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Monday 13th January Stage 1 Semester 2 Week 3 Dr Ken Neil

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Monday 13th January Stage 1 Semester 2 Week 3 Dr Ken Neil. Beyond The Postmodern Trap. artist. Photograph of Jackson Pollock 1950. “I AM NATURE”. Jackson Pollock, 1950, ‘nature in action?’. “Lucifer” (Detail) Jackson Pollock 1947.

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Monday 13th January

Stage 1 Semester 2 Week 3

Dr Ken Neil

Beyond The Postmodern Trap



Photograph of Jackson Pollock 1950



“Art is an expression of human feeling” is a stock formula, and most students of art respond to it at once. However, philosophers must ask what it means to say this.

John Hospers Art as Expression

In The Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, Edwards, (ed.), New York: Macmillan, 1967.


"Every object in the world can pass from a closed, silent existence to an oral state""We shall therefore take language, discourse, speech etc., to mean any significant unit or synthesis, whether verbal or visual: a photograph will be a kind of speech for us in the same way as a newspaper article; even objects will become speech"Barthes, R., Mythologies, New York, Hill and Wang, 1998, p.109.


Postmodernism can be said to involve a “linguistic turn” – that is – a move from the expressive picturing of self to the visual writing of ideas.

Visual art can be seen as text – the “words” of “expression” can be learnt.

All art then, from a Postmodern position, is language, and language is socially and culturally constructed - with the individual expressive agent only playing a part in that construction.



“expression” read “representation”


“individual self” read “networked collective”


“original” read “copy”


“fixedness” read “disparateness”


Postmodernism in visual art is a discourse built on various theories, and not a discernible artistic style.

  • Theories of Postmodernism are not so fashionable now in the art world, partly because they are seen to be negative.
  • But many good critical results can be had by applying Postmodernist strategies of analysis - the critique of expressionism being one such strategy.