Truth is not something we create, it is the thing we choose to embrace or disregard when creating.
I think this little quote could be handy to the modern/postmodern divide, a possible corrective for both camps.
When looking at a work of art (we’ll constrain this post to that arena), the modern side will typically be only concerned with the objective: What did the artist intend for the work? The postmodern will typically only be concerned with the subjective: How does the work affect me?
Both sides don’t often like to embrace the question from the other. The problem the moderns can run into is not realizing that art is not made inside a vacuum, but within a community. And this community not only includes the artist himself, but the viewer, the surrounding environment, etc. The postmoderns are all about embracing this idea of community, especially on the side of the subjective personal experience coming to the art, but they often do not include the original intention behind the work in that community of experience. Because of this, moderns say the work has one meaning for everyone and postmoderns would say the work has one meaning for each individual. The two both have great thoughts to offer each other.
The modern can teach the postmodern of the importance of original intention. The artist has labored over the work for a reason, and even if the artist doesn’t know what that reason specifically is, there are thoughts and emotions poured into it. We do not exist in a vacuum and therefore our art does not.
The postmodern can teach the modern of the importance of personal experience. Art does affect us and the way we interpret the art does add to its meaning. A piece of art stands by itself, one doesn’t have the artist standing by its side constantly explaining it…and if that was to happen that would surely be a boring experience. Part of the joy of art is the discovery process. It moves us and it should.
So what’s more important? The objective or the subjective? Yes. We don’t need to pick sides and entrench ourselves, there can be (should be) a third way. Truth is not something we create, it is the thing we choose to embrace or disregard when creating. The modern errs on the side of equating art with truth itself. The postmodern errs on the side of not recognizing the embrace or disregard of any kind of truth.
I think both sides have much to bring to the table, and aspects of both perspectives are needed for us to get this whole thing. But when we grip so tightly to our own views at the expense of seeing others’ perspectives, we lose out. That’s been every philosopher’s flaw since the beginning of time. They stick to their ideas and when confronted with something that doesn’t work, they try to squeeze the bits through the experience of the truth. And it comes out like the Play-Doh in their spaghetti maker: it’s fun to play with, but not much good for anything else.