Abstract

Peter Bürger reflects on the reception of his Theory of the Avant-Garde and crafts a spirited response to his critics, while expanding on and refining his original claims. For Bürger, what continues to distinguish the avant-garde are two interrelated principles: the attack on the institution of art and the revolutionary transformation of everyday life. Underscoring the explicitly theoretical, rather than merely historical, thrust of this definition, he defends this generalizing strategy as a necessary means of achieving clarity about the changing role of art in society. He reiterates his argument about the failure of the historical avant-garde (to overcome the distinction of art and life), while placing a new emphasis on its equal measure of success (in transforming the internal logic of the art institution). The avant-garde’s appropriation of outdated and popular materials, for example, played a key role in challenging the norms of the art world, helping to bring about the leveling of distinctions often associated with postmodernism. On the one hand, the avant-garde failed in its attempt to revolutionize social reality; on the other hand, its impact on the norms and values of the art institution was significant and far-reaching. Contemporary or neo-avant-gardes remain caught on the horns of this contradiction, insofar as their aesthetic experiments—whatever the explicit intentions of the artist—only shore up the walls of the institution rather than breaking them down.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-661X
Print ISSN
0028-6087
Pages
pp. 695-715
Launched on MUSE
2011-04-22
Open Access
No
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