This collection examines key aesthetic avant-garde art movements of the twentieth century and their relationships with revolutionary politics. The contributors distinguish aesthetic avant-gardes —whose artists aim to transform society and the ways of sensing the world through political means—from the artistic avant-gardes, which focus on transforming representation. Following the work of philosophers such as Friedrich Schiller and Jacques Rancière, the contributors argue that the aesthetic is inherently political and that aesthetic avant-garde art is essential for political revolution. In addition to analyzing Russian constructivsm, surrealism, and Situationist International, the contributors examine Italian futurism's model of integrating art with politics and life, the murals of revolutionary Mexico and Nicaragua, 1960s American art, and the Slovenian art collective NSK's construction of a fictional political state in the 1990s. Aesthetic Revolutions and Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde Movements traces the common foundations and goals shared by these disparate arts communities and shows how their art worked towards effecting political and social change.
Contributors. John E. Bowlt, Sascha Bru, David Craven, Aleš Erjavec, Tyrus Miller, Raymond Spiteri, Miško Šuvakovic
The wild innovations of the early twentieth-century avant-garde have been widely celebrated for their influence on the course of experimental drama but rarely examined closely and systematically. Through an exploration of the plays from Germany, France, and England, The Aesthetics of Disturbance discusses modernism and the avant-garde, the relationship of drama to art movements such as expressionism, dada, and surrealism, and the interactions of visual, literary, and performance art.
Beginning with a survey of the history and theory of avant- garde art, David Graver critically juxtaposes important competing interpretations of the avant-garde, establishes basic distinctions between forms of avant-garde art, compares the aesthetic interests of the avant- garde to those of modernism, and discusses the relationship between the avant-garde and drama. Then, through close readings of the works of five preeminent avant-garde playwrights and visual artists- Oskar Kokoschka, Gottfried Benn, Raymond Roussel, Roger Vitrac, and Wyndham Lewis- he examines the innovations in dramatic literature carried out by these visionaries and finally relates them to the innovations in theater articulated by Brecht and Artaud. Graver argues that anti-art principles, most noticeable in the confrontational tactics of dada performance, can also be found within literary dramatic texts, where they create an "aesthetics of disturbance" that destabilizes the integrity of the work without allowing it to self-destruct.
"A corrective to the oft-repeated, over-simple idea that anti-art consists of the same destructive gesture repeated in different forms. This is a useful book that fills a gap, both conceptually and in terms of the figures discussed." --Philip Auslander, Georgia Institute of Technology
"Original, important, well- done."--Anthony Kubiak, Harvard University
David Graver is Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University.
The relationship of the anarchist movement to American art during the World War I era is most often described as a "tenuous affinity" between two distinct spheres: political and artistic. In Anarchist Modernism—the first in-depth exploration of the role of anarchism in the formation of early American modernism—Allan Antliff reveals that modernists participated in a wide-ranging movement that encompassed lifestyles, literature, and art, as well as politics. Drawing on a wealth of hitherto unknown information, including interviews and reproductions of lost works, he examines anarchism's influence on a telling cross-section of artists such as Robert Henri, Elie Nadelman, Man Ray, and Rockwell Kent. He also traces the interactions between cultural figures and thinkers including Emma Goldman, Alfred Stieglitz, Ezra Pound, and Ananda Coomaraswamy.
By situating American art's evolution in the progressive politics of the time, Antliff offers a richly illustrated chronicle of the anarchist movement and also revives the creative agency of those who shaped and implemented modernism for radical ends.
Discussing an aspect of the European avant-garde that has often been neglected-its relationship to the embodied experience of food, its sensation, and its consumption-Cecilia Novero exposes the surprisingly key roles that food plays in the theoretical foundations and material aesthetics of a broad stratum of works ranging from the Italian Futurist Cookbook to the magazine Dada, Walter Benjamin's writings on eating and cooking, Daniel Spoerri's Eat Art, and the French New Realists.
Starting from the premise that avant-garde art involves the questioning of bourgeois aesthetics, Novero demonstrates that avant-garde artists, writers, and performers have produced an oppositional aesthetics of indigestible art. Through the rhetoric of incorporation and consumption and the use of material ingredients in their work, she shows, avant-garde artists active in the 1920s and 1930s as well as the neo-avant-garde movements engaged critically with consumer culture, memory, and history.
Attention to food in avant-garde aesthetics, Novero asserts, reveals how these works are rooted in a complex temporality that associates memory and consumption with dynamics of change.
Archaeologies of Modernity explores the shift from the powerful tradition of literary forms of Bildung—the education of the individual as the self—to the visual forms of “Bildung” (from Bild) that characterize German modernism and the European avant-garde. Interrelated chapters examine the work of Franz Kafka, Jean/Hans Arp, Walter Benjamin, and Carl Einstein, and of artists such as Oskar Kokoschka or Kurt Schwitters, in the light of the surge of an autoformation (Bildung) of verbal and visual images at the core of expressionist and surrealist aesthetics and the art that followed. In this first scholarly focus on modernist avant-garde Bildung in its entwinement of conceptual modernity with forms of the archaic, Rumold resituates the significance of the poet and art theorist Einstein and his work on the language of primitivism and the visual imagination. Archaeologies of Modernity is a major reconsideration of the conception of the modernist project and will be of interest to scholars across the disciplines.
Art in Progress
Maarten Doorman Amsterdam University Press, 2004 Library of Congress BH39.D654 2003 | Dewey Decimal 100
In this challenging essay, Maarten Doorman argues that in art, belief in progress is still relevant, if not essential. The radical freedoms of postmodernism, he claims, have had a crippling effect on art, leaving it in danger of becoming meaningless. Art can only acquire meaning through context; the concept of progress, then, is ideal as the primary criterion for establishing that context. The history of art, in fact, can be seen as a process of constant accumulation, works of art commenting on one another and enriching one another's meanings. It is these complex interrelationships and the progress they create in both art and its observers that Doorman, in a display of great philosophical erudition, defends.
