A New International Surrealist’s Look at Progress, Overcoming and the Irreversibility of the Avante-garde, Massurrealism and The Death of Art
By Terrance Lindall , Provocateur
Enrico Pedrini, Italian theoretician and curator, who wrote a thesis on “Irreversibility and the Avante-garde” once created a show by placing books on physics on pedestals in an empty room. This was a show of art without the artist. “It is the inevitable end of the progress and overcoming represented by the avant-garde in art,” he said, “… the artist is no longer in the picture.”
Yes, the nature of the avant-garde in art is that they, who ever “they” are at the moment, will be superseded by the next avant-garde. And the “progress” it represents is happening faster and faster. So after an artist is out of school and has his first show, assuming he has “gone beyond what has gone before,” or has made “progress,” he and his work must immediately be disregarded and placed in the dust bin of history because behind him is the new avant-garde with a show ready to go up. You cannot reverse the progress of the avant-garde. You cannot make it stop where you are at, to be revered for all time. To historicize it means it is not avant-garde. It is a contradiction that exists today in the notion that museums are exhibiting the avant-garde. In point of fact, if museums are exhibiting it, this proves that it is not avant-garde, but rather history. The idea of the avant-garde is that it is something that is happening that has not yet been recognized by the “establishment” or the mainstream.
The avant-garde artist today is a sacrifice to the moment, to be superceded instantaneously, and cannot even be placed into history except by some very bad thinkers, because if something is avant-garde, it cannot be history and if it only exists at a moment to be superceded instantly, it will not have had time to be historicized in the sense that it meant anything to culture at all. Essentially the avant-garde artist is unimportant. The only important thing is the IDEA of the avant-garde artist. So, Pedrini, eliminating the unnecessary, displayed books on physics, demonstrating that the “notion” of entropy in physics was the final culmination in ART to the progress of the avante garde in the art world.
Such strange material are these notions of “progress” and the “avant-garde.” Progress implies that we reach a goal or a place of ease and contentment. Instead, today it represents only continual dissatisfaction with the “Now.”
In order to have this headlong rush of progress, we must not only continually topple what has gone before, but also give up all contentment in the “now” in order to pursue the future.
And so, I, the observer, must amuse myself with watching the masses of avant-garde artists and art institutions making a life and a practice of being dissatisfied, while I, in my more primitive way, find peace and contentment by retiring to my “Treasure Room,” to look at my not very avant-garde works of art, drink a brandy, smoke a good cigar and listen to operas which are not very avant-garde at all. And sometimes I free my libido and renew myself in the excercise of Surrealism as applied to my art.
Regarding the death or decline of Art, Vattimo remarks that “the death of art is a phrase that…constitutes an epoch at the end of metaphysics.” The introduction to the books says that the death of art takes place in three different forms: First, the work of art ceases to be a specific fact; there is no longer an autonomous realm of ART, isolated from all other forms of discourse, and instead calls into question its own status and traditional institutional framework, exemplified by body art, street theater, and earthwork. Secondly, the technologies of mass production in 20th century Western culture, such as photography, also significantly contribute to the death of art…we must look here to our own Massurrealism to see what part it plays here in the age of mass production where an infinite number of identically reproduced images can coexist, subverting the notion that art exists in a domain apart from that of the rest of existence and the aestheticization of experience at a mass level (through television, advertisements, etc.), breaking down the notion that art is sealed off from the rest of mass culture. And thirdly, high art has regularly sought to commit suicide in the 20th century!
On September 8th, 2005 I myself made a pronouncement that “Art is Dead.” It was not a frivolous statement, although I presented it as a bit of fun. Yuko Nii, a fellow thinker in the arts, and I are in fact writing the thesis. The history of the death of art can be traced. There is a timeline of events. There were portents and augerings. One was when Enrico Pedrini curated an art show in 1992 wherein there was no artist, as described above. In any case, here is the Death of Art encapsulated:
“Art is not merely an imitation of the reality of nature, but in truth a metaphysical supplement to the reality of nature, placed alongside thereof for its conquest.”
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.” Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
Art is dead. It has something do with Nietzsche and others in how they define art, and how artists of the past and their public viewed what they were doing. It has something to do with Vatimmo’s augerings in his 1985 “Death of Modernity.” It has something to do with James Seehafers final revelation of Massurrealism in 1992. And Massurrealism, as art, is a most important thing at our time. As an idea come to fruition, it is glorious. I wrote about the entry of surrealism into the mass media in my Art & Antiques (world’s largest magazine of its kind) article in March 2006. The great thing is that James Seehafer, Massurrealist, was the one to have made the key statements that announced the end of art, although he did not say that “art has ended.” And James is free to disagree with me! And I am the coroner, so to speak, confirming the death of art. But understand the meaning!
Essentially all of the augerings were correct. Art has now become something else…a “gigantic insect” as it were. It has become a vehicle for mass entertainment and a commodity for investment. For the mainstream, the art is gone, although they still call it “art.”
All of the heated buying and selling of art at the end of the 20th C. and the beginning of the 21st are indications of a high fever, of the disease of avarice, and art has been swallowed whole.
I do not mean to say that there are not those who still practice true art for its own sake and not for fame or money. But fewer do. The fevered eye is on the money. And in the larger mass society art IS DEAD.
It is inevitable that the successors of DADA, WE, the New International Surrealists, would have something to do with the recognition and proclamation that art is dead. The surrealists were the true romantics. They can see the great loss for what it is, and yet continue. As Keith Wigdor the leader of the International Surrealist Movement says,”this is what I see: art has been stagnant too long! It has been overwhelmed with ‘La Fausse Industrie’, a term that I borrowed from Charles Fourier. We need to attack and negate everything! That has been my plan all along. If others cannot understand that, then they are just polished “totems of illusion, no real threat. My declaration must be shouted to the rafters: ‘Swim against the current and Return to the source of Everything!’ That is what SURREASLISM IS ALL ABOUT!”
Out of the ashes of the death of art, a greater Art will be reborn. Art will come into itself again! A new Man (and woman) will come into being. The disease of avarice and thirst for fame and power will give way to a Greater Man. However, the time may not be in the immediate future. Another event(s) may have to take place first.
1) Before the Death of Art, there was the Death of God. This occurred when thinkers began to rely more on a created system of value than on the absolute and unchangeable Values of the idea of God. Humanism was born and Nihilism was at the door. The value of anything became interpretable. Belief systems were to take the place of God’s Word. Think about this. I have more to say at another time.
2) In my opinion two of the greatest art shows ON the avant-garde in the arts (that I know about) were the ones by Pedrini, the art show without an artist, and Breuk Iversen’s Offalist art show where he sold money for half price. Great statements on the avant-garde in the arts are rare. Savor them!
Essay by Terrance Lindall , featured artist on beinArt International Surreal Art Collective