Undisciplinary is the personal wiki of Martin Zemlicka.

Critical Subjects – Whatever happened to the avant-garde?

14.07.2014 – ARUP Associates, London

Part of the Critical Subjects summer school series of debates, lectures and panel discussions.


Catherine Rossi

Catherine is a historian.

  1. The only avant-garde that she knows anything about is the radical design groups of the late 60’s and early 70’s (SUPERSTUDIO, Archizoom, etc)
  2. Already in 1978, the architects of the radical period were asking themselves “whatever happened to the avant-garde?”
  3. The answer is, they got old.
  4. Yes we need change, yes we need to make manifestos.
  5. Radicalism shows that being the avant-garde is not just technological, but also about engaging your surroundings (eg: Hadid is not avant-garde just because her office is a technical innovator)
  6. Whatever avant-garde is ahead of us, it will not be a totalising one like we had in the past century.

Joseph Young

Joseph is an artist, part of the NeoFuturist collective

  1. Joseph reads a poem from his iPad about the market swallowing the avant-garde
  2. “for art to be free it must have no ideology”
  3. “art must be about the sublime”

Kim Quazi

Kim is the director of ARUP Associates

  1. The avant-garde can only be recognised historically.
  2. Before, manifestos were written to bring people together. Now, with the internet, everything is watered down.
  3. Big ideas got co1.opted
  4. Remembers going to the Sensation exhibition and being excited by it. Now, looking back, he finds it sad.
  5. The perfect-ish knowledge that marketers and government have make it very easy to assimilate the “trending” ideas.
  6. Compared to his student days, the students he teacher are:
    1. Less political
    2. Less angry (negates the need to form an opposition)
    3. These days, to be critical you need to be poor, rich or paid by the state. Others can’t afford to be.
  7. Thesis: the state should allow and support people to be themselves, we are no longer in a world where we can create Dada due to surveillance.

Michael Delay

Michael runs ArtWatch UK

  1. The avant-garde is nowhere and everywhere
  2. The avant-garde has been coerced
  3. Recalls “when attitudes become form”, and Tschimi’s participation to him now being professor at Columbia and his discussing the fate of the Elgin Marbles
  4. “avant-gardism, in art and architecture, has always struck me as anti-historicist”, meaning: naivete and self-interested.
  5. The central premise of avant-gardism is a paradox, as the future is not waiting to be discovered in the present.
  6. Michael explicates how the arts council works in the UK. How and «avant-garde» operates these days and how it has plunged into the hands of the art-market:
    1. The arts council funds artists
    2. Gallerists buy these state funded artists as guaranteed killer profits
  7. “Many people can’t realise that avant-gardism does not have to be left wing. People can’t get it into their heads that the most radical politician that Britain has had was a woman named Margret Thatcher.”
  8. We should question the position that artists should be radical. Art does not exist to change the world, but to enrich it.
  9. We should not go around labelling non «radical» artists as «reactionary». Most of the time, the debate is irrelevant.
  10. Radicalism can be benighted, certainly as much as any reactionary.