Fredric Jameson and the No Wave Art Movement

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Working within a Marxist framework, social theorist Fredric Jameson links the emergence of particular art aesthetics with the development of a specif ic Western economic system in his text, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1990). With latecapitalism as the current economic environment, Jameson demonstrates how these economic conditions bear on cultural and artistic production. According to Jameson, cultural production in late-capitalism is identif iable through a use of pastiche or copying. Jameson describes this as random cannibalization (17-18). In postmodern art, history is self-consciously reappropriated and re-fashioned into new forms. Postmodern art, Jameson argues, was a logical outcome of late-capitalism, which in its late stage has allowed society to abolish the distinction between high culture and mass culture, producing a culture of degradation. This was first taken up as an aesthetic by Andy Warhol. In the text, Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-1990, Adamson and Pavitt note that Jameson, “found Warhol's glittering series Diamond Dust Shoes to be particularly unnerving because of its incorporation of

commodity culture” (70). Art, according to both Warhol and Jameson is above all, a commodity, something to be bought and sold. Warhol's work illustrates Jameson's contention that, "Aesthetic production today has become integrated into commodity production" (4). This conflation of art and commodity creates a field of cultural production that is incapable of depth and valuable social critique. According to Jameson, the abstract aesthetic of modernism was an expression of the new social forms of abstraction specif ic to capitalism. In modernism, the universalization of the money-form manifests as a range of social abstractions including, for example, society's dominant "way of seeing” and representing the world aesthetically. In the age of global capitalism, the utopian sublime of modernism, to which Jameson referred, has disappeared, and has been replaced by the postmodern cultural logic of consumption. With the universalization of capitalism, the distinction between culture and economics has collapsed. In postmodernism everything, including art and culture, is subject to the logic of commodif ication. In the text, The Cultural Turn, Jameson submits that postmodernity "makes the cultural economic at the same time that it turns the economic into so many forms of

culture" (81). This essay submits that the No Wave art movement that occurred between 1974 – 1984 in New York's Lower East Side is indeed postmodern, by Jameson's standards, and yet resists this conflation of art and commodity that Jameson maintains is characteristic of this paradigm. Jameson's text, Postmodernism, suggests that with art's entry into the commodity sphere art becomes propelled not by ideas but by money (Adamson et. al, 70). John N. Duvall is critical of Jameson's linkage between culture and commodif ication in the postmodern context. Duvall writes in his text, Troping History, “It is precisely change that, for Jameson, can no longer be imagined in postmodernism, since aesthetic production has been subsumed by commodity production, thus emptying the modernist aesthetic of affect and hence of political effect” (4). Jameson's characterization of postmodern art as enveloped in commodif ication overlooks art produced during this period that consciously existed outside the margins of the art market and acted as a resistance to the conditions of a commodif ied artistic arena. As alluded to by Duvall in the previous quotation, Jameson does not account for the possibility of political art production in postmoderism. As Perry Anderson notes, "by the positioning of the postmodern between aesthetics and economics," Jameson omits, "a sense of culture as a battlefield, that divides protagonists. That is the plane of politics understood as a space in its own right" (18). As Marvin J. Taylor describes, “Downtown artists...
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