Nordic Summer University 2014:
“Answering the question: what is popmodernism?”
24. – 31.07.2014 – Sauðárkrókur
Deadline: May 1, 2014
In 1982, three years after The Postmodern Condition, Jean-François Lyotard wrote a short text entitled: “Answering the Question: What Is Postmodernism?” The main objective seems to be a discussion along the lines of “modernism” versus “postmodernism,” but then, somewhat surprisingly, he writes:
“A work can become modern only if it is first postmodern. Postmodernism thus understood is not modernism at its end but in the nascent state, and this state is constant.” (Lyotard 1984: 79)
In this, Lyotard adds, works and texts have “the characters of an event; hence also, they always come too late for their author, or, what amounts to the same thing, their being put into work, their realization always begin too soon” (81).
Here, then, Lyotard questions inherent understandings of temporality and history in the aesthetic sphere, as well as in the spheres of politics, economics, and technology. The study-circle on “Popmodernism” initially took the challenges from the old discussions of postmodernism and modernism as a central point of departure. At the same time, the discussions of the ‘80s and ‘90s could easily be reread with new and other questions being asked. Whereas Theodor W. Adorno called “modernism” and “popular culture” the “twin halves” of the culture of industrial modernism, and Andreas Huyssen describes a point “after the great divide” of “modernism, mass culture and postmodernism,” this study circle’s project has been to reread and recycle material throughout the period known as modernism seeing intersections and interpenetrations of these “twin halves.” In other words: how does “modernism” and “pop culture” throw light on each other? How does reading against the grain of these categories bring to light “other modernisms”? How was “pop” always already “modern”?
These and other questions have followed the study circle during it’s three years, and for this, our last seminar, we want to approach our version of Lyotard’s question: “Answering the Question: What Is Popmodernism?”
During the three years almost canonical figures have been part of the discussion: Andy Warhol, J.G. Ballard, Lady Gaga. Central topics have been cultural recycling and reproducibility, bodies and mediality, technology’s impact on cultural production. These are all still important questions, and papers exploring them further are encouraged. At the same time, and contra any canon-formation, we ask for papers delving into what could be called the popmodernist archive. Taking inspiration from Lyotard’s challenge to historiography we ask for snapshots from popmodernism. What if popmodernism is seen as “modern in the nascent state”? What about “popmodernism” always coming too late or beginning too soon? How, in short, can we answer – collectively – what “popmodernism” is?