Postmodern truth and political conditions


“Truth is what your contemporaries let you get away with” – Robert Rorty

In the scope of part 3 and its focus on Postmodernism I found an article in the Swiss newspaper Neue Zuricher Zeitung spot on in the discourse on language, reality and truth.

The article by the German writer Karl-Heinz Otto (b. 1937) appeared already on 19 April 2017, but I kept my reflection on it after assignment 2 finished.

The arguments of the author , in a joyful and at times rather humorous mode, are based mainly on the ‘standard’ French postmodern writer Deleuze, Foucault, and Derrida and with more reference to Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) in context of nowadays political conditions and governments that are opposing ‘truth’. I am wondering what Nietzsche has to do with Postmodern and what could be possible links between postmodernism and cultural traditions.

Main quotes from Nietzsche in this article that I find intriguing in context of visual culture: “Freedom to think and to believe anything”, There are only interpretations, no facts”, and the notion that all discourses are a question of power regardless of the side of the person (in or without power).

Otto wrote this article in the first person perspective as ‘we’ i.e. he includes himself. By that the humorous writing style get across easier and perhaps more believable instead of a formal ‘they’ what would place the author as an external observer with knowing more, knowing the conditions and at times nonsense of a discourse. Especially as he raises the question of truth and what seems to be like ‘schizophrenia’. On the one hand those (we) ‘postmodern’ people are rejecting objective truth as socially constructed entities that merely present hidden agendas of those in power. On the other the same (we) people believe in scientific facts and authority of scientists. I find this notion quite spot on and relates directly to the ‘Sokal Hoax’ case that I am going to reflect on next.

Basically, in a humurous tone, the author describes the conditions in which the ‘postmodern’ people ‘merely’ wanted to eliminate ‘biological myths of assigned defined roles to woman and man by nature’, to ‘destroy ideologies’, and ‘ to blow away reactionist ideas’.

In context of recent changes in USA administration with Trump, it seemed for the author that the ‘worldorder’ suddenly changed. In his words ‘So war das nicht gemeint!’ (It wasn’t meant like that) he sees that those in power and those that ‘postmodern’ (we) people were fighting against do apply similar rationale of interpreting truth.

Overall, one might ‘think anything’ (Nietzsche) about characters of people regardless of position. Nevertheless, the author draws the line between an proclaimed arbitrariness and the comfort of truth ‘Die alte schöne Wahrheit’ (The good old truth).

The articke raises the question of who has the right to interpret or present ‘objective facts’, what position we take ourselfes and whether we consider our position as the ‘true’ position and rejecting a claim by others to take over a discourse. I find quite interesting that the author uses in this context the same German idiom ‘mit eigenen Waffen schlagen’ (to beat someone at their own terrain) that I came across as well on my reflection on the political protest banner – click here. What makes me think about language as sign and its interpretation in different context

At the end I am wondering about ideology of postmodernism and a sense of deconstruction that makes everything just arbitrary. And think which place or position I and my art want to be in. Whether this is all just another fashion that just craves for reaction – and in a way that mostly is coming not as expected.





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