Issue Number: 112
Sarah Greenberg meets Charles Jencks, the Postmodernism guru, as a show on the topic opens at the V&A
Beijing Olympic Stadium aka ‘The Bird’s Nest’ designed by Herzog and de Meuron with the artist Ai Weiwei, 2008 © Liu Liqun/Corbis SG What does Postmodernism mean?
CJ It means the end of a single-style, single-taste, thing-that’s-‘good for you’, modernist doctrine. It’s about pluralism and rejects the idea of absolute truth.
SG Name three key postmodern artists
CJ Ron Kitaj, who led the London School from the mid-1960s, brought a complexity of style and reference back to figurative painting; Ed Kienholz, one of the greatest American Pop artists who had a visceral ability to mix the things of life and death in his weird and wonderful tableaux; and greatest of all is Anselm Kiefer Hon RA, who has wrestled with Hitler and the European past in a way that is moving and beautiful.
SG Top postmodern buildings?
CJ The most famous is the Beijing Olympic Stadium aka ‘The Bird’s Nest’ designed by Herzog and de Meuron with the artist Ai Weiwei, which is the iconic building of the decade and designed as such. Then the Gherkin by Norman Foster RA, closely followed by Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao.
SG What came after Postmodernism?
CJ The word hasn’t been resurrected, but since 1990, the iconic building, celebrity culture and globalisation have all come together to create a perfect storm of what is, in fact, Postmodernism. We are producing many original things but we haven’t found a name for it yet.
SG Why does Postmodernism matter today?
CJ Postmodernism is a protest movement that fights modernist hegemony and advocates pluralism. It favours a wide variety of styles and appeals to different audiences, whether in art, architecture or politics. It says to Modernism: ‘Let’s agree to disagree and enjoy our difference.’
Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990 V&A, London, 020 7942 2000, www.vam.ac.uk , 24 Sep–15 Jan, 2012.