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The community-breaking project

AVANTGARDE / Mikkel Bolt frames the avant-garde project as distinct from the continuous aesthetic form-breaking of artistic modernism.


Reportedly, the newly released anthology should Avantgarde Manifest have been nearly twenty years in the making. Twenty years is of course a long time for a book, but a relatively short time if, as the book's editor, art historian Mikkel Bolt, one takes the great historical perspective on the avant-garde and its preferred form of expression: the manifesto. In that perspective, one could just as well say that the book has been well over 110 years in the making, from the Italian futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti on the cover of the newspaper Le Figaro in February 1909 trumpeted his unreserved love for the new beauty and speed symbol of the mechanical age, the « roaring automobile », which, as you know, slammed« like a machine-gun salvo »when it was driving.

Almost all major Danish newspapers, from Information to the Exchange, have had the book Avantgard manifests for review, and the template can be said to be the same.

With the release of Avantgarde Manifest is the avant-garde for serious itself come up in a series of well-chosen and well-translated manifestos, which allow for an overall impression of the radicality of the societal project in which all the groups in the anthology can be said to have been involved. The anthology has virtually all the classic avant-garde manifestos with: futurism ( both Italian and Russian), Dadaism, Surrealism and, from the post-World War II period, declarations by groups such as COBRA and Situationist International. In addition, most exciting perhaps, quite a bit from the brink of canon: the English drift from futurism called Vorticism, an unmistakable mix of English charlatanism and industrial worship ("The Modern World is almost entirely due to Anglo-Saxon genius"), the various branches by the Russian Komfut movement (communist-futurists), for example, the Left Front of the Arts, which would dissolve "the small" we "of art into the colossal" we "of communism and transform daily life. After the Second World War, it is the litters who first get the word out, a relatively overlooked avant-garde grouping centered on the eccentric, Romanian-born Jew Isidore Isou, who saw himself as the avant-garde redeeming figure, an art messiah.


European civilization

Avantgarde Manifest is constructed in two major parts: one that collects the classic manifestations of the so-called historical avant-garde (circa 1909 to 1939), and another that collects a series of declarations from the avant-garde currents after World War II (ie 1945 to circa 1972 ). Bolt provides each part of the book with a full and knowledgeable contribution to the necessary historical and political contextualisation. Here is an excerpt from the first part of the book where Bolt describes the turbulent time around the turn of the century, where technological advances, capital accumulation and military escalation sparked the first avant-garde movements: «The avant-garde artists grew up reacting to these stormy conditions in which European civilization moved into World War I devastation and was shaken by world revolutions from 1 to 1917: revolutions in Russia and Mexico, short-lived socialist republics in Germany, Hungary, and Northern Persia, revolts against colonialism in Ireland, India, and China and massive strikes and factory movements in Italy, Spain, Chile, Brazil and the United States. […] A number of competing ideologies fought against the old order and each other for the right to formulate a new world. ”



For those who know Bolt's work as an art historian and avant-garde theorist, it hardly comes as a surprise that his focal point for the anthology – as the winged avant-garde Peter Laugesen noted in his review [see the newspapers above] in Danish Dagbladet Information – is the revolution: That the revolution however, as the avant-garde envisioned it in the twentieth century, but did not appear, or was realized with the reverse sign as neo-liberal innovation compulsion, can hardly be an argument that the avant-garde's errand should have been another, less bombastic and more subtle "poetic" project. Avantgarden's project was what it is that anyone who disagrees with Bolt's curation and framing of the historical source material can now ascertain by self-view in the many translated manifestos and declaration statements that are now available in Danish. But Laugesen's objection is actually quite conventional in that, and in addition quite in line with the optics that many today want to consider the avant-garde.


Almost all major Danish newspapers, from Information to the Exchange, have had the book Avantgarde Manifest for browsing, and the template can be said to be the same, just with different accents. Weekend newspaper's reviewer and tireless wordsmith Lars Bukdahl can serve as an example of a wider tendency to detach the avant-garde's artistic form experiments from its political-social, in short revolutionary, engagement. Enthusiasm for the explosive energy that Avant-garde manifestos however, Bukdahl has to declare the «generously abiding anthology» a familiar for political to his liking: "Why are there more disproportionately more manifestations (including a few 'flashbacks') from the more political, activist German Dadaists than from loose non-Germans?" asks Bukdahl, referring to the outbursts at the famous nightclub Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, where the Dada movement originated in 1916 in an environment of exiled Central European artists. It was here, at the first Dada-evening on July 14, 1916, that (the German at best) Hugo Ball asked at best bukdahl: "Why can't the tree be called fluffand pluplubasch when it has rained? And why should it absolutely be called something? "


Hugo Ball's childishly-naive Question-Jørgen question, "why yours and why dat, and why not dada", appears even more meaningless than it was originally intended when, as with Bukdahl, it is taken to income for a kind of detached modernist urge for form and genre renewal of the framework of language.


On the contrary, it must be maintained, and here Bolt's contribution is an important historical counterbalance that Dadaism was at one time a protest war against the horrors of the First World War and a stuttering, stuttering attempt to make an unborn Communist world child speak in his own language, a new beginning of the first foundations: «Dada derives from the dictionary. It's terribly simple. In French, it means rocking horse. "In a deliberate twist of the French philosopher Descartes'" methodical doubt ", the Dadaists would realize philosophy in a kind of artistic-political program that included and questioned the whole syntax of Western civilization, nothing less:" I will not knowing of any words that have been invented by others. All words have been invented by others. I want my own disorder – and the corresponding vowels and consonants. "

Dadaism was at one time a protest war against the First World War
horrors and a stuttering, wavering attempt to allow an unborn communist world bartender to ormed his own language.

If Avant-garde manifests, in addition to being a "party fireworks of luminous meaningful nonsense" (Laugesen), continues to justify today, even with a twenty-year delay, it is because it frames the avant-garde project as distinct from, though obviously akin to, the artistic the continuous aesthetic form of modernism is more widely considered. If the "avant-garde" is to be a meaningful historical term that says something different and more than the generic terms such as "modernism" or "modern art", then Bolt argues with an impressive historical overview, it is necessary to bring these artistic storms against the sky in the twentieth-century revolutionary traditions, communism in particular.

Dominique Routhier
Dominique Routhier
Routhier is a regular critic of Ny Tid.

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