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What the Metamodernist Manifesto Means to Me

I.

We recognise oscillation to be the natural order of the world. We must liberate ourselves from the inertia resulting from a century of modernist ideological naivety and the cynical insincerity of its antonymous bastard child. Movement shall henceforth be enabled by way of an oscillation between positions, with diametrically opposed ideas operating like the pulsating polarities of a colossal electric machine, propelling the world into action. We acknowledge the limitations inherent to all movement and experience, and the futility of any attempt to transcend the boundaries set forth therein. The essential incompleteness of a system should necessitate an adherence, not in order to achieve a given end or be slaves to its course, but rather perchance to glimpse by proxy some hidden exteriority. Existence is enriched if we set about our task as if those limits might be exceeded, for such action unfolds the world. All things are caught within the irrevocable slide towards a state of maximum entropic dissemblance. Artistic creation is contingent upon the origination or revelation of difference therein. Affect at its zenith is the unmediated experience of difference in itself. It must be art’s role to explore the promise of its own paradoxical ambition by coaxing excess towards presence. The present is a symptom of the twin birth of immediacy and obsolescence. Today, we are nostalgists as much as we are futurists. The new technology enables the simultaneous experience and enactment of events from a multiplicity of positions. Far from signalling its demise, these emergent networks facilitate the democratisation of history, illuminating the forking paths along which its grand narratives may navigate the here and now. Just as science strives for poetic elegance, artists might assume a quest for truth. All information is grounds for knowledge, whether empirical or aphoristic, no matter its truth-value. We should embrace the scientific-poetic synthesis and informed naivety of a magical realism. Error breeds sense. We propose a pragmatic romanticism unhindered by ideological anchorage. Thus, metamodernism shall be defined as the mercurial condition between and beyond irony and sincerity, naivety and knowingness, relativism and truth, optimism and doubt, in pursuit of a plurality of disparate and elusive horizons. We must go forth and oscillate!


II.

Oscillation between poles is a natural process. The modernists were too naive; the postmodernists have become cynical and insincere. There is a sort of power in moving rapidly between two opposing ideas. Only in accepting that all systems are incomplete and prone to failure can we catch a glimpse—even if it’s only by reflection—of the perfection that theoretically lies somewhere outside all present systems. We should therefore live and write in the present as though the limits of knowledge and experience we know exist actually do not. Creativity has historically been synonymous with the revelation or manufacturing of distinctions between things. This is a paradox, however, because it means that artists are forever trying to create “presence” in the world by exploring the absences that necessarily exist between objects. One way to resolve this paradox is to inhabit, widen, and celebrate the absences between objects rather than seeking to resolve or bridge those absences. Too often we feel as though we have to choose between being nostalgic and embracing the future. In fact, the Internet allows us to experience and enact events from multiple positions at once, including experiencing and enacting events from two different points in time simultaneously. The Internet, in other words, democratizes history in a way that lets us see the many structures that have always undergirded the creation and telling of histories. All information is useful. This remains the case whether the information at issue is concrete or abstract, analytical or philosophical, empirically false or empirically true. In fact, we sometimes learn more from mistaken information than we do from accurate information. Poetry can be at once pragmatic and romantic. We need simply unmoor ourselves from the rigid ideologies of modernism and postmodernism. However, this doesn’t mean setting those traditions aside—it means living and working in the space between them and (yes, sometimes) beyond them. Metamodernism locates itself both between and beyond irony and sincerity, between and beyond naivety and cynicism, between and beyond truth and untruth, between and beyond optimism and doubt. Only oscillation between these various poles permits an escape from polarity; only accepting that there are in fact many horizons we might move toward maintains the promise we may one day reach even one of them.


III.

Rhetorical constancy is unnatural and disempowering. Humans are by habit sincere and optimistic, even in the face of knowledge that might logically compel them to be insincere and cynical. We should therefore live and write in the present as though the limits of knowledge and experience we know exist actually do not. In this practice lies our only hope of transcending boundaries. The gulf between objects and ideas should be celebrated, not bridged. This is a more organic and instructive method of mapping. The Internet eliminates absolute time and absolute space. All forms of information can be useful or unhelpful. This remains the case whether the information is concrete or abstract, analytical or philosophical, empirically false or true. Poetry ought to be, like humankind, both pragmatic and romantic. It ought to eschew rigid ideologies that erect artificial binaries, such as sincerity versus irony, naivety versus cynicism, truth versus untruth, ignorance versus knowledge, and optimism versus doubt.


IV.

Rhetorical constancy is unnatural and disempowering. The gulf between objects and ideas should be celebrated, not bridged. The Internet eliminates absolute time and absolute space. All forms of information are useful in Life and in Art. Poetry ought to be, like humankind, both pragmatic and romantic—not only with regard to investigations of the abstract, but as to the real-time development of subjects as well. Poetry ought to eschew rigid ideologies that erect artificial binaries, such as sincerity versus irony, naivety versus cynicism, truth versus untruth, ignorance versus knowledge, optimism versus doubt, and Art versus Life. In rejecting the authority of such polarities, metamodernism can move not only between but also beyond conventional poles of thought and emotion.



Posted 11/26/13
Statement of Concept: "What the Metamodernist Manifesto Means to Me" is a reification of a data-processing event. Section I is the original text of the Metamodernist Manifesto, as written and published by Luke Turner; Section II comprises the author's rewriting of the manifesto using simpler and more direct language; Section III comprises the author's rewriting of his own rewriting--an attempt to distill the first rewriting to its most significant points; Section IV is a further distillation--in this case, of Section III--one that (subjectively) summarizes the most salient elements of the text in that Section. Throughout, paragraph breaks have been removed, as a performance of how blocs of data are actually consumed by users. The original Metamodernist Manifesto can be found here: http://www.metamodernism.org/.
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