Avant-Gardes: Applying Ranciere To Burger's Theory Of Avant Gardes

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Resurrecting the Avant-Gardes: Applying Ranciere to Burger
To integrate art in the praxis of everyday life—the avant-garde credo, as defined by Burger in his Theory of the Avant-garde—was a manifesto which he declared inherently suicidal, an obituary more than a proclamation of the future. The prevailing narrative of the avant-garde has since been one of decline, ceding defeat to its institutionalization. The avant-gardes may shattered the forms of autonomous art, but those dispersed contents could not ultimately mark a path toward the liberation they promised.
Claiming that the avant-gardes were ultimately a failed project, Burger proposes that Capitalism fulfilled their dream on its own terms, art losing its autonomy in the general anesthetization and commodification of life. Burger writes,
“…the culture industry has brought about the false elimination of the distance between art and life, and this also allows one to recognize the contradictoriness of the avant-gardiste undertaking: the result is that the Avant-garde, for all its talk of purging art of affirmation with forces of production consumption, became an accomplice in the total subsumption of Art under capitalism.”
For this reason, any discussion of the avant-gardes risk appearing belated, gesturing back to the problematic contradiction outlined by Burger above. However, this assumes that the end of autonomy brought about by Capitalism takes the same form as that which the Avant-garde sought to achieve. While Burger does not explicitly equate the two, he nevertheless fails to distinguish them, and this ambiguity itself merits a reconsideration of the avant-garde’s relationship with contemporary art practice. For if Burger’s genealogy of the avant-garde is in fa...

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... performance pieces from becoming materialized via their documentation, one still finds many discreetly taken photographs and videos of his pieces circulating the web. Likewise, the reception of Yoko Ono’s 2003 reprisal of Cut Piece (1964) as captured by CBSnews.com’s article, “Crowd Cuts Yoko Ono’s Clothing Off” is typical of the sensationalized reception which characterizes the market consumption of avant-garde practices . So Burger was right in saying the culture industry consumes the most radical of gestures, for no one is completely outside the market, the circuit of exchange. On the other hand, no one is completely inside of it—there remain parts of humanity to which the market can stake no claim, Following this, we can perhaps write this addendum to the avant-garde demand: to integrate art within life-praxis, and make visible what is absent from both .

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