Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Report On Week II (17-19 February)

We have familiarized ourselves with an example of the historical avant-gardes, the futurists and have read their manifestos. Doing so was important to introduce a couple of key concept related to Modernity; how did artistic movements react to their historical, social, technological and scientific changes? Each avant-garde movement had a proposal in relation to the world; what they want to change, what did they want to destroy and what they want to create? They positioned themselves at the beginning of an era, and declared the end of another.

Radical Breaks and the Desire for the New?
Artists experimented with form, did actions that would embody their beliefs (Dada, Fluxus…), the formal innovations of Futurists and their experiments with sound, the formal innovations of Russian Constructivism and the Bauhaus later on…
Artistic movements (historical avant-gardes or the later neo-avant-gardes) were in fact, plenty of new proposal and ideas. These proposal and ideas, however, rather than being generated by new beginnings and radical gestures, were often ideas, which were recuperated and appropriated.

“After Effect”
Hal Foster, an American art historian, whom we have not mentioned in class, has written an essay “Who is afraid of the Neo Avant-Gardes” and reads the emergence of avant-gardes movements in the 60s and 70s (we will look at some of these movements), at the light of the historical avant-gardes. He questions the temporality of the avant-gardes and the way its action is always delayed.

Political Action
This after effect, rather than depoliticizing the avant-gardes, becomes a way of rethinking their ‘original claim’, and how it acts in the present. Meaning: reading/ writing manifestos today can be seen as joke than, since they consciously affirm something that is bound to fail.
However, this does not undermine the sense of “urgency” Zeina has picked up on last time.

This is why your reports are important for the course
Elie wrote a report on Mohamed Soued’s last film “ My heart beats only for her”. He observes “ Some people even stood up the whole hour and a half to watch the movie” because the room was full. Why did people do that? Why was it so important for them to watch this film?
Art and artist have something to propose and to offer that is important. Depending on where we are, and when, these claims change. Although an artist in Beirut might share some concern with an artist in Buenos Aires, the specificity of the context they are in informs what they want.
We will be looking, in our next class, at the way in which artists have related to Modernity in Lebanon; did they ever propose a “Modern project” ? What artistic experimentation were taking place? What were the claims of artists and what impact did they have?

Final notes…
Which brings us back to “urgency” and this is why I asked you to write a manifesto and to express your desires as what is urgent to you. It might sound like an awkward request but it is a useful exercise . The manifesto is a way of articulating these desires to a broader public.
In this sense the manifesto is a form, particular, that unites innermost desires and a public dimension.

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