The critical literary world has spent a wealth of thought and words on the question of Hawthorne himself: Where does he stand in his works? In history? In literary tradition? In this major new study, G. R. Thompson recasts the "Hawthorne question" to show how authorial presence in the writer's works is as much a matter of art as the writing itself. The Hawthorne who emerges from this masterful analysis is not, as has been supposed, identical to the provincial narrator of his early tales; instead he is revealed to be the skillful manipulator of that narrative voice, an author at an ironic distance from the tales he tells. By focusing on the provincial tales as they were originally conceived--as a narrative cycle--Thompson is able to recover intertextual references that reveal Hawthorne's preoccupation with framing strategies and variations on authorial presence. The author shows how Hawthorne deliberately constructs sentimental narratives, only to deconstruct them. Thompson's analysis provides a new aesthetic context for understanding the whole shape of Hawthorne's career as well as the narrative, ethical, and historical issues within individual works. Revisionary in its view of one of America's greatest authors, The Art of Authorial Presence also offers invaluable insight into the problems of narratology and historiography, ethics and psychology, romanticism and idealism, and the cultural myths of America.
The Asian American Avant-Garde is the first book-length study thatconceptualizes a long-neglected canon of early Asian American literature and art. Audrey Wu Clark traces a genealogy of counter-universalism in short fiction, poetry, novels, and art produced by writers and artists of Asian descent who were responding to their contemporary period of Asian exclusion in the United States, between the years 1882 and 1945.
Believing in the promise of an inclusive America, these avant-gardists critiqued racism as well as institutionalized art. Clark examines racial outsiders including Isamu Noguchi, Dong Kingman and Yun Gee to show how they engaged with modernist ideas, particularly cubism. She draws comparisons between writers such as Sui Sin Far and Carlos Bulosan with modernist luminaries like Stein, Eliot, Pound, and Proust.
Acknowledging the anachronism of the term “Asian American” with respect to these avant-gardists, Clark attempts to reconstruct it. The Asian American Avant-Garde explores the ways in which these artists and writers responded to their racialization and the Orientalism that took place in modernist writing.
The Avant-Garde and the Popular in Modern China explores how an important group of Chinese performing artists invested in politics and the pursuit of the avant-garde came to terms with different ways of being “popular” in modern times. In particular, playwright and activist Tian Han (1898-1968) exemplified the instability of conventional delineations between the avant-garde, popular culture, and political propaganda. Liang Luo traces Tian’s trajectory through key moments in the evolution of twentieth-century Chinese national culture, from the Christian socialist cosmopolitanism of post–WWI Tokyo to the urban modernism of Shanghai in 1920s and 30s, then into the Chinese hinterland during the late 1930s and 40s, and finally to the Communist Beijing of the 1950s, revealing the dynamic interplay of art and politics throughout this period. Understanding Tian in his time sheds light upon a new generation of contemporary Chinese avant-gardists (Ai Wei Wei being the best known), who, half a century later, are similarly engaging national politics and popular culture.
Investigating the central role that theories of the visual arts and creativity played in the development of fascism in France, Mark Antliff examines the aesthetic dimension of fascist myth-making within the history of the avant-garde. Between 1909 and 1939, a surprising array of modernists were implicated in this project, including such well-known figures as the symbolist painter Maurice Denis, the architects Le Corbusier and Auguste Perret, the sculptors Charles Despiau and Aristide Maillol, the “New Vision” photographer Germaine Krull, and the fauve Maurice Vlaminck.
Antliff considers three French fascists: Georges Valois, Philippe Lamour, and Thierry Maulnier, demonstrating how they appropriated the avant-garde aesthetics of cubism, futurism, surrealism, and the so-called Retour à l’Ordre (“Return to Order”), and, in one instance, even defined the “dynamism” of fascist ideology in terms of Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein’s theory of montage. For these fascists, modern art was the mythic harbinger of a regenerative revolution that would overthrow existing governmental institutions, inaugurate an anticapitalist new order, and awaken the creative and artistic potential of the fascist “new man.”
In formulating the nexus of fascist ideology, aesthetics, and violence, Valois, Lamour, and Maulnier drew primarily on the writings of the French political theorist Georges Sorel, whose concept of revolutionary myth proved central to fascist theories of cultural and national regeneration in France. Antliff analyzes the impact of Sorel’s theory of myth on Valois, Lamour, and Maulnier. Valois created the first fascist movement in France; Lamour, a follower of Valois, established the short-lived Parti Fasciste Révolutionnaire in 1928 before founding two fascist-oriented journals; Maulnier forged a theory of fascism under the auspices of the journals Combat and Insurgé.
The 1960s were heady years in Argentina. Visual artists, curators, and critics sought to fuse art and politics; to broaden the definition of art to encompass happenings and assemblages; and, above all, to achieve international recognition for new, cutting-edge Argentine art. A bestseller in Argentina, Avant-Garde, Internationalism, and Politics is an examination of the 1960s as a brief historical moment when artists, institutions, and critics joined to promote an international identity for Argentina’s visual arts.
The renowned Argentine art historian and critic Andrea Giunta analyzes projects specifically designed to internationalize Argentina’s art and avant-garde during the 1960s: the importation of exhibitions of contemporary international art, the sending of Argentine artists abroad to study, the organization of prize competitions involving prestigious international art critics, and the export of exhibitions of Argentine art to Europe and the United States. She looks at the conditions that made these projects possible—not least the Alliance for Progress, a U.S. program of “exchange” and “cooperation” meant to prevent the spread of communism through Latin America in the wake of the Cuban Revolution—as well as the strategies formulated to promote them. She describes the influence of Romero Brest, prominent art critic, supporter of abstract art, and director of the Centro de Artes Visuales del Instituto Tocuato Di Tella (an experimental art center in Buenos Aires); various group programs such as Nueva Figuración and Arte Destructivo; and individual artists including Antonio Berni, Alberto Greco, León Ferrari, Marta Minujin, and Luis Felipe Noé. Giunta’s rich narrative illuminates the contentious postwar relationships between art and politics, Latin America and the United States, and local identity and global recognition.
