Monday, 1 August 2011

Post-Modernism, Ai Weiwei and Banksy

1.      Define Post-Modernism using 8-10 bullet points that include short quotes
1.      “The period in which we now live is often called “postmodernism”.  (Saugstad, 2001)
2.      Postmodernism can be broken down into the terms post and modernism meaning after the modern period. (Saugstad, 2001)
3.      It is a “rejection of the tenets of modernism; that is to say, a rejection of the doctrine of the supremacy of reason, the notion of truth, the belief in the perfectibility of man and the idea that he could be better, if not perfect in society.” (Witcombe, 2000)
4.      Postmodernism “seeks to revise [modernism’s] premises and traditional concepts”. (Witcombe, 2001)
5.      “Postmodernists do not attempt to refine their thoughts about what is right or wrong, true or false, good or evil. They believe that there isn’t such a thing as absolute truth” (‘Postmodernism –What is Truth?” 2002-11).
6.      The basic premise behind Postmodernism is that all forms of novelty have already been explored, and that even if that wasn't true the particular emphasis on rejection of that which is old or already done only limits artist’s self-expression. 
7.      Postmodernism “attempts to erase all boundaries, to undermine legitimacy, and to dislodge the logic of the modernist state.” (Witcombe, 2000)
8.      “Postmodernism partakes of uncertainty, insecurity, doubt, and accepts ambiguity.” (Witcombe, 2000)
9.      “[It] is open, unbound, and concerned with process and ‘becoming’.” (Witcombe, 2000).
10.  “Postmodernism is a style and concept characterised by distrust of theories and ideologies, and of drawing attention to conventions.” (Eichberger, 2011)
2.      Use a quote by Witcombe (2000) to define the Post-Modern artist.
“the post-modern artist is ‘reflective ‘ in that he/she is self-aware and consciously involved in a process of thinking about him/herself and society in a deconstructive manner, ‘damasking’ pretensions, becoming aware of his/her cultural self in history, and accelerating the process of self-consciousness.”

3.      Use the grid on pages 42 and 43 to summarize the list of the features of Post-Modernity
From my understandings of the grid, post modernity has many possibilities and no one absolute. There are many beliefs and theories widely spread. Artists pay attention to the surface of works and images they are of. They took advantage of new technologies and mediums society has accepted and gotten used to and used in their art. Post modern works include advertising which was powerful to audiences in the newly technological world and hyper-reality making things more than life. Art is freer and more open, with limitless boundaries and many things that can be considered art.

4.      Use this summary to answer the next two questions.
5.      Research Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's 'Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola logo'(1994) in order to say what features of the work are Post-Modern.

Ai Weiwei is an “international contemporary artist engaged in a deep dialog with Chinese culture, art history, ceramics and craft” (Gilsdorf, 2010). The two works, smashing the Han Dynasty urn and decorating one with the coca cola logo, show the ideas of postmodernism through the questioning of previous theories and ideals such as the importance and value of the urns he is destroying from their natural forms. “Urns of this vintage are usually cherished for their anthropological importance.  By employing them as ready-mades, Ai strips them of their aura of preciousness only to reapply it according to a different system of valuation” (Gilsdorf, 2010). By literally dropping precious things he is getting rid of and questioning the old to prepare for the new open ways of thinking where anything goes...
This challenges and changes the previous ideas towards historical artefacts and what can be done with them and the value and importance placed upon them. His works are also post modern as they are “playful, inventive and often absurd” (“Ai Weiwei”, 2008). As Xiaowen Chen associate professor of art at Cornell says “[his] work is both statement and playful event. He's a troublemaker, but he never gets caught. His work shows us anything goes, anything is possible" (Aloi, 2006). He also includes advertising in his work and commonly known and recognised icons such as the coca cola logo incorporating the new media driven world we live in with things seen every day from this decade on things seen rarely from many decades ago. He plays with cultures mixing and questioning ethics and values.
This truly shows post modern ideals and aspects towards his work.

6. 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. (Use your list from point 6.)

Banksy is a pseudo-anonymous English graffiti artist... His artworks are often satirical pieces of art on topics such as politics, culture, and ethics” (“Banksy Street art,” 2010) Banksy is a household name in the UK, perhaps best known for his compelling stencil graffiti. He embodies post modern ideas in his works and explains that in art “there aren’t supposed to be any rules” (Jonathan, 2011). This means his graffiti art can count as art rather than vandalism and which his two works show.  His stencils make statements about war, politics, government oppression and environmental concerns. His work flower riot is interesting in that it portrays a person who seems violent and as if they are going to cause harm when in fact they are holding flowers rather than a Molotov cocktail as would usually be seen in a rioting image of someone such as this. Using stencils Banksy takes advantage of the new technologies available in the post modern society we live in as well as focusing on the surface and structure of his works as post modernity does. His work “Los Angeles”, Banksy mixes historical time periods saying that it is possible for a caveman to exist in the 21st century not being limited to the modernist views. He is also using advertising of fast food restaurants that are typically seen every day in our contemporary society. Banksy says that “being sure of anything is totally ridiculous” (Jonathan. 2011).  

·         Saugstad, A. (2001). Postmodernism: What is it, and What is Wrong With It?
Retrieved 9 October, 2007, from:
·         Witcombe, C. (2000). Modernism and Postmodernism. Retrieved 29 January, 2004 from
·         “Postmodernism – What is Truth?” (2002-11).
·         Gilsdorf, B. (2010). Ai Weiwei: Dropping the Urn.,
·         Ai Weiwei. 2008.
·         Aloi, D. (2006) Ai Weiwei literally smashes China’s traditions in art and architecture.
·         “Banksy Street Art – Art Finds New Inspirations”. 2010.
·         Jonathan. (2011). Banksy – The Street Art King of the World.


  1. “Postmodernists do not attempt to refine their thoughts about what is right or wrong, true or false, good or evil. They believe that there isn’t such a thing as absolute truth” (‘Postmodernism –What is Truth?” 2002-11).

    This quote here I find to be very correct. I agree completely that in postmodernism there is no thing that makes anything certain. Postmodernism is everything it is as well as everything it isn't, and this is further proved to be true in the extremities in different works that postmodernist artists produce.

  2. Yes, I felt his artworks are open mocking pieces of art on topics but he seems more famous as a street artist by the reason of anonymous. We can see his photos on the website but true or not, no one officially identified him so his name seems to become as trade mark in his graffiti. There is Banksy’s name in value. Of course I recognized his work has affected the art world everywhere. One of the evidences is the British Museum which museum decided a Banksy artwork to add to their own permanent collection. I am very interested in his graffiti but I am not interest in his real identity.

  3. I found doing post-modernism very interesting because it was very relevant to the society we live in today. Reading your insight to post-modernism, it furthered my understanding of how there is never no right or wrong answer. I noticed looking into a lot of contemporary art there is always a statement it is trying to express. It may seem obvious but referring back to all the art movements we previously studied i noticed how art has developed into a post-modern world. The purpose or aim of the artist has and continues to always change.