Avant-garde? Someone please explain this to me...

Okay, I feel really dumb about now, but I can’t seem to grasp this concept.

FTR, I’m not currently in college, I dont’ have a paper due on this, I’m not asking for help with an assignment for myself or for anyone.

I am just curios. Here’s what happened:

I was watching Interview with the Vampire again with the wife last night. The little girl at one point says “How avant-garde,”. Now, I have the wife duped into thinking I’m a pretty smart guy, so she always asks me questions. Ususally, I’m proud to say, I can answer correctly and explain things in a way she grasps easily without making her feel dumb. This is because she is actually a lot smarter than I am, but she refuses to admit it. Whatever.
In any case, she asked me “What does avant-garde mean?” and when I opened my mouth to answer, I realized I had no idea.
I said “You know what? I have no bloody idea. Let’s go look it up.”

http://www.m-w.com told me that avant-garde means:
an intelligentsia that develops new or experimental concepts especially in the arts

This made very little sense to me. So I looked up intelligentsia and was informed that it means:
intellectuals who form an artistic, social, or political vanguard or elite
I am certain that some of you are reading this and thinking “So what’s the problem? The definition is there in black and white.”
The problem is that while I can understand the definition, I cannot seem to get my mind around the concept.

Is my question making any sense? I sure hope no one submits this question to my pit thread about Stupid Questions.

Anyway, please, if you can, explain the concept of avant-garde to me.

Is it to refer to someone who is on the bleeding edge of an industry, or is it just for people who are visionaries and revolutionaries in the arts? Can you apply the term widley, or only to those who apply radically new concepts in the arts.
Further, as pertains the movie which started all this, when Louis observed “Vampires pretending to be human, pretending to be vampires,” why did Claudia reply “How avant-garde,”?

This has thoroughly thrown me for a loop, and I would like to have an understanding of the idea behind this term.

Thank you for your consideration.

I believe the term may have originally referred to a specific artistic movement, but I’m not sure. The concept, though, is this: something that is “avant-garde” is on the cutting edge of the artistic world, and has not yet been accepted by the popular culture. For instance, a painting style is developed that is praised by art critics and the like, but generally either dismissed or misunderstood by your average Joe. An applicable phrase would be “ahead of its time”, I’d say.

Though I haven’t seen that flick since it was in the theaters, I have a feeling that she’s using it sarcastically… kind of as a synonym for “art fag.”

Thank you. It’s all becoming so clear now.

Anyone else’s thoughts are still welcome, as I am sure you know.

It literally means “advance guard” - the military would send out an advance guard ahead of the main body of troops. So if you’re being “avant-garde” you’re in the lead, at the forefront, ahead of the pack - with the implication that the rest of us chumps will shortly follow.

It can also mean a concept that’s pretty cool or ironic, in that teenage way.

I mean, hey, who would look for vampires in the midst of a bunch of dorks that thought vampires were cool?

Dates back to the Roman army when they were ruling the world. The advanced guard would be the first to encounter the enemy and anything else. The arts (and for that matter everybody else who felt they should be set apart from the common herd) have adopted the term in order to sound like they are the early arrivials in any field. The implication, of course, is, “where we go others will follow.”

Okay, but if the etymology of the term is French for vanguard, and only dates to 1910, how does it date back to Roman times?
I’m thinking the Romans would be speaking Latin, and that they would use the latin term for vanguard, and that it would be the current term used for this concept instead of French, and it would date back a lot further.

Then again, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Does it really date back to the Roman army?


If it wasn’t meant to me ironic, it still was. What with blacks pretending to be whites pretending to be black, and women pretending to be men pretending to be women, this isn’t a terribly original device.

occ hit it right right on the head. It means an artistic work that has some tenuous connection with the mainstream but is generally not understood the mainstream.

If you’re lucky/good–you’re a genius. (Picasso, Stravinsky)

If you’re unlucky/bad–you’re an asshole (you, me, and everybody you know)

Hope that helps

Actually, WRT this movie, The Ryan hit it on the head: claudia was indeed being very sarcastic/ironic. Remember her disposition (embittered). I got the impression she was mocking them, in fact calling the vampire-human/actor-vampire/actors un-original bastards.

Common usage is more likely in line with occ.