The Avant-Garde is Dead. Long Live the Avant-Garde.
The notion of the avant-garde has always been framed as a "progressive" vs. "conservative" point of view, with artists generally pushing toward greater freedom (progress) while exposing the hypocrisies of the ruling classes for whom progress might mean loss of power. As has become fashionable to assert in the US (and Charlie echoes at the end of his column), the liberals and conservatives are more or less differently branded, but politically indistinguishable, servants of the corporations. But I firmly believe that a few of the conflicts of conscience or crises of faith coming soon to a decision-making body, and hopefully a few artists, near you include things that will make globalism or advertising or anything the politicians have yet had to seek broad consensus on seem quaint. In other words, I hope artists are not buying the notion that we don't need them working round the clock finding the metaphors that will enable us to understand and deal with what's coming.
ALL KNOWLEDGE IS CANNED
Whether it’s the all-inclusiveness of Wikipedia entries or services like KGB providing instant answers to the most trivial questions, the odds of discovering something new are nil.
GLOBALISM IS A MASK FOR AMERICAN DOMINATION
Is there a stupider culture than America? Sure, all the other cultures in the world who mimic America with their own saccharine, televised singing competitions or by downloading moronic American action films.
MALE CHAUVINISM NEVER WENT AWAY
Miss California opposes gay marriage? Why is there still a Miss California? And how many cyberchicks get off to World of Warcraft?
ART IS JUST ANOTHER NAME FOR ADVERTISING
Andy Warhol stole from Madison Avenue to make his art. Now you can watch a TV commercial in which a Maurizio Cattelan lookalike whines about the perfect set location while filming an imitation Cattelan piece, a squirrel riding a motorcycle.
THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN IS JUST THE RICH ELITES SUCKING MORE OUT OF YOU
New York superdealers open still more spaces (or two), Hip young art curators organize three or four more international art spectacles, and the supine art press just eats it up.
Even now, I wish things were clearer. What, for example, does it mean to be human when the "friends" you spend most of your time with are people you've never physically met? When you never touch most of the people you communicate with almost constantly? When it's so pointless to identify with the culture of the place you currently and very temporarily reside, if it even has a unique culture anymore? When it's pointless to make laws based on nation-states and your personal interests are more inline with those of the company that makes your sneakers than those of your neighbors? When you're keeping in touch or even only keeping alive through an ever increasing tangle of technology attached to or coursing through your body: bluetooth ear jacks, artificial hearts, cancer-eating nanobots, etc.? When the notion of living to be 900 thrills some of the population (and they're earnestly working on it) even as it horrifies others? When you can compile how your children look or think from a menu of options? And on and on.
Now, I'm not particularly invested in whether new artwork is classified as "avant-garde" moving forward or not. It seems as relevant a term at this point in history as "modern" to my mind. But I do suspect there are plenty of truly faith-shaking events awaiting humankind that I hope our artists will be prepared to help us make sense of. I truly hope they're not drinking Charlie's cynical Kool-Aid.
Labels: art making