The Rotterdam Film Festival is now happening in Rotterdam. Last Sunday I saw a poster there for a debate on whether it was nescessary in the movies that there is such a group of people as an avantgarde. One of the guys on the panel was the Russian director Ilya Khrzhanovsky. He is responsible for the movie 4, which for some reason or the other brought him in conflict with the Russian authorities (we're almost back to the good old days). Friends of mine have seen the movie at the festival and reported that it was dreadful and that a large part of the audience walked out during the movie (these are art festival people, they can stomach something). All in all the movie shows Russia is a crap place to live in. This we knew already, so sorry for spoiling the ending, but be glad I saved you from the movie.
The debate got me thinking. In it's own, the debate is irrelevant, yes we need an avantgarde, plain and simple. We need people to do new stuff that we later on want to immitate and improve upon. Avantgarde is the military term for the advanced troops. It are the people you want to follow, the elite, the Navy Seals, Golan Troups, Green Barets of the art world. They do the stuff the normal army grunt would want to be able to do. In art terms, the avantgarde are those directors, actors, painters , sculptors, dancers who do stuff you and I wished we would do and think off.
Next to the avant garde and us grunts, there are two other groups. The guys at the rear, the cowards, they are uninteresting loosers, best left for painting gyspy boys with tear and filming teenagers movies. And then there is the fringe. The fringe are all those people who sit in the bar bragging about theirwar stories and how they should be, could be, have been an avantgarde Green Baret, Special ops artist. Even if they ever were, now you wouldn't want them to be your buddy in the fight. They are the most pitiful people always talking, never performing. The trouble is how do you recognize the bragger from the real deal. In my opinion it is this: If other people and artists talk about your work for its contents, your avantgarde, if they talk about it because of the uproar you created with politicians etc. you're fringe.