Created By: Earnest on May 8, 2012 Last Edited By: Earnest on February 13, 2014

Postmodern Posing

A sufficiently complex or abstract field is easy to infiltrate.

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When an art form, academic field, or science becomes so advanced that you essentially have Deconstructions of Reconstructed topics, it becomes possible to fool experts with a sufficient grasp of jargon and absurdity. In other words, you can BS into seeming an expert while mocking True Art Is Incomprehensible.

This is typically used to mock Post Modernism or Dada (in as much as either can be mocked) and their proponents. Because when things become so abstract that true art/knowledge/expertise is almost indistinguishable from a random spouting of Technobabble, spray of color or screech of sound, it becomes easy to infiltrate and masquerade in those circles. With stuff like hard sciences and rigorous fields, posers are found fairly quickly, but a cunning knowledge of jargon terms and manipulating people makes discovery and exposure much harder.

The flipside to this is that a person or work being completely honest, but failing at being good normal art, can get Mistaken for Exhibit or for avant gard in an unintentional form of So Bad, It's Good.

Compare Mistaken for Badass.

Film
  • The documentary My Kid Could Paint That supposedly toys with this.
  • In the movie Interstate 60, there is a Museum of Art Forgeries where in fact the art is the original and the forgeries are in the great museums. This may be some kind of further inversion of this trope.
  • Catch Me If You Can has the protagonist successfully pose as a pilot this way.
  • The film Bucket Full Of Blood had an unsuccessful sculptor accidentally kill and encase his cat in plaster. People assumed it and his following sculptures were authentic and not corpses, and he was hailed as a master for making something that could look "so alive and so dead".

Literature
  • Referenced in Going Postal, as conman Moist is able to glean enough about a given field with some cursory research to sound like an expert to anyone who is not themself an expert.

Live-Action TV
  • Inversion on The Commish. Tony finds abstract art incomprehensible, saying any idiot can paint like that. So he gets a challenge: paint an "abstract" painting; a group of art experts will look at it and a "real" abstract painting and determine which is the real one. He does so smugly, only to be shot down.

Web Comics
  • xkcd Strip 451 is about a character pretending to be an expert in various fields and seeing how long it takes before he's found out. In most cases this is a matter of minutes, but for literary criticism he ends up writing multiple books and papers without anyone noticing.

Web Video
  • The Nostalgia Chick and Oancitizen's review of Freddy Got Fingered started out with the hypothesis that it might be trying for it, before concluding it's not trying to be so clever.

Western Animation
  • There's an episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes a famous artist but it might actually be an inversion of this: no one thinks he's particularly skilled, they like him within the category of outsider art. The joke is that a large number of outsider artists have very serious mental problems, implying that Homer has passed himself off as mentally ill.
  • King of the Hill: Peggy's pipe sculptures were shown in an outsider art show. Another of the "artists" was simply a mentally-disturbed man who hoarded cans.

Real Life
  • The real life Sokal Affair, where physicist Alan Sokal submitted a paper of complete gibberish to the postmodernist journal Social Text and had it accepted.
  • The "Rooter" incident, when Jeremy Stribling, Daniel Aguayo and Maxwell Krohn published a "scientific article" made of randomly generated words.
  • The Disumbrationist School of Art, Art hoax of the 1920's.

Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • May 8, 2012
    Blork
    • xkcd Strip 451 is about a character pretending to be an expert in various fields and seeing how long it takes before he's found out. In most cases this is a matter of minutes, but for literary criticism he ends up writing multiple books and papers without anyone noticing.
    • The real life Sokal Affair, where physicist Alan Sokal submitted a paper of complete gibberish to the postmodernist journal Social Text and had it accepted.
  • May 8, 2012
    Generality
    • Referenced in Going Postal, as conman Moist is able to glean enough about a given field with some cursory research to sound like an expert to anyone who is not themself an expert.
  • May 8, 2012
    aurora369
    The "Rooter" incident, when Jeremy Stribling, Daniel Aguayo and Maxwell Krohn published a "scientific article" made of randomly generated words.
  • May 9, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    Ugh, I hate that xkcd comic. The last panel doesn't even make sense.

    There's an episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes a famous artist but it might actually be an inversion of this: no one thinks he's particularly skilled, they like him within the category of outsider art. The joke is that a large number of outsider artists have very serious mental problems, implying that Homer has passed himself off as mentally ill.
  • May 9, 2012
    TonyG
    ^A similar story ran on King Of The Hill with Peggy, whose pipe sculptures were shown in an outsider art show. Another of the "artists" was simply a mentally-disturbed man who hoarded cans.
  • May 9, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Inversion on The Commish. Tony finds abstract art incomprehensible, saying any idiot can paint like that. So he gets a challenge: paint an "abstract" painting; a group of art experts will look at it and a "real" abstract painting and determine which is the real one. He does so smugly, only to be shot down.
  • May 9, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    The documentary My Kid Could Paint That supposedly toys with this. I haven't seen it but I really want to.
  • May 9, 2012
    peccantis
    ^^^^ I'm pretty sure the fact it doesn't make sense is supposed to be part of the joke.
  • May 9, 2012
    katiek
    I don't know if this is come kind of further inversion of this - it starts to get really confusing - but in the movie Interstate 60, there is a Museum of Art Forgeries where in fact the art is the original and the forgeries are in the great museums
  • May 20, 2012
    OftenPartisan
  • February 12, 2014
    DAN004
    Often a part of GIFT
  • February 12, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    Don't get the name. how is it even possible to do a Postmodern Posing? is that like Asskicking Pose but more complicated?
  • February 12, 2014
    Earnest
    It's posing in the "being a poser" sense. The character is pretending they're authentic an artist by abusing the fact modern art is incomprehensible.
  • February 13, 2014
    DAN004
    What about Empty Babble?
  • February 13, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^^ That's obviously ambiguous then. better name, my little dame.
  • February 13, 2014
    XFllo
    How does it relate to GIFT?

    I'd say Postmodern Poser could work. Only, it would be a character type.
  • February 13, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    All this time I thought this was about infiltrating gravity fields or something...
  • February 13, 2014
    DAN004
    Sorry, maybe not GIFT, but Poes Law
  • February 13, 2014
    Earnest
    ^Definetly Poes Law.
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