Vanguard (French avant-garde – advanced detachment) – a category that in modern aesthetics and art history means a set of diverse, innovative movements and trends in the art of the 1st half of 20 century.

Vanguard phenomena are characteristic for all the transition stages in the history of artistic culture, certain types of art. In the 20th century, however, the concept of the avant-garde acquired the meaning of the term to denote a huge phenomenon of artistic culture that embraced virtually all of its more or less significant phenomena, which, in spite of diversity and diversity, have much in common. The vanguard is, first of all, the reaction of the artistic and aesthetic consciousness to the global, not yet met in the history of humanity, a turning point in cultural and civilizational processes, caused by scientific and technological progress (NTP) of the last century. The essence and significance for the humanity of this avalanche process in culture have not yet received adequate scientific and philosophical interpretation, but they have already been expressed with sufficient completeness in the artistic culture in the phenomena of the avant-garde, modernism, postmodernism.

In the sphere of scientific thought, the main advances (both positive and negative) of the vanguard were the main achievements in virtually all spheres of scientific knowledge, beginning with the end of the 19th century. However, especially the opening of the first half of 20-century areas of nuclear physics, chemistry, mathematics, psychology and technical and technological implementation on their basis. In philosophy – the fundamental teachings of post-classical philosophy from A. Schopenhauer and S. Kierkegaard to F. Nietzsche, A. Bergson, M. Heidegger; in psychology and psychiatry – above all Freudianism and the psychoanalysis that arose on its basis. In the humanities – a departure from Eurocentrism and as a consequence of it – increased interest in Eastern cultures, religions, cults; the emergence of theosophy, anthroposophy, new esoteric teachings and, as a reaction to them and the dominance of the positivist-scientistic worldview, a surge of neo-Christian doctrines (neo-Thomism, neo-Orthodoxism). In the social sciences, socialist, communist, anarchist theories, utopian, but with revolutionary-rebellious pathos reflected the real acute problems of the social reality of that time. Artistic thinking as the most sensitive barometer of spiritual and cultural processes could not but react to this kaleidoscopic storm of innovations.

Vanguard is extremely contradictory, even in some way fundamentally antinomic phenomenon. In it, they co-existed in an irreconcilable struggle, but also in the constant interaction and mutual influences of the current and direction, both asserting and apologizing certain phenomena, processes, discoveries in all spheres of the cultural and civilizational field of their time, and sharply denying them.

The characteristic and general features of the majority of avant-garde phenomena include they deliberately pointed experimental character. Revolutionary, destructive pathos aimed at traditional art (especially the last stage – the New Europe) and the traditional values ​​of a culture (truth, good, holiness, beautiful). A sharp protest against everything that seemed to their creators and participants retrograde, conservative, philistine, bourgeois, academic. In visual arts and literature – a demonstrative refusal of the “direct” (realistic-naturalistic) image of visible reality, established in the 19th century, or the mimetic principle in the narrow sense of the word. Unrestrained striving to create an expression that is fundamentally new in the forms, methods, and means. Moreover, hence the often declarative-manifest and scandalous nature of the presentation by the representatives of the avant-garde themselves and their works, directions, movements. The desire to erase the boundaries between traditional for the new European culture of art, the tendency to the synthesis of individual arts (in particular, based on synaesthesia), their interpenetration. Acutely sensing the global nature of the turning point in culture and civilization as a whole, the vanguard assumed the functions of the overturner of the old, prophet and creator of the new in art. This process began in the 19th century and at the turn of the century with the advent of symbolism, impressionism, post-impressionism, modernism (art nouveau) and actively continued in all significant directions and movements of art in the first half of the 20th century. Vanguardists are demonstratively refusing the majority of artistic, aesthetic, moral, spiritual values ​​(primarily the European-Mediterranean culture). New forms and methods of artistic expression usually boil down to absolutization and bringing to completion (often absurd from the standpoint of traditional culture – see Absurd) of one or another element or combination of elements of artistic languages, expressive arts techniques, isolated from traditional cultural and historical and artistic contexts. At the same time, the goals and tasks of art are seen by representatives of various avant-garde trends, all the way to the denial of art in general, at least in its New European sense.

Main directions and principles of classification

The main vanguard directions are Fauvism, Cubism, abstract art, futurism, Dadaism, expressionism, constructivism, metaphysical painting, surrealism, naive art; dodecaphony and aleatory in music, concrete poetry, concrete music, kinetic art, etc. To the avant-garde are also such large figures, not belonging in general to any of these directions, as P. Picasso, M. Shagal, PN Filonov, P. Klee, A. Matisse, A. Modigliani, S. Le Corbusier, J. Joyce, M. Prust, F. Kafka, A. Schoenberg and several others.

