V&A Signs of a Struggle: Photography in the Wake of Postmodernism

On Friday night, I took advantage of the late night opening of the V&A to visit ‘Signs of a Struggle: Photography in the Wake of Postmodernism‘.  This is a precursor to the V&A’s autumn/winter blockbuster: ‘Postmodernism: style and subversion 1970 to 1990’ which opens at the end of this week.

I’ve never been very sure of my understanding of the term ‘postmodernism’ and this small exhibition has been a big help.  I learnt that the characteristics of postmodern work include:

  • irony or humour
  • references to the work’s own mode of production
  • investigations of originality and authorship
  • enquiries into the nature of representation.
The notes to the work presented highlighted three strategies:
  • quotation, parody or appropriation to draw attention to the conventions and limitations of different forms of representation
  • self-conscious combination of nature and artifice
  • the staging or artificial construction of scenes to be photographed.
The notes went on to explain that work is often enigmatic with open-ended interpretations.  It questions the nature of photography as a medium and exports its myriad uses within our culture and in the service of powerful institutions.
Working my way around the exhibition I noted:
  • images cut from their original contexts and ‘re-purposed’ for different meanings
  • echoes of the ornamentation present in postmodern architecture.
The work that I particularly liked included:
Overall this was a small exhibition or perhaps 30 or so images but this was its virtue.  It allowed me to spend time with each image and work on my own understanding of them.  It was time well spent.
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