Avant-garde is originally a French term, meaning in English vanguard or advance guard (the part of an army that goes forward ahead of the rest). It first appeared with reference to art in France in the first half of the nineteenth century, and is usually credited to the influential thinker Henri de Saint-Simon, one of the forerunners of socialism. He believed in the social power of the arts and saw artists, alongside scientists and industrialists, as the leaders of a new society. In 1825 he wrote: “We artists will serve you as an avant-garde, the power of the arts is most immediate: when we want to spread new ideas we inscribe them on marble or canvas. What a magnificent destiny for the arts is that of exercising a positive power over society, a true priestly function and of marching in the van [i.e. vanguard] of all the intellectual faculties!”

Key features of the Modernists Avant Garde: 

  • Decompartmentalization
  • Social morality/truth
  • The total work of art
  • Anti-historicism
  • Technology
  • Function
  • Progress

The Avant-Garde film and animation: 

  • Radical types of movies, that would even question the basic narrative structure all films were following at the time.
  • Usually short films produced outside of Hollywood to challenge the cinematic conventions of the film industry.
  • Most directors were forced to use their own money in order to make these films.
  • Usually shown in art house cinema, until their reputations grew enough for theatres specialised in experimental filmmaking.
  • Animation becomes a suitable alternative because of its capability of economic productions, considering the high costs of filming pictures with sound.

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