Avant-Garde Performance and the Limits of Criticism looks at the American avant-garde during the Cold War period, focusing on the interrelated questions of performance practices, cultural resistance, and the politics of criticism and scholarship in the U.S. counterculture. It develops three case studies: the Living Theatre's influential production of Jack Gelber's The Connection, which subverted the historical and political assumptions of the War on Drugs, utilized cutting-edge jazz both formally and thematically, and inspired a generation of artists and activists to rethink the nature of community and communication; the earliest American performance art, namely the Happenings and Fluxus events, which responded in astounding ways to the avaricious movements of Cold War capitalism; and the Black Arts Movement, which brought about practical and theoretical innovations that effectively evade the conceptual categories of Euro-American philosophy and historiography.
Mike Sell's study is groundbreaking in its consideration of the avant-garde in relationship to a crucial but rarely considered agent: the scholar and critic. The book examines the role of the scholar and critic in the cultural struggles of radical artists and activists and reveals how avant-garde performance identifies the very limits of critical consideration. The book also explores the popularization of the avant-garde: how formerly subversive art is eventually discovered by the mass media, is gobbled up by the marketplace, and eventually finds its way onto the syllabi of college and university courses. Avant-Garde Performance and the Limits of Criticism is a timely and significant book that will become a standard reference for scholars in the fields of avant-garde literary criticism, theater history, critical theory, and performance studies.
"A provocative exploration of relations between the historical avant-garde and Cold War vanguard art and theatre. Sell's compelling historical and cultural narrative shows how the connections between the two exist at a very deep level of radical politics and aesthetics--an amazing concoction of rigorous scholarship, interdisciplinary learning, and progressive theorizing."
--Michael Vanden Heuvel, University of Wisconsin, Madison
"One of the most sophisticated, engaged, and engaging studies of the avant-garde in the United States that I've read-an important study that will raise the bar not only on scholarship of the Black Arts Movement, but on U.S. avant-gardism generally."
--James Smethurst, University of Massachusetts
A volume in the series Theater: Theory/Text/Performance. A list of recent titles in the series appears at the front of this volume.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, popular music was considered nothing but vulgar entertainment. Today, jazz and rock music are seen as forms of art, and their practitioners are regularly accorded a status on par with the cultural and political elite. To take just one recent example, Bono, lead singer and lyricist of the rock band U2, got equal and sometimes higher billing than Pope John Paul II on their shared efforts in the Jubilee 2000 debt-relief project.
When and how did popular music earn so much cultural capital? To find out, Bernard Gendron investigates five key historical moments when popular music and avant-garde art transgressed the rigid boundaries separating high and low culture to form friendly alliances. He begins at the end of the nineteenth century in Paris's Montmartre district, where cabarets showcased popular music alongside poetry readings in spaces decorated with modernist art works. Two decades later, Parisian poets and musicians "slumming" in jazz clubs assimilated jazz's aesthetics in their performances and compositions. In the bebop revolution in mid-1940s America, jazz returned the compliment by absorbing modernist devices and postures, in effect transforming itself into an avant-garde art form. Mid-1960s rock music, under the leadership of the Beatles, went from being reviled as vulgar music to being acclaimed as a cutting-edge art form. Finally, Gendron takes us to the Mudd Club in the late 1970s, where New York punk and new wave rockers were setting the aesthetic agenda for a new generation of artists.
Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club should be on the shelves of anyone interested in the intersections between high and low culture, art and music, or history and aesthetics.
In the Andes, indigenous knowledge systems based on the relationships between different beings, both earthly and heavenly, animal and plant, have been central to the organization of knowledge since precolonial times. The legacies of colonialism and the continuance of indigenous cultures makes the Andes a unique place from which to think about art and social change as ongoing, and as encompassing more than an exclusively human perspective. Beyond Human revises established readings of the avant-gardes in Peru and Bolivia as humanizing and historical. By presenting fresh readings of canonical authors like César Vallejo, José María Arguedas, and Magda Portal and through analysis of newer artist-activists like Julieta Paredes, Mujeres Creando Comunidad, and Alejandra Dorado, Daly argues instead that avant-gardes complicate questions of agency and contribute to theoretical discussions on vital materialisms: the idea that life happens between animate and inanimate beings—human and non-human—and is made sensible through art.
Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
How much did "making it new" have to do with "making it"? For the four "outsider poets" considered in this book—Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Louis Zukofsky, and Ted Berrigan—the connection was everything. At once a social history of literary ambition in America in the fifties and sixties and a uniquely collective form of literary biography, Career Moves offers an intimate account of the postwar poetry underground.
Making the controversial claim that anti-Establishment poets were at least as "careerist" as their mainstream peers, Libbie Rifkin shows how the nature of these poets’ ambition actually defined postwar avant-garde identity. In doing so, she clarifies the complicated link between the crafting of a literary career and the defining of a literary canon.
Despite the liveliness and creativity of avant-garde Chinese art in the post-Mao era and its prominence in the world of international contemporary art, until now there has been no systematic introduction to this important work in any Western language. Moreover, most of the relevant primary documents have existed only in Chinese, scattered in hard-to-find publications. Contemporary Chinese Art remedies this situation by bringing together carefully selected primary texts in English translation. Arranged in chronological order, the texts guide readers through the development of avant-garde Chinese art from 1976 until 2006. Because experimental Chinese art emerged as a domestic phenomenon in the 1970s and 1980s and its subsequent development has been closely related to China’s social and economical transformation, this volume focuses on art from mainland China. At the same time, it encompasses the activities of mainland artists residing overseas, since artists who emigrated in the 1980s and 1990s were often key participants in the early avant-garde movements and have continued to interact with the mainland art world. The primary documents include the manifestos of avant-garde groups, prefaces to important exhibitions, writings by representative artists, important critical and analytical essays, and even some official documents. Each chapter and section begins with a concise preface explaining the significance of the texts and providing the necessary historical background; the volume includes a timeline summarizing important art phenomena and related political events.
Crimes of Art and Terror
Frank Lentricchia and Jody McAuliffe University of Chicago Press, 2003 Library of Congress PN761.L46 2003 | Dewey Decimal 809.911
Do killers, artists, and terrorists need one another? In Crimes of Art and Terror, Frank Lentricchia and Jody McAuliffe explore the disturbing adjacency of literary creativity to violence and even political terror. Lentricchia and McAuliffe begin by anchoring their penetrating discussions in the events of 9/11 and the scandal provoked by composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's reference to the destruction of the World Trade Center as a great work of art, and they go on to show how political extremism and avant-garde artistic movements have fed upon each other for at least two centuries.
