The avant-garde (/ˌævɒ̃ˈɡɑːrd/; French: [avɑ̃ɡaʁd]; from French, "advance guard" or "vanguard", literally "fore-guard") are people or works that are experimental, radical, or unorthodox with respect to art, culture, or society. It may be characterized by nontraditional, aesthetic innovation and initial unacceptability, and it may offer a critique of the relationship between producer and consumer.
The avant-garde pushes the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm. The avant-garde is considered by some to be a hallmark of modernism, as distinct from postmodernism. Many artists have aligned themselves with the avant-garde movement and still continue to do so, tracing a history from Dada through the Situationists to postmodern artists such as the Language poets around 1981.
The avant-garde also promotes radical social reforms. It was this meaning that was evoked by the Saint Simonian Olinde Rodrigues in his essay "L'artiste, le savant et l'industriel" ("The artist, the scientist and the industrialist", 1825), which contains the first recorded use of "avant-garde" in its now customary sense: there, Rodrigues calls on artists to "serve as [the people's] avant-garde", insisting that "the power of the arts is indeed the most immediate and fastest way" to social, political and economic reform.
Several writers have attempted to map the parameters of avant-garde activity. The Italian essayist Renato Poggioli provides one of the earliest analyses of vanguardism as a cultural phenomenon in his 1962 book Teoria dell'arte d'avanguardia (The Theory of the Avant-Garde). Surveying the historical, social, psychological and philosophical aspects of vanguardism, Poggioli reaches beyond individual instances of art, poetry, and music to show that vanguardists may share certain ideals or values which manifest themselves in the non-conformist lifestyles they adopt: He sees vanguard culture as a variety or subcategory of Bohemianism. Other authors have attempted both to clarify and to extend Poggioli's study. The German literary critic Peter Bürger's Theory of the Avant-Garde (1974) looks at the Establishment's embrace of socially critical works of art and suggests that in complicity with capitalism, "art as an institution neutralizes the political content of the individual work".
Bürger's essay also greatly influenced the work of contemporary American art-historians such as the German Benjamin H. D. Buchloh (born 1941). Buchloh, in the collection of essays Neo-avantgarde and Culture Industry (2000) critically argues for a dialectical approach to these positions. Subsequent criticism theorized the limitations of these approaches, noting their circumscribed areas of analysis, including Eurocentric, chauvinist, and genre-specific definitions.
The concept of avant-garde refers primarily to artists, writers, composers and thinkers whose work is opposed to mainstream cultural values and often has a trenchant social or political edge. Many writers, critics and theorists made assertions about vanguard culture during the formative years of modernism, although the initial definitive statement on the avant-garde was the essay Avant-Garde and Kitsch by New York art critic Clement Greenberg, published in Partisan Review in 1939. Greenberg argued that vanguard culture has historically been opposed to "high" or "mainstream" culture, and that it has also rejected the artificially synthesized mass culture that has been produced by industrialization. Each of these media is a direct product of Capitalism—they are all now substantial industries—and as such they are driven by the same profit-fixated motives of other sectors of manufacturing, not the ideals of true art. For Greenberg, these forms were therefore kitsch: phony, faked or mechanical culture, which often pretended to be more than they were by using formal devices stolen from vanguard culture. For instance, during the 1930s the advertising industry was quick to take visual mannerisms from surrealism, but this does not mean that 1930s advertising photographs are truly surreal.
Various members of the Frankfurt School argued similar views: thus Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer in their essay The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass-Deception (1944), and also Walter Benjamin in his highly influential "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1935, rev. 1939). Where Greenberg used the German word kitsch to describe the antithesis of avant-garde culture, members of the Frankfurt School coined the term "mass culture" to indicate that this bogus culture is constantly being manufactured by a newly emerged culture industry (comprising commercial publishing houses, the movie industry, the record industry, and the electronic media). They also pointed out that the rise of this industry meant that artistic excellence was displaced by sales figures as a measure of worth: a novel, for example, was judged meritorious solely on whether it became a best-seller, music succumbed to ratings charts and to the blunt commercial logic of the Gold disc. In this way the autonomous artistic merit so dear to the vanguardist was abandoned and sales increasingly became the measure, and justification, of everything. Consumer culture now ruled.
The avant-garde's co-option by the global capitalist market, by neoliberal economies, and by what Guy Debord called The Society of the Spectacle, have made contemporary critics speculate on the possibility of a meaningful avant-garde today. Paul Mann's Theory-Death of the Avant-Garde demonstrates how completely the avant-garde is embedded within institutional structures today, a thought also pursued by Richard Schechner in his analyses of avant-garde performance.
