Hypermodernity and Visuality
By (author) Peter R. Sedgwick
Publication date:29 April 2019
Length of book:244 pages
PublisherRowman & Littlefield International
This book engages with the question of making sense of seeing in today’s technologically dominated world. It does so by exploring the notion of the ‘hypermodern’, a term which is used to capture the drive in contemporary culture to achieve ever greater speed and efficiency. The volume draws principally on the thought of Paul Virilio and Friedrich Nietzsche. The text’s key argument is that destabilizing tendencies, which become increasingly evident in hypermodern culture, spring from its having a dual character. This duality turns on hypermodernity’s uncomfortable, unstable and possibly unsustainable relation to its own past. The volume engages with this dual character in a unique way. Its discussions are prefaced by poems and photographic images which together frame and permeate the text’s arguments and analyses. Part One offers linked engagements with Virilio’s articulation of the hypermodernized cultural-visual environment, Nietzsche’s accounts of history, power and archaic visuality, and briefer discussions of various other writers. Part Two presents a creative elaboration of these engagements through a combination of poetry, image and aphorism. Through this combination the digital image, a quintessentially hypermodern form of representation, is turned against itself to allow for reflection on the ethics and politics of seeing today. The volume concludes with an open-ended dialogue on visual culture, the archaic and the hypermodern.
Taking a creative and critical approach that combines theory, poetry, and photography, this book provides an indispensable archaeology of our contemporary ways of seeing and being seen. Our hypermodern age is defined by unprecedented technological mobilizations of the visual, but what Sedgwick and Walford Davies show is that the continual churn of images that defines contemporary life can be traced to a long and brutal history of power in the West. Moving with ease from Oedipus Tyrannus and the Mona Lisa to military architecture and online marketing, this compelling book is a major contribution to our understanding of visual culture.