UBC Theses and Dissertations
The education of Rosalind Krauss, Peter Eisenman, and other Americans : why the fantasy of postmodernism still remains Epp, Colin Brent
Within current art and architectural circles the term postmodernism has a dated air about it. It has long been shorn of its currency in any meaningful dialogue about the state of art and architectural production. Instead, the name recalls for most a notion that was fashionable in the 1970s and 1980s, suggesting a manifold of concepts like historical quotation, allegory, appropriation, pastiche, the culture of late capitalism, the end of grand narratives, the critique of the authorial subject, the collapse of the Enlightenment project, pluralism. Yet, for all this, it has not been properly historicized. This thesis proposes to historicize the production and circulation of the term postmodernism, paying attention to two of its most important sites: October, a journal of art criticism founded in 1976, and Oppositions, an architectural periodical that was first published in 1973. With this aim, I turn to the dialogue between Rosalind Krauss and Peter Eisenman that took place between 1969 and 1976, as each broke ties with certain aspects of her and his intellectual formation represented by Michael Fried and Colin Rowe. The rejection of the latter critics' anti-literalism propels the dialogue. But it was founded on a faultline--one that points to a difference much more significant than supposed between art and architecture, and one that could only be diffused by a discourse on institutions. The political critiques of the institutions of art and architecture that emerged alongside alternative spaces and that were enunciated in October and Oppositions are part of a broader discourse on institutions and have their mirror reflection on the right. Neoconservatives set up their own alternative spaces in corporate-funded think tanks and from there launched their attacks on the liberalism they saw as being entrenched in the institutions supported by government and the university. I argue that the fantasy of postmodernism served to make illegible deep contradictions, not between claims about institutions by left and right, but between the different significations called forth by the figure "institution,'' showing that fantasies of efficiency have a deeper set of effects and conditions than the political claims based on them.