Jean-François Lyotard's article, "Defining the Postmodern" in The Cultural Reader claims that the idea of progress in history is no longer valid and that high art, particularly the avant-garde, has no more value than popular art. In addition the idea of "the real" cannot be separated from the copy(editor's summary). "The disappearance of this idea of progress [large incrememtal scoio-historical transformations] within rationality and freedom would explain a certain tone, style, or modes which are specific to postmodern architecture." (P. 171). We see a high frequency of quotation and repetition ("Transavantgardism" from Achille Bonito Oliva) from other periods (a kind of Freudian use of remains coming from past life in dreams (Interpretation of Dreams). [This kind of reference was probably prefigured by the use of outmoded spaces and the framework of Freudian psychology by the Surrealists.]
With regard to the decay in confidence in the idea of progress, the techno-sciences increased " the disease." The implication is that technology brought about the end of the avant-garde. (of course, technology also fueled certain avant-garde directions, like electronic music and video art).
"The question of postmodernity is also a question of the expression of thought...the right approach, in order to understand [avant=garde painters] is to compare their work with the anemnesis [the recalling of things past] which takes place in psychoanalytical therapy."
Bernard Tschumi's "Introduction: Notes towards a theory of Architectural Disfunction," (in Nesbitt) bring up the issue of order being constantly questioned. Strategies of disfunction work with the " idea of limit, of interruption. Like joyce or Artaud who worked at the edge of philosophy and non philsophy" (PP. 170-71), the components are deconstructed. Disfunction involves the rejection of traditional oppositions of use and form, and the synthesis of form becomes the idea of dissociation.
Robert Mugerauer's "Derrida and Beyond" (in Nesbitt) sees Derrida's Deconstruction as a continuation of Nietzsche's nihilist project: no more "ultimate reality or objective truth" (P.182). The " relation of buildings [art] and reality becomes the question of whether Postmodern architectural [artistic] processes and buildings can escape the realm of reality-as-convention by becoming unreality and, in some sense, free" (PP. 184-85). The foundation of Derrida's thinking is to assume that the world is intelligible: "by means of metaphysics, the West has concealed from us its own unintelligibility" (P.185).
How, then do we recover meaning? "To interpret things requires an interpretation of language... All we have to understand, interpret and live within is the endless web of differences of historically mashed systems of signifiers" 9P. 187). All meaning is referential, and consequently cultural. The recognition of decentered situations, then, leads to free play (Derrida). We realize that the signified is fiction and we are liberated into a free play of signs.
All we have is interpretation: theory is pointless. We must be "liberated from the delusion of false comforts" (PP. 188-89). A good example of deconstructed art is the use of I.M. Pei's pyramids in the courtyard of the Louvre. They are made of modern materials but retain the proportions of the ancient pyramid of Giza. The result is a complex juxtapositon of symbols on many levels.
This discussion of postmodernism was required in order to initiate the relationship of posmodernism to the
Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde as a dominant dynamic force in the arts.