Crimes of Art and Terror reveals how the desire beneath many romantic literary visions is that of a terrifying awakening that would undo the West's economic and cultural order. This is also the desire, of course, of what is called terrorism. As the authority of writers and artists recedes, it is criminals and terrorists, Lentricchia and McAuliffe suggest, who inherit this romantic, destructive tradition. Moving freely between the realms of high and popular culture, and fictional and actual criminals, the authors describe a web of impulses that catches an unnerving spirit.
Lentricchia and McAuliffe's unorthodox approach pairs Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment with Martin Scorsese's King of Comedy and connects the real-life Unabomber to the surrealist Joseph Cornell and to the hero of Bret Easton Ellis's bestselling novel American Psycho. They evoke a desperate culture of art through thematic dialogues among authors and filmmakers as varied as Don DeLillo, Joseph Conrad, Francis Ford Coppola, Jean Genet, Frederick Douglass, Hermann Melville, and J. M. Synge, among others. And they conclude provocatively with an imagined conversation between Heinrich von Kleist and Mohamed Atta. The result is a brilliant and unflinching reckoning with the perilous proximity of the impulse to create transgressive art and the impulse to commit violence.
In her new study, Culinary Poetics and Edible Images in Twentieth-Century American Literature, Stacie Cassarino traces the tradition of avant-garde food experimentation across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to show how a fixation on the materiality of edible things, expressed through the language of food, became a way for American writers to respond to the culinary, political, and aesthetic tastes of the nation.
Cassarino takes the reader through the changing dynamics of food production and consumption, from wartime sensibilities of patriotic eating to the postwar excess of culinary cosmopolitanism and finally to contemporary supermarket pastorals. She pairs chefs and poets—Julia Child and Gertrude Stein, Poppy Cannon and Frank O’Hara, Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor and Harryette Mullen—to argue that each converts eating into an aesthetic opportunity that has the power to impact how people consume. In this way, Cassarino reveals the modern cookbook not just as a literary counterpart to contemporary poetry but also as vital to the literature and art occurring around it. From Futurist cookbooks to fast food lyrics, from Gullah recipes to Eat Art, she reminds us that global foodscapes are connected to aesthetic movements in literature and art.
"Weinstein explores the attitudes and organizations of artists and architects in Berlin, Munich, and Dresden in response to the tumultuous events associated with the end of WWI and the (failed) Revolution. She traces the initial excitement and zeal and then the disillusionment as utopian dreams were dimmed by social, political, and military realities as well as by inherent contradiction within the arts movements itself. The accompanying b&w illustrations, fascinating in themselves, directly depict textual themes."—Booknews
Life in the modernist era not only moved, it sped. As automobiles, airplanes, and high-speed industrial machinery proliferated at the turn of the twentieth century, a fascination with speed influenced artists—from Moscow to Manhattan—working in a variety of media. Russian avant-garde literary, visual, and cinematic artists were among those striving to elevate the ordinary physical concept of speed into a source of inspiration and generate new possibilities for everyday existence.
Although modernism arrived somewhat late in Russia, the increased tempo of life at the start of the twentieth century provided Russia’s avant-garde artists with an infusion of creative dynamism and crucial momentum for revolutionary experimentation. In Fast Forward Tim Harte presents a detailed examination of the images and concepts of speed that permeated Russian modernist poetry, visual arts, and cinema. His study illustrates how a wide variety of experimental artistic tendencies of the day—such as “rayism” in poetry and painting, the effort to create a “transrational” language (zaum’) in verse, and movements seemingly as divergent as neo-primitivism and constructivism—all relied on notions of speed or dynamism to create at least part of their effects. Fast Forward reveals how the Russian avant-garde’s race to establish a new artistic and social reality over a twenty-year span reflected an ambitious metaphysical vision that corresponded closely to the nation’s rapidly changing social parameters. The embrace of speed after the 1917 Revolution, however, paradoxically hastened the movement’s demise. By the late 1920s, under a variety of historical pressures, avant-garde artistic forms morphed into those more compatible with the political agenda of the Russian state. Experimentation became politically suspect and abstractionism gave way to orthodox realism, ultimately ushering in the socialist realism and aesthetic conformism of the Stalin years.
Charlotte Moorman was a bold, barrier-breaking musician and performance artist and a tireless champion of experimental art, whose avant-garde festivals in New York City brought new art forms to a broad public. To date, recognition of Moorman has been limited mostly to her collaborations with other artists, including composer John Cage and pioneering multimedia artist Nam June Paik, and to her 1967 performance of Paik’s "Opera Sextronique," for which she became known as the "topless cellist" after being arrested on indecency charges. A Feast of Astonishments looks deeper to portray Moorman as a leading international figure in her own right.
With more than 150 color images and essays by art historians, curators, and musicologists, this catalog will offer a fresh perspective and complement an exhibition that opens at Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art in January 2016 before traveling to New York University’s Grey Art Gallery in Manhattan and the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg, Austria. The exhibition will feature original sculptures, photographs, video, props and costumes, annotated music scores, archival materials, film clips, and audio recordings, many drawn from the Charlotte Moorman Archive at the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library. The exhibition is a partnership between the Block Museum and the Northwestern University Libraries.
The Feminist Avant-Garde in American Poetry offers a historical and theoretical account of avant-garde women poets in America from the 1910s through the 1990s and asserts an alternative tradition to the predominantly male-dominated avant-garde movements. Elisabeth Frost argues that this alternative lineage distinguishes itself by its feminism and its ambivalence toward existing avant-garde projects; she also thoroughly explores feminist avant-garde poets' debts and contributions to their male counterparts.
Five Faces of Modernity is a series of semantic and cultural biographies of words that have taken on special significance in the last century and a half or so: modernity, avant-garde, decadence, kitsch, and postmodernism. The concept of modernity—the notion that we, the living, are different and somehow superior to our predecessors and that our civilization is likely to be succeeded by one even superior to ours—is a relatively recent Western invention and one whose time may already have passed, if we believe its postmodern challengers. Calinescu documents the rise of cultural modernity and, in tracing the shifting senses of the five terms under scrutiny, illustrates the intricate value judgments, conflicting orientations, and intellectual paradoxes to which it has given rise. Five Faces of Modernity attempts to do for the foundations of the modernist critical lexicon what earlier terminological studies have done for such complex categories as classicism, baroque, romanticism, realism, or symbolism and thereby fill a gap in literary scholarship. On another, more ambitious level, Calinescu deals at length with the larger issues, dilemmas, ideological tensions, and perplexities brought about by the assertion of modernity.
