There’s a common denominator to many of the problems our culture is undergoing. There has been a top down effort to drag society away from reality, and a mighty attempt to break the logical sequence of cause and effect. Based on administrative class manipulations, a politically driven preprogrammed narrative is supposed to overrule real life experiences, and all outcomes are to be filtered through ideological interpretation. We aren’t individuals with agency; we are divided into collective identities in conflict. We’ve come to call this methodical corruption Postmodernism.
I have been aware of the Postmodern plot more than most because I first encountered this toxic mindset in a visual form, when I was an art student in the 1980s. Art is a leading indicator of social change, and over the decades since I’ve witnessed the distorted thinking I first encountered in the studio spread throughout society.
My Postmodern education started with a photographer: Cindy Sherman (b January 19, 1954). This internationally renowned artist was all the rage in the Virginia Commonwealth University art department. Students raved about her brave feminist stances, her creativity, her fiery social critiques.
When I finally saw examples of her most notorious series, Untitled Film Stills, I was puzzled. I heard Sherman was a cutting edge innovator. The concept as explained to me was she was playing various female B-movie stereotypes. What she actually presented was a collection of black and white images of herself looking preoccupied, sometimes wearing wigs and vintage outfits. They looked like the type of pictures taken almost on accident, just casual snapshots. You’d flip right past them in a family album without a second glance. But put into an art gallery context, somehow they became a scathing indictment of the patriarchy.
The elements of Postmodernism were here. The Untitled Film Stills photos reflect an obsession with mass media as a substitute for reality. The subjects of the pictures are not presented as individuals, but as oppressed, socially constructed identity types. The political agenda projected onto the works is assumed to override how unremarkable the photos are, as images. These photographs are important not because they are powerful, but because authority figures told us they advanced The Message.
I noticed the same approach in the studio classes I took. We were all learning; I was focused on trying to gain technical ability, so my works tended to be not so successful attempts at drawing and painting still lifes. Many students were skipping over the basics though, and plunging into haphazard experimental works.
During group critiques, some students didn’t talk about the inadequate artwork they submitted for review. Instead, they would proclaim grievances, or perform mini-sociology lectures. They felt victimized, or took it upon themselves to advocate for other victim groups. This was supposed to somehow justify what one older professor used to scoff at as their “painting with blood and feces” techniques. However, this kind of talk got some of the other teachers really excited, reinforcing that this was where our attention ought to be focused. They were indoctrinating us into the Postmodern way.
What I saw so long ago in college art classes is now imposed cultural dogma. We are to live severed from our true natures, hypnotized by relentless mass communication. Our administrative classes set the agenda we are to follow, no matter how awful the results they produce. They tell us their ideological purity compensates for their incompetence. What really matters is conformity to the groupthink they disperse.
In 2014, 21 of the Untitled Film Stills sold for over $6.7 million, demonstrating there is little connection between the elitist art market value and quality. Average photographer Cindy Sherman hit the big time because partisan thought leaders could use her to undermine our culture. Postmodernism is trying to make the whole world as artificial as one of Sherman’s staged portraits.