Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Beyond academic polarities on pastiche

Academic discourse has positioned time and again pastiche on the self-same principles of binary generalisation from which artwork suffers. Based on the principles of parody, pastiche has been discussed both as an empty ‘blank parody’ without political content (Jameson, 1991: 16–17) and as a genre that subverts fixed attitudes to history and habitus (Hutcheon, 1989: 101), sharpening the artistic subject’s reflexivity (Hutcheon, 1988: 122). Derived from older stylistic hybrid, pastiche is a sort of medley that creates identities for mass consumption – just like family or mass tourism advertising.

The very origins of the term should alarm us when it comes to such academic polarisations: pastiche is derived from Italian pasticcio which is a famous meat-pasta dish. Just as moussaka that – I kid you not – is not a Greek but a Turkish dish, pasticcio is served across different Mediterranean culinary domains as a local delicacy, and is constantly hybridised. Under this light pastiche could be examined as a process enmeshed into global value systems pertaining commoditisation, economic exchange and reciprocity in equal measure. As a result, pastiche is a collective, social phenomenon of creativity in arts and tourism. Who would want to create a dish and eat it alone, after all?

John Urry (1995), who is convinced that tourism as mass mobility connects to the changing nature of ‘Europe’, cites Berman on what it means to be modern. As a Marxian manifesto, All that is Solid Melts into Air (1983) elaborates on the perpetual disintegration and renewal of human sociality, the making of human subjectivities in what Baumann (2000) calls Liquid Modernity. But as we enter this maelstrom of (post-) modern life, through constant movement and of self-fashioning through travel experience, we often find that we recreate the strategies that once allowed us to ‘make [ourselves’ somehow at home in the maelstrom’ (Berman, 1983: 15). Home and away, the meaningful and the fluid – indeed the serious and the humorous – begin to blend with unexpected consequences.

Such observations reveal pastiche as the domain of social reproduction – a ritual artists and tourists alike tend to enact on a grand stage and for the sake of diverse audiences. For all its alleged ‘liquidity’ and ‘homelessness’, pastiche can speak a universal language that is unable to eliminate its location in rooted cultural idioms.

Bauman, Z. (2000) Liquid Modernity, Cambridge: Polity.
Bermann, M. (1981) All that is Solid Melts into Air, New York: Simon and Schuster.
Hutcheon, L (1988) A Poetics of Postmodernism, London & New York: Routledge.
Hutcheon, L. (1989) The Politics of Postmodernism, London & New York: Routledge.
Jameson, F. (1991) Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Durham: Duke University Press.

Urry, J. (1995) Consuming Places, London: Routledge.