THE BLOG
08/25/2014 05:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

On Metamodern Dada

Screens. Bright fingers that claw at our eyes. Expressions of tenderness, movements of thought, sexual fantasies, our greatest battles. More and more, we occur on screens over invisible waves.

That metamodernism has been largely characterized by comparisons to the New Sincerity and Romanticism is a disservice to the scope of the emerging cultural dominant. These are of course helpful in our understanding of metamodernism; both, in their way, foreground the felt experience over the rational. But to speak entirely of the "felt" is to honor also our fear, anger, and neuroses; for some among the new generation, the hope for optimism diverges with the faith in its function. Our world fragments all around us, and there is more now to know than we could ever manage, even if we could pause the world to toil day and night on our iPads.

The new generation has come to see too much. We are inundated and overwhelmed; we find ourselves in the moment of averted eyes and nostalgia obsession. It happens all around us; Instagram elevates bygone kitsch to social relevance, normcore recasts department-store-apparel as vintage chic. In 2014, there are those of us artists who believe that, to push deeper into the "informed naivety" of a New Sincericist bent, necessary as it may have been a decade ago, is to exacerbate our fear-borne solipsism. Our ethos is one not of postmodern narcolepsy, but metamodern honesty. We strive to create work that mirrors the praxis of life, the now. For all the apocalyptic pessimism of mainstream media, the state of affairs is still worse than it would appear -- our traumas are not isolated by distance; we can see the interconnectedness of our collisions, even if we can't feel each one. We cannot unknow what we know. To ignore that would be a moral transgression of the highest order.

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What most distinguishes this paradigm from its forebears is the Internet. Webs. Links. Clouds. This new medium is the most fundamental alteration to human society since the advent of language. The Internet is our new mode of communication, evolving at the speed of the collective, which is to say, faster than any one of us.

The adoption of any new mode of communication begets episodes of madness. Religious wars and the witch hunts followed the espousal of the printing press, Nazi Germany arose on the radio, and Cold War tensions took shape on television. Now the Internet.

And with the Internet, screens. Anonymity, performance, ambiguity. The very word is indicative of the metamodern moment, reappropriated into itself and its opposite. "Screen" evokes privacy, partitioning, shelter. Yet our screens are portals to webbed thought, community, unflinching connection. Our access is unparalleled. With screen access, we can complete, on our own, the complex, multi-layered tasks that once required the group. Bohr speaks of complementarity. Our screens represent this complementarity, a paradox that is also not. The serpent's jaw descends ever on its tail; through these screens, we block ourselves from necessary touch, inflection, intuition. We attempt to embody the group in our singular frames--that's what our experience demands of us. Rather than find the balance of accommodation with our environment, with screens we strive for domination, to curate an environment that aligns with our pre-existing whims. We try to engineer love based on snippets we post about ourselves. But what of new experience, of learning and discovery of the unknown? How can we listen when so many (can) talk? Should we just start talking, too? Should we yell? Who are we yelling at? Just dance, it'll be okay.

This is our feedback loop. Identity in selfies, connection in hashtags, forgiveness in snapchat.

We are, as we were a century ago, in a moment of exponential movement. Too much noise, too many waves. When we don't know who or what to trust, we tend toward the lowest common denominator. Popularity informs legitimacy. Legitimacy informs what we value. What we choose to value, en masse, becomes culture.

We say that dada does not mean anything; metamodern dada is the collage of reconstituted nothing(s); a nonsense so deeply felt it resembles and reassembles into sense. We speak not of meaninglessness but how to repurpose meaninglessness into meaning. We find originality in reconstruction, that the infinite possible expressions of our singularity, in the end, are the closest we get to connecting with the whole. We're plugged in, still hungry to connect.