Moral Archipelagoes — an Interview with Timotheus Vermeulen

Maxi Gorynski
24 min readSep 1, 2018


This article was originally published on Wonk Bridge

Writing in “Island of Bali”, Miguel Covarrubias stated to the effect that the presence of romanticism and prostitution within a given society is inversely proportional to the ease of interpersonal communication possible in the society in question. Covarrubias was spurred to this realisation while deep immersed in an anthropological study of Bali, whose channels of (particularly male-female) communication were well kept and so admitted neither phenomenon.

Admit yourself a certain amount of time on any given island in our contemporary global-digital archipelago — an environment in which the grand narratives fractured by postmodernism, and the melange of non-Western voices released to the air thereby, cluster into chains of relativised ‘island’ communities, under the pressure of an early 21st century mania for wealth and the possibilities of digital communication — and you will see that our own islands do not enjoy similar freedoms. I bemoaned late of 2017 that, of all the voices Wonk Bridge was able to record in that year, one of the foremost topographers of our current times was not among them. Well, we got our man.

Timotheus Vermeulen

We live in fractious times, with poverty in community and communication. If prominent scholar of the Metamodern, Timotheus Vermeulen (and Covarrubias himself, for that matter) is to be believed, our channels of dialogue are clogged and unusable on our respective little islands in the global digital archipelago, and appropriately we are again in the ether of a contemporary Romanticism, a need to identify the actual with a better ideal, in a world where communication is (perhaps fundamentally) obstructed. The challenge of mapping the geography of such a world that has gained an additional digital plane, and whose surface is in a state of sociological and cultural shift, is Vermeulen’s, and thus perhaps the truest among the myriad of Metamodernism’s own objectives.

Wonk Bridge spoke to Tim earlier this year, to discover in greater depth his impressions of the shape of Metamodernism, the ‘vernacular philosophy’; how we have been changing and are being changed as individuals, and how, crucially, we may begin the process of enacting change of our own in this wild, haunted, imperfect landed-and-temporal expanse in which we now live and write for a pixelated crumb.

MG: Your first thesis on Metamodernism, a collaboration with Robin van den Akker, was published in 2010. It’s now 2018 and it’s safe to say that a few things have changed since that first publication; has your conception of this new philosophical system changed since then, and if so, how so?

TV: We wrote the piece in 2008; as you know with academic publishing it takes a while for stuff to get out, so technically it’s ten years ago since we wrote it, and we wrote it to the backdrop of a symposium that I organised between myself and some colleagues about the return of Romanticism. We started from a notion of ‘something is changing in the arts, in film, in literature’; sort of like Romanticism, but a new thing. As the conference progressed, we were talking — Robin and I and those that were involved from the beginning — we figured that this was a larger thing, it’s not just culture; lots is changing politically, [and changes in culture and politics] seem to go hand in hand, in parallel.

So, we moved from a process that we admired — we loved a lot of what was happening at that time in the arts — to link it to stuff we were both appreciative of, mostly happening on the Left, and stuff we were very afraid of, which was stuff happening already then in Holland and throughout Europe on the right. It was always a mixed bag, and I think when Luke [Turner, author of The Metamodernist Manifesto] got in touch with us shortly after, for him it was always about…wanting to produce a metamodern world, and for us it was not that at all. For us it was a description of a changing social reality that we tried to map out, and find a vernacular for.

I think for us the core aspects of that changing social reality that we sometimes liked and sometimes hated — and which we tried to approach objectively — were the people [in the group] known as the New Sincerity or the Post-Ironics in the arts; and a number of crises, generational and financial crises (Lehman Brothers was very much on our mind), political crises, of populism; and technological changes, like Twitter.