It is possible only conditional classification, moreover, only for certain parameters, the totality of the most diverse vanguard phenomena.

  1. Concerning STP. Adoption of scientific and technological progress up to its apology: futurism, constructivism, suprematism, radiant, analytical art, concrete poetry, concrete music, kinetism. Internal opposition to the discoveries of natural sciences and technological achievements: Fauvism, expressionism, partly abstract art, naive art, surrealism, Chagall, Klee, Modigliani. For other areas and representatives of the vanguard is characterized by a dual or vague relationship. Individual avant-garde trends and personalities actively relied on the achievements of the natural and human sciences. So, Dadaism and Surrealism used many finds of Freudianism and Jungianism; Bergson’s intuitionism influenced some directions in literature, theater, music.
  2. Regarding spirituality. Materialist, sharply negative position: cubism, constructivism, “analytical art”, kinetism and some others. On the contrary, intensive (conscious or unconscious) searches of the Spirit and the spiritual as a salvation from the culturally destructive dominance of materialism and scientism: abstract art (P.Mondrian), Suprematism of Malevich, metaphysical painting, surrealism. Some directions and personalities of the vanguard are indifferent to this problem.
  3. The separate vanguard directions differ concerning the psychological foundations of creativity and the perception of art. Some of them, under the influence of scientism, asserted exclusively rational foundations of art-these are first of all the representatives of abstract art based on divisiology, with their search for scientific laws of the influence of color (and form) on man, “analytical art” with his principle of “making” the work, constructivism, dodecaphony (and serial techniques) in music. The greater part of both directions and individual representatives of the avant-garde was guided by the fundamental irrationalism of artistic creativity, which was actively promoted by the seething spiritual atmosphere of the first half of the 20th century, which was still apocalyptic in coloring as a result of bloody wars, revolutions and the irresistible desire of mankind to create weapons of mass destruction. Hence the active use of the methods of alogism, paradox, absurdity in creativity (Dadaism, surrealism, the literature of the “stream of consciousness”, aleatoric, absolutizing the principle of chance in the creation and execution of music, concrete poetry and concrete music, the theater of the absurd with its affirmation of the despair and tragedy of human existence, absurdity of life, apocalyptic moods).
  4. The attitude to the artistic tradition, to traditional arts and their creative methods, is also quite variegated. The Futurists, Dadaists, and Constructivists manifested themselves in extreme forms in a sharply negative attitude to all art that had been before them. The pop art between vanguard and modernism, minimalism, conceptualism took this denial as a fait accompli, as a self-evident truth. Most of the trends and representatives of the avant-garde, especially the first third of the century, were directed at the edge of their criticism against the utilitarian-positivist, academic art of the last three centuries (especially the 19th century), but not all, but only general conservative, formalistic and naturalistic- realistic trends. At the same time, individual finds and achievements of the arts of the preceding centuries were often accepted and often absolutized, especially in the sphere of formal means and modes of expression (often behind such “finds” they were referred to earlier stages of the history of art, to the arts of the East, Africa, Latin America, Oceania, etc.). Thus, Fauvists and abstractionists focused their attention primarily on the expressive possibilities of color. Cubists, Suprematists, Constructivists – on the artistic significance of color forms. Futuristic experiments were aimed at expressing motion with the help of color and form, in search of verbal equivalents (up to the creation of new words and languages ​​- for a reason) to the technical achievements of their time. The kineticists create mobile – mobile sculptures. Dadaists (in part, this has already begun the Cubists) are actively involved in the creative process of non-traditional materials (including objects of everyday life and their elements), thereby beginning to erase the fundamental for the art of the past, the line between art and non-art. Salvador Dali, on the contrary, considered himself to be the only real classic artist in the 20th century, the guardian of the “classical” traditions, dating back to Leonardo da Vinci, J. Wermer Delft, D. Velasquez, although he created works (indeed in naturalistic illusionist technique) in the spirit opposed, at least the new European art tradition.
  5. The artists of the avant-garde differed quite sharply in their attitude to political movements. Many Russian vanguard actively welcomed and supported (especially in the first years) with their creativity the Bolshevik revolution; some of the Italian futurists actively accepted the fascist ideas of Mussolini; most Dadaists were close in spirit to the anarchists, and many surrealists joined the French Communist Party. However, the bulk of avant-gardists did not have conscious political convictions; they often invent these or other political predilections for a kind of, often scandalous self-advertisement. For their part, the “revolutionary” parties of communist-socialist orientation, as a rule, rather negatively treated the vanguard. Soviet communists, having strengthened themselves in power, began an active and consistent struggle with all its directions and quickly ideologically and physically put an end to it; Hitlerite National Socialists also destroyed or expelled from Germany vanguard in all its varieties as “degrading” art. The French communists more tolerantly treated him, but they also excluded the leading representatives of surrealism from their ranks. Many bourgeois parties, on the contrary, were loyal to the vanguard, despite the anti-bourgeois orientation of a number of its movements, and even often supported it.
  6. There are separate directions, movements, figures of the vanguard in meaning: there are among them global, and there are also narrow-headed ones. The abstract art, Dadaism, constructivism, surrealism, Malevich, Picasso – in visual arts, dodecaphony and aleatoric – in music, Joyce – in the literature, could be classified as global, sharply influencing the course and development of the artistic culture of the 20th century as a whole. Other directions, movements, groupings, or prepared the ground for these global phenomena, or reinforced and developed their achievements, or moved in their narrowly focused for this or that art form, introducing something new in the general phenomenon of the vanguard.
  7. There are different directions, or rather, some representatives of the avant-garde with the artistic-aesthetic or general cultural significance of the works created by them. The creativity of most of them has an experimental, local significance for its transitional time. However, it was the vanguard that gave practically all the largest figures of the 20th century, already included in the history of world art at the level of classics (Kandinsky, Chagall, Malevich, Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Dali, Joyce, Proust, Kafka, TS Eliot, V. E. Meyerhold, E. Ionesco, S. Beckett, A. Schoenberg, A. Berg, Le Corbusier and others).