Despite the central arguments of Greenberg, Adorno and others, various sectors of the mainstream culture industry have co-opted and misapplied the term "avant-garde" since the 1960s, chiefly as a marketing tool to publicise popular music and commercial cinema. It has become common to describe successful rock musicians and celebrated film-makers as "avant-garde", the very word having been stripped of its proper meaning. Noting this important conceptual shift, major contemporary theorists such as Matei Calinescu in Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism (1987), and Hans Bertens in The Idea of the Postmodern: A History (1995), have suggested that this is a sign our culture has entered a new post-modern age, when the former modernist ways of thinking and behaving have been rendered redundant.
Nevertheless, an incisive critique of vanguardism as against the views of mainstream society was offered by the New York critic Harold Rosenberg in the late 1960s. Trying to strike a balance between the insights of Renato Poggioli and the claims of Clement Greenberg, Rosenberg suggested that from the mid-1960s onward progressive culture ceased to fulfill its former adversarial role. Since then it has been flanked by what he called "avant-garde ghosts to the one side, and a changing mass culture on the other", both of which it interacts with to varying degrees. This has seen culture become, in his words, "a profession one of whose aspects is the pretense of overthrowing it".
Avant-garde in music can refer to any form of music working within traditional structures while seeking to breach boundaries in some manner. The term is used loosely to describe the work of any musicians who radically depart from tradition altogether. By this definition, some avant-garde composers of the 20th century include Arnold Schoenberg, Charles Ives, Igor Stravinsky, Anton Webern, George Antheil (in his earliest works only), Alban Berg, Henry Cowell (in his earliest works), Philip Glass, Harry Partch, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Richard Strauss (in his earliest work), Karlheinz Stockhausen, Edgard Varèse, and Iannis Xenakis. Although most avant-garde composers have been men, this is not exclusively the case. Women avant-gardists include Pauline Oliveros, Diamanda Galás, Meredith Monk, and Laurie Anderson.
There is another definition of "Avant-gardism" that distinguishes it from "modernism": Peter Bürger, for example, says avant-gardism rejects the "institution of art" and challenges social and artistic values, and so necessarily involves political, social, and cultural factors. According to the composer and musicologist Larry Sitsky, modernist composers from the early 20th century who do not qualify as avant-gardists include Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, and Igor Stravinsky; later modernist composers who do not fall into the category of avant-gardists include Elliott Carter, Milton Babbitt, György Ligeti, Witold Lutosławski, and Luciano Berio, since "their modernism was not conceived for the purpose of goading an audience."
Whereas the avant-garde has a significant history in 20th-century music, it is more pronounced in theatre and performance art, and often in conjunction with music and sound design innovations, as well as developments in visual media design. There are movements in theatre history that are characterized by their contributions to the avant-garde traditions in both the United States and Europe. Among these are Fluxus, Happenings, and Neo-Dada.
Avant-garde jazz (also known as avant-jazz) is a style of music and improvisation that combines avant-garde art music and composition with jazz. It originated in the 1950s and developed through the 1960s. Originally synonymous with free jazz, much avant-garde jazz was distinct from that style.Avant-garde metal
Avant-garde metal (or experimental metal) is a subgenre of heavy metal music loosely defined by use of experimentation and innovative, avant-garde elements, including non-standard and unconventional sounds, instruments, song structures, playing styles, and vocal techniques. Avant-garde metal is influenced by progressive rock and extreme metal, particularly death metal, and is closely related to progressive metal. Some local scenes include Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, and Seattle in the United States, Oslo in Norway, and Tokyo in Japan.Avant-garde music
Avant-garde music is music that is considered to be at the forefront of experimentation or innovation in its field, with the term "avant-garde" implying a critique of existing aesthetic conventions, rejection of the status quo in favor of unique or original elements, and the idea of deliberately challenging or alienating audiences.Avant-pop
Avant-pop is popular music that is experimental, new, and distinct from previous styles while retaining an immediate accessibility for the listener. The term implies a combination of avant-garde sensibilities with existing elements from popular music in the service of novel or idiosyncratic artistic visions.Avant-prog
Avant-prog (short for avant-garde progressive rock) is a style that appeared in the late 1970s as the extension of two separate progressive rock sub-styles: Rock in Opposition (RIO) and the Canterbury scene.Avant-punk
Avant-punk is a punk music style characterized by "screeching experimentation," and a term by which critics used to describe the wave of American punk bands from the 1970s. It originated with the New York-based rock band the Velvet Underground, while antecedents included the Yardbirds, the early Kinks, and garage band one-shots collected on the Nuggets series of compilation albums. According to critic Robert Christgau, between 1966 and 1975, the only notable acts who could be categorized as "avant-punk" were the Velvets, MC5, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the Modern Lovers, and the New York Dolls.COBRA (avant-garde movement)
COBRA (or CoBrA) was a European avant-garde movement active from 1948 to 1951. The name was coined in 1948 by Christian Dotremont from the initials of the members' home cities: Copenhagen (Co), Brussels (Br), Amsterdam (A).Cinéma pur
Cinéma Pur (French for "Pure Cinema") was an avant-garde film movement begun by filmmakers, like René Clair, who "wanted to return the medium to its elemental origins" of "vision and movement."Europa (film)
Europa (known as Zentropa in North America) is a 1991 Danish art drama film directed by Lars von Trier. It is von Trier's third theatrical feature film and the final film in his Europa trilogy following The Element of Crime (1984) and Epidemic (1987).
