The term avant-garde feels outdated. In the not too distant past, after its deconstructive examination, the avant-garde was pronounced dead. By burying the avant-garde we ‘liberated’ ourselves from the risky task of proposing a new transformative agenda for today and new visionary projects for tomorrow. Without reverting to reactionary nostalgia for its simple recuperation, and expecting from it new agendas and methodologies, we must bring the avant-garde back to life. By calling it ‘transformative’, this Manifest points to an important facet of the avant-garde's contemporary function: its proactive attitude and role in intelligent, critical, post-contestational and post-deconstructive engagement. This is not a call for action. It is not a manifesto for the future. It is a Manifest of the Present. It is a statement of evidence. It is a supportive recognition of the active existence the avant-garde today.
In this conversation artist Krzysztof Wodiczko and cultural theorist Marc James Léger discuss examples from the historic avant-gardes in light of more contemporary projects, including Wodiczko's Arc de Triomphe World Institute for the Abolition of War. They discuss how the historical avant-garde took responsibility for its art as if it was non-art, transformed into life. Mentioned is the nomadological architecture of Lucien Kroll, the solvism of Atelier Van Lieshout, the autonomous activism of Tania Bruguera, the new productivism of Las Agencias, and the social projects of Thomas Hirschhorn.
Immanuel Kant's philosophy of the aesthetic is typically celebrated by bourgeois critics as a transcendence of the social, an interpretation largely accepted by anglophone Marxism. This article rethinks Kant's concept of ‘interest’ around the question of social compulsion. The ‘pure judgement’ involved in aesthetic production and reception is understood as providing an institutionalized space for reflection on and not merely reflection of social determinations. Drawing on Kojin Karatani's reading of Kant, the article stresses the communicative dimension of the aesthetic in relation to a universal that is not given. The Kantian aesthetic can be read as one which inscribes the classed other into its very form. The novelty of this reading is highlighted by comparing the work of Pierre Bourdieu and Jacques Rancière. The article argues that their respective sociological and philosophical positions do not adequately assess whether practices are identical to their immediate conditions of existence.
This article analyses how Caribbean artists approach material culture in order to raise questions of historicism, knowledge and display. Installation artists Nikolai Noel (Trinidad and Tobago), Marcos Lora Read (Dominican Republic) and Blue Curry (Bahamas) approach sugar, kapok wood and sun cream from a materialist point of view in order to transcend referential values. In so doing, they translate a critical concern to the life of the things and materials that have shaped the Caribbean past and present. By examining three of their most fully realized artistic projects, this article seeks to elaborate a reading of Caribbean art based on the restaging through art of the political, economic and social implications arising from the entanglement between human beings and things.
This article will examine how artists Renee Cox and Sonia Boyce are visually problematising notions of civilised society by re-presenting eighteenth- and nineteenth-century black women as the unorthodox, unusual, and, thus, transgressive embodiment of modernity. In ‘Queen Nanny of the Maroons’ (2004) series and ‘From Tarzan to Rambo: English Born "Native" Considers her Relationship to the Constructed/Self Image and her Roots in Reconstruction’ (1989) respectively, Cox and Boyce re-present these black women, creating images of them that reflect a multi-valenced black female subjectivity. These artworks challenge the incessant need to study and contain the black masses, and particularly black women, which was so characteristic of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Both artists offer with postcolonial rigour a counter-history of those who came before them, confronting how colonial authorities of the Americas viewed black women of the nineteenth century: as the antithesis of civilised society.
Liesbeth and Angelique Raeven, working together as L.A. Raeven, make their unhealthy thinness into the subject of their art. In documenting perverse extremes of common desires for thinness and a ‘soul mate’, they claim that they want women to confront and moderate socially imposed insecurities. Undermining their stated goals, however, are concerns that they may represent the ‘pro-ana’ anorexic subculture, hijacking the language and attitudes of subversion, identity expression and activism to intellectualise their own mental illnesses. This article investigates their work within the contexts of their professed motivations, medical literature about anorexia and ‘pro-ana’ communities, feminist theory on these subjects, and contemporary art about and by mentally ill and self-harming artists. As a model for engaging art produced at high risk to the artists themselves, this article explores the role and responsibilities of audiences and professionals in creative fields to identify and address boundaries between self-expression and self-harm.
This article offers close analyses of three photofilmic artworks – pieces blurring the boundaries between photography and film – that confound iconic, charged images in the mass media in order to speak to the problematic of imagining a New Europe. The artist collective Superflex, film-maker Harun Farocki and cultural theorist and artist Mieke Bal have all recently produced moving-image works that address the hypervisibility of such fraught images within a public domain, such as burning cars, cartoons of Islamic figures, and veiled women, but each works to disrupt or reconstruct such visual tropes. Through hybrid forms each artist attends to crossover media coverage and how such mediated translations today produce and disseminate the images in socially novel and complex ways. Bal's installation, in particular, through a strategy of photofilmic portraiture, offers a complex counter-aesthetic of the migratory, one that emphasises everyday, lived and embodied instances of positive, cross-cultural encounter on the continent.
Following the early history of Cine Falcatrua, a Brazilian film society that deployed personal computers in order to exhibit movies downloaded from the internet in free weekly screenings, this article aims to show how cinematographic apparatus can be rearranged using domestic devices. In doing so, the text examines the logic behind the process of specification of media technology, paying attention both to the direct engagement with movie distribution as well as to the establishment of ancillary structures for the promotion and understanding of the primary medial operations. It concludes by making the case for how emerging practices, in order to become proper to the medium, must either be crystallised within the cinematographic circuit or cast out to other fields of creation.
THIRD TEXT is published in print and online by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group