Flowers in the Dustbin looks at the volatile relations between literature, rock music, and youth subcultures in postwar England. Neil Nehring traces the continuities between the original avant-garde of the twenties and thirties and the postwar youth culture, arguing that anarchism never really disappeared from the world. The author shows that British youth groups like the Mods, the Rockers, Punks, and Teddy Boys and the music that inspired them appear increasingly more acute than their literary counterparts, belying conventional assumptions about the relative powers of "high" and "low" culture. By examining literary texts as part of a larger sampling of cultural forms and their uses in everyday life, Flowers in the Dustbin provides a striking illustration of the significance the field of cultural studies holds for studies in English.
Among many art, music and literature lovers, particularly devotees of modernism, the expatriate community in France during the Jazz Age represents a remarkable convergence of genius in one place and period—one of the most glorious in history. Drawn by the presence of such avant-garde figures as Joyce and Picasso, artists and writers fled the Prohibition in the United States and revolution in Russia to head for the free-wheeling scene in Paris, where they made contact with rivals, collaborators, and a sophisticated audience of collectors and patrons. The outpouring of boundary-pushing novels, paintings, ballets, music, and design was so profuse that it belies the brevity of the era (1918–1929). Drawing on unpublished albums, drawings, paintings, and manuscripts, Charles A. Riley offers a fresh examination of both canonic and overlooked writers and artists and their works, by revealing them in conversation with one another. He illuminates social interconnections and artistic collaborations among the most famous—Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Gershwin, Diaghilev, and Picasso—and goes a step further, setting their work alongside that of African Americans such as Sidney Bechet, Archibald Motley Jr., and Langston Hughes, and women such as Gertrude Stein and Nancy Cunard. Riley’s biographical and interpretive celebration of the many masterpieces of this remarkable group shows how the creative community of postwar Paris supported astounding experiments in content and form that still resonate today.
Marjorie Perloff's stunning book was one of the first to offer a serious and far-reaching examination of the momentous flourishing of Futurist aesthetics in the European art and literature of the early twentieth century. Offering penetrating considerations of the prose, visual art, poetry, and carefully crafted manifestos of Futurists from Russia to Italy, Perloff reveals the Moment's impulses and operations, tracing its echoes through the years to the work of "postmodern" figures like Roland Barthes. This updated edition, with its new preface, reexamines the Futurist Moment in the light of a new century, in which Futurist aesthetics seem to have steadily more to say to the present.
Gutai: Decentering Modernism
Ming Tiampo University of Chicago Press, 2011 Library of Congress N7355.5.G87T53 2010 | Dewey Decimal 709.5209045
Gutai is the first book in English to examine Japan’s best-known modern art movement, a circle of postwar artists whose avant-garde paintings, performances, and installations foreshadowed many key developments in American and European experimental art.
Working with previously unpublished photographs and archival resources, Ming Tiampo considers Gutai’s pioneering transnational practice, spurred on by mid-century developments in mass media and travel that made the movement’s field of reception and influence global in scope. Using these lines of transmission to claim a place for Gutai among modernist art practices while tracing the impact of Japan on art in Europe and America, Tiampo demonstrates the fundamental transnationality of modernism. Ultimately, Tiampo offers a new conceptual model for writing a global history of art, making Gutai an important and original contribution to modern art history.
"A provocative interpretation of the political and cultural history of the early cold war years. . . . By insisting that art, even art of the avant-garde, is part of the general culture, not autonomous or above it, he forces us to think differently not only about art and art history but about society itself."—New York Times Book Review
In Senghor’s Shadow is a unique study of modern art in postindependence Senegal. Elizabeth Harney examines the art that flourished during the administration of Léopold Sédar Senghor, Senegal’s first president, and in the decades since he stepped down in 1980. As a major philosopher and poet of Negritude, Senghor envisioned an active and revolutionary role for modern artists, and he created a well-funded system for nurturing their work. In questioning the canon of art produced under his aegis—known as the Ecole de Dakar—Harney reconsiders Senghor’s Negritude philosophy, his desire to express Senegal’s postcolonial national identity through art, and the system of art schools and exhibits he developed. She expands scholarship on global modernisms by highlighting the distinctive cultural history that shaped Senegalese modernism and the complex and often contradictory choices made by its early artists.
Heavily illustrated with nearly one hundred images, including some in color, In Senghor’s Shadow surveys the work of a range of Senegalese artists, including painters, muralists, sculptors, and performance-based groups—from those who worked at the height of Senghor’s patronage system to those who graduated from art school in the early 1990s. Harney reveals how, in the 1970s, avant-gardists contested Negritude beliefs by breaking out of established artistic forms. During the 1980s and 1990s, artists such as Moustapha Dimé, Germaine Anta Gaye, and Kan-Si engaged with avant-garde methods and local artistic forms to challenge both Senghor’s legacy and the broader art world’s understandings of cultural syncretism. Ultimately, Harney’s work illuminates the production and reception of modern Senegalese art within the global arena.
In Intricate Thicket: Reading Late Modernist Poetries, Mark Scroggins writes with wit and dash about a fascinating range of key twentieth- and twenty-first-century poets and writers. In nineteen lively and accessible essays, he persuasively argues that the innovations of modernist verse were not replaced by postmodernism, but rather those innovations continue to infuse contemporary writing and poetry with intellectual and aesthetic richness.
In these essays, Scroggins reviews the legacy of Louis Zukofsky, delineates the exceptional influence of the Black Mountain poets, and provides close readings of a wealth of examples of poetic works from poets who have carried the modernist legacy into contemporary poetry. He traces with an insider’s keen observation the careers of many of the most dynamic, innovative, and celebrated poets of the past half-century, among them Ian Hamilton Finlay, Ronald Johnson, Rae Armantrout, Harryette Mullen, and Anne Carson.
