New Games: Postmodernism After Contemporary Art (Theories of Modernism and Postmodernism in the Visual Arts)
Pamela M. Lee
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Pamela M. Lee’s New Games revisits postmodernism in light of art history's more recent embrace of "the contemporary." What can the theories and practices associated with postmodernism tell us about the obsession with the contemporary in both the academy and the art world? In looking at work by Dara Birnbaum, Öyvind Fahlström and Richard Serra, among others, Lee returns to Jean-Francois Lyotard's canonical text The Postmodern Condition as a means to understand more recent art-critical interests in interactivity, collectivism and neo-liberalism. She reads Lyotard's well-known treatment of language games relative to the game theory associated with the Cold War and the rise of the information society. New Games asks readers to think critically about our recent past and the embattled state of our contemporary preoccupations.
With a critical introduction by Johanna Burton, New Games is the fourth and penultimate volume in Routledge’s series of short books on the theories of modernism by leading art historians on twentieth-century art and art criticism.
to the art of the 1960s and 29 Shiff, Doubt, 28. Introduction 31 1970s and its historiography. In our present state of forgetfulness about postmodernism, I contend that we have bypassed references in this work that might in fact help us out of our collective impasse around the contemporary and its round-robin of presentist reflections. In Lyotard’s case, the language game of postmodernism bears both a nested and oppositional relation to the game theory of the postwar moment. Game theory
“In the aftermath of modernity, and the passing of the postmodern, how are we to know and show what it is to live in the conditions of contemporaneity?” The stated theme of the conference crystallized perfectly the increasingly charged nature of debates on the contemporary, all of which have much to do with the unfinished business of postmodernism. See, Terry Smith, What Is Contemporary Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). Smith’s extremely useful text is a global and historical
tell us about contemporary art history? For those wedded to a reading of postmodernism as style or as a riposte to Greenbergian modernism, perhaps the issue need not require additional belaboring. Smithson’s thematic dalliances with prehistory (a necessary compliment to his futurological inclinations) and his radical approach to media locate him squarely outside high-modernist orthodoxy; his propensity for the textual in art is a clear affront to high modernism’s mythic resistance to discourse
through the modeling and manipulation of these variables—their mobilization and performative character—that such figures take on their peculiar charge, recommending Fahlström’s larger project to the game-theoretic issues we have detailed for postmodernism. Indeed, in many of his writings, but principally his essay “Manipulating the World,” Fahlström would make those terms explicit. Quoting this short text at length, I highlight the thematic of the game brought to bear on his practice; the
the better part of three decades and I doubt I could do justice to the complexity of those conversations here. Yet to suggest that one could add anything new to these discussions, apart from the most summary analysis, is not merely a matter of hubris or lack thereof. Instead, to advance Introduction 2 a counter-argument to Habermas’s thesis, one that calls for a renewed commitment to a rational society against all evidence that modernity is an otherwise “lost cause,” would seem to ratify the