Question for... the still-Avant-Garde?

Otázka pro... ještě avantgarda?

The worldwide avant-garde project played a historically unique role in European culture. At the same time, it is evident that contemporary art and art history place significant emphasis on the avant-garde tradition and develop it in various ways. What, in your opinion, gives rise to this extraordinary interest, if the “essential legacy” of the avant-garde, its raison d’être – the principle of estrangement, the principle of permanent innovation – is part of the past, or, if you prefer, the so-called “historical avant-garde”?

One possible answer, arising from the specificity of the Czech avant-garde, may be found in interwar Czech culture. In the programmatic article “Our Foundation and Our Path” (1924), Karel Teige stresses the fundamental significance of modern man’s psychological ability to experience contradictions and contrasts, in which principles of the modern era and modernity are reflected with almost paradoxical acuity. The dualisms of rational construction and poetry, freedom and discipline, intellect and fantasy, and nature and civilization formed the basis of the Czech avant-garde of the twenties. Is it not precisely the coexistence of heterogeneous aesthetic programs that makes the Czech avant-garde of the twenties and thirties seem to be generally valid, or “timeless”? We may also note that even in the early twenties in the Czech avant-garde there was a certain awareness of critical skepticism – perhaps only latent as yet – towards its own utopian-eschatological impulses, a skepticism expressed by Apollinaire in Zone and other poems, which did not become fully apparent in the Czech avant-garde until the thirties.

It seems that these are not the only answers to our question. The inspirational heritage of the avant-garde is, after all, full of dormant questions and answers that link a number of problems of our own time with the period of what we very vaguely designate and justify as the “historical avant-garde.”

And so, back to the avant-garde…?

(translated by Kirsten Lodge)

The Answers:
Alena Nádvorníková
Vlastimil Zuska: Nostalgie po historické avantgardě a řádu z chaosu
Martina Pachmanová
Stuart Inman: Surrealism and the Idea of the Avant-Garde
Irina Wutsdorff