The Newest Postmodern Artifact?

Life Is RandomI re-read this week (for class) Fredric Jameson’s Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Jameson argues that postmodernism signals the end of the self as an individual monad. He specifically sites how modernist conceptions of affect, as illustrated in Munch’s The Scream, are replaced in postmodernism by feelings that have significantly waned and are “free-floating and impersonal?. The postmodern self does not view his life as an unfolding drama of unquestionable importance, as one might find in the modernist works of Camus, but rather experiences life as “series of pure and unrelated presents in time?.

I couldn’t help but notice the extent to which the postmodern aesthetic (we will bracket the larger existential issue for the sake of brevity) has come to dominate the cultural sphere. When Jameson wrote Postmodernism, he employed the greatest examples of the day: Warhol’s shoes, the Bonaventure hotel, etc. Such examples, although illustrative, now seem like modernist exemplars when compared to Apple’s advertisements for the iPod shuffle, which I think is the fullest reification of the postmodern aesthetic to-date. While walking home through Herald Square, and looking up and seeing “Life is Random?, I couldn’t help but think Jameson was right.