Monday, 12 December 2011

This is an order

I had a whirlwind cultural weekend: down to London for the V&A's Postmodernism exhibition, the British Museum's Grayson Perry The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, and finally the British Library's Illuminated Manuscripts display. No shopping, no fighting my way through crowds, just good company and interesting stuff.

OK, the Postmodernism exhibition was fascinating. I'm very wary of the movement, being a boring old communist. To me, postmodernism was rich wankers and hubristic corporations playing silly architectural jokes. This exhibition partly altered this view. It was very much an exhibition of two parts. Postmodernism emerged as a critique of the failed utopianism of modernism: the idea that concrete boxes could provide suitable living for workers, for instance. Modernism, especially the totalitarian version, tried to make people live in machines, while much of the artwork was forbidding and perhaps overly cerebral. Postmodernism tried to inject some humour and imagination into functionalism, with some success. However, it soon became superficial and far too bound up with power and money to offer any critique of finance capitalism and individualism at all: in this sense, it's deeply reactionary.

The displays included architecture, town planning, music (I own virtually all the records featured), clothing, furniture and much else besides. Photography was forbidden (I sneaked the neon sign above on my phone). So instead, here are some of the music/film videos played as examples of postmodernism:

Sorry about the advert:

Klaus Nomi's mix of electropop and lieder:

Laurie Anderson's art-school experimentation: this reached No. 2 in the UK charts! I heard it first on Mark and Lard's evening show, and it blew my mind. The lyrics 'here come the planes… they're American planes' seem even more freighted with doom now than ever they did'.

Rapper's Delight, by the Sugarhill Gang: cut-ups, montage, music without generic limits.

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