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Post modern ism (1). Image Society & Postmodernism. Andy Warhol. Toy Paintings: Four Monkeys. 1983. From Structuralism to Postmodernism & Poststructuralism.

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post modern ism 1

Postmodernism (1)

Image Society & Postmodernism

Andy Warhol. Toy Paintings: Four Monkeys. 1983.

from structuralism to postmodernism poststructuralism
From Structuralism to Postmodernism & Poststructuralism

-- 後結構主義(Poststructuralism)︰theories whichchallenge the stable structure of language (binaries) and traditional value systems; sees their meanings as slippery, multiple and contingent (因時而定的).

--後現代主義(Postmodernism)︰cultures which challenge language and the other types of “Truth,” foundation and tradition. (Poststructuralism as one example.)

--後現代狀況(Postmodernity)︰The socio-economic and intellectual conditions which make postmodernism possible.

Image society & M Butterfly

why starts with image society
Why starts with “image society”

--a continuation of semiotics; from different language forms to society’s “languages”

-- one major pm phenomenon: implosion (內爆), not explosion or expansion, of floating signifiers or “simulacra,” which are dissociated from their signified.

 Loss of meanings; possibilities of self-reflexivity.

-- Our class’s uses of images (videos, pictures, ppt files, etc.) Are we bombarded by images or are we still active learners?


1. Image, image everywhere.

A. Causes

B. Effects

1. Conformity and stereotypes;

2. Loss of meaning/feelings/history;

3. Self-reflexivity in the use of signs

2. Examples

A. mixtures of images: Music Videos & MTV channel

B. spectacles: Living Mall (京華城)

different kinds of images
Different Kinds of Images

Increasing domination of pictures in books, newspapers, multimedia books, E-Text, letter-writing, & classrooms  influence our reading habits.

Rapid and wider transmission of images through electronic means (computer, TV.)

Penetration of ads and commercials in every corner of public spheres such as the streets, buses, buildings, subway and highway.

Growing need of producing and using images of the Other and of self (of a commodity or a person).

causes 1 mechanical electronic reproduction
Causes 1: mechanical/electronic reproduction

Mechanical and electronic reproduction of image (photograph, photocopying machine, computer, etc.)

Walter Benjamin:

-- Art used to be kept in sacred or private spaces, to be viewed by a selective few. This made it possess an aura (光環) as if it were sacred.

-- Aura has declined in this age of mechanical reproduction, because Art is no longer unique; it is more easily available to the general public.

-- Autonomy denied: Artistic autonomy is either a-historical or counter-revolutionary.

examples of reproduction creation of adam
Examples of reproduction: “Creation of Adam”

“Creation of Adam” inthe Sistine Chapel in Vatican (source)

examples of reproduction
Examples of reproduction

Barbara Kruger’s political revision of “Creation of Adam”

Untitled 1982

The words are imposed on the original image to intercept its representation of power (of Man’s).

causes 2 development of image
Causes 2: development of image

Baudrillard: the successive phases of the image:

1. it is the reflection of a profound reality; --e.g. of God’s

2. it masks and denatures a profound reality; --e.g. industrial revolution or early capitalism.

3. it masks the ‘absence’ of a profound reality; --e.g. the death of God or truth

4. it has no relation to any reality whatsoever: it is its own pure simulacrum.

 Hyperreality – the only real is that which can be reproduced.

causes 3 development of capitalism
Causes 3: development of capitalism


cultural logic of postmodernism:

Overall commodification: Capital commodifies everything.

On the one hand, art is commercialized; on the other, consumption can be aestheticized, too.

effects 1 conformity and stereotypes
Effects 1: Conformity and stereotypes;

Capitalism commodifies everything and emphasize its symbolic value or value as an image. every mass-produced images Conformity: The consumers identify with the images they buy with the commodities and thus are massified by them (become a mass).

 Self: flattened and collaged identity

 Other: stereotypes

effects 2 loss of meaning feelings history
Effects 2: Loss of meaning/feelings/history;

loss of meaning – floating signifiers;

loss of feelings – no sense of involvement;

loss of history – history presented with stereotypes.

effects 3 self reflexivity in the use of signs
Effects 3: Self-reflexivity in the use of signs

The destabilization of traditional meaning structures also means freedom to create new meanings:

-- in art – metafiction (e.g. M. Butterfly)

-- in popular culture – mix and re-mix; parody and pastiche

-- in consumption – choice and combination of style; choice of leisure activities and routes to travel.

music video s self reflexive uses of video images
Music video’s self-reflexive uses of video images

“Money for Nothing” (1985)

“Losing my Religion”(Out Of Time1991)

“If” (Janet 1993)

“Atom Bomb” (1996)

MTV’s and Channel V’s commercials – in 1999.