In a concluding pair of essays, Scroggins situates his own practice within the broad currents he has described. He reflects on his own aesthetics as a contemporary poet and, drawing on his extensive study and writing about Louis Zukofsky, examines the practical and theoretical challenges of literary biography.
While the core of these essays is the interpretation of poetry, Scroggins also offers clear aesthetic evaluations of the successes and failures of the poetries he examines. Scroggins engages with complex and challenging works, and yet his highly accessible descriptions and criticisms avoid theoretical entanglements and specialized jargon. Intricate Thicket yields subtle and multifaceted insights to experts and newcomers alike.
Among the avant-garde of the early twentieth century, the German movement remains one of the least understood in the current avant-garde and modernism debates. Rainer Rumold fills this gap with the first large-scale reassessment of the heyday and afterlife of German expressionist and Dada productions as a prolonged crisis of literary culture.
Making Modernism Soviet provides a new understanding of the ideological engagement of Russian modern artists such as Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, and Vera Ermolaeva with the political and social agenda of the Bolsheviks in the chaotic years immediately following the Russian Revolution. Focusing on the relationship between power brokers and cultural institutions under conditions of state patronage, Pamela Kachurin lays to rest the myth of the imposition of control from above upon a victimized artistic community. Drawing on extensive archival research, she shows that Russian modernists used their positions within the expanding Soviet arts bureaucracy to build up networks of like-minded colleagues. Their commitment to one another and to the task of creating a socially transformative visual language for the new Soviet context allowed them to produce some of their most famous works of art. But it also contributed to the "Sovietization" of the art world that eventually sealed their fate.
Artists and critics regularly enlist theory in the creation and assessment of artworks, but few have scrutinized the art theories themselves. Here, Daniel examines and critiques the norms, assumptions, historical conditions, and institutions that have framed the development and uses of art theory.
Spurred by the theoretical claims of Arthur Danto, a leader in the philosophy of the avant-garde, Herwitz reexamines the art and theory of major figures in the avant-garde movement including John Cage, Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, and Andy Warhol.
During the late Soviet period, the art collective known as the Mitki emerged in Leningrad. Producing satirical poetry and prose, pop music, cinema, and conceptual performance art, this group fashioned a playful, emphatically countercultural identity with affinities to European avant-garde and American hippie movements.
More broadly, Alexandar Mihailovic shows, the Mitki pioneered a form of political protest art that has since become a centerpiece of activism in post-Soviet Russia, most visibly today in groups such as Pussy Riot. He draws on extensive interviews with members of the collective and illuminates their critique of the authoritarian state, militarism, and social strictures from the Brezhnev years to the present.
This new collection updates, integrates, and contextualizes Richard Sheppard's essays on the historical avant-garde. Sheppard examines responses of modernist writers, artists, and philosophers to a changed sense of reality and human nature. With its combination of previously published and new essays and its perspective on the theoretical avant-garde-modernism debate in the U.S., the volume provides the specialist and the general reader insight into European scholarly discourse on this hotly debated subject.
The Modernist Nation examines why America's modern literary movements have come to be characterized as "generations" and "renaissances," such as the Lost Generation and the Beat Generation or the Harlem, Southern, and San Francisco Renaissances. The metaphor of rebirth, Michael Soto argues, offered and continues to offer American writers a kind of shorthand for imagining American cultural history, especially as a departure from Old World (English) trappings.
Soto highlights the interracial dynamics of American literary movements, touching on authors as varied as James Weldon Johnson, Malcolm Cowley, W. E. B. DuBois, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jack Kerouac. After assessing the origins of the Lost Generation and the Harlem Renaissance, Soto traces the rise of the "bohemian artist" narrative, and demonstrates how a polyethnic cast of writers and critics constructed American literary production in terms of symbolic rebirth.
During the 1960s a group of young artists in Japan challenged official forms of politics and daily life through interventionist art practices. William Marotti situates this phenomenon in the historical and political contexts of Japan after the Second World War and the international activism of the 1960s. The Japanese government renewed its Cold War partnership with the United States in 1960, defeating protests against a new security treaty through parliamentary action and the use of riot police. Afterward, the government promoted a depoliticized everyday world of high growth and consumption, creating a sanitized national image to present in the Tokyo Olympics of 1964. Artists were first to challenge this new political mythology. Marotti examines their political art, and the state's aggressive response to it. He reveals the challenge mounted in projects such as Akasegawa Genpei's 1,000-yen prints, a group performance on the busy Yamanote train line, and a plan for a giant guillotine in the Imperial Plaza. Focusing on the annual Yomiuri Indépendant exhibition, he demonstrates how artists came together in a playful but powerful critical art, triggering judicial and police response. Money, Trains, and Guillotines expands our understanding of the role of art in the international 1960s, and of the dynamics of art and policing in Japan.
Sayre defines for the first time the apparently diffuse avant-garde art of the past two decades in terms of its distinctly postmodern concerns. The range of arts discussed here encompasses contemporary dance, photography, oral poetics, performance art, and earthworks.
"Sayre has written one of the most intelligent, sensible, and readable accounts of the tenents of Postmodern artmaking published to date."—Jeff Abell, New Art Examiner
"No one can read The Object of Performance without gaining a far better idea than before of what has happened to art, and, in some measure, why. . . . I find this book consistently illuminating."—Arthur C. Danto
Off Limits is the first examination of the Rutgers group, artists who came together on the Rutgers University, New Brunswick campus during the 1950s and revolutionized art practices and pedagogy. Based on interviews with artists, critics, and dealers from the period, the book connects the initiation of major trends such as Happenings, Pop Art, and Fluxus to the faculty, students, art curriculum, and events at the university. It is the first book to look not only at the work of individual artists, but to consider how interactions between these artists influenced their groundbreaking work.
Rutgers was clearly the place to be for experimental artists during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Allan Kaprow’s first Happening was presented at Rutgers. Roy Lichtenstein’s first Pop paintings, George Segal’s earliest figurative tableaux, Lucas Samaras’s radical exploration of media, and proto-Fluxus events by Robert Watts and George Brecht all took place on and around the campus. The innovative group rejected Abstract Expressionism for art based on the immediate experience of urban and industrial life, creating startling new artforms which remain startling and provocative.