The artistic and aesthetic phenomenon of the main directions of the avant-garde

Expressionism (from the Latin expressio – expression). Its essence consists in sharpened, often hypertrophied expression with the help of artistic means and methods of irrational states of the artist’s soul, his feelings and experiences, most often of tragic and existential-dramatic spectra: anxiety, fear, despair, longing, nervousness, disunity, painful passion, deep dissatisfaction, nostalgia, etc. Devastation, melancholy, psychopathy, often hysteria, gloomy eschatology, and sometimes loud cries of protest against the outside world and the despair rip cries for help fill the many works of the Expressionists. The most characteristic phenomenon of expressionism is considered to be the activity of German artists associated with the group “Bridge” (Die Brücke), the almanac “Blue Rider” (Der Blaue Reiter), organized by V.Kandinsky and F.Mark in 1911, as well as the magazine “Der Sturm” X Walden (Berlin, 1910-32) and with the eponymous gallery and publishing house. The heyday of 1905-20 is considered to be the epoch of World War I and social upheavals in Europe (in Germany first of all), when Expressionism in art most fully expressed the spirit of the times was adequate to the psychological moods of many Europeans, especially the artistic and intellectual circles. The very use of the expressive expression with the help of color, shape, plasticity of certain extreme states of the human psyche, deep movements of the soul and spirit of a person can be traced in the history of art from ancient times. It can be found among the peoples of Oceania and Africa, in medieval German art (especially in Gothic sculpture and painting), from Grunewald, El Greco (later creativity), Goya, Gauguin, representatives of European symbolism and Art Nouveau. Expressionists absolutized him, making it central, and often the only principle of artistic thinking. In the European avant-garde many artists – Kandinsky, Chagall, Picasso and others – joined or created separate expressionist works at different stages of their creative work towards expressionism. In Germany, in the spirit of expressionism, M. Beckmann, A. von Jawlensky, G. Gros, O. Dike worked; in Austria, O. Kokoschka, E. Chile; in France J.Roo and X.Sutin. Expressionist artists are characterized by an increased tension of color contrasts, revealing the structural backbone of the object, active use of the contour, in the schedule – black spots, exacerbation of the contrasts of black and white, black and color, strengthening the energy of the mold by deforming and applying open screaming colors, grotesque transfer of persons, poses, gestures of the figures depicted. Feeling the reality of the threat to the culture of scientific and technological progress, Expressionism sought to find, preserve, express certain primordial principles of human existence, the primitive instincts of life, realizing one of the main theses of Nietzsche’s aesthetics: the instinct against reason, the Dionysian against Apollonian. In particular, F.Mark followed Kandinsky as he strove to express himself in the art of the spiritual principle and bitterly stated “universal disinterest of humanity in new spiritual values.” Many Expressionists saw the way to them in the life and work of primitive peoples, in their organic unity with nature and the cosmos. By this unity of the organic (animal, in particular) world and the cosmos as a whole, the ideas of the “mystical and immanent construction” of the universe (already seen by El Greco) permeate all the work of Mark, internally oriented towards finding ways to a new spirituality.

