It's interesting too see how Jefferson sees - and shows, thus co-constructing - the "new art": she keeps going back to the idea that it's something one has to get used to, a world worth discovering, but not easy to enter. Pretty obvious... but. The spectators are to "suspend judgement", as the artists "are experimenting" and we are to do it with them. But Jefferson admits,
Avant-gardes get middle-aged; they become the establishment. When one goes to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, for instance, one is likely to see the work of artists who belonged to the avant-gardes of the 1960's and 70's and early 80's. Some are perfecting what they've already done. A few keep on experimenting, while some are being better paid to calcify than they ever were to innovate.And that is a problem. Because avant-garde today, as Jefferson rightly puts it,
is not a designated tribe of rebel outsiders anymore. It is a set of tools and practices; certain styles and attitudes.Which should be a good reason to redifine experimenting and change the way we see it (and criteria for discovering it). It is far from the idea of people coming up with completely new, unexpected and revolutionary worlds. It is much more about using the current conventions, habits, paradigms, to their best use, exploring how far they take us. And that trip is pretty difficult to execute if we don't understand those paradigms (the darned question of competence, irritating, but true?). But once we do, I see no reason to suspend judgement altogether, other than belonging to a generation that considered criticism to be a horrible idea and "gave itself away". The problem is, the Robert Wilsons and Laurie Andersons (two names cited in the article) are really far from anything one could call innovative today: their art, good as it may be, has been pretty much the same for a long time. And frankly, I see no reason for going on with the suspended judgement, especially, since this attitude hasn't really helped much in introducing the "avant-garde" to main-stream culture. Any ideas about that?