The film features an international cast, including the French-American Jean-Marc Barr, Germans Barbara Sukowa and Udo Kier, expatriate American Eddie Constantine, and the Swedes Max von Sydow and Ernst-Hugo Järegård.
Europa was influenced by Franz Kafka's Amerika, and the title was chosen "as an echo" of that novel.Experimental film
Experimental film, experimental cinema or avant-garde cinema is a mode of filmmaking that rigorously re-evaluates cinematic conventions and explores non-narrative forms and alternatives to traditional narratives or methods of working. Many experimental films, particularly early ones, relate to arts in other disciplines: painting, dance, literature and poetry, or arise from research and development of new technical resources.While some experimental films have been distributed through mainstream channels or even made within commercial studios, the vast majority have been produced on very low budgets with a minimal crew or a single person and are either self-financed or supported through small grants.Experimental filmmakers generally begin as amateurs, and some used experimental films as a springboard into commercial film making or transitioned into academic positions. The aim of experimental filmmaking is usually to render the personal vision of an artist, or to promote interest in new technology rather than to entertain or to generate revenue, as is the case with commercial films.Experimental hip hop
Experimental hip hop is a sub-genre of hip hop that employs structural elements typically considered unconventional in traditional hip hop music. While most experimental hip hop incorporates turntablism and is produced electronically, some artists have introduced acoustic elements to the music to facilitate it being performed live.Experimental hip hop is definitely believed to have originated during hip hop's "golden age", usually thought of as occurring from the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s, a time that many fans and critics believe that hip hop was at the peak of its diversity, quality, innovation, and influence.Left-field hip hop is a union of rap and electronica in which the emphasis is placed more on the producer than the rapper or emcee.Experimental rock
Experimental rock (or avant-rock) is a subgenre of rock music which pushes the boundaries of common composition and performance technique or which experiments with the basic elements of the genre. Artists aim to liberate and innovate, with some of the genre's distinguishing characteristics being improvisational performances, avant-garde influences, odd instrumentation, opaque lyrics (or instrumentals), unorthodox structures and rhythms, and an underlying rejection of commercial aspirations.From its inception, rock music was experimental, but it was not until the late 1960s that rock artists began creating extended and complex compositions through advancements in multitrack recording. In 1967, the genre was as commercially viable as pop music, but by 1970, most of its leading players had incapacitated themselves in some form. In Germany, the krautrock subgenre merged elements of improvisation and psychedelic rock with avant-garde and contemporary classical pieces. Later in the 1970s, significant musical crossbreeding took place in tandem with the developments of punk and new wave, DIY experimentation, and electronic music. Funk, jazz-rock, and fusion rhythms also became integrated into experimental rock music.
