It is a highly peculiar phenomenon in Hungarian — and perhaps in East and Central European — literature of the early 20th century that Avant-Garde tendencies started to gain some (weak) position parallel with the first wave of Modernism, and when they received — understandably — a rather hostile reaction on the part of Conservative (nationalistic, traditional, anti-Western) literary circles, their reception on the part of the evolving Modernist literature was not much more friendly either. Strangely enough, besides some signals of solidarity and sympathy, the criticisms of Modernism turned against Avant-Garde were in harmony with those formulated by the Conservative circles. However, as the Latin saying goes, “duo cum faciunt idem, non est idem” (that is, when two do the same thing, it is not the same thing) — despite the apparent interference of Modernist and Conservative criticisms aimed against Avant-Garde tendencies, the position of the actors in question was radically different. In what follows, I give a short account of the Avant-Gardists’ debate with their Modernist contemporaries and an even shorter account of their debate with their Conservative adversaries.
The Hungarian neo-avant-garde appeared in such diverse artistic fields as fine art, conceptual and visual literature, happenings, theatre performance and film. For the avant-gardists Tibor Hajas, Miklós Erdély and Tamás Szentjóby, film was both a theoretical and a practical issue. There are films documenting avant-garde activities, and there are films that are truly avant-garde. Thus, the field of film seems to provide a considerable amount of material through which scholarship can evaluate the Hungarian neo-avant-garde. This paper discusses how the evidence of film fits the interpretation of the Hungarian neo-avant-garde as belonging to the “second public”, as part of cultural opposition, and as something forbidden.
At the heart of Carl Dahlhaus’s historiographic interests, according to James Hepokoski, was an “effort to keep the Austro-German canon from Beethoven to Schoenberg free from aggressively sociopolitical interpretations.” But Dahlhaus did not stop at Schoenberg: he also wrote about postwar music, and one might therefore wonder whether his “Austro-German canon” of autonomous music extended past 1945. In his essays on this period, Dahlhaus claimed that the postwar musical avant-garde was defined by the concept of the experiment, a concept that was, he believed, “nothing less than the fundamental aesthetic paradigm of serial and post-serial music.” He maintained this view from the 1960s through the 1980s, and thereby placed the concept of the experiment at the center of his historiography of postwar music. My paper shows that the concept of the experiment, as defined by Dahlhaus, has a uniquely German pedigree, one that is not at odds with his wider historiographic interests. By making the concept of the experiment central to his account of postwar music, Dahlhaus was thereby able to extend his historiography beyond the canon that ran from Beethoven to Schoenberg and include also later composers. In so doing, he lent the supposedly “international” postwar avant-garde a character that seems specifically German.
Yugoslav composer Rudolf Bruči is known on the international scene primarily as the author of Sinfonia Lesta, a composition winning the first prize in 1965 at the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Belgium. On a national level, Bruči was a powerful social entity, not only in respect of his creative freedom. As a member of the League of Communists, Bruči spent a lifetime as an official in social organizations and cultural institutions, thus dictating the rhythm of musical life of Novi Sad and the Province of Vojvodina, until the collapse of Socialism when he was suddenly forgotten. The developmental line of Bruči’s oeuvre – leading from Zhdanovian national classicism, through the adoption of elements of the European avant-garde, to the reaffirmation of a national/regional idiom in the mid-1970s – largely corresponds to the general tendencies of postwar art music in the socialist countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Bruči broke with the European avant-garde models not only in his creative practice, but he also reasoned it in the articles “The Composers’ Role in the Modern Development of Self-governing Socialist Society,” “Statements of Yugoslav Music Forum Composers’ Workgroup,” and “Manifesto of the ‘Third Avant- Garde’,” where he based his discourse on conformism, lack of communication and dehumanization of avant-garde, and in particular on Yugoslav ideological projects, such as self-management, non-alignment, and deprovincialization. The article analyzes the context in which Bruči’s creative transformation during the 1970s was expressed as the criticism of the Eurocentric cultural model, as well as the suspicion towards the imperative of modernization in a world obsessed with technological advances.