In the literature, features of expressionism (gravitation toward heightened emotionality, grotesques, mystical and fantastic images and situations, broken tense style, sharp monologism) marked the work of G.Mayrink, L.Frank, F.Kafka, and early I.Becher. Expressionist features are also characteristic of the cinema language of some masters. In particular, the dumb monochrome cinema demanded increased expression from the actual visual elements of the cinematographic language-the aggravated dynamism of action, the contrasts of light and shadow, the deformation of objects, the use of close-ups, influxes, exaggerated gestures, grotesque facial expressions of actors, the creation of extremely strained surreal cinema space. A prominent place in the expressionist films is occupied by images of unconscious human life (dreams, hallucinations, delirium, nightmares); heroes of many of them are fantastically mystical or ominous creatures: Golem, Homunculus, vampire Nosferatu, somnambulistic killer Cesare, etc. (directors R. Rayner, P. Wegener, F.V. Murnau, R.Vine and others). In the music of the precursor of expressionism, Wagner is considered, and representatives of the “new Viennese school” (A. Schoenberg, A. Berg, partly A. Webern, early G. Eisler) are considered to be expressionists. Expressionism is seen in the young Prokofiev and Shostakovich, in Bartok, Honegger, Millau, Britten, and others. Specific expressionistic characteristics of the musical language include the increased dissonance of harmonies, the sharp break in melodies, the viscosity of the texture, the use of hard, piercing sounds, the intermittence of the vocal line, the excited recitation, the intertwining of singing with conversational speech, the use of exclamations and screams. Many of these elements of the musical language of expressionism were absolutized and sometimes brought to the fundamental (meaningful) absurdity by some composers in the second half of the 20th century. Essential for expressionism is the open visual, sound, verbal energy of the “life impulse” (Bergson), which is radiated by the majority of expressionist works and actively influences the psyche of the recipient in addition to his will. With expressionism begins the transition of art from traditional mimesis and expression to a real presentation of open energy. The energy potential of art, which occupied a background place in traditional culture, is now being highlighted as the dominant one, which then absolutes many of the trends and creative personalities of modernism and postmodernism.

Futurism (from the Latin futurum – the future). It arose and was most fully realized in the fine arts and literature of Italy and Russia in the period 1909-1915. The main theorist F.Marinetti. Futurists sharply felt the onset of a global crisis in traditional culture in connection with the scientific, technical and socio-political revolutionary processes that had begun. They enthusiastically accepted them and, having felt that these processes lead to essential changes in the psychosensorics and mentality of the person, they tried to find artistic analogs. In the revolutionary-technogenic reality, they were most attracted by active rebellious action, revolutionary impulses, movement, speed, energy. “The cancerous tumor” of traditional culture, they called for cutting knives of technicalism, urbanism, anarchic rebelliousness, and shocking artistic gestures. The Futurists saw beauty in all the innovations of technological progress, in revolutions and wars, and sought to express it in a painting by creating intense dynamic semi-abstract canvases. Simultaneously in them, one on another, like frames of a film – different temporal phases of a moving object are superimposed. Energy fields or states of the soul are transmitted through abstract, radiated, dynamically twisting color forms. The rebellious masses are associated with sharp, bright wedges that break through the turbulent color spaces, etc. Futurists were fascinated by the noise of new technology (the humming of locomotives and horns, the roar of motors), and they manifested attempts to transmit them purely by visual means, using the effect of synaesthesia. In sculpture they tried to unite plastic forms with color, movement, sound, foreshadowing the appearance of kineticism; used in collages of non-traditional materials (glass, leather, scraps of clothing, splinters of mirrors, etc.), becoming the harbingers of pop art. Many works of the Italian futurists had pronounced cosmogonic features (U. Boccioni, J. Bella, J. Severini). Futurists in literature rebelliously introduce new principles of the organization of the text, based on semantic paradoxes, compositional “shifts”, specific tonic, illogical constructions, the graphic semantics of the text, use of everyday and folkloric archaic vocabulary, etc. They are engaged in active word creation – they create “zaum”, the meaning of which is explained by the desire to reveal the deep meaning of abstract phonemes and to build on them a new artistic language that adequately expresses the essence of new realities. Futurists were among the first to raise the question of the active participation of art in the revolutionary transformation of life, the creation of a new, ultimately technical world, the deduction of creativity beyond the limits of art in life.

