Alla Mitrofanova
New Avant-Guarde, or Chaos as Creative Delight (1993)

Язык оригинала: английский

Changing expressive means in culture, new technologies change cultural environment in general, provoke formation of new historico-cultural phenomena, start new periods in cultural periodisation/reflexion/practice. All this permanently re-animates creative machine of the avant-guarde, oriented towards production of the “here and now” adequate, and therefore the topical and the new. We loose interest to canonical high-flown beautiful retelling of what is known and start our manipulations with “extension of consciousness”, invention of a new body, we engage ourselves in the non-guaranteed, non-cannonical, we put at risk our taste and moral values to discover a new identity, a new “authenticity” of the reality.

Semiotic anarchy as the norm of our time

Structural disintegration at all levels: political, social, cultural, linguistic, behavioural, the collapse of stable and habitual psychological states in contemporary Russia may be experienced as horror and joy, as shaky loneliness and abandonness, or as “intoxication” with “schitzo-revolutionary freedom”. In art this entails a renewed value of the experiment and even the necessity of the experiment, when working with the comprehensible, the stable, the legible, the beautiful becomes inappropriate and flat. Art cannot fill any applicable or traditional “spiritual” niche, when the system of “niche-making” went to hell.

Again, art becomes the function of “emerging” or transpiring of reality, it discovers being in its new versions, it takes forms of being from Chaos. The recently topical interim axiologies: art in the system of politics and power, art in the market system, contemporary art and manipulation with tradition, become irrelevant. Power is not where we habitually see it, the art market is nothing but a fiction, an empty hope, although capable of warming artists and gallerists. The recently unshakeable notions have lost their identity, they have become empty, they “don’t work”.

The absence of oppositions, of clearly defined provocations leaves art “to its own devices”, and puts the artist in an equal position with the gangster, the refugee, the homeless. Art as such and the artist as performer of a special spiritual function in society loose their hierarchic privileges, which they enjoyed even under the KGB tyranny in the notorious heroic times of non-conformism.The fatal lack of identity in usual and basic dimensions ranging from “Motherland” and “Culture” to “Myself” and “My Intimate Territories” force one to search for another “fluid” strategies of identity and self-expression, of creative production, social arrangement etc.
Art, like any other form of activity, has no presumption of “highness”, it is doomed to marginal experiments with no garanteed result. In this respect art has “equal chances” with any other types of activity, directed toward emerging of or adaptation to new forms of life, ways of organizing life under conditions of its emergence. There are no stable phenomena here and it is impossible to describe them from the point of view of meaning and purpose. The description’s adequacy cannot come from the outside, we can only describe our desire to produce art, our desire of new forms of cultural expression, but not the forms themselves, not the objects of art.

The value of art and “the authentic picture of the world”

Categories of art’s super-value, its accomplishment, its museum quality refer us to the extereme type of understanding of being, where there is a pre-designed wholesome picture of the world. This type of understanding refers us to the meta-narration of the absolute evolving consciousness, in which is a priori present a “picture of the world” and a cognizing consciousness, controlled by a hierarchy of values. The value-based concept of arts stemms from the European metaphysical tradition with its priorities of cognitive consciousness and single spirit (or all uniting spirituality), of the world division into “the inner” and “the outer”, the subject and the object, and finally, of the “world picture” as a whole 1.

In this situation there naturally emerges a threat of alienation, of controlling the indivilual, of non-freedom, the terminology of threat/suspicion/subordination and the apprehension, that power and culture may subsitute the actual reality, that culture may be estranged from its creator by the power machine to be used to evil ends. The “knowing mind” requires, that the unknown be defined and allots to itself the right of moral judgement and control over processes of emergence and experiment. Therefore, there arises the apprehension of alienation of culture, the market to be used by the elite or the power against innocent individuals. Here there may be no unconditional pre-design of the world and cognition, inherent in religion, yet here are defined the unconditional entities: man, culture, reality, the penetration and interaction of which is accomplished within pre-defined methodical and cultural schemes.
Real time

Rejecting the point of view, according to which art is an outward alienated entertainment of the professional elite, which could be placed in the museum or locked in the laboratory, I inevitably accept the opinion, that art opens up time and its cultural expression, absorbs and catches new streams of time and its dimensions. I take the position of being engaged by change, by “permanent revolution in art” (Trotsky), of being engaged by time in its most unpredictable, uncontrollable manifestation. Time becomes the Unknown and Reality, understood as stimuli, provocations, as active Unknown.
In creative dimension real time becomes the problem of realization of individual existential formation. Real time is not measured by categories of time (in a certain sense, it is beyond time), but it is measured through emergence and production of itself. As regards time, Contemplation and Production are one and the same way, through which occurs “disclosure of being in its emergence” 2.

