Postmodernism

Postmodernism

Of all the artistic movements, Postmodernism - or PoMo if you want to be all FroYo about it - is the one I can relate to most. It's art as product be it magazine, record sleeve, furniture or architecture.

Stepping into the V&A's latest exhibition isn't so much like stepping back in time as in the other parts of the museum that are filled with paintings and sculptures by the old masters. It's more like entering an 80s styled nightclub in a Paul Verhoeven film, certainly easier for me to relate to than renaissance Italy even if I was too young to be doing much clubbing in the 80s.

It took about two hours to take in the entire exhibition and in that time we were treated to models and photographs of some of the most famous examples of Postmodernist architecture like the TV:AM building in Camden and the monolithic AT&T building in New York, along with plenty of product design - dominated by a startling number of kettles but also including chairs, sideboards and more everyday furnishings most of which I'm sure I saw in Charlie Sheen's apartment in Wall Street.

The room that interested me most contained examples of Postmodern graphic design that included posters for Factory Records, covers from magazines like iD and record sleeves for albums by New Order, Joy Division and The Damned. All offset printing techniques, grid like minimalism and wild, garish colours and patterns jarring against one another.

In another room we were shown how the movement affected design in fashion with mannequins modelling outfits worn by Devo, David Byrne, a Blade Runner replicant and the centre piece of the entire exhibition: Grace Jones in her maternity dress.

What I liked most about the works we were shown - and the whole movement - is that they don't obey the rules. In any creative field it's easy to get stuck in a rut. In my own life as a web designer too often I find myself constrained by the conventional positioning of a site's logo, header, footer and copy. Postmodernism - in its extreme - reminds me we can throw it all away and start again. Doing something just because that's how it's always been done doesn't mean it's the right way or the only way if there are such things in design.

Finishing in the shop - as you do - I was tempted by most of the shiny, overpriced products clamouring for my attention and money which probably goes some way to explain why I have this affection for Postmodernism - I just like shopping for nice things I don't really need which brought to mind Jenny Holzer's giant billboard slogan I'd only just finished gawping at: Protect Me From What I Want.