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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

APPROACHES - In The Words Of . . . .

From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988.

Jean-François Lyotard

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What is Postmodern?
1985 - Writings and Theories

Jean-François Lyotard, sixty-two-year-old philosopher and art theoretician, is curator of the "The Immaterials," an exhibition he designed and mounted for the George Pompidou Center. In his recent works, Lyotard has focused on the Postmodern, a concept he explained in 'La Condition postmoderne', published in 1979. More recently, he has explained the term in 'Réponse à la question: "Qu'est-ce que le postmoderne?"' [answer to the question: "What is the Postmodern?"] We have reprinted the conclusion of that article here, so that the exhibition at Beaubourg might be better understood. In fact, the Postmodern does not take its place in the aftermath of the "modern," nor in opposition to it, as does the Transavantgarde. What is Postmodern is already a part of the modern. We simply cannot see it.

Postmodern is that which, in modernism, alleges the unpresentable within the presentation. The Postmodern is that which rebels against the consensus of a taste allowing people a mutual feeling of nostalgia for the impossible. It is that which seeks new ways of being presented, not for the enjoyment of it, but to make the existence of the unpresentable more apparent. A Postmodern artist or writer is in the same situation as a philosopher: the work the artist completes, or the text the writer creates, is not governed in principle by preestablished rules. The work or the text cannot be judged by a determinant judgment, by the application to this work, to this text, of known categories. These rules and categories are precisely what the work and the text are seeking. Therefore, the artist and the writer work without rules. Their job is to establish the rules of what will be created. That is why the work and the text have the properties of an event, and that is why they occur too late for their author. Rather, saying the same thing another way, their realization begins too soon. Postmodern would be understood as the paradox of the future [post] anterior [modo]. It seems to me that the essay [Montaigne] is Postmodern, while the fragment [the Athenaeum] is modern.

It must be clear once and for all that it is not for us to supply reality, but to invent allusions to the conceivable, which cannot be presented. It should also be clear that we must not expect this task to reconcile in any way the "language games," which, under the name of faculties, Kant knew to be separated by an abyss, and which only the transcendent illusion [Hegel's] can hope to encompass in true unity. But Kant also knew that terror was the price for this illusion. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries have given us our fill of terror. We have paid enough for nostalgia for the whole and the singular, for the reconciliation of concept and feeling, of transparent and communicable experience. Beneath the clamor for a relaxation of discipline and pacification can be heard the muttering of the desire to begin terror anew, to realize the hallucination of grasping hold of reality. Our answer to that is: Let us do battle against the whole, let us bear witness to the unpresentable, let us activate differences, let us save the honor of that which we call by name.

Jean-François Lyotard, Réponse à la question: "Qu'est-ce que le postmoderne?"

[An Exerpt From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988. p.805]




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