Dividing Lines: Space and Image as Strategies of the Avant-Garde

By Michael Chapman.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Peter Burger’s 1974 book “Theory of the Avant-Garde” made the argument that certain strategies of the historical avant-garde of the 1920s were repeated (in a depoliticised form) in the creative production of the 1960s. Burger’s critique focuses on the production of images and, in particular, collage, which allowed dislocation to become a primary model of aesthetic “shock.” Pre-empting Bürger's theory, a number of critical members of the avant-garde in the 1920s has already postulated the conditions of a "pictorial architecture" and begun exploring the connections between space and image, often through the adjacent medium of film or collage. Within this work is an exploration of architecture as image: remodelled and radicalised as the fragmentary backdrop to visual art practice. Drawing from the theory of collage in both Walter Benjamin and Bürger, this paper investigates the way that spatial strategies became embedded in aesthetic production within the avant-garde of the 1920s, repositioning architecture as a critical agent in the radicalisation of art practice in the interwar period. The paper projects an expanded role for architecture in the construction of images within the avant-garde, and posits a spatial consciousness that accompanied the visual practices and experiments of Dada and surrealism in particular. By grafting fragments of “reality” against the picture plane, the avant-garde collapsed the distinction between art and life. Architecture was a radical participant in this conflation.

Keywords: The Image in Society, Peter Bürger, Dada, Surrealism, Avant-garde, Collage, Architectural Theory

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.27-34. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 264.879KB).

Dr. Michael Chapman

Senior Lecturer in Architecture, School of Architecture and the Built Environment, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Michael Chapman is a senior lecturer at the School of Architecture and the Built Environment in Newcastle, Australia. He has recently completed his PhD relating to surrealism and architectural practice. Together with Michael Ostwald and Chris Tucker he is the author of Residue: Architecture as a Condition of Loss published by the RMIT press in 2007.