Led by the theoretical writings and art practice of Kaprow, the group created a New Art—art beyond the limits of the conventional and predictable, even beyond accepted notions of progressive trends. Lichtenstein recalls in an interview, “Kaprow showed us that art didn’t have to look like art.” Along with Lichtenstein, Kaprow, Segal, and Watts taught at Rutgers and challenged one another to take art “Off Limits” — beyond the limits of the conventional, the predictable — even beyond the progressive, as defined by Abstract Expressionist gesturalism. Their art incorporated the gritty environs, the technological, the everyday, making art radical, outrageous, disturbing, and humorous.
Our Aesthetic Categories
Sianne Ngai Harvard University Press, 2012 Library of Congress BH201.N485 2012 | Dewey Decimal 111.85
The zany, the cute, and the interesting saturate postmodern culture, dominating the look of its art and commodities as well as our ways of speaking about the ambivalent feelings these objects often inspire. In this radiant study Ngai offers an aesthetic theory for the hypercommodified, mass-mediated, performance-driven world of late capitalism.
Paradise & Method: Poetics and Praxis collects nearly two decades of work on poetics by one of the pioneers of the "language poetry" movement.
Addressing poetics from a poet's perspective, Andrews focuses on the ways in which meaning is produced and challenged. His essays aim "to map out opportunities for making sense (or making noise)--both in reading and writing contemporary literature. At the center has been a desire to explore language, as up close as possible, as a material and social medium for restagings of meaning and power." Andrews analyzes poetics and the production of meaning; alternative traditions and canons; and innovative contemporary poetry, particularly its break with many of the premises and constraints of even the most forward-looking modernisms.
Martha Ward tracks the development and reception of neo-impressionism, revealing how the artists and critics of the French art world of the 1880s and 1890s created painting's first modern vanguard movement.
Paying particular attention to the participation of Camille Pissarro, the only older artist to join the otherwise youthful movement, Ward sets the neo-impressionists' individual achievements in the context of a generational struggle to redefine the purposes of painting. She describes the conditions of display, distribution, and interpretation that the neo-impressionists challenged, and explains how these artists sought to circulate their own work outside of the prevailing system. Paintings, Ward argues, often anticipate and respond to their own conditions of display and use, and in the case of the neo-impressionists, the artists' relations to market forces and exhibition spaces had a decisive impact on their art.
Ward details the changes in art dealing, and chronicles how these and new freedoms for the press made artistic vanguardism possible while at the same time affecting the content of painting. She also provides a nuanced account of the neo-impressionists' engagements with anarchism, and traces the gradual undermining of any strong correlation between artistic allegiance and political direction in the art world of the 1890s.
Throughout, there are sensitive discussions of such artists as Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, as well as Pissarro. Yet the touchstone of the book is Pissarro's intricate relationship to the various factions of the Paris art world.
Prior to Meaning collects a decade of writing on poetry, language, and the theory of writing by one of the most innovative and conceptually challenging poets of the last twenty-five years. In essays that are wide ranging, richly detailed, and novel in their surprising juxtapositions of disparate material, Steve McCaffery works to undo the current bifurcation between theory and practice--to show how a poetic text might be the source rather than the product of the theoretical against which it must be read.
In Racial Things, Racial Forms, Joseph Jonghyun Jeon focuses on a coterie of underexamined contemporary Asian American poets—Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Myung Mi Kim, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, and John Yau—who reject many of the characteristics of traditional minority writing, in particular the language of identity politics, which tends to challenge political marginalization without contesting more fundamental assumptions about the construction of racial form. In the poets’ various treatments of things (that is, objects of art), one witnesses a confluence of heretofore discrete factors: the avant-garde interest in objecthood and the racial question of objectification.
By refashioning avant-garde investigations of things into questions about how American discourse visualizes race in and on the body, these poets implicitly critique dominant modes of racial visibility, seeking alternatives to the unreflective stances that identity politics often unwittingly reproduces. At the heart of Jeon’s project is the assumption thatracial form is continually recalibrated to elide ideological ambiguities and ambivalences in contemporary culture. Thus, rather than focusing exclusively on the subject—on interiority and individual experience—Racial Things, Racial Forms also uses the calculated strangeness of the avant-garde art object as an occasion to emphasize the physical and visual oddness of racial constructs, as a series of everchanging, contemporary phenomena that are in conversation with, but not entirely determined by, their historical legacy.
In this critical study, Jeon argues that by invoking the foreignness of an avant-garde art object as a way to understand racial otherness, these writers model the possibility of a post-identity, racial politics that challenges how race is fundamentally visualized. In addition to appealing to those interested in Asian American studies and race in American literature, Racial Things, Racial Forms addresses readers interested in contemporary poetry, art, and visual culture, paying particular attention to the intersections between literary and visual art.
How the negotiation between poetic and media discourses takes place is the subject of Marjorie Perloff's groundbreaking study. Radical Artifice considers what happens when the "natural speech" model inherited from the great Modernist poets comes up against the "natural speech" of the Donahue "talk show," or again, how visual poetics and verse forms are responding to the languages of billboards and sound bytes. Among the many poets whose works are discussed are John Ashbery, George Oppen, Susan Howe, Clark Coolidge, Lyn Hejinian, Leslie Scalapino, Charles Bernstein, Johanna Drucker, and Steve McCaffery. But the strongest presence in Perloff's book is John Cage, a "poet" better known as a composer, a philosopher, a printmaker, and one who understood, almost half a century ago, that from now on no word, musical note, painted surface, or theoretical statement could ever again escape "contamination" from the media landscape in which we live. It is under his sign that Radical Artifice was composed.
A provocative overview of avant-garde American poetry of the past 25 years that raises important questions about the practice of criticism.
Simulcast offers long overdue, highly opinionated, and penetrating examinations of a flourishing movement in American letters by one of its most perceptive practitioners. The four 'experiments' in literary criticism gathered in this volume vary in style and point of view. Taken together, they reassess the fundamental relationship between poetry and criticism.