Abstractionism. The leading theoreticians and practitioners are V.Kandinsky, P.Mondrian. Abstractionism refused to depict the forms of visually perceived reality, from isomorphism and was guided solely by the expressive, associative, synesthetic properties of color, nonisomorphic abstract color forms, and their innumerable combinations. The first abstract works were created in 1910 by Kandinsky. The aesthetic creed of abstract art, stated in his book “On the spiritual in art” (1910) and in a number of other works, boils down to the fact that refusal to display external, visible forms of objects allows the artist to concentrate on solving exclusively picturesque problems of color and form harmonization, through which the spiritual cosmos comes into contact with the recipient. In fact, Kandinsky on a new level returns to the ideas of Plato’s Neoplatonic aesthetics. Painting is likened to music in its absolute meaning, and it sees its main goal in the expression on the canvas or sheet of paper of music (sounding) of the objectively existing Spiritual. The artist in Kandinsky’s understanding is only an intermediary of the Spiritual, an instrument through which it materializes in artistic forms. Therefore, abstract art is not an invention of modern artists, but historically a regular form of self-expression of the Spiritual, adequate to its time. Abstraction developed in two main directions: a) harmonization of amorphous color combinations; b) the creation of geometric abstractions. The first direction (early Kandinsky, F. Kupka, and others) brought to a logical conclusion the search for Fauves and Expressionists in the field of “liberating” color from the forms of visible reality. The main emphasis was on the independent expressive value of color, its color richness and synesthetic overtones, on the musical associations of color combinations with which art sought to express the deep “truths of being,” as well as the lyricism and dramatism of human experiences, the intensity of spiritual searches, and so on. The second direction created new types of artistic space by combining all possible geometric forms, color planes, straight and broken lines. The main representatives – Malevich of the period of geometric Suprematism, members of the Dutch group “De Stail” (since 1917), led by Mondrian and T. Van Doesburg, late Kandinsky. The Dutch put forward the concept of neoplasticism, which contrasted “randomness, uncertainty and the arbitrariness of nature” with the “simplicity, clarity, constructiveness, functionality” of pure geometric forms that expressed, in their opinion, the cosmic, divine laws of the Universum (Van Duisburg). The mystical simplicity of the opposition “horizontal – vertical,” according to Mondrian, became the basis of all his creative work of the mature period, with the use of certain local colors gives endless opportunities to achieve visual proportions and balance that have a spiritual and ethical essence. Mondrian and his colleagues for the first time in the history of art managed to achieve a balance of the artistic masses with the help of asymmetrical constructions, which gave a powerful impetus to architecture, applied art, and design of the 20th century. According to abstractionists, the concentration of the aesthetic in abstract color forms, excluding any utilitarian and everyday associations, leads the viewer to direct in-depth contact with purely spiritual spheres. In this regard, many works of abstract art (especially the works of Kandinsky, Malevich, M. Rothke, partly Mondrian) can serve as meditation objects and mediators in other spiritual practices. It is no accident that Malevich felt in his works that he was close to the Russian icon, and behind his “Black Square” the reputation of the icon of the 20th century was strengthened. The designation is given initially with a pejorative-ironic tinge, well expressed the essence of this phenomenon.

Constructivism. The direction that arose in Russia (from 1913-1914) in the midst of materialistically oriented artists and architects under the direct impact of technological progress and the democratic sentiments of the revolutionary public. Later it developed in Western countries. The ancestor is the artist V. Tatlin, the chief representatives in Russia – A. Rodchenko, L. Popov, V. Stepanov, Steenberg brothers, theorists – H. Puni, B.Arvatov, A.Gan; in the West – Le Corbusier, A.Ozanfan, Van Doesburg, V.Gropius, L.Mogoli-Nagy. The constructivists opposed the concept of construction to traditional artistic categories, which in general was understood as a rationalistic principle of the compositional organization of work, putting forward functionality in the first place; However, there was no unity in the interpretation of the term. Constructivism is represented by two main directions: abstract constructivism, close to geometric abstractionism, not pursuing utilitarian aims, but engaged solely in the solution of artistic problems (the development of constructive laws of form, space, internal architectonics of the subject coming from Cubism), and “production-design” aimed at the artistic design of utilitarian objects and blocks of human habitat. The latter was closely connected with architecture and industry and was guided by the task of turning art into production, and production – into art. The term “artist” was replaced by the word “master”; the main professional categories were technology, functionality, rationality, practicality, tectonics, texture. Many artists-constructivists became the first professors in art-production institutes (workshops) – VHUTEMAS in Russia and the Bauhaus in Germany. Constructivism became a laboratory for the design of the 20th century and such trends in art as kinetic art, minimalism, and, in part, conceptualism.

Dadaism. The term (from the French dada – a child’s horse, in the figurative sense – all childish babble of a baby) does not have an unambiguous interpretation of science as applied to this direction. Dadaism is one of the most rebellious, scandalous avant-garde movements, cultivating the pathos of destroying everything and everything, shocking as such. Originated in France among emigre art youth in the midst of World War I, existed from 1916 to 1922. The leading theorists and organizers – T. Tzara and H. Ball. For their Forerunner Dadaists revered Marcel Duchamp, who introduced the art of so-called ready-mades (utensils, bicycle wheel, bottle drying, urinal) as equivalent and full-fledged artistic works. Scandalous actions, exhibitions (including exposing the shocking inhabitant of objects), the Dadaist manifests denied and mimicked all the traditional values ​​of culture and art, including the achievements of the pre-war avant-garde (although they often used many of the techniques of the early avant-gardists). Among the creative finds of the Dadaists, inherited by other avant-garde trends (surrealism, pop art, conceptualism, etc.), the principle of stochastic (accidental) organization of works, the method of “mental automatism” in creativity, the active use in the creation of artifacts of garbage and garbage dumps and end-of-life items.

