Society of Insatiable Consumption: Reactionary Intermittence of Post-Modernism / by kaz + greg

by Kaz Yoneda and Gregory Serweta, AIA

Post-Modernism looked to history itself as a way to reclaim what was lost through the Modern movement. This sense of loss can be seen in many episodes from which theorizations by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Colin Rowe emerged to fill the gap through an attempt to reconnect and form meaningful synthesis with history: “Its strategy constantly calls forth the ‘ruses of the imaginary’ in order to dismiss them: even though it is a process that both ‘unconscious’ and ‘without history,’ it must still account for the effects of knowledge and history by binding them into new configurations in the service of tasks that are always the same.”(1) However, as far as we can logically concur, time is unidirectional. Time itself, encapsulating the history, can never be reclaimed without disturbing the space-time continuum. The Post-Modernists were all too aware that images of history were indeed reclaimable, the phantom whisperings of time gone by; akin to how the stars we see today are constituted from light emitted many millennia ago. Here is a great discrepancy between the real and the actual. A star (the real) may have moved light years by the time its light reaches our oculus (the sensual-actual), but our cosmology based on the sciences and their tools depends on reproducible results and on what can be observed to become a scientific truth. Against the post-war deprivation of a personal connection to a much larger context than oneself, in like fashion, Post-Modern syndrome fixated our attention onto something more actual than real(2); that no matter what we do, we can only reclaim the superficies of image to connect to history in order to legitimize design in all its guises. This trend also had a uniquely-Japanese turn in as much as “...the young Japanese intellectuals conjectured optimistically that, insofar as some cultural theory was in existence, a new one would follow if they simply added the prefix post- to the existing one… [T]here were not a few young intellectuals who were stricken by a series of self-destructive impulses when they learned that the concept of ‘post-such-and-such’ was in fact insubstantial and when, in turn, they learned that the ‘such-and-such’ thoughts in themselves meant very little, if anything at all.”(1) This moment of theo-historical reflection and self-referential regression coincided with the rising capacity of technology. One such example being Moore’s Law. Soon, the increasing demand for images and the doubling production thereof will engender ample incubation for seduction camouflaging sedation and anaesthetics, to fill the inner void of substance.

1. Harry D. Harootunian, “Visible Discourses/Invisible Ideologies,” in Postmodernism and Japan, ed. Masao Miyoshi et al. (Durham: Duke University Press, 1989) pp. 88
2. Graham Harman, The Quadruple Object (London: Zero Books, 2011) pp.60-75
3. Ōe Kenzaburō, “Japan’s Dual Identity” in Postmodernism and Japan, ed. Masao Miyoshi et al. ( Durham: Duke University Press, 1989) pp. 203-204