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19 OCTOBER 2016

Avant-garde: exploration and radical creativity that clashes with convention OR simply a carnival of aestheticism?

"Turning to the term 'avant-garde' itself, it seems to have become a commonplace in our ways of thinking about art. Since the nineteenth century, its use has become widespread, designating any artistic movement that can be described as innovative. The term's fate is grounded in the relevance of its military metaphorics, which liken artistic invention to the actions of a small band of forces that sets off in advance of an army in order to clear its path. We thus strike upon several basic characteristics of the avant-garde: first, the notion that the avant-garde restores the collective dimension of explorative creativity. But the term also evokes the conditions of conflict that arise between this creativity and the prevailing society; at the same time, we must keep in mind that 'avant-garde' designates artistic activity as the means for opening up new territory.

The term's current problems arise from its social and economic valorization, which has become so important today that all artists want to be considered avant-garde—even though they generally consider the essential character of avant-gardism to involve little more than a spectacular revolution in form. The notion of avant-gardism subsequently takes on a different meaning than it had originally: it has come to signify a mindset of formal innovation, rather than a dedication to exploration and radical creativity that clashes with convention. Thus the positions of an entire range of so-called avant-gardes can be accommodated within an economic consensus that values formal innovation for reasons of competitiveness and profitability. At the same time, competitive rivalry leads to the disappearance of the collective dimension of innovative creativity which had been, no doubt, a fundamental characteristic of the avant-garde. We must therefore accept the idea that the very evolution of the avant-garde, which compels it to follow the trends of the market place, also brings about its death—a death to which the contemporary art market and institutional consensus alike seem fully determined have us bear witness by crowning its most ridiculous propositions with museum exhibitions. These preliminary remarks highlight the instability of terms such as 'avant-garde,' as far as artistic experience goes. For it is by no means clear that the term means the same thing for avant-garde of the first half of the twentieth century as it does for the avant-garde that followed."

(Philippe Sers and Jonathan P. Eburne, 2010, p.850)

The Radical Avant-Garde and the Contemporary Avant-Garde; Author(s): Philippe Sers and Jonathan P. Eburne; Source: New Literary History, Vol. 41, No. 4, What Is an Avant-Garde? (AUTUMN 2010), pp. 847-854. Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press.



art as innovation • artistic activity • artistic experience • artistic intelligibility • artistic inventionartistic movementavant-gardeavant-garde art • avant-gardism • carnival of aestheticism • clashes with convention • collective dimension • competitive rivalry • competitiveness • conceptual territory • conflictcontemporary art • contemporary art market • economic valorization • exploration and radical creativity • explorative creativity • formal innovation • innovative • innovative creativity • institutional consensus • interdiction • Jonathan Eburne • military metaphor • new territory • opening up new territory • Philippe Sers • profitability • radical avant-garde • rupture • social valorization • spectacular revolution in form • strategic interdiction • tactical interdiction • territory grab • valorization


Simon Perkins
11 NOVEMBER 2011

The Greeting is a film which pretends to be a painting

Bill "Viola's The Greeting is pretending to be a picture, hanging on the wall of the National Gallery, as part of 'The Passions' exhibition in 2003. The context of the gallery space and the badging of The Greeting as a picture give the work something different, making it more than just a film. The significance is in the context of where it is shown and the pretence occurring that this is a picture. Indeed, when walking downstairs in the National Gallery towards 'The Passions' exhibition, it is seeing it hanging on the wall that strikes immediately; I am being invited to believe that this animated film is pretending to be a picture. The analogy is of the picture becoming an actor, pretending to be something else. In terms of form, The Greeting is a film. Therefore, what is it that makes it now defined as an exhibition, a part of Viola's 'The Passions' in 2003? It is only the fact that it's part of a gallery that makes it an exhibition, although in reality it is also actors directed by a video artist into this film, slowed down and with no sound, which is pretending to be a painting. Therefore, it is conceptual art, in that what the artist is doing is not just making a painting, or having the idea for a painting, but having the idea of where it should be staged. The inscribed text of the space in which it is viewed makes a difference to what the viewer or spectator sees, and what is going on."

(Alison Oddey, 2007, p.70)

3). Alison Oddey (2007). "Re–Framing". In: "Re–Framing the Theatrical", Palgrave Macmillan. 1–21.

Fig.1 Bill Viola (1995). "The Greeting".
Fig.2 Jacopo Carucci da Pontormo "The Visitation".



2003actorsallusionart historyartistartistic experience • Bill Viola • conceptual artcontextexhibitionfigurationfilmgallery • gallery space • hanging on the wall • homage • inscribed text of the space • interdisciplinaryliving picturesmetatheatricalityNational Gallerypainting • Passions (exhibition) • performancepicturepretence • pretending • pretending to be a painting • re-framing • reenactmentreflexive foregroundingremediationspacespectatorspectatorship • staged • stagingtableau vivant • The Greeting • The Passions • the role of the spectator • the viewer • theatre-art • theatricaltime slowed downvideo artvideo artistviewer


Simon Perkins

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