Postmodernism at the V&A

You know you’re getting old when policemen start looking young – and when museum exhibitions cover periods you remember.

Such is the Postmodernism exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which I visited yesterday. I was a student in London in the early 1980s – the heyday of Michael Clark, Leigh Bowery, Andrew Logan, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne and Grace Jones, the dystopian era of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, the golden age of style magazines The Face and i-D. All these feature in the exhibition. (And I was disappointed to discover that the arabesque pose by Grace Jones on the cover of Island Life was in fact a fake; in those pre-PhotoShop days, the film was literally cut and pasted to produce the final image. Kind of sums up the movement, I suppose.)

Anyway, personal nostalgia aside, I enjoyed the section on adhocism, or bricolage. Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss defined a bricoleur as “someone working with oddments left over from human endeavours”, and the examples on display included the punk jewellery of Bernard Schobinger, a concrete stereo by Ron Arad, and a glass chair by Danny Lane.

So my spectacle and smartphone cases recycled from plastic bags and old aeronautical charts are postmodern works. But, as the exhibition points out, this is a very Eurocentric view of art. In many countries, this type of recycling has been going on for decades and is an everyday necessity, not an artistic statement.

In these environmentally sensitive times, we are all postmodernists.



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