Thursday, 24 July 2014

Artists and Avants

After a pause to spend time defacing jpgs of Clyde, the mascot for the Commonwealth Games, I return to my anxiety. The post-war absurdists - although it goes back to Duchamp and the Dada gang - articulated a new response to 'reality': it is riven by doubt and reflects through a fragmented structure - a society that no longer recognises any binding values and a universe that is hostile.

In doing so, they set up these tropes that have become signifiers of being 'avant-garde.' In imitating these tropes, artists imagine they are continuing a tradition, and assigning themselves the label 'experimental' when they are really just copying.

I am not sure if there ought to be a 'tradition' for avant-garde work at all. I mean, it is supposed to be a radical shift, isn't it?

Back in the day, I remember a biography of William Burroughs which spoke of his time 'experimenting with alcohol.' They weren't talking about the author suddenly exploring chemistry as a career change, but that he was getting pissed up all the time. After the first hangover, no-one 'experiments' with alcohol - they know exactly what it is going to do.

It's the same with performance: the possible impacts of nudity have been clarified - and it might have once been shocking, or sexy, or a short-cut to presenting emotional honesty. It is fine to get nekkid on stage - but it isn't avant-garde.

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