Blunt Tool?

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It appears that a critical assumption is also being made; that, because art was once a legitimate and effective tool for the avant-gardes, it still must be so. This is, perhaps, to ignore some important considerations.

First among these is the recuperation of the avant-gardes. In becoming a part of ‘art history’ the avant-gardes have, in many ways, become depotentiated relics – as Gene Ray points out, ‘the indictments and death sentences brought by the avant-gardes against bourgeois art and the society that sponsors it have [not] been convincingly answered or escaped. Nor has the archive machine demystified these groups, in any enlightening way, so much as facilitated the management of their threat through the banishment of a different forgetting.”54

These movements and their techniques are now a known commodity. The ‘situation’ - once a valuable tool of the dissenter - has switched sides, flaunting itself as a quirky advertising idea, in which fictional people enjoy ‘creative’ situations all in the name of the latest model of mobile phone or automobile.

The system has picked through the carcasses of the avant-gardes, taking whatever it finds useful and discarding the rest for the historians to make presentable. The corpses of Dada, Fluxus and the S.I. are hung up under the label ‘art’, and it is here that they rest, historical curiosities that pose little danger to anyone. Capitalism has found its use for the type of creative dissent pioneered by the avant-gardes, and in the wake of their recuperation we must question whether their tactics are still effective (or if, indeed, they ever were).


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