Altermodernism and the End of Postmodernism

The term altermodernism is defined by Nicolas Bourriaud, the creator of the term, as being “that moment when it became possible to produce something that made sense starting from an assumed heterochrony” which “brings together three sorts of nomadism: in space, in time and among the ‘signs.’” Bourriaud argues that we are currently experiencing the birth of a new era that relates to our culture’s relationship with geography and time. As we are increasingly living in a more global society that allows connections to occur worldwide, Bourriaud argues that the result is the end of “a petrified kind of time advancing in loops,” which is his definition of postmodernism. To Bourriaud, postmodernism began after the 1973 Oil Crisis, which resulted in a society composed of individual micro-narratives by referencing the past.

Therefore, Bourriaud argues that altermodernism, which is literally defined as “other/different modernism”, is due to contemporary society being a more globalized world, resulting in the end of the postmodern era. By being able to connect with the world regardless of one’s location, Bourriaud argues that there are no barriers to restrict artists as we are currently part of a larger, global culture. As a result, Bourriaud believes that artists who are using the altermodern point of view are nomadic artists who create art that references various cultures in order to have works that are global, thereby focussing on the journey of the piece to demonstrate human cultural evolution.  The result, he suggests, is art that is creative and unique for each individual, which aims at ending cultural homogenization.

However, I do not necessarily agree with Bourriaud’s theory as it seems that he does not take multiculturalism or cultural identity into consideration. When discussing altermodernism, he encourages the use of a variety of cultures in one’s work since, according to him, “there are no longer cultural roots”. I believe that cultural identity is extremely important to a person and how they view the world, thereby affecting the art they produce. Furthermore, to
me, the theory is ironic in that postmodernism arose from modernism after the latter theory emphasized elitism and universality, while postmodernism rejected such views. In respect to altermodernism, it seems like the modern perspective is brought back in terms of the idea that there are no cultural roots that are a part of one’s cultural identity, similar to universality. Altermodernism also puts emphasis on the past and views time differently, as time is seen as a multiplicity rather than linear. It promotes the idea that altermodern artists should focus on the past instead of the future to understand the present since he views “history as the last uncharted continent.”

Instead of an art piece that represents Bourriaud’s view, I decided to use applications such as Twitter to describe his theory. To express one’s ideas in one place and receive a reply from someone who is across the world demonstrates the globalisation which Bourriaud focusses on. As technology is advancing, more people are becoming a part of the global community that impacts their views of the world. Since there is no a longer a barrier, people can have similar views as they gain knowledge about the world, regardless of where they live.

To conclude, I am unsure if we are truly at the end of postmodernism and if altermodernism is the new theory of contemporary society. Having said that, I am interested to see the progression of the movement and the kinds of art produced in the altermodern era.

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