The Avant Garde and Problems of Originitality

This week I was especially struck by the discussions surrounding what it really means for a work or publication to be avant garde. Modern ideas of the artist as a genius or figure of unique originality bring up a lot of interesting questions about whether true originality is something that’s possible and/or sustainable to achieve. I liked Christina’s image of avant-garde status as a “moving target”. When anything attempts to be intensely new, contemporary, or of the moment, it tends to undercut its own claims to universality and endurance across cultures and moments. This is of course kind of the point of avant garde work, with later iterations of the avant garde portraying its objects as disposable, or even as straight up garbage. I think this says a lot about Modernity’s relationship to irony. In many ways, things considered controversial, experimental, or fleeting have become incorporated into the canon because of the stir they caused. As we discussed in class, another feature of modernity becomes any publicity being good publicity. Eventually, what was once subversive becomes part of the apparatus it was trying to escape. Anything that’s new will at some point become old, anything that’s daring will at some point become cliche, conventional, and  derivative. I feel like this week’s class gave me a lot of insight into postmodern attitudes about cyclical cultural processes too in this way.