Sunday, March 08, 2009

Avant L'Avant Garde

Renegade band subverts "the system" by offering a free album? Kudos Radiohead, but the idea is three decades old.
"In 1979, after negotiating a release from his contract with Sparrow, Keith Green initiated a new policy of refusing to charge money for concerts or albums. Keith and Melody mortgaged their home to privately finance Green's next album, So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt. The album, which featured a guest appearance by Bob Dylan, was offered through mail-order and at concerts for a price determined by the purchaser" (wiki).
A key difference, of course, is that at the time of their magnanimity (which included concerts), Keith and Melody Green did not have a comfortable system-generated fortune to fall back on.

Of course, the brightest of self-professed revolutionaries can't help but realize they're more than fashionably late to the barricades. Pomo darling Georges Bataille, for example, pointed to the early Christian movement as a model which could prevent the perpetual compromising of the avant-garde. According to the New Left Review, a lecture given before the Collège on March 19, 1938, Bataille proposed the primitive Christian sect as the exemplum of such a cell - one that had, in fact, revolutionized the world.
Granted Bataille had long renounced his Catholic faith and tried to revive a (now defunct) atheistic mysticism, but at least he was honest about the origins of genuine resistance.

Even more honest was Hugo Ball, who very much like one Salvador Dalí, abandoned the Dada movement that he so ardently co-founded, returning by 1920 with his wife Emmy to the Catholicism of Ball's youth. Hear the words of one of the twentieth century's most venerated subversives:
I have broken the oath of allegiance I once gave to the church. Of course, I was a child when I received the holy confirmation, but it was a special appeal to my judgment and self-preservation. Now I am seeking my way back to the church and a life full of mistakes lies between us (186).
And so Ball's resistance really began. Christianity: When you're serious enough about revolution to get metaphysical.