Monday, 30 July 2012

Post-Modernism with Ai Wei Wei and Banksy

"Its this confusion on what postmodernism actually is that makes any attempt at critiquing it so difficult." (Bryon Clark)

Questions from the Cadi Blog:

I. Define Post-Modernism using 8-10 bullet points that include short quotes.
  • Reflexivity
             "The post-modern artist is "reflexive" in that he/she is self-aware and 
              consciously involved in a process of thinking about him/herself and society in 
              a deconstructive manner, "demasking" pretensions, becoming aware of 
              his/her cultural self in history, and accelerating the process of self-consciousness."  
              (Witcombe, 2000, para. 19)
  • Relativism
             "Relativism is the idea that "anything  goes." It is the position where one has 
              left the belief in absolute truth, and instead embraced the idea that knowledge 
              is dependent on one's perspecitive." (Saugstad, 2001, para. 5-6)
  • Rejection of modernist reason
             "The seemingly anti-modern stance involves a basic rejection of the tenets of 
              Modernism; that is to say, a rejection of the doctrine of the supremacy of 
              reason, the notion of the truth, the belief in the perfectability of man, and the 
              idea that we could create a better, if not perfect, society." 
              (Witcombe, 2000, para. 7)
  • Non-universalist
              "But in postmodernism, society is more fragmented. Belief in the One Truth, or 
               universal criteria, has been substituted by a number of "small stories," and a 
               diversity of criteria." (Saugstad, 2001, para. 9)
  • Pluralist
              "Echoing concerns of postmodern and poststructuralist (see Chapter 5) theory, 
               cultural studies has tended to emphasize polysemy and pluralism: meanings are 
               not received uniformly by a 'mass' audience, they are negotiated by many 
               different groups." (Ward, 1997, p. 56)
  • Irony
              "Irony in postmodernism erases the difference between ideal and real, high and 
               low culture". 
               (Thomson, n.d. "Some ramifications for language and literature," para. 5).
  • Reconstructive
              "Constructive postmodernism does not reject Modernism, but seeks to revise its 
               premises and traditional concepts." (Witcombe, 2000, para. 14)
  • Linguistic Idealism
              "a radical and quite bizarre idea that language contstructs reality." 
               (Saugstad, 2001, para. 12)

II. Use a quote by Witcombe (2000) to define the Post-Modern artist.
 According to Witcombe (2000):
      The post-modern artist is "reflexive" in that he/she is self-aware and consciously 
      involved in a process of thinking about him/herself and society in a deconstructive 
      manner, "demasking" pretensions, becoming aware of his/her cultural self in history, 
      and accelerating the process of self-conciousness. (pg. 24)

III. Research Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei's 'Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo' (1994) in order to say what features of the work could be considered Post-Modernism.

'Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo' (1994) Ai Wei Wei

Ai Wei Wei's 'Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo' is considered a Post-modern artwork because it explores the issues of Postmodernism and contains postmodern values like irony and reflexivity; his view of the current society. The artwork isn't about the skill of the artist or the material, but the ideas and reflection of the current culture; which is what most post-modern art tends to show.

The antique urn is valuable not for the object itself, but the representation of the Chinese traditions, culture and history. By placing a popular Western brand onto the urn, Ai shows that in the present day we are living in a commercial and consumerism culture. This culture is replacing our past traditional ideals. Not many people can tell that this is a special urn, but almost everyone can recognize the 'Coca-Cola' logo. Our culture can be said to be "redefined by branding" (Monti, 2012, "Authorship, Subjectivity, Authenticity, and Value in Modern China," para. 1). 

A post-modern feature of the urn is the play of irony on the urn's value. The urn itself is a valuable object but by placing the 'Coca-Cola' logo on the urn, Ai has devalued the urn. However the logo has made the urn become more valuable but not as a Han Dynasty but as an artwork.

IV. Research British artist Banksy's street art, and analyze the following two works by the artist
to discuss how each work can be defined at Post-Modern.

Banksy is a very popular yet very mysterious graffiti/urban street artist. His works normally focuses on social issues; such as war, poverty, capitalism and the government. He is described by the Urbanist (n.d.) as a "counter-cultural prankster". He is a very post-modern artist because he is 'reflexive'; he is aware of the society that surrounds him. By making marks on city walls and buildings he is trying to get across his ideas and views on the current society. It could also be seen as rejecting modernist reason. The path that the world is going is probably not the ideal utopia for underground people like Banksy, who once said "Graffiti doesn’t always spoil buildings. In fact, it’s the only way to improve a lot of them" (2008, para.29).

'Flower Riot' Banksy

'Flower Riot' is considered a post-modern work because of it's play on irony. The work shows a gang member or rioter throwing a bouquet of flowers instead of something dangerous, which is unexpected especially from the position of the rioter. Instead of making war, he is making peace. This work could also be interpreted in many ways, because of the post-modern pluralist and non-universal society. Is the rioter trying to make peace, or was he already making peace to begin with? This question can also be applied to war and terrorism, like whether they are on the side of justice or not.

'Los Angeles' (2008) Banksy

Again playing with irony, 'Los Angeles' is about a prehistoric man holding a tray of fast food that only exist in present day. The burger, chips and drink automatically reminds us of Mcdonalds. This could be about Banksy's view on our consumerism world. The work seen in Los Angeles is very significant because Los Angeles is a city of culture. However in recent years because of the media and celebrities influences, Los Angeles has become a more idealized place for these celebrities. Banksy might have wanted to show that people in this area are losing their history and culture. This is very post-modern and by going forward with this idealized view, we are like a caveman forgetting how to get food.


AUT University. (2012). Academic literacies in visual communications 2: Resource book.
      Auckland, New Zealand: Lyceum Press for AUT University.

Explorationfilms. (2008, June 25). What is post-modernism? [Video file]. Retrieved from

Inkw311. (2006, April 4). Banksy [Video file]. Retrieved from

KET. (2011). Street art: The best urban art from around the world. London: Michael O'Mara
      Books Limited.

Opensourcebuddhism. (2009, March 27). Post-modernism: Deconstruction and derrida 
      pt. 1 [Video file]. Retrieved from

Ward, G. (1997). Postmodernism. London: Hodder Headline Ltd. 

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