The Crisis of the Real

My interpretation of
Andy Grundberg – The Crisis of the real
collected in
Liz Wells (2003): The Photography Reader: London:Routledge

In his essay Andy Grundberg attempts to clarify what is meant by ‘Post-Modernism’, and in particular whether or not can be categorised as a completely separate entity to modernism. His essay was originally published in 1990 so some of the questions he tackles may well be a lot less problematic nowadays, since artists and critics have now had a further thirty years to understand and clarify what they mean by the term.
He makes the point that part of the problem at the time of writing was that there was no clear consensus of what is meant by ‘post-modernism’; not just in photography but in several other art forms as well. He discusses two seemingly opposing viewpoints; Douglas Crimp says that ”…can only be understood as a specific breach with modernism” but Jean Francois Lyotard says “…it is undoubtedly a part of the modern”. Grundberg himself sides with Lyotard on this question, having given several examples of artists who demonstrate some of the qualities associated with post-modernism but who are generally associated with modernism.
He goes on to state that post-modernism, rather than being a clean break with modernism, can really perhaps be thought of as “modernism++”; the playfulness generally associated with post modernism means it allows artists to use aspects of any other art form or movement in a much freer way than had been viewed as acceptable in the past.
Several of the artists he discusses have made use of appropriation as a means of creating new works; Richard Prince and Sherrie Levine have made direct use of other people’s work to create new works, and Cindy Sherman has used cultural archetypes to create new works. The endpoint, Grundberg says, is that post-modernism starts to remove the idea of authenticity, that there are no new experiences, only reinterpretations of what has already gone before.

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