Constantin Brancusi, “Princesse X” (1915-1916)
If you’re worried about whether or not you’re the avant-garde, here’s a simple test: Reduce your artistic medium to a noun, and think about whether repeating that noun twice in a row with the first noun being possessive accurately describes what you’re doing. If the answer is yes, then congratulations! Are you an artist? Or an artists’ artist? A poet? Or A Poets’ poet?
The avant-garde culture is the imitation of imitating. Instead of taking inspiration from everyday ordinary experience the avant-garde is driven by the medium that it is in. Concrete content itself lose its importance, and should furthermore, having subject matter as the centerpiece of your artistic venture should be avoided AT ALL COSTS. The avant-garde artist tries to do as little translation of real life into art as possible.
Therefore, it is abstract, but not blindly so. It derives its meaning from its own art form and its historic disciplines, and the essence of what makes an art form what it is. “Content is to be dissolved so completely into form that the work of art or literature so completely cannot be reduced in whole or in part to anything not itself” (Greenberg 3)
There is certainly a historic context for this. The avant-garde can be attributed to the Bourgeois and the ruling classes in the mid 19th century not to experiment, but to keep culture moving along, particularly when social strata and politics seem uncertain. While avant-garde can be likened to Alexandrianism because of its imitation, the avant-garde TRIES not to be static, and therefore create high art that is new.
On the other side of the ring, we have Kitsch, who is doing a pretty good job. Kitsch seems be the contemporary art form analogous with Gothic or Rococo, and with a extremely negative connotation. Kitsch entertains the masses, and seems to come about when an industrialized society elevates poor peasants just enough so they abandon folk art, but stops before they achieve leisure and formal culture. Consumerism increases, but opulent consumerism disappears. Like Poshlost, consumption becomes ostentatious. As Greenberg puts it “If the avant-garde imitates the process of art, kitsch, we now see, imitates its effects”. Kitsch makes the consumer’s job a whole lot easier, and provides something full, albeit vicarious to the consumer.
Kitsch is pretty dangerous and potent too so be careful. It spreads very quickly, ignoring geographic features and international borders. It’s accessible to the entire world. Even if replicating the avant-garde is as easy as replicating kitsch, there’s a reason why Kitsch is more popular.
Is Kitsch really a new phenomenon?? What makes it so potent, and did that essence, whatever it may be not really exist before the industrial age?
Why is the avant-garde threatened? Whose job is it to protect and create the avant-garde?