Avant-gardism as a Mode of Culture Change

Peer Reviewed

Essay Excerpt

While I agree with Meyer's diagnosis of stylistic stasis, I differ with him with respect to why internal dynamic theory does not work as an explanatory framework for artistic change in the 20th century. Where as he opts for an abstract explanation that links the current state of stasis with major changes in intellectual thought, I prefer an interpretation that is more closely tied to specific artistic ideologies. Thus, in this article, I give an alternative interpretation to the question of why internal dynamic theory does not work well in modern times. The reason is that, in the 20th century, the dynamics of artistic change are qualitatively different than in previous periods. This change has come about because of the florescence of avant-gardism as a major ideology in the arts. A brief historical description of the avant-garde is provided and some central values as found in many of the radical movements are isolated. The major part of the discussion concerns how the avant-garde has gone about creating a new social dynamic in the arts. Much of the argument draws on the case of 20th-century American art music, but there are many references to modern painting as well. (Cameron, 218)

About the Author

Catherine M. Cameron is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

"I am an archaeologist working in the American Southwest and have focused especially on the Chaco Phenomenon. I have worked in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, in northeastern Arizona and currently work in SE Utah. I conducted excavations at the Bluff Great House site in Bluff, Utah as part of the University of Colorado field school. Chaco and After in the Northern San Juan: Excavations at the Bluff Great House was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2009. I have also overseen projects in the Comb Wash area of SE Utah undertaken by the Bureau of Land Management. I have long-term interests in prehistoric population dynamics and especially processes of abandonment and migration and have published books and articles on these processes in the Southwest and elsewhere (see publications). Currently I study a particular type of migrant - captives. An edited volume Invisible Citizens: Captives and Their Consequences was published by the University of Utah Press in 2008 and an article "Captives and Culture Change: Implications for Archaeologists" was published by Current Anthropology in 2011. During my sabbatical (2010-2011) I was a Weatherhead Fellow at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe writing a book on captives in prehistory."

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