Dissertation by Helge H. Paulsen / David Wojnarowicz and the contextualization of postmodernism
The motivation to write this dissertation was rooted in the need to elaborate further on two aspects: 1) the need to focus on the work and the artist David Wojnarowicz himself in order to increase his enormous appeal in Europe, and 2) to give a precise definition of the concept of postmodernism and to contextualize it. The inaccurate handling of this term, particularly in the cultural realm, seems to almost invite new adjustment. The work was conceived with the following questions in mind. What makes up the essence of postmodernism? What are the temporal and spatial limitations for postmodernism in the USA? What cultural-political discourses are held in postmodernism? To what does postmodernism resort that was excluded by modernism? And what are the special characteristics of postmodernism that – as I see it - set it apart from other contemporary arts? My access to those questions was the artist David Wojnarowicz, whose vita and artistic productions contain the core of postmodernism. This was substantiated by a diverse group of authors such as Baudrillard, Sartre, Benjamin, Nietzsche, Krauss, Venturi and many more, who contributed significantly to a definition of postmodernism. The following results form the bedrock of my research: postmodernism is manifold and concrete at the same time - manifold in its work methods, and concrete in its political and cultural expression. Postmodernism is more of a stance than a concept. Like the historical avant-garde it is a political expression of critical art which arose in the USA in the 1960s. Postmodernism reaches out again to all areas of life and thus minimizes the discrepancy between life and art. It lets the images speak again and abandons abstraction. My fresh approach to research was to go meticulously through the terminology using Wojnarowicz's oeuvre. In conclusion, one could say that postmodernism is a phenomenon that transcends all genres, a phenomenon that understands the recipient as a projection screen. The recipient becomes an active part of the work of art by decoding the desire of art. This in turn enables the observer to be a critical progressive recipient, to become active and involved.