The Minimalist vanguards of the 1960s and 1970s staged similar investigations into the multimedia encounter of art object, spectator, and viewing space.Its interest in the spectator's sensation of (in Robert Morris' words) "establishing relationships as he apprehends [an] object from various positions and under varying conditions of light and spatial context"9 posits space and time themselves as meta-media, and human perception itself as a genre of aesthetic experience.
Such approaches tend to evince what may be the single most definitive characteristic of avant-gardism: namely, a highly-developed consciousness regarding the institutionalized practice of "art" itself.
It was this meaning evoked by Olinde Rodrigues in his essay "L'artiste, le savant et l'industriel" (1825), which contains the first recorded use of "avant-garde" in its now-customary sense: there, Rodrigues calls on artists to "serve as [the people's] avant-garde," insisting that "the power of the arts is indeed the most immediate and fastest way" to social, political, and economic reform.1 Following Rodrigues, since the mid-nineteenth century "the avant-garde" has come to signify a more or less amorphous collective of highly innovative, path-breaking artists whose unorthodox ideological commitments manifest themselves in non-traditional approaches to artistic and cultural production.
Foster, Hal, The Return of the Real: Art and Theory at the End of the Century. Huyssen, Andreas, "The Search for Tradition: Avant-Garde and postmodernism in the 1970s". 11 see Rosalind Krauss, "Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism," in October, Vol. 4 (2005) 14 Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), 4-5.
Greenberg, Clement, "Avant-Garde and Kitsch." The Collected Essays and Criticism, Volume I: Perceptions and Judgments. ------------------------, "Towards a Newer Laocon." The Collected Essays and Criticism, Volume I. 5 David Joselit, American Art Since 1945 (London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2003), 72. 8 see Hal Foster, "The Crux of Minimalism," in The Return of the Real: Art and Theory at the End of the Century (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1996), 35-70. 10 Marshall Mc Luhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1994), 314. 13 Sianne Ngai, "The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde," in Critical Inquiry, Vol.31, no.
Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics, ed. Thomas Docherty (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 231. Although it has come to signify those aesthetic practices which are unconventional, subversive, or simply bizarre, the term "avant-garde"-French for front or advance guard-was originally used in a strictly military context, where it referred to a small unit of especially skilled soldiers who marched ahead of their army and plotted its course.
15 Andreas Huyssen, "The Search for Tradition: Avant-garde and postmodernism in the 1970s," in Postmodernism: A Reader, ed. Rodrigues, Olinde, "L'artiste, le savant et l'industriel," trans. Matei Calinescu, The Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism.This does not mean simply that the avant-garde artist handles her materials in a manner different from the prevailing modus operandi, but rather that she interrogates the principle of medium specificity itself.The images Hch uses in her photomontages are not the product of her own hand, but rather taken from magazines, newspapers, catalogues, and printed advertisements; mass (re)produced and circulated, they are images that seem to have no maker other than the printing press that churns them out.The interpolation of mass produced, non-original images in an artifact evinces another characteristically avant-garde attitude towards "media" not as the materials of artistic production, but rather as the instrument(s) of mass communication.As a form of media in both the material and instrumental sense, the art object is part of the informational network that obstructs rather than facilitates or clarifies our encounter with reality [1,2].At the same time, Warhol's paintings suggest that there is no such thing as an immediate experience of "reality" [1,2], and that no event or sensation exists that has not been passed through a variably visible screen of media systems.Thus, while Jackson Pollock's application of paint to his canvas in drips and dribbles is extremely inventive, the absence of a relationship between his use of materials and a critical interest in the nature and practice of art excludes him from the ranks of the avant-garde. According to Walter Benjamin, Mallarm "was the first [artist and poet] to incorporate the graphic tension of the advertisement in the printed page"3, undermining the sanctity of the poem as a purely artistic, autonomous production while underlining its covert status as cultural commodity.Indeed, Greenberg's faith in Abstract Expressionism as the ultimate vanguard has been dismissed by most art historians, whose critical and historical accounts of avant-gardism emphasize its debt to the experimental art of the nineteenth century, and to those artists who demonstrated a prescient interest in questions of media. Mallarm's interest in multimedia aesthetics is developed in the twentieth century by Dada artists like Kurt Schwitters, whose own vanguard movement, Merz, was committed to the production of a Gesamtkunstwerk ("total work of art") that included multiple genres and forms of media, including painting, sculpture, typography, architecture, and performance art.Warhol's interest in the unavailability of immediacy suggest an oppositional response to the earlier avant-gardism of the Surrealist movement, whose practitioners-including Andr Breton, Salvador Dal, and Max Ernst-attempted to represent, in Breton's words, "a transmutation of those two extremely contradictory states, dream and reality, into an absolute state of surreality." The efforts of the Surrealists to "systematize confusion and thus...discredit completely the world of reality,"6 were (and are) often condemned for being irresponsibly apolitical, geared towards the narcissistic production of phantasmatic images rather than the conscious reformation of current socio-political conditions.While some Surrealists (like Breton) were obviously politically active, the relative indifference of Surrealism to questions of media, and how such questions serve to critique the idea of art as such, distinguish it from the twentieth century's other avant-garde movements.