Metamodern Mythopoetics: Manifesto

by Alesky Varian


Exemplary of the metamodern sentiment (as first articulated by Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker), Metamodern Mythopoetics is a spiritu-artistic movement which oscillates between modern and postmodern contraries, accepting postmodernism’s radical skepticism of meaning and authority while simultaneously affirming a modern commitment to admittedly-fraught ideals such as Purpose, Beauty, and the Sacred. The means by which it achieves this paradoxical synthesis is the Aesthetic Contract, while the end is an entirely new mythological system—one indebted to and inspired by historical mythologies, but ultimately sui generis and rooted in the Human condition of the 21st Century.


1. GOD IS DEAD. Somewhere between 1914 and 1945, God died upon the battlefields of Europe. With him went Certainty and Higher Purposes—a loss which paralyzed the century. But we have gained as well, for, shed of supernatural spirits,

we affirm the natural world, and life therein—a joyful and exuberant Humanism!

Our senses fall to Earth, where we may revel in the bounty of her myriad joys! Loosed from Objectivity, subjective feeling is our only certainty.

2. GOD IS MISSED. And yet, this liberty has rotted into anarchy. Purpose, it seems, had served a broader purpose: God had held our Art. With Sacredness dissolved, all quality and craft devolved to sabotage and apathy—to ugliness and nihilism. Ideological chaos has wreaked its havoc on our Culture, and our hearts. And so we say, almost despite ourselves: construct again!

Against the prevailing critique of Human constructs as merely false tools of oppression, we unashamedly proclaim that Human beings are meaning-making creatures, whose fraught attempts to make sense of life’s unremitting chaos can indeed be good and beautiful.

Let Sisyphus roll his rock—but let him learn to like it! The falsity, or at least the constructedness, of what we invent in no way undermines its significance.

3. GOD IS REBORN. The search for Meaning is the search for fulfillment; fulfillment is but feeling. In this regard, Art and Religion are brothers. For both, the “truth value” (if it can be determined at all) is at best inconsequential. At worst, given the disenchanting revelations of modernity, it is destructive: sublime feelings sacrificed upon the ascetic altar of immaterial Reason. Metamodern religion, maintaining its quest for spiritual fulfillment while conceding its claims to Truth, thus blends imperceptibly into Art. Man does not find, he makes his Meaning: creating Art, we create our gods.

Therefore, against the prevailing profanity of the current age, we profess our thirst for Sacredness with an “informed naiveté”.

With full knowledge of material causes, we shall re-enchant the world regardless! Our symphonies shall be our hymns; our paintings: vaulted frescos; and our poems: new Narratives and myths of gods still waiting to be born!


1. AESTHETIC. Since feeling is fundamental, Art must be sensual. And so,

against the prevailing conceptualism and ideologization of Art, we assert that Art is fundamentally aesthetic: that its primary end is to arouse the senses and elicit intense, extramundane feelings.

It must not be confused, then, with any expression whose primary aim is something else: Art is not statement, confession, philosophy, subversion, experiment, activism, or any other such endeavor (though it may incorporate such elements in varying degrees). Fundamentally, Art heightens and produces experience for the sake of experience, feeling for the sake of feeling, and is thus the greatest means to elevated living.

2. BEAUTIFUL. Not all feelings are equally desirable. In Art, as in life, positive, edifying experiences should be prioritized. Thus,

against the prevailing preoccupation with shock, disgust and discomfort (when concern for the arousal of feeling is evidenced in contemporary Art at all), we fervently reaffirm the view that Art is a means of ennobling and gratifying the Human race through Beauty.

The more pleasurable and rewarding a sensation, the more Beautiful we say it is, since we understand Beauty essentially as profound and complex pleasure. Of course, to properly capture the entirety of Human life, Art will and should incorporate the darker aspects of human experience. However, these must be the dissonances which render resolutions more sublime—not, as now, the all-consuming monochrome of the obsessively subversive; not, as now, the neurotic fixation on all that is ugly and wrong upon the Earth. Horror and suffering are admissible in Art only inasmuch as they heighten its ultimate ecstasy.

3. SPECIAL. In an age of leveling, we long for special and for Sacred things. So,

against the prevailing egalitarianism of all Artistic expression—which has intentionally eradicated distinctions such as “high” and “low”; eschewed any hierarchy of quality; and in its most flagrant form asserted “anything can be art”, thereby equating the Sistine Chapel with feces in a gallery—we declare that Art is rather special expression: particular, not common; exceptional, not mundane; sacred, not profane.

Indeed, it is just this specialness which, because of its distinction, contrasts with mundane existence to elicit intense, extramundane feelings like the Beautiful. A thing is valuable only inasmuch as it is rare, and sensually exciting only inasmuch as habit and ubiquity have not already