1. Time. History Under Atemporality

Architecture was always the leading cultural indicator for postmodernism so when historically eclectic form rapidly fell out of fashion after the MoMA "Deconstructivist Architecture" show in 1989, it was a sign that the era was drawing to a close. But if historically eclectic architecture gave way to work that delivered up modernism as a handful of broken shards, that too waned over the course of the 1990s. [1] So did theory, both in architecture and in the academy. There the transitional decade was marked by the Any project, consisting of a series of conferences, books, and a journal that came to a predetermined expiration date at the millennium as well as Assemblage, the leading theoretical journal in the field, which also shut down in 2000, the editors declaring it time not only for the end of the journal but for the "end of the end."[2] Outside of architecture, seemingly as soon as theory had become widely accepted in the academy, theorists rushed to declare their project obsolete. Outside of architecture the story was the same: by the mid-1990s theorists began writing about the impending death of postmodernism and of theory.[3]

Postmodernism is little lamented today. While we may agree that somewhere along the line it vanished, few bothered to note its death and fewer still mourned its passing.[4] Contrast this with the Oedipal nature of postmodernism, which even in its very name announced its temporal framing as a succession of the modern. Take Fredric Jameson's seminal 1983 essay on "Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism," which he begins by observing that the era was filled with a sense that "some radical break or coupure" had just occurred.[5] In the Language of Post-Modern Architecture, Charles Jencks identifies an exact point of rupture, declaring "Happily, it is possible to date the death of Modern Architecture to a precise moment in time:" the controlled implosion of Minoru Yamasaki's Pruitt-Igoe housing in St. Louis, Missouri at 3.32 pm on July 15, 1972. For Jencks, the failure of this award-winning social housing project marks the end of the modernist architectural plan's ability to create positive social change. [6]

In proclaiming rupture, however, the postmodernists repeat a fundamentally modernist move, made most famous by Virginia Woolf when she stated that "on or about December 1910 human character changed…"[7] Certainly in part, Woolf is referring to the impact of the show "Manet and the Post-Impressionists" mounted that year by her friend Roger Fry but hers is also a wry commentary on how common such punctual visions of rupture were at the time. Whatever the point of reference, be it World War I, the Russian Revolution, Pablo Picasso's painting of the Demoiselles D'Avignon, or Kazimir Malevich's Black Square, a temporality of rupture is endemic to modernism. Advocates of postmodernism repeat this.

But there is no rupture with postmodernism today, nor are there many claims that our time is somehow different. It's as if the end of history really did come. If any observation about history defines our time, it's science fiction novelist Bruce Sterling's conclusion that network culture produces a form of historical consciousness marked by atemporality. By this, Sterling means that having obtained near-total instant access to information, our desire and ability to situate ourselves within any kind of broader historical structure have dissipated. [8] The temporal compression caused by globalization and networking technologies, together with an accelerating capitalism, has intensified the ahistorical qualities of modernism and postmodernism, producing the atemporality of network culture.

Unlike modernism and postmodernism, network culture not only refuses to seek legitimation in the past by breaking from previous eras, it fails to even name its own time. But we don't even have to look at periodization writ big. Not only is there no name for our era, simple chronology is a problem today: even now that it has concluded, the last decade remains nameless-is it the 2000s? the '00s? Perhaps, hinting at emptiness, it might be the "noughties," the "aughts," or worst of all the "naughty aughties"? The lack of a proper name for the decade is no mere product of a linguistic difficulty or a confusion between century, millennium, and decade. Rather it suggests that we no longer seem capable of framing our time. [9]

If we take modernity as a social phenomenon, that is, as the experience of consciously living in a changing present, then we have never been more modern. But, as its reliance on rupture shows, modernity isn't merely a timeless sociological category: it is also a period marked by an attitude toward history. To resort to a rather complex construction, modernity is a historiographic concept referring to a period that defined itself by a changed concept of history. Nor is postmodernism different in this respect. If it treats history as pastiche-abandoning progress and mocking modernism's teleological goals-the pains it takes to do so and the degree to which it insists on understanding itself as a supercession of modernism-underscores how much it continues to rely upon history for its very existence. [10]

But history is complicated, full of retrogressions and anticipations, projections and false starts. No matter the rhetoric, no period is absolute. Notwithstanding our claim that network culture is ahistorical, it is possible to create a fold in that condition, to read network culture against the grain as a historical process, an intensification of pre-modern, modern and postmodern temporalities as well as a unique condition of its own. Now whereas a historical account of the disappearance of the modern sense of history is a tricky proposition, it is also by no means an epistemological contradiction. For if quite recently we still had the capacity to think temporally, going further back in time reveals that modernity produced a sense of historical consciousness. Thus, by understanding just how and why individuals began to think about the world temporally, we may throw our own era into heightened relief.




[1] . Hans Ibelings, Supermodernism: Architecture in the Age of Globalization (Rotterdam: NAi, 1998), 55-57.The rapid rise and fall of "Deconstructivist Architecture" inspired the interest in architecture and fashion soon after (personal conversation with Paulette M. Singley). See also Paulette Singley and Princeton University. School of Architecture, Architecture, in Fashion (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1994).

[2] . Compare Jean Baudrillard, The Illusion of the End (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994). and Hays and Kennedy, "After All, or the End of "The End of"," Assemblage (2000): 6-7 %U http://www.jstor.org/stable/3171267.

[3] . Neil Brooks and Josh Toth, The Mourning After: Attending the Wake of Postmodernism, Postmodern Studies (Amsterdam ; New York: Rodopi, 2007), 1. Peter Osborne, The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-Garde (London ; New York: Verso, 1995), vii. Michael Payne and John Schad, Life after Theory (New York: Continuum, 2003), ix; Martin McQuillan, Post-Theory: New Directions in Criticism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999); Thomas Docherty, After Theory: Postmodernism/Postmarxism (London ; New York: Routledge, 1990). B Latour, "Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern," Critical inquiry 30, no. 2 (2004).

[4] . On the lack of interest in the end of postmodernism, see Raoul Eshelman and ebrary Inc, "Performatism, or, the End of Postmodernism." (Aurora, CO: Davies Group, 2009), http://www.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/cul/resolve?clio7609895. One of the exceptions is Robert Samuels, New Media, Cultural Studies, and Critical Theory after Postmodernism: Automodernity from Zizek to Laclau (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

[5] . Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, 1

[6] . Charles Jencks, The Language of Post-Modern Architecture (New York: Rizzoli, 1977), 9.

[7] . Virginia Woolf, Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown (London: The Hogarth Press, 1924), 4.

[8] . Bruce Sterling, "Atemporality for the Creative Artist," in Beyond the Beyond (2010). The changes Sterling describes imply ahistoricism more than atemporality, but with the use of atemporality to refer to new forms of cultural practice spreading, it seems that a certain precedent has been set. Moreover, referring to this phenomena as atemporal, allows us to better understand its effects on the temporal experience, which will occupy us later in this chapter. In the interests of full disclosure, Sterling and I have been batting these ideas around for some time now via our blogs and twitter.

[9] . "It's 2002 - and the decade still has no name," BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1735921.stm For a collection of mainstream media links on the problem of naming the decade, see http://www.theweek.com/article/index/103534/Why_cant_we_name_this_decade Also see http://www.naughtyaughty.com/

[10] . Compare with Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, 311.