 Gradual loss of meanings?

1 dire straits
1. Dire Straits

-- took their name from their early financial status

-- "Money for Nothing“- chanting that pop stars get their "money for nothing, and their chicks for free"

-- “But rather than causing a stir in the music industry or unleashing a backlash by the video community, MTV embraced the song as their new anthem. The video, which featured sophisticated (for the time) 3-D computer animation, went into heavy rotation, and the band became international superstars. The message of the song, meanwhile, was evidently lost on everyone.”

2 losing my religion video as metonymic expressions of the lyrics
2. “Losing My Religion”: video as metonymic expressions of the lyrics

1. Lyrics: struggle by oneself

to communicate;

“That's me in the corner

That's me in the spotlight

Losing my religion

Trying to keep up with you

And I don't know if I can do it

Oh No, I've said too much

I haven't said enough”

2. Video: a collage of singing, “spotlight scene,” and “Icarus scene”

losing my religion parodying the icarus myth everything is just a dream
“Losing My Religion”:parodying the Icarus myth “Everything is just a dream.”
if by janet jackson
“If” by Janet Jackson

Video: desiring and rejecting the male dancer


“Oh the things I'd do to you

I'd make you call out my name

I'd ask who it belongs to

If I was your woman

The things I'd do to you

But I'm not

So I can't

Then I won't


If I was your girl”

if orientalism desiring the images on the screen
“If”: Orientalism & desiring the images on the screen;

Multiple choices of virtual sex: single, double, trio, two couples.

Janet Jackson still the central object of desire

atom bomb by fluke
Atom Bomb by Fluke

Fluke, a UK electronic band

Atom Bomb, a computer game (the Sony Playstation game Wipeout 2097) sound track that brought to life a Japanese Manga styled cartoon character in the shape and form of Arial Tetsuo, aka Rachel Stewart. (sources: info, image.

atom bomb pastiche of images and identity
Atom Bomb : pastiche of images and identity


Baby got a Nobel PrizeGiven for the perfect crimeBaby got an alibiBaby got eight more livesBaby got the purple hairBaby got a secret lairBaby got an army thereI aint never seen this baby get scared.

mtv s and channel v s commercials in 1999
MTV’s and Channel V’s commercials – in 1999

-- The commercials are like the music videos themselves with fast-changing images, only the the commercials are shorter and even faster in pace.

-- self-reflexive collage of recognizable images, such as Munch’s Scream.

-- self-reflexive showing of frames of TV set and the multiple space in TV.

-- not completely without a sense of history: e.g. 阿妹看MTV.

example 2 the living mall
Example 2: the Living Mall

Mall: a spectacular and self-enclosed space

which either hide or naturalize its commercial reality by capturing the shoppers’ attention with its multitude of signs.

the Living Mall 京華城

Capital as the Center of cultures, celebrities and talents

 Supported by its spectacular design


the society of the spectacle by guy debord 1967
The Society of the Spectacleby Guy Debord, 1967

The spectacle presents itself simultaneously as all of society, as part of society, and as instrument of unification. As a part of society it is specifically the sector which concentrates all gazing and all consciousness. Due to the very fact that this sector is separate, it is the common ground of the deceived gaze and of false consciousness, . . .

4. The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images. (source)  We live out the spectacle according to someone else’s design, like actors following a script.

the mall commodification of everyday life
The mall: “commodification of everyday life”

to make it work: 1) retail mix – to attract the desired mix of consumers; 2) “seductive”–to keep the shoppers there.  maze-like structure, special design (of hallway and food court).

3) “a surfeit of signs, each of which, . .. , serves to actively hide or mask the mall’s function, which is to make money. Or if it doesn't hide that function, then it certainly naturalizes it, such that the ‘commodification of reality’ becomes simply “God-given”(Mitchell 134-35)

2 allegories re written
2. Allegories re-written

--showing its story of construction-- street names for each floor-- “a space ship”?  soccer

a self enclosed spectacular world 3 the basement eating court like a theatre
京華城: a self-enclosed & spectacular world3. The basement eating court-- like a theatre
京華城: a self-enclosed & spectacular world (4): Circular structure supports the shoppers’ inward and mutual gazes
interchangeable signs
Interchangeable signs

Despite their colorfulness, the commodities as signs are similar to each other, if not the same in some cases.


Mitchell, Don. Cultural Geography: A Critical Introduction. Massachusetts: Blackwell, 2000.