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What is Arrieregarde

Arrieregarde - Archi Galentz Searches for 21st Century Aesthetics

For me personally, the position of an independent artist is very close to that of an arrieregardist fighter. Contemporary art uses this term mostly to name something back-oriented, a phonetic contradiction to the avant-garde (Clement Greenberg’s “Avant Garde and Kitsch”, 1939). I use it in the sense meant by the fathers of military theory Antoine-Henri Jomini (1779-1869) and Carl Phillipp Gotlieb von Clausewitz (1780-1831), to speak about the one who faces the enemy without a reserve army behind him, and without a General who watches and commands. The arrieregarde fighter, this metaphor, is very much about survival, about keeping contact with your comrade, about taking care in a situation when it would be “reasonable” to surrender. A craftsman artist becomes a healthy constellation: I suggest we see this position as a chance to be able to examine basic relations.

One of my favorite contemporary thinkers, the Slovenian-born Slavoj Zizek criticized the new European oppositions to the neoliberal order, comparing them not with the marginal as usual, but with the strategy of hysteric man who permanently needles his master with unrealistic demands. The same happens in art: criticism is an important part of and is exposed proudly from the system to present its tolerant nature. But the requests are of the same un-emancipated manner: more exhibition space, more money for whatever, more attention from mass media…

There are some brave thinkers like German media theorist Peter Weibel who, for instance, explains that the whole Western art is made from the position of the cold war, going so far as to announce that all the books on art of the 20th century are “maculature” (“Zurück aus der Zukunft”, Edition Suhrkamp 2425, 2005, page 49). That’s why the most professional thing to do is to write own histories. I consider it is the time for us to decide if we are ready to stop running after the “train that left”, consolidate our efforts and to decide clearly which way to move tomorrow.

Excerpt from talk sketch for a panel discussion at June 3. 2011 in Palazzo Zenobio, Venice. For more Information about the framework discussion: press here


The image "Self as a Frontier Fighter"  50x25x5cm, pencil, cartridge ink on paper, cardboard, wood-frame with palladium leaves, 2004.
The text below the portrait says in Russian, "An arrieregardist is the same former avantguardist - the frontier fighter, but in a defense situation, having survived after numerous attacks. He became an experienced warrior who can hinder the enemy's pressure. He is devoted. His activities don't have to be supervised. His passion allows to win the time that is, despite the complexity of the situation, needed for an organized retreat". A.G. 2004

One of the first jokes I remember from my school-time in Moscow when I was 8 or 9 years old was as following: A partisan comes out from a forest with a machine gun and asks a Kolkhoz peasant, "Brother, have you seen any nazis?", and the peasant replies, "God be with you! The war ended 40 years ago". The partisan's reaction is, "God damn!  But I'm still derailing trains..."