[That was 2008]; for me, what has changed is that all of those things seem to have gotten worse in a way. All of those three core debates have, I wouldn’t say exploded, because they were already there; but they continued and were radicalised. I think generational discomfort, generational dissatisfaction has increased. I think the political crisis has certainly increased…Twitter I think has literally just become an outlet for rage and shame, and lazy cultural studies where you don’t try to make the empathetic gesture; you just say ‘this is bad, this wrong’ and ‘this is good’. That can change from day to day; there are radical repositionings going on at every moment.

This is not to put myself or anyone involved [with the initial Notes on Metamodernism] on the shoulder; but I think those three tropes we identified have increased and at the same time culture has taken this will to sincerity, not a real sincerity, but a wilful sincerity.

The one change I think is, when we wrote it, we felt — and I’m speaking out for Robin and Niels [van Poecke] and I think Reina [-Marie Loaderon] and some of the people involved at the beginning — I think we all felt that the financial crisis would set in a motion of change. I think we thought “Well, ok, people are realising that neoliberalism is not great; that late capitalism is not fantastic,” and what we call a ‘crisis’ is really just capitalism showing its true face to the West and not just to the East and to the South. I think we all felt that it would enable change, and that Obama might be the face of the change at that moment; so the initial article of 2008 was written in a sense of hopefulness.

But I think we realised the moment it came out that whatever hopefulness was involved, nothing had changed [for the better]. Things only became worse in terms of neoliberalisation, in terms of capital; that’s the real change. We were far more hopeful then — and I’m guessing this is true for Robin and even Luke and some of the others as well.

Can you elaborate a little bit more on the role you see those technological developments as having had during that period; and how they have changed that outlook of hopefulness?

What I would say from the top of my head — and also what we’ve been trying to figure out in the recent book…I think it’s not necessarily a change as it is a radicalisation of some of the developments already in motion, and those developments are good and those developments are bad. The technology and social media are not bad per definition, in the same way TV was not bad; each development has pros and cons depending on where you stand. I think it’s more of an understanding of the changes they enable and facilitate. There’s this really wonderful piece by Stanley Cavell, one of my favourite philosophers; he wrote about the difference between theatre, TV and film, a thesis from the 1970s.

Stanley Cavell, “the philosopher who met the world by movie light”

He says if you are in a theatre, and someone falls onstage, and you are a doctor; you may at that moment feel the responsibility to rush onstage and help them. If someone falls onscreen in the cinema, that possibility’s no longer there, because it’s already happened, it’s happened somewhere else — it’s not like in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie where he comes through the screen, or the Woody Allen movie. So part of the responsibility [of being party to events] is absolved in a way; people always speak about power, and Cavell says cinema gives people a sense of voyeuristic power, but it also takes away a lot of the burdens, a lot of the responsibilities. Of course in television that’s increased; it’s moved into your home, and so you’re not even part anymore of the public sphere, because in that cinema perhaps a fellow viewer gets a stroke, and as a doctor you might help. If you’re alone at home, that is not part of the game; so it’s a constant absolving of responsibility or accountability, you could say.

“The internet and social media…[take] you a further step back from responsibility.”

I think what happens with the internet and social media — and I’m sure Robin would disagree with this, he’s far more positive about the developments than I am — I guess is that it takes you a further step back from responsibility. Responsibility and engagement take different forms, and those forms can be very powerful, and I think they can be very problematic; for example, if I was a fascist or something, and I said “Look, I think that the English government should kill off all dogs”. I could get a petition going in five minutes! I’m sure there are crazy people who think that would be a wonderful idea; but that’s something, that I in five minutes could without responsibility or accountability initiate. This can, and has frequently been [used] for good causes, but it’s also being done for those poor causes. And if you get 5 million [votes on a] petition, politicians in a representative democracy will have to respond.

I think it has been easier — going from the theatre to the cinema to the living room to the private bubble in front of your laptop — to engage without taking responsibility necessarily. If you had to write letters, if you had to go out [to effect change], less people would [engage so recklessly]. I think that is a definite change.

