On the Shoulders of Giants: Gianni Vattimo and the Post-Contemporary

As the 21st-century blossoms, artists and art historians alike are beginning to look back on nearly five decades of post-modern and contemporary art. Postmodernism focused on the subjectivity and transience of knowledge, that is to say, the postmodern philosophical superstructure was generally concerned with deconstruction both of ideology and the notion of art as having any definable parameters. Looking back on the borrowed words of William S. Burroughs or the lack of form in a Jackson Pollock painting one can begin to understand the sort of experimentation and deconstructive principles behind great, contemporary works of art. However, as modernity becomes increasingly more redundant groups of artists and philosophers seek to re-establish meaning as they create paintings such as Remorse, Despondence, and Acceptance of an Early Death by post-contemporary artist Graydon Parrish.


early death

“Remorse, Despondence, and Acceptance of an Early Death” Graydon Parrish


The term first came into use by architect Abbas Gharib while talking to college and fellow Iranian architect, Bahram Shirdel, in a conversation later published in the 55th publication of Sharestan Magazine. At its heart, post-contemporary, or PoCo as it’s been popularly referred to, seeks to unite current thinking both cross-culturally and across generation lines, meaning that any post-contemporary art stands independent of the time in which it was created. The objective here is to create thought relative to the universal human experience recognizing that when entering into any formal discussion we must exhibit a sort of pietas, or formal duty, toward what Issac Newton would term, “the shoulders of giants”.

Italian philosopher, Gianni Vattimo, explains this communal nature in his critique Dialectics, Difference, Weak Thought. Vattimo discusses the necessity of both Hegelian based dialectics as a source of revolution and difference, the subjectivity of language and meaning, as necessary for what he calls Weak Thought. Weak Thought is an ontological paradigm, a view on the nature of being, that supposes truth to be a collective entity. In Vattimo’s words, “…the true does not have a metaphysical or logical nature but a rhetorical one” (Vattimo 50). As Heidegger, Hegel, and even Marx will agree “being” does not exist within the mind but rather from being present in the world or what Heidegger terms: Dasein (being-there). This is where post-contemporary art draws from classical constructions, ideals, and technique relating what is with what has been. Such technique can be exhibited in a painting by Adam Miller entitled “Twilight in Arcadia” where baroque technique displays a theme existing outside a contemporary (relating to the current age) context, rather context exists solely within the painting itself.


twilight in arcadia

“Twilight in Arcadia” Adam Miller

Though still in its infancy, post-contemporary philosophy seems to harken a post-metaphysical revolution where art’s ethics stray from transient imperatives and focus more on pietasbonds, faith, or sense of belonging to philosophical and artistic traditions, particularly in the western world, in order unite mankind through lasting truths regarding the universal human condition.

What revelations will the post-contemporary future hold? How does the post-contemporary exist in the internet and post-industrial age? Where do you see this sort of constructive philosophy manifest itself in your everyday life?

For more information on what post-contemporary content might look like I recommend reading  Alan Kirby’s article in Philosophy Now: here. Also, for more clarity, read Gianni Vattimo’s full discourse on the subject of Weak Thought here.