Updated: Nov 28, 2022
A Dig Deeper Article by Production Dramaturg Brandon Shalansky
Within and parallel to the development of metamodernism over the past few decades has been the emergence of another theory called hypermoderism, which can be viewed as both an element-of or antagonist-to metamodernism. A leading concern of both theories is how to manage or reconcile truth within existential saturation. But, whereas metamodernism often seeks to justify multiple truths simultaneously, hypermodernism tends to champion competing truths; metamodernism emphasizes a both/and mentality whereas hypermoderism enforces an either/or mentality. As the prefix would suggest, hypermodernism is fixated on the elements of excess that contribute to existential saturation, including, but not limited to, hyperconsumption, hypernarcissism, hyperrealism, and hyperspectacle. Common elements and/or manifestations of hypermodernism include repetition, skepticism, forced singularity, deconstruction, misdirection, and applications of authority and ideology. The digital overview effect, for instance, is directly related to how hypermoderism elevates forms of egomedia above other forms of digital media. Egomedia is media that looks inward; that aggregates the “I,” the clearest examples of which are social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
Key to navigating the relation between meta- and hyper-modernism is understanding the difference between metarealism and hyperrealism. Both draw on the dissolution of the real, a common notion in postmodern thinking that can be traced to remarks Nietzsche made in Twilight of the Idols: “The ‘real world’ — an idea that is of no further use, not even as a compulsion — a useless idea, an idea that has become redundant, hence a disproved idea — let’s do away with it!” When interrogated with any vigour, the concept of realness can become empty, hollow. According to Jason Ānanda Josephson Storm, “to say of something that is is ‘real’ does not say anything about the entity in question except to the extent that it excludes some particular way of being not-real.” Metarealism, in response to this dissolution, aims to accept a plurality of realness — to acknowledge different modes of the real. Importantly — and especially when metamodernism is concerned — these different modes of real can exist simultaneously. This is why an increasingly common strategy employed in metamodern narrative is the introduction of the multiverse, a device which can easily portray multiple modes of reality that exist in tandem with one another. Hyperrealism, on the other hand, rejects multiple modes of the real, either drawing them into a winner-takes-all conflict or amalgamating them into a new, “ultimate” real.
Hyperreality, according to philosopher Jean Baudrillard, is the phenomenon when simulation and reality have imploded and we are no longer able to distinguish between the real and the imaginary. As a result, “the primary ontological structure for postmodernity” and, by extension, hypermodernity, “is hyperreality. Hyperreality does not fake reality; it emerges from the collapse of reality within simulations, such that ‘reality’ is an endless reflection and recirculation of simulacra” (Ioanas). As a result of hyperrealism and its manifestation in existential saturation, the distinction between fake and real in hypermodernism is not only blurred, but insists also upon an apathy/disinterest and/or ignorance towards it.
Metamodernism, however, favours plurality and simultaneity and, as such, does not necessarily shy-away-from or reject hypermodernism. In fact, a strong understanding and application of hypermodernism are essential to true metamodern thought. Our production of Ubu Roi, for instance, draws overwhelmingly on a hypermodern approach to the grotesque in society and politics, often magnifying the grotesque in the mise-en-scène for a distinctly metamodern effect.
Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. University of Michigan Press, 1994.
Cooper, Brent. “The Hypermodern Highway to Hell: Cultures of Excess and the Dark Side of Technology.” Medium, 13 October 2020. medium.com/the-abs-tract-organization/the-hypermodern-highway-to-hell-1d3a6441b540. Accessed 28 October 2022.
Drayton, Tom. “The Listening Theatre: A Metamodern Politics of Performance”. Performance Philosophy, vol. 4, no. 1, 2018, pp. 170-87.
Ioanas, Crina. “Hypermodernism in Digital Fashion.” YouTube, uploaded by Crina Ioanas, 23 March 2022, youtu.be/9kE85VOpM_Y.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. Twilight of the Idols, or How to Philosophize with a Hammer. Project Gutenberg, 7 June 2016, www.gutenberg.org/files/52263/52263-h/52263-h.htm. Accessed 19 November 2022.
Storm, Jason Ānanda Josephson. Metamodernism: The Future of Theory. U of Chicago P, 2021.