I think it’s far easier too in that respect to move between positions so rapidly, and I think especially with Twitter it’s so easy to move between them; if you and I were in a pub together, hanging out having a coffee, we’d probably say the most radical things to each other, right? It’s what you do with friends: you know context, you know each other’s language. But if you say it on Twitter, everyone is privy to your conversation. And so all those radical opinions gain some sense of public validity; and because you’re not confronted in your private bubble immediately with what you’re doing, the ‘doctor’ will give you bad advice [upon trying to ‘treat’ you].

I…feel this absolving of responsibility and at the same time the possibility to engage more and more is something; and even back in the 90s, where there were those TV shows where you could call in and donate money to a cause, even that was more difficult because you had to pay for it, than to just [throw your weight behind it on] Twitter. You are still labouring on Twitter, you are still making Twitter money; so you’re labouring for someone but not noticing it.

The consequence is this ease of movement between positions — and for Robin and myself and Ali [Gibbons] — this is super important, the moving between positions, the ability to re-position, but also the urge to move between positions, because it’s so difficult to say ‘this’ is better than ‘that’.

I’m not on Twitter, but when I look at stuff that’s happening, someone will say something and I’ll think ‘Yeah, that feels really true’. Then someone else will say something completely different and I think ‘That kind of makes sense to me [too].’ It’s so hard to take a position, and because the world seems like it’s collapsing on all sides it forces you to take a position. Twitter enables you to move between them; but it’s so difficult to set your mind on something if the playing field is always open to you.

What do you think?

…I’m of the stance personally that politics is ruined by being excessively political; that a sportive stance to the process of politics, of reason and debate for its own sake as opposed to fully conditional to the issue at hand, is something that can hold back a worthy cause, and contributes to the polarisation you’re implying.

I’m on the left and I think the left is [as] guilty of this. I’m teaching hermeneutics at the moment, and the hermeneutic tradition, from the Biblical tradition onwards, works through empathy; so if you want to understand what someone said 17 centuries ago, and that person was a total asshole, then it doesn’t mean that because that person is ‘bad’ that you simply disregard what they have to say. You have to make an empathetic gesture; that doesn’t mean that you agree or you share ground, but that you have to understand the particulars of where speech is coming from, where that particular idea was developed.

That seems to me to have been completely lost. Coming back to those technological developments, I do think that social media Twitter and social media updates — quick snappy, stuff, and TV with their soundbite culture, are partly to blame for that, because the moment of the empathetic — what [Fredric] Jameson calls the hermeneutic gesture, the effort to understand something that you can’t get to, it is out. That kind of thing for us — Jameson located it in postmodernism, saying that what happens in postmodernism is that there is no depth, an emptying out of depth, and so you cannot get beyond the surface.

“It doesn’t mean that because [a] person is ‘bad’ that you simply disregard what they have to say…”

I think what we see in the Metamodern, for me at least…people don’t believe there’s depth, and so begin to create the possibility of depth, and that could be very exciting, and incredibly dangerous. Donald Trump does the same thing, Geert Wilders does it in Holland. I really agree, it’s a good point that politics is ‘too political’; and I’m sure people reading this will say ‘well, it’s not political enough’. On the right, I don’t even know how to engage with that, but on the left there is [the pretence of] moral purity; not wanting to even make any attempt to get your hands dirty, or to realise that just because you might agree [with the right] on some things you don’t have to agree on other things, ‘bad’ or ‘good’ or morally upstanding; all of us have made mistakes that, if they had been exposed on Twitter, we would look really bad.

It’s a large argument, but I agree with that point [that politics is excessively ‘political’].

If we wind back a little bit, you were talking a lot about senses of personal responsibility. Is the element of the Metamodern ethos you most prize that sense of duty; that to make the reconciliations that the philosophy suggests are possible, every person must pull weight in this ‘archipelagised’ world we live in?

