The Avant-garde Exhaustion

Revivals and “rewrites” of art history to tell the story in a different way were very much typical for previous generations of artists, who had been fighting for space for their avant-garde masters in the canon of art. Under pressure, institutions were working to make up for years of inertia, and yet managed to fill gaps in collections, publications, and research over a relatively short timespan. Most recently, the history of the avant-garde gained a status of a new canon of contemporariness, with even the artworks market wanting a slice of the pie.

Today’s artists, however, have slowly but surely begun to describe the avant-garde as distant and ill-defined, if not exotic. When referring to avant-garde attitudes or works, they use such references in expressing weariness with the past and the continually repetitive tricks and strategies. Moreover, such references tend to be ironic (as in case of Oskar Dawicki, toying with his master Zbigniew Warpechowski) and/or perverse. Avant-garde narrations have been transferred into realms of fantasy or fiction (e.g. in the hallucinative films and collages by Agnieszka Polska). Nostalgia for immense ideas has been replaced with pragmatism, with a belief that one ought to focus on what is at hand, on what is visible.