January 29th 2011

Why I Hate the Avant-Garde, part one

Like an embarrassing family secret, I’ve always found discussions of Art History mum about the unconfortable relationship between the avant-garde and — let’s face it — fascism, the “artist is the superman soaring over the ignorant masses” kind. Which was pretty blatant between the first and second World War, as while the Nazi regime was condemning many artists as ‘degenerate’, quite a lot of their peers in the ‘avantgarde’ (eg. T.S. Eliot, Luigi Pirandello) were themselves tempted by belief in a harsh and highly arbitrary winner/loser divide.

As a nerd with a focus on craft, I’ve always had an instinctive belief in the meme concept — it’s pretty obvious you copy copies of copies. Many artists, though, still feel they are ‘original’ (whatever that is), dangerously close to feeling as if the sun rises from their minds.*

Which is why I thoroughly enjoyed this article full of contrarian wisdom I tend to agree with. And as a bonus, it’s full of great examples of evolving music memes. And despite all the (counterproductive) PR nonsense, I do think Laurie Anderson is cool.

* As an aside, that’s why I find instutionalized Pop Art so morally bankrupt — these guys ‘sampled’ the hell out of everything and then proceeded to carefully guard their ‘original’ work. Once I was forbidden from taking pictures with my cameraphone at a Robert Rauschenberg exhibition, and that says everything about a movement which was just some kind of community version of Mr. Brainwash (and wasn’t Warhol’s Factory just that?).