It’s not that responsibility has disappeared, it has changed; going back to Cavell, [he’s saying] your responsibility in the theatre is different from your responsibility in the cinema etc. What is important is that lack of accountability- responsibility in the sense of accountability for what you do. For example, I think it wouldn’t be bad if the Internet were treated like a public sphere, like the outside world is treated as the public sphere. I don’t know if anonymity, if you contribute, is necessarily a good thing, because I do think you should be accountable somehow for what you say or what you do.

This becomes problematic when you lose faith in those that should safeguard that process; the law, the state. But I think in principle it’s great to be accountable for your deeds. All of those social media we use are products, right, they are part of capital; I’m not an economist, my partner is, but what I gather also is that whatever capital does, it does not create solidarity. It creates individuals, little pockets of consumers with credit cards. What we see developing in politics now has very much been influenced by that neoliberal system, one that creates consumers; they might be angry, they might be outraged, and on occasion hopefully they’ll be able to come together [politically]. But I think it necessitates behaviour on behalf of individuals and of communities; it’s important that you find community.

The Metamodern foils: Vermeuleun (rear) with Robin van den Akker

For example, in art or literature some of the most important movements have happened because people happened to live in the same city, went to the same cafes; like in Paris in the 1920s, or New York in the 1960s, where all these people just so happened to be in the same place, were hanging out, and started creating history. I think a lot of social movements happen in the same way; just people feeling a connection to each other and feeling particular injustices [are afoot], and starting to challenge each other.

“I think a lot of social movements happen in the same way; just people feeling a connection to each other…and starting to challenge each other.”

So I think it’s about the individual, but as part of a larger community that you both feel accountable for and empathetic towards; and I think it’s important that communities should not just be people who agree with you. There was a piece saying that satire in the USA has no power; Saturday Night Live, Trevor Noah, they’re saying this stuff and it doesn’t help because we can laugh at Donald Trump, how silly he is and some of his supporters are, but we know that, all the people watching those shows are already on board with that.

I was watching the latest Chappelle show — he’s kind of a childhood hero — and I was watching his last two standups, and he knows that we are his audience, that there’s a particular audience of his; progressive, left-wing. He was taking us on, criticising the left, and I was thinking; often, when I look at my friends, on Facebook, people who make critical notes of the left are instantly outcast, ‘You shouldn’t be attacking us; we already have so much trouble,’ etc. I think, yes, of course we should be [attacking the right], but I also think we should be challenged inside our little sphere, and I think Chappelle was trying to create that empathetic gesture. ‘Why did those people vote for Trump? Why are we not getting this?’

If we have that community, it’s so important that we challenge each other a lot; we challenge the outside world anyway. We should also allow ourselves to challenge our friends, those around us who think alike. Otherwise it’ll be a stalemate, we won’t move forward; it’ll just be a Mexican standoff.

I think the Metamodern gap, the polarisation and disintegration of the centre, will only increase otherwise. Metamodernism would be the description for me of this disintegration, and personally I feel there are particular ways of going about crossing that divide and getting back into some kind of conversation…I feel we should somehow create communities that allow for criticism inside.

And I don’t know if that’s the old community, the coffeehouse community where all those Parisians were meeting; Gertrude Stein’s salon. I don’t know if that’s the space. Should we think of different kinds of communities, different kinds of spaces, different kinds of connections people are making?

Carrying along that line of inquiry; I know today that it’s difficult to imagine what the world will look like in 8 hours, let alone 20 years, but if we look to the coming decades, keeping in mind an image of the quintessentially ‘Postmodern’ individual and what they look like, what do you think the quintessential ‘Metamodern’ individual might look like, think like, behave like in years to come?

It’s difficult, because in the way I would understand the Postmodernism and Metamodernism I’m talking about, is that they’re structure of feeling; particular moods that get nourished become dominant at a moment in time, then to reside. I think Postmodernism to me first and foremost is a particular mood or a particular sentiment that is stronger than others, which doesn’t mean that others don’t exist; I’m sure if you talk to older people [with the idea that the Postmodern individual is apathetic or indifferent] they’ll say “I don’t agree, I was living in the 80s and I was constantly protesting and I was really sincere,” so it doesn’t apply to everyone.

There is — and you can map the culture — a particular modality more dominant [at a given moment], and postmodernism is one of ironic detachment; but it’s also, not as a structure of feeling but as a critical method, a very important emancipatory movement. In postmodernism the disruption and the critical deconstruction of the grand narrative, there is suddenly space for all these minority and emancipatory narratives to emerge; the Civil Rights movement, all that is a consequence of postmodernism to some extent. It’s not that there isn’t sincerity involved at all, or a will to change, but the ground tone — and I think that’s the key term — is of relativism, of understanding that there is not one pattern of history, that there may be millions of patterns, or that there may be no patterns. Perhaps it’s a labyrinth of Borges, perhaps it’s all fake.

Part of LaBeouf, Turner and Rönkkö’s “#IAMSORRY” performance art installation, one of Metamodernism’s more confrontational manifestations

This is very important I think, as a side note; the postmodern character of the late 80s and 90s, which is the one I grew up with and the one I know, is one of irony and of relativism where very little is at stake. In the 90s there is ‘very little’ at stake; it’s the end of history. But of course [in real terms] so much is at stake; there is loads of stuff going wrong in the world, but people don’t feel it, in the same way that Andy Warhol is on the surface and isn’t bothered by history. ‘Why be bothered about it?’ [By consequence] people’s lives seemed wonderful and cosy, and if there is dissatisfaction, it’s because you don’t know how else the world could look. [You could see this in the work of] Nirvana or Radiohead, which is still my favourite band. So, there was very little at stake, that was the feeling.

For the metamodern generation, it feels like everything is at stake all the time. I think it’s kind of sad that the alt-right, and also Jordan Peterson, would [negatively] label postmodernism or whatever stuff is happening happen; which seems to me to be kind of crazy, because yes postmodernism is a structure of feeling, of relativism and irony, but it’s also a critical method, a critical, responsible procedure.

“What I think is to blame is…lazy postmodernism, where you take postmodernism’s gains but not the responsibilities that come with it.”

What I think to blame is lazy cultural studies, or lazy postmodernism, where you take postmodernism’s gains but not the responsibilities that come with it. And people do this with everything; you could take any system of thought, take one part and leave out the rest, and anything would look really crazy. It is true that after a structure of feeling where you take everything apart and making all the truths we had seem unlikely or problematic, which they were, and you have all these fragments; then it’s very difficult if everything feels at stake, and the world is falling apart, to create your direction.

What I feel is happening with the metamodern individual is that they’re trying to put stuff together all the time and it’s just not working, so they move on. They keep building alliances for themselves in the hope that something might work; and often this goes wrong, but this is a very important experimental playground. What can work? What could potentially be creating this [state of affairs]; even politicians are trying to do this. You look at Trump, he’s doing something else every day.

So everything’s at stake, and you don’t know how to change it; that’s the kind of double bind of the Metamodern individual.

Do you think that advancement along these lines — of figuring out how things can and do fit together — would more likely come about on a personal-political level or a collective-sub-cultural stage first?

Four years, three years, maybe even two years ago I would have said small communities; you see that especially in cities, and in the countryside now, people moving together into small communities, and seeing it for themselves. But at the same time, small communities having to fix things for themselves suggests that there isn’t a system in place that can fix things for all of us. In principle you’d hope that social democracies would have the space to tend to all our needs and desires, as long as they’re not endangering those of others. But I think it’s a sign of our times that people feel the need to do things themselves; and that’s wonderful, and I’m sure that will come up with alternative utopias, but at the same time they’re exclusive. Apparently, you can only do that if you don’t involve everyone, and that seems counterproductive.

I thought that might be it, but I’m not sure. Nowadays those movements all take national form; and international form too, the right is international, and there’s a global fascisim. Who would have thought that that would be possible?

Robin is more positive. Because I don’t see people coming together and making those empathetic gestures [I’m not so positive]; so I’m guessing we’ll probably have a war anytime soon. It would be unimaginably terrible a thing to happen, but people just don’t seem to want to listen or reach out in that sense. It’s easy for me to say, I realise that; I’m a white man living in a social democracy, so I don’t have any of those issues.

There’s less at stake for me than for others of course, so it’s easier for me to say those things with a kind of wonderful critical detachment.

If we put two things together there: the element of lazy thinking, half-truth thinking ; and what you alluded to relative to the ideal Metamodern community looking rather like models of community that have already existed; we receive a sort of beckoning to not ‘return’ to history, but to ‘turn’ to it as a measure of valuation. Do you think that Metamodernism’s progressivism is rooted in it being partly backward-looking?

Yeah, I would say in the way of the arts, which is what I feel most comfortable and most familiar with, it’s what you see from the early 2000s is of people trying to find a new language, but because they don’t have the words, going back to past movements and past debates and past vernaculars; the ‘return of the Baroque’ [for example]. So I think people are looking back in time to try and find languages that work as a new constructive language today.

I would say there’s loads of that, yeah; in a far less wonderful way, there are always those people who say you shouldn’t compared Donald Trump to Hitler or past dictators, but if you look at the speeches, it’s obvious he’s also looking back to history to find some stuff that he finds useful. That’s not to make a big thing out of that [instance in particular], but at the same time it is to make a big thing out of it.

I think in postmodernism, people also took things from the past, though it was more the empty-signifier type things, and I think now we’re trying to return a particular spirit or a particular mood, like what Community [the TV series] did; they tried always to take styles, to use them fully, and understand fully what the implications are of using those particular styles. ‘Constructing utopias from the remains of failed utopias’.

Stepping above that question, if we go back again to what you were talking about in terms of that hermeneutic sense of empathic connection with historical figures; do you think that it’s possible, given our polarised circumstances, to have a ‘real’ relationship with history, one that’s not just rhetorical or oratorical? If we can, how to we establish it?

I don’t think we can, but we can try, and we should probably try. I think the way in which at different moments people have tried to create a productive and non-polemical relationship to history has been by fitting to it certain rules and methodological procedures; identifying what they considered unlawful or unjust ‘uses’ of history. That really is one of the key questions of our time: if we have the postmodern breakings of all of those truths, [breaking] that was very important, how can we rebuild a productive society, and what are the rules we set up?

Margaret Edwards wrote this piece, and of course everyone started hating on her for it; she said that people don’t believe that the law is a valid system of justice anymore. She says ‘Ok, but who is the new person that decides what is good and bad?’ I think it’s about setting up those new rules, and I think the reason this time is so difficult for all of us is because no one has the answers; I don’t and people much smarter than me don’t either. I think it’s very important to have rules; how do we set up a system of procedures and rules for history, the present, the future, that allows most people to thrive and co-exist in particular ways and have healthy relationships with history and other people around them?

“How do we set up a system of procedures and rules for history, the present, the future, that allows most people to thrive and co-exist in particular ways with history and other people around them?”

What are the new rules? And I think what you see in society is that every time there is a dispute, the shit goes down; inconsequential fights about who is the new judge. Even if you work in an office and you get a new boss who’s an asshole, that’s not great, that will change the scene; so I think these are important debates, and I think these are reasons why people are so eager to press their points and not have any compromise or nuance, to make it morally incorruptible in a way.

I’m a child of the postmodern age; one can only hope something decent comes out of [the conflict]. So yeah, hermeneutics is a system, one system rooted in the past; in France in the 18th century there was the formation of mental history, of trying to find out the history of the ‘small people’ instead of [kings]. All procedures to try and find the right way. I think the contemporary condition is looking increasingly desperately for procedures, and we have to find them, and quickly.

Earlier on you said something very thought-provoking about the idea of a global fascism; thinking of that alongside what you and Robin wrote of the power the Eastern markets’ rise has had over the disintegration of postmodernism, can you see Metamodernism as a kind of ‘global’ philosophy, the first worldwide intellectual movement of its kind?

