In the past months, through twitter Anthropologies and other virtual encounters I have found myself using the concepts of Altermodernity set up by Nicolas Bourriaud. Altermoderity is a theoretical concept to define the scope of the answer to the question. What is after postmodernity?

Altermodernity, or what comes after postmodernity, builds up through a genesis of cultural journeys of diasporas, of which, online and virtual communities, mixing, mashing, twitting and other styles of online production of cultural and social knowledge are part of it. Although I do not use the concept in the Bourriaud strict sense (or rather developing it from there) the concept of openeness, along with other ideas such as, heterocronia, exiles, docu-fiction, borders, and the concept of the altermodern itself are within the scope of these discussions online.

My partner and I have been using this concept in several conferences and has attracted much attention, and it is generating qute interesting theoretical discussions; there is already a blog and other associations through the Tate website. I do not know if it is too soon to create a group, but I would be more than happy if anyone would like to generate some discussion on it with me and any others on this.

I believe, though, what we started with Keith on twitter, and then the discussion on his blog and later the creation of this co-operative is part of an altermodern anthropology.

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Comment by Àngels Trias i Valls on July 2, 2009 at 1:11pm
I had a post by Keith here, that just evaporated, I want it back!
Comment by Àngels Trias i Valls on July 2, 2009 at 1:10pm
My apologies for the delay, been rather everywhere this month. I agree on the point Huon makes on the subjective reaction to modernity, I think that describes excellently these meanings. I particularly like your idea on the 'collapsing' of the felt experience, I think it really gets to the key detail of what most of the authors of the Altermodern exhibition, initially, were conveying. I wonder if Tate would be willing to release their leaflet contents and I will include them here to illustrate Houn's points and that of everybody's above. I will ask, it may help us generate a further discussion on the issue of how we deal with the job of 'interpreting the synchronicity of modernity'...
Comment by Huon Wardle on June 5, 2009 at 10:57am
The artists in Angels description seem to be interpreting a characteristic aspect of the subjective reaction to 'modernity'; the difficulty of recovering one's own self from a diverse, over-populated field of possible meanings. Construed in more objectivising terms the idea of modernity obviously implies some time before it and after it, hence the stages into which modernity falls when viewed with a historical mind-set. The sensation of modernity collapsing time into an expanding contemporaneity, probably reflects how (I almost said 'the way in which') modernity is sometimes felt as an experience, while our periodisations indicate an attempt to build a frame around this feeling. The problem at the moment may be that some of our most attractive metaphors of 'social construction', 'habitus' and so on are looking rather shabby and not up to the job of interpreting the synchronicity of modernity. But that is more a problem for social scientists than anyone else.
Comment by Keith Hart on June 4, 2009 at 4:18pm
I am enjoying this thread too and have learned a lot from it already. I particularly gained from reading Angels' second post which made the interest of the concept much clearer for me, as well as locating it a particular time and place. It seems that the flirtation with modernity and that this implies plus the post-post aspect are not the most interesting features of what is at stake here. This would suggest to me both that the term altermodern is misleading and that this thread has been misled by it a rehash of old debates over postmodernism.

I will not engage directly with Steven's epiphany here except to say that his enthusiasm is catching. "The ways in which we can create value and meaning by interacting with each other asynchronously and hence in radically different ways is sending some very clear signals of what we can expect to happen." Obviously there is a lot more to be said about that claim and I hope to hear more soon. [An aside: There is a verbal tic, possibly a linguistic virus, that has taken over post-millennial society -- 'the way(s) in which'. This can usually be replaced by a three-letter monosyllable, 'how', without loss of meaning. I often wonder where it came from and what it means].