Surrealism (French surréalisme, literally – superrealism). It appeared in France in 1924 on the initiative of A. Breton, who published the Manifesto of Surrealism; in many respects, it continued the main artistic and aesthetic tendencies of Dadaism. The main representatives: Breton, T. Tzara, P.Eluar, L.Ragon, Man Ray, M. Ernst, A.Masson, L.Bunyuel, S.Dali, H.Miro, etc. Finished his official existence with the death of Breton ( 1966), although some masters work in a surrealist spirit until the end of the 20th century. The aesthetics of surrealism is based on the ideas of romantics, symbolism, intuitionism, Freudianism, hermeticism and some eastern mystical-religious and occult teachings; certain positions of theorists of surrealism resonate with the ideas of Zen (Chan) – Buddhism. The aesthetics of surrealism was expounded in Breton’s Manifestos, and a number of other program works. Surrealists called for the liberation of the human “I”, the human spirit from the “fetters” of scientism, logic, reason, morality, statehood, traditional aesthetics, understood by them as “ugly” creations of bourgeois civilization, enslaved with their help the creative capabilities of man. The true truths of being, in the opinion of the surrealists, are hidden in the sphere of the unconscious, and art is called upon to bring them out from there, to express in their works. The artist must rely on any experience of the unconscious expression of the spirit – dreams, hallucinations, delusions, incoherent memories of infancy, mystical visions, etc. “With the help of lines, planes, form, color, he must strive to penetrate beyond the human side, reach the Infinite and the Eternal” (G.Arp). The basis of the creative method of surrealism, according to Breton’s definition (The Manifesto of Surrealism, 1924) is “pure mental automatism, which aims to express, verbally or in writing, or in any other way the real functioning of thought. The dictation of thought beyond all control on the part of the mind, beyond any aesthetic or moral considerations… Surrealism is based on faith in a higher reality; on associative forms, which have so far remained unheeded; on the omnipotence of dreams, on the non-utilitarian game of thought. He seeks to destroy other mental mechanisms and take their place to solve the most important life problems… “(Breton A. Manifestes du Surréalisme, ed., J.J. Pauvert, P., 1962, p. 40). Hence the two main principles of surrealism – the so-called. automatic writing and recording of dreams; in dreams, according to Freud, to which the surrealists actively rely, deep truths of being are revealed, and automatic writing (excluding censorship of the mind) helps most adequately convey them through words or visual images. Such a way of creativity immerses the artist “into an internal extravaganza.” “The process of cognition is exhausted,” the publishers of the first issue of the journal Surrealist Revolution wrote, “intellect is not accepted, more in the calculation, only a dream leaves a man all the rights to freedom.” Hence the dreams, dreams, all kinds of visions are realized by the surrealists as the only true states of being. Art is interpreted by them, therefore, as a kind of narcotic drug that, without alcohol and drugs, leads a person into a state of dreams, when chains that bind the spirit are destroyed. The heart of surrealism, according to Breton, is “the alchemy of the word” (the expression of A. Rimbaud), which helps the imagination “to achieve a brilliant victory over things.” At the same time, Breton emphasizes, “it is not a matter of simply permuting words or arbitrarily redistributing visual images, but of recreating the state of the soul that can compete in its tension with true insanity.” A global insurrection against the mind is characteristic of all surrealist theorists and practitioners who were acutely aware of its insufficiency in the search for the fundamental truths of being. The alogical stressed A.Art, is the highest form of expression and comprehension of the “new Sense”, and it is surrealism that opens the way to its achievement, while competing with madness, with occultism, and with mysticism. The effect of the aesthetic impact of the works of surrealism is built most often on the conscious absolutism of the principle of artistic oppositions. Mindful that the image arises “from the rapprochement of realities remote from each other” (the poet P. Reverdi), the surrealists build their works at the extreme aggravation of illogicality, paradox, surprise, on a connection that is fundamentally incompatible. Due to this, a special, surreal (or superreal), almost mystical artistic atmosphere arises that is inherent only in the works of surrealism. They immerse the viewer (or the reader) in original worlds, apparently seemingly completely alien to the sensible world and its laws, but internally something very close to the man, simultaneously frightening and magnetically attracting him. These are some parallel worlds of the subconscious and superconsciousness in which the “I” of a person used to or is when the mind (or rather reason) weakens for one reason or another its control over it, when the human spirit rushes in a creative impulse in search of its spiritual homeland. Surrealism was not just one of many avant-garde trends in the first half of the 20th century. In it, the feeling of an era as a global transitional stage from the classical art of the last two or three millennia to something fundamentally different was expressed most fully and sharply in artistic form; it is in it that many principles, methods of art-thinking, even technical devices and individual elements of post-culture in the second half of the 20th century were outlined. Artistic findings of surrealism are actively used in almost all types of contemporary art – in cinema, television, video clips, theater, photography, decorating art, design. in art practices and projects of the late 20th century.

