Metamodernism is a proposed set of developments in philosophy, aesthetics, and culture which emerge from and react to postmodernism. One definition characterizes metamodernism as mediations between aspects of both modernism and postmodernism. Another similar term is post-postmodernism.
In 1999, Moyo Okediji reused the term metamodern about contemporary African-American art, defining it as an “extension of and challenge to modernism and postmodernism.”
In 2002, Andre Furlani, analyzing the literary works of Guy Davenport, defined metamodernism as an aesthetic that is “after yet by means of modernism…. a departure as well as a perpetuation.”
The relationship between metamodernism and modernism was seen as going “far beyond homage, toward a reengagement with modernist method in order to address subject matter well outside the range or interest of the modernists themselves.”
In 2007, Alexandra Dumitrescu described metamodernism as partly a concurrence with, partly an emergence from, and partly a reaction to, postmodernism, “champion[ing] the idea that only in their interconnection and continuous revision lie the possibility of grasping the nature of contemporary cultural and literary phenomena.”
In 2010, cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker proposed metamodernism as an intervention in the post-postmodernism debate.
Notes on Metamodernism
Vermeulen and van den Akker asserted that the 2000s were characterized by the return of typically modern positions that did not forfeit the postmodern mindsets of the 1980s and 1990s, resembling a “neo-romanticism” represented especially in the work of young visual artists. According to them, the metamodern sensibility “can be conceived of as a kind of informed naivety, a pragmatic idealism”, characteristic of cultural responses to recent global events such as climate change, the financial crisis, political instability, and the digital revolution. They asserted that “the postmodern culture of relativism, irony, and pastiche” is over, having been replaced by a post-ideological condition that stresses engagement, affect, and storytelling.
The prefix “meta-” referred not to a reflective stance or repeated rumination, but to Plato’s metaxy, which denotes a movement between opposite poles as well as beyond them.
Vermeulen and van den Akker described metamodernism as a “structure of feeling” that oscillates between modernism and postmodernism like “a pendulum swinging between…innumerable poles”.
According to Kim Levin, writing in ARTnews, this oscillation “must embrace doubt, as well as hope and melancholy, sincerity and irony, affect and apathy, the personal and the political, and technology and techne.” For the metamodern generation, according to Vermeulen, “grand narratives are as necessary as they are problematic, hope is not simply something to distrust, love not necessarily something to be ridiculed.”
Vermeulen asserts that “metamodernism is not so much a philosophy—which implies a closed ontology—as it is an attempt at a vernacular, or…a sort of open source document, that might contextualise and explain what is going on around us, in political economy as much as in the arts.”
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