Design in discourses of art after the avant-gardes
Many contemporary works of art are related to design or are even primarily made of material that we know from design. And this has not just been a recent development – rather, design’s presence within the art context can be observed since the discipline`s emergence at the beginning of the 20th century. On the one hand, historical avant-garde movements at this time express an alienation towards the production and presentation of industrial goods; on the other hand, they hope for a realization of alternative forms of life and production processes through design.
This ambivalent tension between surrealist and constructivist tendencies has not only had a significant impact on avant-garde`s reception in the following decades, but has also been present in responses to design references. How they were judged from a theoretical point of view, has often been decided on the premise of a work’s relation to a praxis of life – a relation that is staged in various art exhibitions through design. Peter Bürger’s internationally acclaimed standard work from the 1970s, The Theory of the Avant-Garde, has been focusing basically on this relationship for its analysis and critique of 20th century artistic practice.
This text attempts to re-read Bürger’s theory – with the help of design. Its reception in art theories since the 1970s is critically reflected in three historical steps, and linked to a design history of art since the avant-gardes – using exemplary exhibitions that have addressed this perspective. Thus, design does not appear as an occasional reference in works of art, but it rather proves to be constitutive for a contemporary concept of art.