POST A – Postmodernism in New York, Britain and Indonesia

Let us romp through the desolation of modern architecture, like some martian tourist on an earthbound excursion…bemused by the sad but instructive mistakes of a former architectural civilization

– Charles Jencks (2002, p9)

The era of Postmodernism is described as the “unstable mix of the theatrical and theoretical…the colourful to the ruinous, the ludicrous to the luxurious” (V&A, 2011, para 1). It arose in the 1970s where the introspection and scientific reasoning of Modernism could not longer explain such a multi-facetted world. Design was transformed from a disciplined, linear process to a spontaneous bricolage with multiple, subjective meanings.

New York in the 1970s was buzzing with people from all over the world with all sorts of backgrounds including Latinos, Jews, African Americans, Russians, Dominicans and Italians. There was also a huge gap in socio-economic statuses, where the homeless squatted on the doorsteps of billionaires. This had a prodigious impact on the great artists and designers of the era. Jean-Claude Goude’s “Maternity Dress” was the outfit Grace Jones wore to her own baby shower in 1977 at a 4am gay club in New York. Borrowing elements of cubism, Russian Constructivism (Milliard, 2011, para 5) and even Orientalism with a hot pink fan, the outfit is not particularly emotive or typically fashionable but coalesces its own, unique meaning. The outfit and the context of its use represent the ‘Big Apple’ in the 1970s – diverse, multifarious and unattached.

Grace Jones's 1977 'Maternity Dress' (Milliard, 2011)
Grace Jones’s 1977 ‘Maternity Dress’ (Milliard, 2011)
Sex Pistols singer wearing the
Sex Pistols singer wearing the “I HATE Pink Floyd” T-shirt (Sex Pistols Experience, 2012)

Likewise in 1970s Britain, the punk movement was taking hold. British punk movement rejected authority and emphasized autonomy, liberating individuals to design their own personal identity. “The do-it-yourself impulse by ordinary fans provided a range of styles … Chains, dog collars, and plastic bin liners (trash bags) were transformed from utility objects to style statements” (Muggleton & Brill, 2011, para 13). A prime example was when Sex Pistols front man John Lydon donned a ripped, safety-pinned jacket, with his Pink Floyd T-shirt personalised with “I HATE” in 1976. Unlike New York, the power was given to the individual audience member rather than the elite designer and had a strong anti-establishment sentiment, coining the term ‘antifashion’. This was a direct contextual rebellion against the conservative English government and implicit power of the monarchy.

Indonesian design label Unkl347 amalgamates well known logos (Luvaas, 2008)
Indonesian design label Unkl347 amalgamates well known logos (Luvaas, 2008)

Subcultural movements reoccur in surprising contexts for a variety of reason. Indonesian youth culture is quite unique, as its relationship with the West is partially limited. However there is a huge ideological division between the progressive younger generation and the conservative older generation. Indonesia’s punk movement is led by passionate youths who also rebel against political hegemony. They collaborate with communities, farmers, workers collectives and activist campaigns to “create real and meaningful change. However big or small.” (Melville, 2014, para 23). Independent fashion label Unkl347 pays homage to British punk in its graphic designs that amalgamate and edit well-known logos, including the Nike tick and the Xerox logo. “DIY practices of punk-rock… surfaced in Indonesia in the 1990s through mail-order catalogues and imported magazines and has been growing since” (Luvaas, 2008, para 12). Like the ‘Maternity Dress’ and the ‘I HATE Pink Floyd’ T-shirt, Unkl347 bring various elements together to form a post-modern pastiche. The Indonesian context is unique, in that it “can account for a contingent, fractured, intermittent, yet powerfully influential relationship between globalization and subjectivities” (Boellstorff, 2003, para 3).

Post-modern design manifests in many different ways that involve all sorts of people, evidentially in New York, Britain and Indonesia. “Postmodernism, even if it had originally been a story that was invented by white men like Charles Jencks, rapidly became something that everybody could participate in” (Milliard, 2011, para 5).

References

Boellstorff, T. 2003, ‘Dubbing culture: Indonesian gay and lesbi subjectivities and ethnography in an already globalized world’, American Ethnologist, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 225-42.

Brill, D. and Muggleton, D. 2011, ‘Subcultural Dress’, Part 9: Peoples and Dress, Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion, vol. 8

Jencks, C. 2002, The New Paradigm in Architecture: The Language of Post-modernism, Yale University Press, Yale

Luvaas, B. 2008, ‘Global fashion, remixed’, Inside Indonesia, viewed 29 April 2015 <http://www.insideindonesia.org/global-fashion-remixed-2&gt;

Melville, K. 2014, ‘Indonesian Punk: Punk’s not dead!’, radio transcript, viewed 29 April 2015, <http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/360/indonesian-punks/5909858#transcript&gt;

Milliard, C. 2011, ‘PoMos in Paradise: 6 Views of Postmodernism From the V&A’s New Show’, Artinfo UK, viewed 29 April 2015, <http://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/38730/pomos-in-paradise-6-views-of-postmodernism-from-the-vas-new-show&gt;

Victoria and Albert Museam, 2011, ‘Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970 – 1990’, exhibition introduction, viewed 29 April 2015 < http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/postmodernism/about-the-exhibition/>

Image 2: Sex Pistols Experience, 2012, ‘Old News’, viewed 29 April 2015, <http://www.sexpistolsexperience.co.uk/news_2012.html&gt;

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