The two presentations this morning (those of Drs. Hagener and Zryd) on the avant-garde combined to form a very interesting and important counterpoint to some rather vague and superficial comments from yesterday.
Hagener’s point is well taken that the conventional view of the "project" of the avant-garde (which he proved was indeed a collection of goals and strategies) as a "failure" (as spurious a dismissal as one can imagine) is hardly a foundation for its role in the discipline.
To add to this line of reasoning (and perhaps even to sharpen it) I would say that his work points to an effort within the discipline to "clean up" the avant-garde for pedagogial purposes. This effort being largely to combat the elitism and mystification that avowedly surrounded the movement in decades and generations past.
The abstraction in experimental techniques, and I am here agreeing with Dr. Zryd’s change in terminology, is desgined to echo and call viewers to question the abstraction they engage in on a daily basis. The vagueness of its terms is a call to discussion and judgement rather than a forestalling of debate or assertion of ideological purity.
However, much of the conventional work done with the avant-garde in a pedagogical context, I would argue, seeks to downplay these rather complex and nebulous aspects and thus defuse them as political, social and cultural critiques. This mainstream approach seems to be defined by a wish to circumsbcribe the techniques and forms that define the movement as a genre. But as mere technique or genre representatives, avant-garde films lose their pedagogical foundation as outlined by Dr. Zryd. I would also add that they lose their threat as well. The threat they pose to traditional modes of seeing and experiencing film along with existing models of cinematic understansding.
In this sterilized state the avant-garde takes on an ineffectual, tempest-in-a-teapot role for students and professors, rather than representing a lost connection with more self-reflexive modes of cinematic production and inquiry.