Conceptualism. The last in time of the rise (60-80s of the 20th century) is a large avant-garde movement that concludes and, as it were, summarizes its main artistic and aesthetic findings and achievements and marks the transition from avant-garde to modernism and postmodernism. One of its founders Joseph Kossuth in the program article “Art after philosophy” (1969) called conceptualism “post-philosophical activity”, thereby expressing its essence as a cultural phenomenon that replaced traditional art and philosophy, whose “death” in the 60s. Among the founders and chief representatives are, first of all, the Americans R. Berry, D. Hubler, L. Weiner, D. Graham, E. Hesse, B. Nauman, O. Kavara, members of the English group “Art and Language”, etc. The first manifesto-theoretical articles on conceptualism were written by its creators, Sol Le Witte and J. Koshut; for the first time, the term “conceptualism” was first used by G. Flint (1961) and E. Kinholz (1963). Conceptualism claimed the role of a phenomenon of culture synthesizing science (first of all, the humanities – aesthetics, art history, linguistics, but also mathematics), philosophy and art in its new sense (art activity, artifact). The conceptual – logical idea of ​​a thing, phenomenon, artwork, its verbalized concept, the documented project is brought to the fore in conceptualism. The essence of art activity is not seen in the expression or depiction of the idea (as in traditional arts), but in the “idea” itself, in its concrete presentation, primarily in the form of a verbal text, as well as accompanying documentary materials (film, video, phonograms, etc.). The artifact itself in the form of a picture, object, installation, performance or any other action is an annex to the documentary description. The main thing in conceptualism is the documentary fixation of the concept; its implementation (or implementation options) is desirable, but not mandatory. The emphasis in visual arts, therefore, is transferred from a purely visual sphere to a conceptual-visual one, from perception to concept, i.e., with a concrete-sensory perception of rational judgment.

Conceptualism fundamentally changes the attitude toward the perception of art. From the artistic and aesthetic contemplation of the work, it is transferred to the excitation of the analytic-intellectual activity of the recipient’s consciousness, which is only indirectly related to the perceived artifact itself. At the same time, conceptualists play regularly and consciously on extremely trivial, commonplace “concepts” and “ideas” that are common in the ordinary context, taking them out of this context into the newly created conceptual space of functioning (for example, in the museum environment). In the artistically-presentation sphere, conceptualism continues and develops many finds of constructivism, Duchamp’s ready-mades, Dadaism, concrete poetry, pop art. An important place in his “poetics” is occupied by the problems of unification in the conceptual space, which is entirely realized only in the psyche of the subject of perception, word (verbal text), image and the object itself. Taking on the peculiarly understood functions of philosophy and art history, conceptualism tends to dematerialize art-creativity. Conceptualists fix the attention of the recipient not so much on the artifact as on the very process of forming his idea, the functioning of the work in conceptual space, on the associative-intellectual perception of the artifact.

The installation of conceptualism, like the entire avant-garde, is fundamentally antinomic. On the one hand, for example, its artifact is extremely closed in itself, for it, unlike a traditional work of art, does not express anything and does not send a recipient to anything; he simply represents himself. On the other hand, it is more than a product of traditional art, connected with cultural and civilizational contexts and outside of them almost loses its significance. Context has, in conceptualism, perhaps even more significance than the artifact itself. Most of the works of conceptualism, designed for a one-time presentation in the field of culture, do not pretend to be eternal, to an enduring significance, for in principle they do not create any objective values. Therefore, they are assembled (by new creative methods of collage and editing), usually from auxiliary, quickly disintegrating materials (most often from utilitarian utensils picked up in a dump) or implemented in meaningless (from the standpoint of ordinary logic) actions. All conceptual actions are carefully documented. The history (the museum) should include not so much the artifact as its “idea” and the process of its concrete implementation, fixed in the relevant documentation and reflecting the unique situation of the presentation or action, the gesture made by the creators.

