Review P.S.1 Symposium: A Practical Avant-Garde by n+1

Mellow Yellow

Mellow Yellow

My review | rating: 1 of 5 stars

Okay — just finished reading this thing and I am glad I know nothing about these people because they are obsessed with surfaces and gestures. It is odd to read something that is supposed to be about an artistic movement (The Avant-Garde) and yet has half of the insight of a teenager helping me to pick out linoleum tiles at Home Depot.

A student asked me what kind of music I liked this last week.

I like music, I said. I was at a loss about such an enormous question. How can a person answer what kind of music they like? I’m familiar with this question and usually when someone asks me this, I try to give them an answer that will establish our shared preferences. It is a kind of bonding questions and doesn’t really have anything to do with the the music. Liking something seems to me to have hardly anything to do with aesthetics. I like water when I am thirsty and bread when I am hungry and this doesn’t mean that it good water or good bread. What people like seems more like saying we are similar in some way. We like the same things. This kid’s question made me realize I had somehow cootinized. I didn’t know this student all and so I couldn’t say, “Jonas Brothers,” or whatever it is that a 17 year thinks they like. When I was 17 I was freak and didn’t like anything anyone else liked in 1986. I think I was listening to the soundtrack to a Clockwork Orange that year. I tended to listen to once record over and over again.

“Do you like Jim Morrison?” he said.

“The Doors?” I said, as if the name Jim Morrison was obscure somehow had to be placed.

“Yeah,” he said.

“He’s okay I guess. Do you like Classic Rock?” I said. (This itself a vague and weird way of describing music, but generally people know what you mean, manly music that has been reviewed in Rolling Stone between 1964-1991 (or so) and canonized in an FM radio station top 100 albums or songs of all time.)

“No,” he said. “I don’t like Classic Rock. I like Pink Floyd.”

“I like Syd Barrett,” I said.

“Who?” He said. “What do you mean?”

{and on and on}

n+1’s Symposium: A Practical Avant-Garde, encased in a little booklet, reminded me of that kid. There is a kind of addled surface quality where history has been washed together as a kind of stew of gestures and stances and to be an artist is to have a stance and a pose and have practiced your gestures. Taste and gesture allow Jim Morrison and Roger Waters to be classified together. Alan Ginsburg, The Symbolists, the word progressive, Andre Breton, Black Flag, the Black Mountain School, etc. all get stewed in one yellow pamphlet mess.

Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, or Paul Valery were not mentioned once in this booklet on the Avant-Garde, including the Avant Garde in literature. Karl Marx was also not mentioned. Although the word progress was essential to their definition. Things progressed because they were getting better. The criteria of better was not discussed, but presumebably because of progress things that were new were better than things that were old. This is not a new proposition, sure, but here it was talked about and then printed up in a discussion meant to signify a serious intellectual stance. I’m unsure when this proposition of the new being better bdecame cant. When did liberalism or radicalsim become merely equated with newness. But yes, certinaly any child knews that something that is new and still in cellophane is better than something that is used and on the shelf at Goodwill.

The Avant-Garde is described, (really) in this booklet as a bunch of artists who issue manifestos. That is it.

Here is the most salient definition of the principle term being discussed: “So although it is made by groups and manifestos and individuals, I would like to think of the avant-garde primarily as a functional level within any given art or field of intellect.” The mush goes on from there.

{the subject is made by a group or individuals}

The carbuncle on my left ass cheek is made up of a group or individual Staphylococcus aureus and that doesn’t make it an Avant-Garde carbuncle. It issues a manifesto of puss, and that also does not make it Avant-Garde.

Anyway, this was an inept little booklet.

There was this bit I liked, lifted by Eliza Newman-Saul from elsewhere: “Blanchot described surrealism as instituting a collective experience, and he admires Breton for his capability not to be ‘the one any more than the others, but of making surrealism each one’s other.” He describes this as a from of friendship […:]

I have this booklet now and I have no idea what it do with it, besides, well, heating a kettle to make some hot water or something.

View all my reviews.

, , , ,

Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: