“Wanna Define? So Say So!”: David Bryne’s Utopia

Two works sit before me. One, a non-descript jet-black Verso book, containing a controversial and often misunderstood thought experiment from the dialectical philosopher Frederic Jameson. The other is a record album by the great humanist songwriter David Byrne. Both are titled American Utopia. Both attempt to find countertendencies in the social whole in the 21st century, “late-late capitalism”, if you will, countertendencies that perhaps we can cognitively map, if not concretely perceive as utopian, as going beyond the semblance of time and place, a place where nothing ever happens, as “happening” implies going back to the dualism of fact and value that dialectical art and philosophy attempt to transcend. Byrne’s music, both literally and figuratively, provides a soundtrack to what Jameson called postmodernity – a concept about which one can hold agnosticism with regards to hard periodization, but still use to demarcate an aesthetic sensibility.  

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