The avant-garde (/ˌævɒ̃ˈɡɑːrd/); from French, “advance guard” or “vanguard”, literally “fore-guard”) are people or works that are experimental, radical, or unorthodox with respect to art, culture, or society. It may be characterized by nontraditional, aesthetic innovation and initial unacceptability, and it may offer a critique of the relationship between producer and consumer.
Let’s simply define avant-garde as anything different from what’s conventional, because if it were defined similarly to the way the military does it, then after Tristan Tzara every single poet should have started using bits and pieces of newspapers to write their masterpieces. Museums would only showcase dadaism and surrealism.
But it didn’t happen like that. Poetry is not as accidental as it used to be, paintings are hiper-realistic, and music is still being composed by following well known rules.
The avant-garde of the last century believed that paintings will lose their appeal once photography would become easily accessible, that live music would die out because they could listen to recordings, and that classic literature and poetry would disappear under the cruel weight of war. It didn’t happen that way. Why? Because new is not necessarily better. Paintings, as an art form, have been around for thousands of years. Photography is simply a different medium to express, most times, different ideas. The avant-garde was advertising war when all they wanted was peace.
Somewhere around the 1800s a scientist decided to experiment with a special pair of eyeglasses: they were designed so he could see everything around him upside down. After a while though, he started seeing the world as before, because the brain is hardwired to adapt and present reality as it should be, no matter what the eyes tell it.
Chaos does not last long. The desire to destroy what all the others have built does not endure.
Art is beauty. Everyone who tries to deny it, has lost an essential part of themselves. And art will always be beauty, no matter how much the avant-garde tried to create chaos, to show that art is merely accident.
An act of creation is not accidental. There’s intent behind it. Or, at the very least, the way we experience creation does.