against the avant-garde


I am arguing, along with theorists who view creativity in terms of evolution, that there is no significant creativity without a foundation in tradition, which symbolizes all that is memorable, mature, and of demonstrable value in a society, implying that tradition can never lose meaning and will always reward reflection; and iconoclasm that questions the finality and values of tradition and challenges traditional modes of understanding, but that remains valueless unless it achieves its own finality by becoming part of and holding its own in tradition, thus gaining lasting meaning and proving its continuing value to society.

I happen to think that avant-garde art has not unequivocally done so, however representative it is of modern society, with its cult of youth, indeed, its fetishization of youth, and can never convincingly do so, because to be avant-garde means to be incorrigibly adolescent in attitude and thus unable to relate to and respect tradition, which does not mean to blindly conform to it. Adolescence can express itself but not reflect on itself, which is why avant-garde art cannot become seriously traditional, that is, a civilizing force.

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