"Poetry is Unrequited Love": Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle on the Avant-Garde

by on Jun.28, 2011

[Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle sent me the following post in response to recent discussions about the avant-garde.]

If You Kill for Money, You’re a Mercenary

If You Kill for Pleasure, You’re a Sadist

If You Kill for Both, You’re a Ranger

There is no avant-garde. It was a military term, where the rearguard* covered a rout. The arts emphatically do not conduct themselves on military models (we don’t use Reaper drones). Even armies & enemies have abandoned toothless tactics. The U.S. army now farms out unlicensed work to Black Water, al-Qaeda runs on a franchise base, each cell independent. Nobody takes point, there is no battlefront (Art hardly has a public); most opposition gets bought off, and we hire their experts when they’re done.

“Prudence is an old maid courted by incapacity.” (William Blake)

The arts today are close to pacts: nobody move, nobody gets hurt. No dark horse is going to break through unforeseen, there’s no real competition, we’ll let you win the next one, hold your positions; you will still get paid.

Poetry is unrequited love.

Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle

* Here Perloff means not art, but the university.

2 comments for this entry:
  1. A D Jameson

    re: your comment about the avant-garde and the military—I’ve been thinking about that Marjorie Perloff quote that Josef posted. To wit:

    “In military terms, the rear guard of the army is the part that protects and consolidates the troop movement in question; often the army’s best generals are placed there. When an avant-garde movement is no longer a novelty, it is the role of the arrière-garde to complete its mission, to ensure its success.”

    I keep turning this concept around in my head. What would this mean in artistic terms? How does one “complete the mission” of the avant-garde, and “ensure its success”? Does one need to take a hill somewhere, plant a flag, claim it the new home of some experimental art?

    John Cage popularized the prepared piano, arguably an avant-garde technique. George Crumb, later, further explored that technique. He was not alone in this. Annie Gosfield has continued today to play with ways to play the piano. Sonic Youth, meanwhile, has spent the past 30 years preparing guitars—as have many others. … Is the avant-garde mission of the prepared instrument now complete? Was it successful? Is George Crumb a part of the arrière-garde? Alongside Sonic Youth? Does this mean that no one else should explore prepared instruments?

    None of this makes any practical sense to me.

    But I’ve never been much of one for metaphorical criticism.