The past helps to understand and construct a reflexive image, using its prototypes, to identify a phenomenon. Future in this case is a projection from the past into the future as a model. Simultaneously, the projection leaves out the elusive present. Real time, unlike the past and the future has no meta-narration and is not determined by purposes of evolution and rationalization. Here consciousness is not detached from the body, desire cannot be calculated through purpose or result.

Art as a process

Contemporary art in its avant-guarde model, experimental art, based on new technologies is the border region, where a new reality emerges, where qualities of the present are manifested in the utmost degree, where formation requires radical creative efforts, where the traditional or familiar cultural form or concept is changed. In this perspective art can not be something isolated, can’t be conceived separately from other manifestations of life. Art is the production of life, they interpenetrate, changing the system of relations and production in culture. Contemporary art as new avant-guarde combines the following essential principles: intensity, interactivity, illustrativity, processuality. However, contemporary art is not a singled out piece, it is a system of creation, usage, production of culture in “real time”, with no accomplished works, but with working creative streams of individual, which can be realized and perceived only inside creative communities; there are no foreign spectators here, everyone involved finds himself in co-creation.
If we consider the process of creating art in real time, then we have to give up attempts to structurally and ontologically define it. Here production and desire have an equal expression in the process of making a work, whereas reflexion, evaluation, presentation, not speaking of representation are removed in time mechanisms of post-production. At the stage of production cultural codes, traditions and creative desire form one whole, where tradition is the function of desire and desire becomes the desire of cultural production (in a certain sense pre-set, but always not identical to culture as traditional heritage). There forms a culturally-revolutionary field and the traditional - monstrously mutative creature (the avant-guarde artist), who fills and explores it. In this mutant subject the traditional, the “highly spiritual”, the marginal and the anti-cultural collide on the molecular level, i.e. on the level of multiple and diversely directed coincidences and oppositions. Simultaneously, culture and chaos loose their antagonism and their traditionally defined ontological characteristics, they acquire functional multiplicity.
Tradition and culture become an artificial limb of desire and body, when the limb starts to actively function, processing streams of innovations and mutations in time and dimensions, combining in quite a natural way gardingly conservative and destructively revolutionary streams and functions on the levels of desire and expression. Comprehensible and used as artificial limb tradition participates in radical changes, defying its inner conservative mechanisms (whereas tradition, alienated from creative revolutionary process, only participates in the codes of cultural exchange).
The subject of avant-guarde art is a creatively-destructive mutant, who drops the ontological definitions of human (humane) and ontological characteristics of chaos as extra-human. Art ceases to be instrumental or applicably decorative and entertaining, it stops “being handy”. This symbiosis is expressed as egress, as production of forms and meanings. In considering culture as process, as production of ever new cultural forms (the avant-guarde presumption of creation), I involuntarily rely on the almost generally used divsion into “static” and motive, “nomadic” 3.
The “static” pre-supposes establishing rigid structures, which rest on rational analysis, fixed entities, in ambiguous legally controlled identities, a hierarchy of truths and “absolute humane values”. The “nomadic” doesn’t create inner orders, it is open to intrusion of the outside in relation to systems elements. Identifications are not determined by structuring legitimizing sets, but by communicative and pragmatic relations. Thinking here is sooner instrumental, and not system-based, it operates with differences and passages, but not with entities. Here forces don’t coincide with power, forces come from the outside, breaking defined regulations and setting new perspectives. In revolutionary periods in art and in politics there turn on nomadic mechanisms of implementation. But they require high level of intensity. Rather, they remind flashes and are unbearable in big scales and for long spaced of time. They are surrounded by entropic models, left from the past and stiffened in their immobility. They can be called pragmatics of movement/change or “pragmatics of revolution”.
It is impossible to comprehend and describe culture as process, for it requires involvement in the process on the one hand (a special mode of life and being engaged by not yet realized cultural processes), and, on the other, culture and language don’t allow to describe something, which is still in process and is unknown.

