“Why can’t we be ourselves like we were yesterday”

I recently visited the V & A’s big exhibition: “Postmodernism. Style and Subversion, 1970-1980”. Go see it! It is a unique musealization of our near past, and a candidate for the  museal event of the year, digging postmodernism or not!  I will present an article about it in the forthcoming volume of “Danske Museer”, the journal of Danish museums.

The exhibition ends with a fascinating piece of work: Artist Robert Longo’s music video for the New Order number “Bizarre Love Triangle” (1986). It is an flickering row of changing images with a returning motif of a suit clad man falling through the air. This particular image is of course reminiscent of Longo’s famous photo series “Men in the City” and the 1980’s proto Young Urban Professional. Here, the Young Urban Postmodern is rather out of control. See it where you can – it is an interesting and important work of its time, combining visual art, the music video and the music itself in a deconstructing artistic time capsule.

The image of the falling suit is still with us. For one thing in the 9/11 iconography and Don DeLillo’s “The Falling Man”. But also in the intro to the “Mad Men” series where the graphics show the silhouette of man falling between the Manhattan skyscrapers through drinks, women and other accessories. An interesting similarity.

A line in the New Order song goes: “Why can’t we be ourselves like we were yesterday”. A confession from the days of postmodern insincerety and a manifesto for the current retromania age where also the electropop of New Order has had its revival. The “ourselves as we were yesterday” of Mad Men is an interesting affair, ballancing between elegance and destruction, marking both distance towards the ancient days of 1963 and creating an affection for the style and look.  Talking about modernism and postmodernism, I just came across a sentence from Andreas Huyssen from 1986 about one of the good things of postmodernism being the ability to look upon modernism in a more reflected way:

“rather than being bound to a one-way history … which interprets it as a logical unfolding toward some imaginary goal, and which thus is based on a whole series of exclusions, we are beginning to explore its contradictions and contingencies, its tensions and internal resistances to its own “forward” movement” (After The Great Divide, p. 217).

Pretty descriptive of what Mad Men does!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *