How does the artist – or any concerned citizen of postmodernity – face the threat of unreal simulated hyperreality? You could accept it, of course (“anything goes”). Or you could carry on with experimentation as Lyotard urges. But the trouble is, there are no longer any rules or categories by which to judge the experimentally unfamiliar. “Those rules and categories are what the work of art itself is looking for.”
The question isn’t simply one of further experimentation, but of whose power will “legitimate” what is done as the right way of doing it. This brings us to the . . . central issue of real postmodern concern. Legitimation (Appignanesi, Richard and Chris Garratt, with Ziauddin Sardar and Patrick Curry, Introducing Postmodernism, 50).
Not a week goes by in which I don’t undertake an internal battle revolving around personal legitimation. Perhaps I’m unnecessarily insecure. Maybe it’s due to having “Words of Affirmation” as my love language. Whatever the case, it seems like I’m constantly struggling to feel like my contributions “matter.”
Legitimation, in the sense used by Appignanesi above, has less to do with warm fuzzies and more to do with how we know what is “right,” what “works.” Echoing Foucault, he links legitimation with the ability to apply power in a way that sanctifies right-ness. That’s all well and good for abstractions, but what has it to do with my persistent internal malaise?
I suppose that I’ve come to realize the hollowness of self-confidence and the temporality of peer-originated praise. The Christian assertion that I am to find my identity “in Christ alone” is often easier said than embodied. So, I wander from person to person, project to project, seeking some sense of validation that what I have to offer matters.
What (or who) will “legitimate” my contributions? Theologically speaking, it must be the crucified Christ. The ever-slain lamb alone has that power. It is in the profundity of the cross event, which itself is a paradoxical display of power, that offers hope of lasting legitimation.
What about you? Do you feel that, despite what those around you say, you are having very little lasting effect upon your community, your culture. or your field? I sure do.