Pragmatism of creation and the production of new cultural forms

Avant-guarde art cannot be conceived in the system of man’s alienation from culture and power, reality from fantasy, of physicality detached from consciousness. Similarly, creation in the avant-guarde paradigm cannot be perceived as a hierarchy of levels of consciousness, desire, feeling, affect, cultural codes and extra-cultural foundations. At work here are mixed models, or micro-singularities, located inside creative streams. As regards their inner organization, creative streams are multiple and may be differently directed, which doesn’t prevent them in the long run to produce one historico-cultural type of form.

Creative ingress has two major features:
1. It doesn’t consider canonical forms of expression incontestable, even if the latter condition the explanation of the result and are universal bearers of information. Cultural codes in this situation are not exchange, they produce or start creative motivations. Their function is provocative.
2. Individual creative desire is not extra-cultural, but it affirms its own positions behind any sets of cultural codes and forms of expression. Here we may use the metaphor, suggested by schitzo-analysis, where cultural codes are white background and subjective extra-canonical presumptions are the black hole.
Individual creative streams are not continuation or effect of cultural codes, they emerge in ruptures between cultural codes. Simultaneously, they are not opposite to them, creation doesn’t emerge directly out of the conflict of “today”’s and “yesterday”’s communication, of codes and cultural affects. Although these conflictual communicative and “extra-cultural” subjective causes establish culture as process and transformation. Let us assume, that the process of creation forms through self-provocative expressions or key images or words, which are situated in the gaps between traditional cultural codes and non-verbalized performativity. These key situations include what is not included, neglected in the codes: the instantaneity of what happens, verbosity, versatility, which remain in culture as unused surplus and rubbish, as the marginal or the quasi-forgotten. Here is used what constitutes the body of culture in general. Creation of a new, provocative form of cultural expression is a strenuous formation of a new “assemblage” of cultural codes, whch generate new forms of expression through “fight” with stereotypes and hierarchies of culture.
On the other hand, bodily correlations as expressive levels are part of this assemblage. In the situation of emerging of the new physicality and the code interpenetrate. The notions of production and creative process can break the schemes of representation, information, communication. Such creation has an ambiguous attitude to culture as a notion, but it shows transformation of desire into meaning, of social and psychic processes into forms of signification.
Creation and time are inseparable either in production, or in process, they introduce physicality with its affects, psychic or physiological bodily regimes (temper, needs, habits), sexuality, on the one hand, and cultural marginal elements, on the other, into actual forms of new culture. The essence of these new forms is in their identification with time and themselves.
Thus, contemporary art and “contemporaneousness” in general is an “all pervading”, oscillating creative possibility to realize a new age in cultural forms. Simultaneously, the strangest non-canonical forms of culture have, in my opinion, the presumption of identity, “authenticity”; despite higher degree of delirium, insanity, minimal possibilities of representation, they are inseparable from egressing forms of life. In avant-guarde art, like in the antique “techne”, the epistemological and the expressive, formal function of culture (emerging, cognition, expression) are united. This seems to be the characteristic feature of 1990s in art and other spheres of the new age egress, ranging form politics to technology.

Foot notes:

1. Heidegger in his work “What is metaphysics?” said, that De Cartes saved reality, establishing a centric picture of the world, the cognizable world as a picture with objects, planes, figures and background. He established the European centric subject with his claims at absolute, or, at least, unequivocal vision and cognition of the world. To make it possible he had to introduce the division into the object and the subject, which became the division into the divine/human and the non-living, matter and consciousness with their inambiguity. There emerged the method of world cognition from the centre of consciousness - science, and parallel to it world of culture.
2. Heidegger combined forms of thinking with forms of time: Consciousness as contemplation of time; Imagination as the past, which constructs the image of object as the prototype of object, identifies the phenomenon; Thinking as projection of the future, thinking as technology of the future.
3. Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari: Mille Plateaux, 1980.

In Russian: Новый авангард, или хаос как творческое наслаждение

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