The first wave of 1980s experimental rock groups had few direct precedents for their sound. Later in the decade, avant-rock pursued a psychedelic aesthetic that differed from the self-consciousness and vigilance of earlier post-punk. During the 1990s, a loose movement known as post-rock became the dominant form of experimental rock. As of the 2010s, the term "experimental rock" has fallen to indiscriminate use, with many modern rock bands being categorized under prefixes such as "post-", "kraut-", "psych-", and "noise-".Film-poem
The film-poem (also called the poetic avant-garde film, verse-film or verse-documentary) is a label first applied to American avant-garde films released after World War II. During this time, the relationship between film and poetry was debated. James Peterson in Dreams of Chaos, Visions of Order said, "In practice, the film poem label was primarily an emblem of the avant-garde's difference from the commercial narrative film." Peterson reported that in the 1950s, overviews of avant-garde films "generally identified two genres: the film poem and the graphic cinema". By the 1990s, the avant-garde cinema encompassed the term "film-poem" in addition to different strains of filmmaking. Film-poems are considered "personal films" and are seen "as autonomous, standing apart from traditions and genres". They are "an open, unpredictable experience" due to eschewing extrinsic expectations based on commercial films. Peterson said, "The viewer's cycles of anticipation and satisfaction derive primarily from the film's intrinsic structure." The film-poems are personal as well as private: "Many film poems document intimate moments of the filmmaker's life."Intelligent dance music
Intelligent dance music (commonly abbreviated as IDM) is a form of electronic music originating in the early 1990s. Relative to other forms of electronic and rave music, IDM came to be characterized as better suited to home listening than dancing. Inspired by a variety of sources, including Detroit techno, acid house, ambient music, and breakbeat, IDM tended to rely upon individualistic experimentation rather than adhering to characteristics associated with specific genres. Prominent artists associated with the genre include Aphex Twin, μ-Ziq, the Black Dog, the Orb, the Future Sound of London, Autechre, Luke Vibert, Squarepusher, Venetian Snares and Boards of Canada.The term "intelligent dance music" has been widely criticised and rejected by artists associated with the style, including Aphex Twin and µ-Ziq, as elitist and derogatory towards other genres. The term is said to have originated in the US in 1993 with the formation of the "IDM list", an electronic mailing list originally chartered for the discussion of a number of prominent English artists appearing on the 1992 Warp compilation Artificial Intelligence. In 2014, music critic Sasha Frere-Jones observed that the term "is widely reviled but still commonly used".List of avant-garde artists
Avant-garde (French pronunciation: [avɑ̃ ɡaʁd]) is French for "vanguard". The term is commonly used in French, English, and German to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art and culture.
Avant-garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm. The notion of the existence of the avant-garde is considered by some to be a hallmark of modernism, as distinct from postmodernism. Postmodernism posits that the age of the constant pushing of boundaries is no longer with us and that avant-garde has little to no applicability in the age of Postmodern art.Lists of avant-garde films
This is chronological list of avant-garde and experimental films split by decade. Often there may be considerable overlap particularly between avant-garde/experimental and other genres (including, documentaries, fantasy, and science fiction films); the list should attempt to document films which are more closely related to the avant-garde, even if it bends genres.National Vanguard Party
The National Vanguard Party (Arabic: حزب الطليعة الوطني, translit. Hizb Al-Taliyeh Al-Watani, French: Parti Avant-Garde nationale or PAGN), is a political party in Mauritania. It is the Mauritanian regional branch of the Iraqi-led Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party (Arabic: حزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي, transliterated: Hizb Al-Ba'ath Al-'Arabi Al-Ishtiraki).Painkiller (band)
Painkiller (also known as Pain Killer) is a band that formed in 1991, combining avant-garde jazz and grindcore. Later albums incorporated elements of ambient and dub.The three primary members of Painkiller were John Zorn on saxophone, Bill Laswell on bass guitar and Mick Harris on drums. Zorn and Laswell work in the New York avant-garde music scene. Harris was the drummer for the death metal band Napalm Death, which partially inspired the creation of the band. Several musicians have made guest appearances both live and in the studio, including Buckethead, Yamatsuka Eye, Mike Patton, Makigami Koichi, Justin Broadrick and G. C. Green of Godflesh, and Keiji Haino of Fushitsusha.
Harris left the band in 1995 to dedicate himself to computer music. Zorn and Laswell resurrected Painkiller and played with Yoshida Tatsuya of Ruins on drums. Hamid Drake joined the band for Zorn's 50th Birthday shows at Tonic in New York City. That show (which also featured Mike Patton as a guest) was released as a live album by Tzadik.
In 2008, Painkiller performed a one-off show in France with the original line-up of Zorn, Laswell, and Harris, along with an appearance by Fred Frith, Feydy Lyvyr, Sean Reno, Maeda, and Mike Patton.Russian avant-garde
The Russian avant-garde was a large, influential wave of avant-garde modern art that flourished in the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, approximately from 1890 to 1930—although some have placed its beginning as early as 1850 and its end as late as 1960. The term covers many separate, but inextricably related, art movements that flourished at the time; namely Suprematism, Constructivism, Russian Futurism, Cubo-Futurism, Zaum and Neo-primitivism. Given that many avant-garde artists involved were born or grew up in what is present day Belarus and Ukraine (including Kazimir Malevich, Aleksandra Ekster, Vladimir Tatlin, Wassily Kandinsky, David Burliuk, Alexander Archipenko), some sources also talk about Ukrainian avant-garde, etc.
The Russian avant-garde reached its creative and popular height in the period between the Russian Revolution of 1917 and 1932, at which point the ideas of the avant-garde clashed with the newly emerged state-sponsored direction of Socialist Realism.