There is an issue of time here, even if it may not be the main point of Angels' rich contributions. I like to think about time conceived of as a linear process (time like an arrow) interacts with timelessness, the continuous present, eternity, the past in the present etc. I sometimes represent these as a T-bar, with the crossbar (past - present - future) supported in the present by an upright that is grounded in the past, conceived of as a continuity. We are perched in the present at the intersection of the upright and the cross bar. Maybe this fanciful construction of tense does nothing for you, but at least it gets us away from thinking of the two as alternatives and both the main posts here seem to be making an analogous point in their different ways.
Comment by Steven Devijver on June 3, 2009 at 4:27pm
Maximilian, Angels, Keith, Huon,

As I just wrote on twitter, I just had an epiphany thanks to this thread! I probably still have to do some more research, but here it is:

Throughout history - at least since agriculture - we have constructed time in at least 4 stages:

1. pre-history & ancient: through solar clocks and the monitoring of celestial bodies the cycles or nature were recorded (day/night, seasons, astronomical years, ...) and civil calendars were adopted.

2. medieval: in 1582 the civil calendar was reformed to reflect the celestial reality.

3. early modern: around the 1760's John Harrison developed his H5 clock which keep accurate time on board of moving ships which allowed navigators to determine their longitudinal position in altantic crossings.

4. post-modern: the development of the nuclear clock.

Through these steps - and many intermediate ones - we have made time more and more precise and as such have made the ways in which we interact more and more precise ( e.g. "you're again 5 minutes late!")

I believe we have now begun to deconstruct time with asynchronous interactions becoming the norm.

This means that honoring absolute time to be able to relate to others has recently become much less important because it's much less necessary to create value and meaning. Instead, we've come to depend on relative time: time elapsed between events. This is also the difference between planning and coordination.

The recently revealed Google Wave may well prove to be the epitome of asynchronous collaboration. As we come to depend less on each other's precise actions and more on each other's shouts, signals and gestures (real or virtual) we have less power over each other and hence are more free.

That is, we're still territorially bound so we are still at the mercy of states (for now). But the ways in which we can create value and meaning by interacting with each other asynchronously and hence in radically different ways is sending some very clear signals of what we can expect to happen.

Like I've said, it's an epiphany, maybe I'm not the first to come to this conclusion. But to me there's a clear historical framework as well as a clear historical movement. It's obvious that the honoring of absolute time by many is required to work together central command is the only workable form of organization. If however absolute time becomes much less important and we can instead create events and respond to events asynchronously emergence becomes the norm and central command gets subverted.

Wow, it sure feels good to be part of the OAC!

Thanks for creating this opportunity.

Comment by Huon Wardle on June 3, 2009 at 3:51pm
Hello Angels,

Very interesting to read your contribution. One modernist problem is to what degree can I pretend to have read all of this discussion carefully, to have condensed it and ordered it according to some authentic principle of my own making... But there seem a lot of modernities and non-modernities and second modernities to choose from. I was chatting about this modernity business after a seminar and we seemed to be able to push the basics of modernity - lots of people, lots of diverse ideas, trying to make sense of them - as far back as Heirocles in fifth century Greece. But you can more or less take your pick - which is another modernist problem (pace post-modernism). Vico's three stage cycle is still a potential runner...

Comment by Àngels Trias i Valls on June 3, 2009 at 2:38pm
have similar issues with the label, what I like about it is that it is a departure point from where we meet a kind of end of linearity, many of the concepts within Altermodernity (which I use more metaphorically than literally, as I do not agree with the Altermodern manifesto as such - I find it still too anchored in its post-post narrative) are aiming to go go beyond the linearity (for example the idea of heterocronia, multiple times, which echoes the asynchronicity of online encounters. When the concept first emerged, in the field of arts I took it as a place from where to mobilise ideas and I took it with a pinch of salt in relation to its historicity, which I felt built on ethnocentric divisions of periods. After this, however, I felt there was a place where to take the concept much further from an anthropological point of view. My hope is (for all of us) to take the concept, including from a critique of it, further, to take it from anthropological points of view rather than leave it anchored in the curators/artists field that first described it.

One of the elements that I liked about the Altermodern exhibition was that the pieces were not anchored in the museum and were not static, the authors changed and dialogued with the curator and public and the pieces kept re-arranging and taking new shapes as the dialogues unfolded.