Conceptualism, on the one hand, brings to the fore a logically conceived and prescribed conception, a project calculated to small details; on the other hand, its artifacts, performances, gestures are permeated with alogism, paradox, absurdity. The original meticulous “logocentrism” of the concept is, as it were, removed by the irrationalism of the whole holistic conceptual space in which its creator lives and to which he invites selected recipients. Hence another antinomy of conceptualism: with surprising external simplicity and even the primitiveness of most of its artifacts, their adequate perception in the conceptual dimension is accessible only to the “initiate”, i.e., recipients who have mastered the illogical logic of conceptual thinking and the strategy of behavior in conceptual space. Conceptualism is separated by a blank wall from the layman or even an art lover, not experienced in his “rules of the game.” Being thus, almost an elitist and almost esoteric phenomenon, i.e. the conceptualism in practice, as it was, actively dilutes the boundary between art (in the traditional sense) and life, invading this life, and at the same time no less actively explores and strengthens the limits of aesthetic art: one of its goals is to study and define boundaries between art and life, boldly withdrawing from life any of its fragment and placing it in the space of art. It focuses the recipient’s consciousness on principled anti-psychologism, however, his conscious and organized and built antinomianism automatically triggers violent, irrational processes in the recipient’s psyche. In particular, the orientation toward simplicity, triviality, uninteresting, monotony, invisibility, brought to the point of absurdity, the earthiness of many artifacts of conceptualism provokes an impulsive outrage of the recipient, an explosion of his emotions.

Vanguard and the art of the 20th century

The global importance of the avant-garde has not yet been fully revealed, but it is already obvious that he showed the principled cultural-historical relativity of the forms, means, methods, and types of artistic-aesthetic consciousness; in particular, brought out many traditional forms of art and the forms of artistic thinking inherent in them from the sphere of artistic and aesthetic, and, on the contrary, gave the status of art to objects, phenomena, means and modes of expression that were not within the context of traditional artistic culture; practically all the main types of modern European arts (and their methods of artistic presentation), thereby showing that they have already outlived themselves, do not correspond to the modern (and even more so) level of the cultural and civilizational process, not to the logical conclusion (often to the point of absurdity); can adequately express the spirit of the times, meet the spiritual and artistic and aesthetic needs of modern man and even more so of the future supertechnical society; experimentally substantiated many new, non-traditional methods of presenting what was called art culture until the middle of the 20th century and that is at the stage of a global transition to something fundamentally different, called for in the emerging new civilization to take the place of art; contributed to the emergence and development of new (usually technical) arts (photography, film, television, electronic music, all kinds of shows, etc.).

The achievements of the vanguard are actively used by the builders of the “artistic culture” (in the absence of so far a different term) mainly in the following areas:

  • to create on the basis of the latest scientific and technical achievements and synthesis of elements of many traditional arts aesthetically organized human habitat;
  • in the organization of super-technical shows;
  • in the design of a global electronic (video-computer-laser) analog of artistic culture, the basis of which, in particular, will be the total immersion of the recipient in virtual reality.

Art culture ot the 1st half of the 20th century is not limited to the vanguard only. In it, a particular place is occupied by the arts, which continued the traditions of the previous culture, and the phenomena of the middle type, as if leading bridges between traditional culture and the avant-garde. However, it is the vanguard that has shattered and destroyed traditional aesthetic norms and principles, forms and methods of artistic expression and the discovery of the possibility of practically unlimited innovations in this sphere, opened the way to the transition of artistic culture to a new quality that is already being implemented. This avant-garde fulfilled its function in the new European culture and practically completed its existence as a global phenomenon, transforming after the 2nd World War into modernism.

Avant-garde and Mormonism

Pop art and conceptualism completed the stormy era of the avant-garde and marked the state of artistic and aesthetic culture, which is usually called modernism (although the problem of clear differences between the vanguard and modernism remains controversial). There is a tendency to interpret modernism as phenomena in an artistic culture that arose from the avant-garde but lost its shockingly destructive or euphoric-heuristic manifestos pathos. For the primary field of art of the mid-20th century, internal understanding of the finds and achievements of vanguard trends of the first half of the century, the recognition of their real artistic expressive, representative and other possibilities, the use in specific intertextual relations, etc. are typical. Hence, modernism can be understood as a more or less calm “digestion” of culture, the assertion and a kind of dogmatization of the innovative achievements of the avant-garde. What was revolutionary and innovative in the forefront of modernism becomes modernism in modernism, and postmodernism, which emerged almost simultaneously with modernism, already takes the position of an ironic attitude to this “classic”, freely and on an equal footing, correlating and matching it (also in the spirit of light comprehensive irony) with the classics of other periods of culture.

Rate your experience with this philosophy study!

Discuss this Study