Metamodernism – Definition, Examples, History & More – Art Theory Glossary

I. What is Metamodernism?

Metamodernism is a term used to describe a cultural and artistic movement that emerged in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It is characterized by a blending of modernist and postmodernist ideas, creating a new and unique approach to art and culture.

Metamodernism is often seen as a response to the perceived limitations of both modernism and postmodernism. It seeks to reconcile the optimism and progressiveness of modernism with the skepticism and irony of postmodernism, creating a more nuanced and complex worldview.

II. Origins of Metamodernism

The term “metamodernism” was first coined by cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker in their 2010 essay “Notes on Metamodernism.” They argued that the cultural landscape was shifting towards a new sensibility that transcended the binary oppositions of modernism and postmodernism.

Metamodernism can be seen as a reaction to the perceived failures of postmodernism, which was often criticized for its relativism and lack of a coherent worldview. Metamodernism seeks to move beyond the irony and cynicism of postmodernism towards a more sincere and engaged form of cultural production.

III. Characteristics of Metamodernism

Some key characteristics of metamodernism include a return to sincerity and authenticity, a rejection of irony and cynicism, and a willingness to engage with grand narratives and universal truths. Metamodernism is also characterized by a sense of oscillation between different cultural and artistic modes, moving fluidly between optimism and pessimism, idealism and skepticism.

Metamodernism is often associated with a sense of nostalgia for modernist ideals, such as progress, innovation, and utopianism, while also acknowledging the complexities and contradictions of the contemporary world. It is a dynamic and evolving movement that resists easy categorization or definition.

IV. Metamodernism in Art

In the realm of art, metamodernism can be seen in a variety of practices and styles. Artists working in a metamodernist vein often combine elements of modernist and postmodernist aesthetics, creating works that are both innovative and self-aware.

Metamodernist art often explores themes of temporality, history, and memory, drawing on a wide range of cultural references and influences. Artists may use a variety of media and techniques to create works that are both visually striking and intellectually engaging.

V. Criticisms of Metamodernism

Despite its growing popularity, metamodernism has not been without its critics. Some argue that the movement is too vague and ill-defined, lacking a clear set of principles or goals. Others criticize metamodernism for its perceived nostalgia for modernist ideals, which they see as outdated and irrelevant in the contemporary world.

Critics also point to the potential dangers of embracing grand narratives and universal truths, warning that such beliefs can lead to dogmatism and authoritarianism. They argue that metamodernism’s emphasis on sincerity and authenticity may be naive and simplistic, overlooking the complexities and contradictions of the postmodern world.

VI. Impact of Metamodernism on Contemporary Art Theory

Metamodernism has had a significant impact on contemporary art theory, challenging traditional notions of artistic practice and aesthetic value. It has opened up new possibilities for artists to explore and experiment with different modes of expression and representation.

Metamodernism has also sparked a renewed interest in the relationship between art and society, prompting artists and critics to engage with pressing social and political issues. It has encouraged a more critical and self-reflexive approach to art-making, pushing artists to question their own assumptions and beliefs.

Overall, metamodernism has brought a fresh and innovative perspective to the world of contemporary art, offering new ways of thinking about the role of art in society and the possibilities of artistic expression. Its influence can be seen in a wide range of artistic practices and movements, shaping the cultural landscape in exciting and unexpected ways.