A History of the Avant-Garde and History / Daniel Ayad

06 28th, 2017

The notion of the avant-garde is always associated with a cultural manifestation that is ahead of it time, one whose contemporary context is left to wallow in its dust. An assumed outcome of such a definition, and one that is taken for granted, is that the avant-garde is always forward-looking, not concerning itself with the troubles of the past. It is a spear head which pierces the future, so that the present can trace its path. Paradoxically however, the avant-garde, can only be described as such, because it stands in opposition to the past. Meaning, without a past against which the avant-garde can measure itself, its proclamations and manifestos are in vain. It is precisely from this realization, that the avant-garde inadvertently must situate itself relative to a historical condition, either favorably or unfavorably, that the discussion of our current book begins. Walter Benjamin’s Angelus Novus, seen on the opposite page, can be regarded as our guardian angel. This angel, who looks backward as the winds of modernity sweep him forward, shall serve as a model, guiding us in our journey of exploring the relationship between what I designate as avant-garde and history.

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