In the ever-evolving landscape of cultural and artistic movements, metamodernism emerges as a critical term that seeks to describe the current state of cultural philosophy, aesthetics, and sensibility. This term, gaining traction in the 21st century, encapsulates a complex interplay between modernism’s faith in reason and postmodernism’s skepticism, charting a course through their contradictions and beyond.
Metamodernism, a term coined by cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker in their 2010 essay “Notes on Metamodernism,” represents a kind of informed naivety, a pragmatic idealism that oscillates between aspects of modernism and postmodernism. It reflects a cultural mood that swings between a yearning for universal truths and the acceptance of multiple perspectives, between hope and doubt, sincerity and irony.
This movement arises as a response to the cynicism, irony, and detachment that characterized postmodernism. While postmodernism often deconstructed narratives and ideologies, revealing their constructed nature, metamodernism seeks to rebuild and reengage with these narratives, albeit with a critical awareness of their limitations. It is characterized by an “as if” attitude – behaving “as if” something is true or meaningful, even in the face of its potential absurdity or contradiction.
In art and literature, metamodernism manifests as a blending of emotional engagement and intellectual reflection. Artists and writers who are influenced by metamodernist sensibilities often embrace storytelling, emotion, and sincerity, but without abandoning the critical self-awareness and reflexivity of postmodernism. This results in works that are both earnest and ironic, hopeful and doubtful, seeking to find a middle ground in a fragmented cultural landscape.
Metamodernism also reflects the realities of living in the digital age, where technology and globalization have created a world that is intensely interconnected yet deeply divided. In this context, metamodernism’s oscillation can be seen as a way to navigate the complexities and contradictions of contemporary life, where old certainties are questioned, but new ones are hard to establish.
Furthermore, metamodernism is not just an artistic or philosophical movement; it is also evident in social and political spheres. It can be seen in the rise of movements that are fueled by both a deep skepticism of traditional narratives and a desire to create new, more inclusive and empathetic ones. This is evident in various social movements, political discourses, and even in the way individuals present themselves on social media – constantly balancing between authenticity and performance.
Metamodernism offers a framework for understanding the current cultural zeitgeist. It acknowledges the disillusionments of the past while fostering a renewed sense of hope and possibility for the future. By oscillating between irony and sincerity, skepticism and faith, metamodernism captures the complex, contradictory nature of the contemporary human experience. As we navigate through an era of unprecedented change and uncertainty, metamodernism provides a lens through which we can understand and engage with the world around us.
These artists, through different mediums, reflect aspects of metamodernism in their work, though they do not necessarily explicitly identify with the movement. The diversity in their approaches and mediums illustrates the breadth and flexibility of metamodernism as a conceptual framework:
- Olafur Eliasson: Known for his large-scale installations and artworks that incorporate natural elements, Eliasson creates immersive and reflective experiences, inviting viewers to a conscious interaction with their surroundings.
- Banksy: This anonymous street artist is known for his provocative art that combines humor, politics, and activism. His work often comments on social and political issues, maintaining a balance between cynicism and hope.
- David Foster Wallace: Although more renowned as a writer, Wallace’s approach in literature reflects many metamodernist ideas, especially in his novel “Infinite Jest,” where he mixes irony with sincerity.
- Marina Abramović: A performance artist known for her emotionally intense work that explores the limits of body and mind. Her work often involves a deep and authentic connection with her audience.
- Björk: Her music and performances often incorporate elements of surrealism, technology, and raw emotions, making her a prominent figure in metamodernist dialogue.
- Tino Sehgal: This performance artist creates works that are ephemeral and exist only in the moment of their presentation. His works challenge conventional notions of art and spectator.
- Ryan Trecartin: Known for his video works, Trecartin explores themes of identity, technology, and consumer culture in a style that is chaotic yet deeply reflective.
- Haruki Murakami: The Japanese author is known for his narratives that blend the everyday with the surreal, the melancholic with the humorous, reflecting a metamodernist sensibility.
- Yayoi Kusama: Famous for her immersive installations and polka-dot works, Kusama combines obsession, nostalgia, and a playful approach in her art.
- Wes Anderson: A film director known for his distinct visual style, dry humor, and emotionally resonant narratives.