That’s a good question; I don’t know, it might. The article has been translated in Mandarin and Farsi, so there’s interest in it outside of what we would traditionally call the Western world. I myself, but also Robin and the others involved, come from a distinctly Western or Southern point of view, using references mostly from Western and European Southern philosophical and historical traditions. For me to suggests that Metamodernism pertains to more than that would be disingenuous, pretentious and kind of colonial.

So it might, but you should ask other people if that structure of feeling applies outside of where I’m writing. It is a problem, I think, of the way we’ve tried to conceptualise the metamodern; we are all from the West. We have been trained in a particular Western historical vernacular, and so for a global age that’s a real problem, writing with such a limited point of view.

So I have no idea.

To wrap up, you’ve stated a number of times that Metamodernism is to you a descriptive thing, not a prescriptive one. Do you see the potential to go down to the ‘streets’, and offer a programmatic approach to some of these issues we’ve been talking about? Or will it stay on a theoretical plain?

My personal interest in it is as description of, and also the attempt to find a language to describe, what is going on around us. That’s really how it started; we saw those things happening and we thought ‘This is so different from what we grew up with,’ the people that we really admire for their descriptions of what happened in the 70s, 80s, 90s, didn’t match what we were seeing. It was really an attempt to describe what was happening.

For me, that’s why it should never be a program, for the reason that guys like Donald Trump, Geert Wilders are also metamodern; it’s really a description of the good and the bad, just as Jameson sees postmodernism as a combination of the good and the bad. What Robin and I both do think, though Robin’s far more political than I am, is that hopefully by creating a language that helps us understand what is happening around us, that can become the platform from which to begin thinking about critical action.

I think what is happening right now, which makes perfect sense, is that the world is so confusing that people are trying to create action without understanding the ground they’re standing on. I think for us it’s important that if we want to create what you talked about before — a model for cohesive action, where individuals create communities and change the course of [their] histories — we need to understsnd where we’re coming from, outside of our own bodies.

Therefore I think it’s important to understand this language as the attempt to create a starting point that’s critical action; it may be decided [in the course of this] that what we need is the exact opposite of what we call Metamodern, completely different. I don’t know about those things.

It’s really for us a description of what’s happening, and that’s disappointing for many people, but that’s the key for us. That was our attempt: we saw our world changing, we didn’t understand it, so we tried to try and create a vernacular to see what’s happening.

Is this it? Let’s figure it out together with as many people as we possibly can; anyone who wants to must join in, and let’s give it a go. I think for example what Luke’s doing is quite interesting; Luke and Nastja [Säde Rönkkö] and Shia [LaBoeuf] are developing a very particular model. If you ask him, I’m sure he’ll say metamodernism is very important for him too as a model; the manifesto is one he stood behind, but he’s developing as he goes along different tactics to deal with what’s happening.

It’s the truest answer for me, and the most important answer for me. I do this as a scholar first and foremost.

Timotheus Vermeuleun is associate professor in Media, Culture and Society at the University of Oslo, Norway. His research interests include cultural theory, aesthetics, and close textual analysis of film, television and contemporary art.

Vermeulen is the author of multiple books and has edited various anthologies and special journal issues. He publishes in academic and popular contexts alike, writing for amongst others The Journal of Aesthetics and Culture, Screen, Monu, The American Book Review, E-Flux, Texte Zur Kunst, Tank, Metropolis M, and De Groene Amsterdammer, as well as various reference works, collections and catalogues. He is a regular contributor to Frieze.


Notes on Metamodernism — Timotheus Vermeulen & Robin van den Akker

The “Futurist” Aesthetics of ISIS — Thorsten Botz-Bornstein

Video Gaming and the Technological Sublime — Eugénie Shinkle



Maxi Gorynski

Technologist, writer, contrapuntalist, lion tamer and piano tuner