(The Avant-Garde Will Eat Itself, or on a clear day you can see Jörmungandr choking on his own tail)
There’s a story going about that I find highlights some key issues that have faced avant garde artists, punk rockers, hippies, post-modern, post-consumer, political radicals and those cuddly black metal bands throughout their careers. How many times has a scene, movement or revolutionary impulse turned on itself, been co-opted, bought or become that it was conceived to destroy?
The article in question By Sam Anderson in New York Magazine:
… On the day I went, at the center of the mess stood a Technicolor poster of an anthropomorphic pickle-shaped rainbow; above him, there was a portrait of a little Swiss-looking girl innocently playing a flute. And above her, in the upper right corner of the wall, was a sad, frowning candy corn, looking even sadder because someone had flung white paint over its face—a ragged spray that covered one cheek and part of his nose. Near the splash was a poster-size manifesto, partially torn, apparently declaring the candy corn’s crimes against humanity. It was titled AVANT-GARDE: ADVANCE SCOUTS FOR CAPITAL, and it read, in part:
REVOLUTIONARY CREATIVITY DOES NOT SHOCK OR ENTERTAIN THE BOURGEOISIE, IT DESTROYS THEM. OUR STRUGGLE CANNOT BE HUNG ON WALLS. DESTROY THE MUSEUMS, IN THE STREETS AND EVERYWHERE.
First off, what first springs to mind when I read the words of the splasher is the spontaneous manifestos that constituted the interview answers given early on by bands of the second wave of black metal bands. Bold statements of war against Christianity, declarations of hate for society, institutions and all traditions but the long forgotten and abandoned aboriginal cultures of Northern Europe and Scandinavia abounded, delivered with a real energy and conviction. (For the most part. It is in the nature of radical statements, manifestos and art movements that extremes become poses, marketing, conventions, the stuff that constitutes all modern mythologizing.)
In modern civilization, we may feel that myth is left behind, except for those who mobilize to kill for their gods, but we are surrounded by myth and manipulated by myth makers. A bunch of kids trying out occult rituals in the woods are trying to shape their own stories. Art movements with their manifestos are giving a table of contents for the story they plan to unfold before us, if we’ll only listen. The stories politicians tell us make up the mythos they would have us live by, and need I explain advertising, and their myth of who you should be, and the plastic people of the media and their image making faculty?
Not to write a book here, but I may give little bits and bites to grab the threads of a train of thought and try to show how they connect. What I bring this evening is not a set of answers or extensive commentary. What I have is questions.
In a world where corporations have become the makers of our dreams, heads of international corporations in the role of Clotho, spinning out the material from which the majority of the worlds population has to make their lives, technocrats: Lachesis, doling out favors in the forms of material reward and relative freedom to those who walk along paths that help support and expand the techno-gaia of the media/industrial/capital ecosystem, government: Atropos, deciding how far any individual or group can go in any direction, and often deciding just how long individuals existence shall last, what do the artists have to say, and is there anyone left to listen?
Have all the art movements, music trends, revolutions in nations and literature amounted to anything more than new ways to sell us stuff? Can the art of marketing give birth to something we can place beside the surrealists, the old masters and great composers?
I’m feeling in the dark for something here, and hope to be shown something.
Below is a documentary series by Adam Curtis which outlines some of the forces that has shaped th world we currently inhabit, the very deliberate ways our old myths have been replaced, and what now takes the place of those myths:
Do a search for manifestos and you’ll come up with enough reading to burn your eyes and melt your brain.