12 October 2010

To reiterate

I call myself an intertemporal avant-garde artist. At the end of last year, I issued a challenge to anyone who would dispute my claim to the avant-garde. There are many possible reasons for the lack of response to that challenge, but, naturally enough, I prefer to think that it's because no-one disputes that claim.

In his Theory of the avant-garde, Peter Bürger defines the historical avant-garde as Dada, Surrealism, and Constructivism, while classifying such movements as Cubism as modernist. According to Bürger, what distinguishes an avant-garde movement from a modernist one is that the avant-garde rejects aestheticism, an exclusive concern with formal qualities, in favour of integrating art with life.

Bürger contends that the historical avant-garde failed to achieve this goal. He argues that the neo-avant-gardes of the 1950s and 1960s were a farcical repetition of this failure. For Bürger, the historical avant-garde’s failure was heroic, but the neo-avant-garde’s repetition of that failure actively works against the goals of the historical avant-garde.

Hal Foster gives an example: ‘Thus, if readymades and collages challenged the bourgeois principles of expressive artist and organic art work, neo-readymades and neo-collages reinstate them.'

However, this alleged common aim of the avant-garde to integrate art and life is obvious bullshit. Yes, there were avant-garde artists who did have that aim, but there was also others who didn't. Having that aim is neither a necessary nor a sufficient property of being an avant-garde art work, artist, or movement.

In his Theory of the avant-garde, Renato Poggioli takes another tack. He identified four essential features belonging to the avant-garde:
  1. alienation from bourgeois capitalist society
  2. activism and antagonism towards the public and public institutions, especially official and academic art
  3. a fundamental break with the past
  4. self-consciousness as an elite vanguard of the future.

Basically, according to this theory, all you need is a bourgeois capitalist society with official and academic art institutions, and certain attitudes towards those institutions and that society. What matters is not whether a particular art work was made in 1910, 1960, or 2010 but its relationship with the official art institutions of the society it inhabits.

Hence, rather than historical and neo-avant-gardes, we have the intertemporal avant-garde.

So fuck you.

5 comments:

stephen said...

Your interpretation of Poggioli allows for the exhibition and sale of your art in dealer galleries, which is.. convenient.

David Cauchi said...

Not just convenient but crucial, just as it was back in the day.

Poggioli specifically notes that the avant-garde can only exist in a capitalist society. As he points out, you only need to look at Malevich's treatment after the Revolution to see that.

stephen said...

Ok sorry if I'm being dim, but explain the "alienation" bit to me?

David Cauchi said...

See Max Stirner.

Paul said...

Straight up and very nice.

visitors since 29 March 2004.