Another of the elements that for me describe the Altermodern is perhaps in the shift proposed by one of the authors, Seers, who born with an eidetic memory first started speaking at the age of 8 after she saw a picture of herself and identified that self in words. After she spoke she started loosing her eidetic memory and her art (in the postmodern period of it) is an effort to recover the fragments of her identity dispersed with the lost memory. She became a camera, with film strips in her mouth taking pictures through herself, from her mouth. The second period, closer to the Altermodern period, she moved away from the lament of the lost (it kind of reminds me of the prepositions by Z Bauman of lamenting modernity) past to a stage where she became a camera and started projecting images (with a camera built around her face).

In a sense, following Keith here, she is a good example in that she does not break with her past but she takes the forms around (in her case the projection case) and gives a new emphasis to her search for memory, identity. I feel the altermodern period (if we manage to deal with the linearity issue, which is, as I take from above a critical issue of power -historical, social), is an attempt to be more progressive in combining, it emphasises the re-mixing, the blending, the hybridity and it puts emphasis on the capacity of journeys (many are diasporic journeys in the original exhibition) to be re-told, re-narrativising our current present period, so to speak.

Her pieces, in art, are really mind-blowing. What I liked of her work is the capacity to give a metaphor for the altermodern period, in a sense, as way to move forward from the lament of the 'liquid modernity', and also, perhaps she does better in her work than the manifesto itself, challenge the boundaries of time (there is no history in a lineal sense but only in sense of re-telling the stories, and this re-telling is not lineal but regards the meeting of others) as a lineal process. I feel many of the original pieces of the Altermodern exhibition, she is not the only author I would say does the job in providing metaphors for it, in particular the Indian pieces (also include an ethnographic video of migrant voices), do better justice to the concept than the manifesto. What I like about the pieces is that they don't provide a concept per se, but they are part of a larger, historical vision of journeys, encounters and diasporic re-tellings, and as such the concept kind of overtakes them in its simplicity.

Yes, I agree with Keith that such concepts are reified as commodities to the point they are suitable for appropriation, and I'd say, not only the great unwashed but also governmental think tanks and others. With Steven, I think that there is a sense of reference to own historical frameworks, but I always feel that the sense of reference can be easily alienated (or mystified -and thus I take here Keith comment on the appropriation of commodities as one of these channels for certain types of mystification) from within those frameworks, leaving those individuals with metaphors that have less political power than they are said to have/ or ought to have for the purpose of giving strength and power to better social progress.

My shared uneasiness with Maximilian is what prompted to start this dialogue, but I have a sense (and I could be totally wrong here) that there is mood, so to speak, in many other forums (in art, history, sociology and so), towards attempting to re-configure our current ideas on lineality and dialogicity (for example through social networking).

It may conspire (and collide) with other metaphors, to follow Steven here. I wonder how much impact the changes in our social conditions will have in our ability to examine these metaphors, but there is an element about 'finding one's place' in all the pieces that brought the Altermodern exhibition about, albeit, this 'place' is a hybrid of places, a journey of places and a diasporas of places, not necessarily always fluid (to use the postmodern tag), but one of re-telling (with the fictionalisation that occurs along with it) of such places.

Comment by Steven Devijver on June 2, 2009 at 2:47pm

I see, but I don't see why metaphors would exclude a historical framework. I would think that such metaphors like deconstruction and globalization actually refer to their own historical frameworks.

Comment by Keith Hart on June 2, 2009 at 12:53pm

i think the point of my intervention was that seeking labels or metaphors should be secondary to developing a clear historical framework for discussing this or any other period. Of course a catchy concept is easier to dream up than a historical vision. Such concepts are, in my view, often commodities appropriated by....what can say, the uneducated, the ignorant, the great unwashed or some similar betrayal of my own elitist prejudice?
Comment by Steven Devijver on June 2, 2009 at 11:59am

Great intervention! So, what's the new metaphor of this moment for social progress? I'm very interested in finding that metaphor since when we do everything that is going on can be attached to it. We can then also examine how this new metaphors collides with or conspires with the older metaphors.

Can that new metaphor be finding one's own place in the world?



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