Postmodernism and the Art of Discontent


Duchamp’s Urinal marked a turning point in art and the way that artists related to their medium and then presented it to the public, raising questions such as, what is art and can anything be art? Contemporary art since then has continued to reappropriate this idea in the arts industry, whether it is in the university setting or it is elsewhere in the arts world. The original idea had a developed concept behind it and needless to say it was shaped by the times, a gesture towards the industry that expects the artist to be a performing monkey. Today what we see is an influx of repetitions, ideas that mimic and reproject the original. Why is this?

Postmodernism in art is the rejection of modernism – the hard, harsh, linear, structured, systematic, construct of ideas in culture. Postmodernism on the other hand is rhizomic, a theory which regards the deconstruction of grand narratives by desecrating language and meaning.

Much of the art that is on show at the moment is still poised with the same feelings of the past. Taking a sentiment from Walter Benjamin, what we see is the mechanical reproduction of art and aesthetics – in the postmodern age, the continuous and repeated attempt to denigrate artistic authority and make a mockery out of the viewer.

The production of art which Duchamp was the precursor for is the art of discontent, while what we see now is the continuous attempt at shock.


Walter Benjamin (1968). Hannah Arendt, ed. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, Illuminations. London: Fontana. pp. 214–218

Post by Rob Auberon


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