The paper addresses the issue of the posthumous legacies of the two main Russian Avant-Garde revolutionary poets Vladimir
Mayakovsky and Velemir Khlebnikov and draws largely on the memoir accounts available in this regard. The essay examines the
pragmatics of operation of the post-Futurist public scandal which contributed to establishing/undermining the “symbolic value”
of each poet’s debated legacy. The paper brings into discussion various methods of cultural analysis that include Bourdieu’s
notion of symbolic capital, theory of speech-acts and different apprehensions of public memory. Some inconsistencies in the
strategic maneuvering of each author are brought into attention, dwelling upon the possible reasoning for their respective
successes and failures. The complex issues that may be seen responsible for this process are analyzed in the essay along with
additional Russian avant-garde figures who exploited the same pragmatics of performing practices.
The avant-gardes of the nineteen twenties are discussed in the art historical literature as the art products of a rarely upbeat decade, which featured great utopian aspirations and progressive art between the wake of World War I and the Nazi takeover in Germany, as well as the consolidation of Stalinism in the Soviet Union. This essay depicts the decade as being far from a homogenous period, demonstrating that the early internationalism and sense of unlimited possibilities gave way, in or around 1923, to less idealistic, more pragmatic views and practices in even the avant-garde. If examined in this framework, the reception of avant-garde artists and works in the late 1920s that had been enthusiastically embraced in the first years of the decade, was understandably cooler. Professional eminence was overwriting great ideas. The lack of the earlier fervor had disappeared, not because the art was worse, but on account of the new Zeitgeist that brought about the new moral idea of utilitarianism, requiring that the artists be, first of all, of use to the community. Several artists and art writers suddenly turned against those ideas and art that they had only a short time earlier held in the highest esteem.
This paper examines the cross-pollination of the neo-Marxist critique of real existing socialism with the critical practices of the radical stream of the East European neo-avant-garde, and examines the extent to which the imprint of debates over the radical overhaul of the socialist system can be detected in the practices of artists and curators. Artistic affinities with the neo-Marxist debates that flared across the Eastern Bloc can be identified in a shared willingness to question authority, a subversive attitude to canonical thinking and a new interest in the role of an individual in socialist society. Considered also is the shift over the course of the 1970s from a belief in the possibility of a reformed socialism, to one of resignation, cynicism and frustration towards party bureaucracy, in which even the bureaucrats had stopped believing in the official ideology. This change in attitudes towards socialism is detected both in the change in tone in the writings of dissident theorists and in the approach of artists who could no longer muster the neo-avant-garde enthusiasm for the utopian desire to transform the world. The difficult paths taken by those, who sought to recover the radicalism in Marxist thought from under the blanket of state bureaucracy may also be viewed as a valuable source for contemporary social criticism of the post-communist order by a new generation of theorists and artists.
The paper investigates one of the most complex cases of visualizing leftist ideology from a critical, but nevertheless definitely leftist point of view within the Eastern Bloc — the case of László Lakner. Whatever way Lakner’s art can be related to several neo-avant-garde artistic strategies that ironically appropriate leftist symbols, in Lakner’s work, signs and symbols of communist ideology seem to be more than mere appropriated elements of a criticized visual and ideological system. Lakner was consistently looking for a system-critical, but leftist standpoint from the middle of the 1960s until his emigration in 1974. In this paper some examples of Lakner’s activity from this period are presented and the paper explores how he evoked documents and central figures of leftist movements, and how he used the iconography of socialist painting in a very peculiar way. The question whether some of his artistic strategies could be related to Marxist philosophy is also considered. The title of the paper refers to a conceptual drawing of the same title by Lakner that can be seen and read as an ambiguous tribute to Karl Marx.