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Media and Materiality in the Neo-Avant-Garde

Edited By Jonas Ingvarsson and Jesper Olsson

Media and Materiality in the Neo-Avant-Garde explores the materiality of media technologies and their impact on the avant-garde of the late twentieth century.
The essays of the volume range between different art forms (literature, film, music, visual art, performance) and bridge the same contested cultural divides – high and low, ideology and form, art and everyday life – that were once challenged by the avant-garde. Ranging in topics from the Beach Boys to Herbert Eimert, from Scandinavian forests to Warhol’s Factory, the perspectives established and the operations performed in Media and Materiality in the Neo-Avant-Garde thus traverse a network of art and technology that has been crucial for more than half a century, and still is today.

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Jonas Ingvarsson: Cutting-up Beach Boys 63

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63 interpretation vs transparenCy “Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art.”1 In her famous essay “Against interpretation” Susan Sontag argues that the very activity of interpretation takes as its point of departure the assumption that there exists something that is not artistic form but a more or less hidden content, which can be translated to a more convenient form. While never really managing to resolve the eternal “form/content” dichotomy, the key concepts in Sontags essay are “surface” and “transparency”. She would like to see “works of art whose surface is so unified and clean, whose momentum is so rapid, whose address is so direct that the work can be … just what it is”. Transparency is the quality that makes art shine in a culture saturated with mass-produced sensations. And art critics in the 1960s will have a task set out for them by Sontag: The aim of all commentary on art now should be to make works of art – and, by analogy, our own experience – more, rather than less, real to us. The function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than to show what it means.2 1 Susan Sontag, “Against interpretation”, first published in 1964, then to become the title essay of the 1966 collection Against Interpretation and Other Essays, New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1966. This quote from the latter edition, 7. 2 Ibid., 14. jonas Ingvarsson CuttinG-up BeaCh Boys the Body,...

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