruction and psychological in the sense that it is not a force essential to the life of an organism. He went on to show us how the unconscious directs us in everyday life, although he states we are not completely determined as in adulthood we can reach ego autonomy. Freud kept the sensuous ID and will Ego apart, the will attempting to calm the unstructured unconscious emotional side with calming logical patterns. Along the lines of Freud’s unstructured unconscious of displacement and condensation, Saussure said that language is structured by the signified, the object/ concept, being given an arbitrary signifier (sign/sound/image) of equal importance. There are no positive terms only differences in linear associative manner.

For Lacan desire is sexual yet he also splits desire into two, the instinctual biological reproductive side and the enjoyment/psychological side although desire, in Lacanian terms, truly manifests in the enjoyment side. Furthermore, desire, always unconscious, is caused by language; “The unconscious is structured”. The objectively built unconscious subject speaks through the ego in the imaginary order; absolutely objectifying desire to the unconscious as the unconscious is the discourse of the big Other, both symbolic and Real; there is no real I - “The ego is object”. Desire is always the desire of the o/Other expressed through the signifying chain created by repression and irony all stemmed from prematurial helplessness and symbolic castration, which will remain with us for the rest of our lives. As, whether presented with the symbolic signifier or actual object via the Symbolic, Imaginary or Real there is always something missing. The real consists of the impossible the unknown constant the ontological absolute and it is its resistance to symbolisation which makes it tragic - which is also the ego level identifinying constant - or the missing subjective signifier. The thing the barred subject really wants as the unknowable X i.e. whatever phallus substitution of “symbolic castration” which should in fact be called Real castration, is the Real I, which can identify with the absolute and not be presented with a void absolute. In Meta-modernism’s material monism Lacan’s real can now be reached or symbolised therefore there is no perpetual dissatisfaction in the real presented as (desire). Furthermore, in Freudian terms by delving into the unconscious we can rewrite the script to calm nervosas, it is possible to satisfy desire and art is one way in which we can do it.

Lyotard states in “What is Postmodernism?” that Modernism puts forward the unpresentable as missing and Postmodernism puts forward the unpresenentable in presentation. I say therefore that Meta-modernism presents the missing as found and presentable; the absolute Real subject is back. Lyotard also claims that modern aesthetics are an aesthetic of the Kantian sublime; his leaning to the ironical Kantian sublime as the manisfestation of derealisation is passing the buck. In fact, the Post- modern thinkers cannot shake off irony, with the exception of Habermas whose “Modernity – An incomplete Project” with its self explanatory title refers to modernity’s aim to unite science morality and art. Yet not in the universal sense of the Utopian spirit which he sees as not helpful, splitting from Adorno only on an overly pro political input to which Adorno is hostile, Habermas sees we should keep up an aesthetic resistance with the “new time consciousness”. Lyotard claims to an anti- political input as acceptable. “Let us wage a war on totality.” Hal Fosters Techno Kantian Sublime, of watching live bombing on TV, in where we are sublimely thrilled triggered by a negative situation/experience, also stagnates. Although, Foster does recognise two types of artist one revolutionary using art as target or weapon the other artist as aesthetic manipulator of signs yet still persisting with the Kantian irony. In Frederic Jameson’s “Waning of affect” he claims postmodernism to be devoid of emotion other than loss - hence “Waning of affect”, demonstrating the very loss of missing subject. Furthermore, he does not see the subject as capable of possessing wholeness as it would mean a singularity of nothingness –no dialect. Although he does state “ the dialectic is ‘beyond’ good and evil. And, as Derrida pointed out staying only with dialectics we are trapped/determined in a synthesis only outcome, produced by the thesis and anti thesis, and, therefore rhetoric also has to play its part. Unfortunately, in Derrida’s claim that “there is no outside the text” we remain trapped. Derrida’s search for secure ground that neither structuralism nor post- structuralism could present him with is now firmly in place not as a transandental signified but as a real signified whole. From the life force Human beings create the “human” reality in which we live; be it Diachronic/linear/syntagmatic/metonymic/displacement or synchronic/circular/metaphoric/condensation. Art and freewill or life and freewill we now have the full picture of our human scale of understanding and where we place ourselves is up to us, we have come full circle. Individual and collectively we are affected. Therefore, acceptance, tolerance, a real economy and non-violence are main components as a starting base. TimotheusVermeulen is stagnated by irony when he claims that an ideal reality of unity and coherence and truth can never by recognised. My definition of Meta-modernism does in fact incorporate a unity, a wholeness which is the realisation of the now the moment and indeterminism, which should alter living itself.

In the words of Habermas: “The life world has to become able to develop institutions out of itself which set limits to the internal dynamics and imperatives of an utmost autonomous economic system and its administrative complements.”

My work creates a positively neutral space/place on the flux, to reflect and recharge. With each piece of work representing a basic instinct of positivism which is life itself, existence, the sublime, the fundamental base of everything, the phenomena of life. Whether using painting, sculpture, film, sound, light as a means to expression, my work is made in an aesthetic instinct, equally sensuous as conceptual. It is not possible for me to separate the two. The signified and signifier are part of one overall whole. There is no such thing as nothing. The artist and spectator/participant are equally responsible in defining a work of art, when this union is merged in a mutual understanding the work of art has fulfilled its ultimate purpose. During this process and beyond each one is free to think as he likes.

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Laura Mills




© 2013. Laura J Mills - Meta-Modernism