"The Anti-Hegemony Project" is a satire, employing the rhetoric of journalism and the colloquial exchanges of online fan groups to analyze one of the earliest appearances of a poetry community on the World Wide Web: the "Poetics List" maintained at the State University of New York, Buffalo. "Poe’s Poetics and Selected Essays" is a collection of polemical essays on subjects ranging from modernism to language poetry. The third experiment, "The Literati of San Francisco," is a detailed portrait of the figures and ideas at the heart of an important literary scene a decade after language poetry’s inception. The final essay, "A Short History of Language Poetry," provides a less polemical, more sober and even-handed analysis of that movement from its origins to the present and its prospects for the future.
These critical interventions and essays are important studies of an evolving poetic field, but they also represent an evolution in criticism itself. Friedlander's unorthodox methodology is to create a critical text by rewriting prior examples of criticism, among them Jean Wahl's A Short History of Existentialism and Edgar Allan Poe's "Literati of New York City." The resulting critiques are themselves a kind of poetry. They explore the issues of style versus substance, artifice versus authenticity, and plausibility versus truth, while the shifts in perspective call into question the authority of any one critical account.
This book focuses on the integral, interdisciplinary, and intermedial "compositions"—verbal, visual, musical, theatrical, and cinematic—of the avant-gardes in the period following World War II. It also considers the artistic politics of these postwar avant-gardes and their works. The book’s geographical span is primarily the United States, although in its more extended reach, it comprehends an international context of American postwar cultural hegemony throughout what was once referred to as "the free world."
The works and the artists Miller takes up are those of the so-called "neo–avant-garde" with its inherent contradiction: an avant-garde whose newness is defined by its seeming reiteration of an earlier historical formation. Concentrating on the rhetorical, contextual, and performative characteristic of neo–avant-garde practice, including its relation to politics, Miller emphasizes the centrality of the example in this practice. John Cage, Jackson Mac Low, Gilbert Sorrentino, David Tudor, Stan Brakhage, and Samuel Beckett are among the artists whose exemplary works feature in Singular Examples. Miller’s key readings of these major artists of the period open up some of the most difficult texts of the neo–avant-garde even as they contribute to an eloquent argument for "artistic politics." Underlining the relation between material particulars and their thematic implications, between particular works and larger theoretical claims, between avant-garde aesthetics and formalist analysis, Singular Examples is exemplary in its own right, revealing the ultimate shape and direction of a postwar avant-garde contending with the historical predicaments of radical modernism.
Following World War I, a new artistic-social avant-garde emerged with the ambition to engage the artist in the building of social life. Through close readings of the works of Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky, and László Moholy-Nagy whose careers covered a broad range of artistic practices and political situations, Victor Margolin examines the way these three artists negotiated the changing relations between their social ideals and the political realities they confronted. Focusing on the difficult relationship between art and social change, Margolin brings important new insights to the understanding of the avant-garde's role in a period of great political complexity.
"An ambitious effort. This book puts the masters of European Modernism into perfect focus as inventors, propagators, and practitioners of a visual language that continues to hold sway over contemporary graphic style."—Steven Heller
"Worth the wait. . . . Margolin usefully presents what he calls the 'failed hope' of this movement in this valuable effort."—Publishers Weekly
Stubborn Poetries is a study of poets whose work, because of its difficulty, apparent obduracy, or simple resistance to conventional explication, remains more-or-less firmly outside the canon.
The focus of the essays in Stubborn Poetries by Peter Quartermain is on nonmainstream poets--often unknown, unstudied, and neglected writers whose work bucks preconceived notions of what constitutes the avant-garde. “Canonical Strategies and the Question of Authority: T.S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams” opens the collection and sounds a central theme: Quartermain argues that Williams, especially in his early work, soughtnoncanonical status, in contrast to Eliot, who rapidly identified his work with a literary and critical establishment. As is well known, Eliot attracted early critical and academic attention; Williams did not. Williams’s insistence that the personal and individual constituted his sole authority is echoed again and again in the work of the writers examined in the subsequent essays.
In considering the question “What makes the poems the way they are?”most of the essays offer close readings (etymological, social, linguistic, and even political) of linguistically innovative twentieth-century poets. Linguistic innovation, as Marjorie Perloff and many other critics have shown, shows no reverence for national boundaries; two of the poets discussed are British (Basil Bunting and Richard Caddel) and two Canadian (Robin Blaser and Steve McCaffery). The last four essays in the book consider more general topics: the shape and nature of the book, the nature of poetic fact, the performance of the poem (is it possible to read a poem aloud well?), and--closing the book--an excursus (via the Greek myth of Io and the typography of Geofroy Tory) on the alphabet.
The finest essays from the newest generation of critics and poet-critics are gathered together in this volume documenting the growth in readership and awareness of avant-garde poetries.
This collection demonstrates the breadth and openness of the field of avant-garde poetry by introducing a wide range of work in poetics, theory, and criticism from emerging writers. Examining the directions innovative poetry has taken since the emergence and success of the Language movement, the essays discuss new forms and the reorientation of older forms of poetry in order to embody present and ongoing involvements. The essays center around four themes: the relation between poetics and contemporary cultural issues; new directions for avant-garde practices; in-depth explorations of current poets and their predecessors; and innovative approaches to the essay form or individual poetics.
Diverging from the traditional, linear argumentative style of academic criticism, many of the essays in this collection instead find critical forms more subtly related to poetry. Viewed as a whole, the essays return to a number of shared issues, namely poetic form and the production of present-day poetry. While focusing on North American poetry, the collection does reference the larger world of contemporary poetics, including potential biases and omissions based on race and ethnicity.
This is cutting-edge criticism at its finest, essential reading for students and scholars of avant-garde poetry, of interest to anyone interested in contemporary American literature and poetry.
With the rise of Abstract Expressionism, New York City became the acknowledged center of the avant-garde. Diana Crane documents the transformation of the New York art world between 1940 and 1985, both in the artistic styles that emerged during this period and the expansion of the number and types of institutions that purchased and displayed various works.
Crane's account is built around discussions of seven styles: Abstract Expressionism in the forties; Pop art and Minimalism in the sixties; Figurative painting, Photorealism, and Pattern painting in the early seventies; and Neo-Expressionism in the early eighties. Demonstrating that the New York art world moved toward increasing acceptance of dominant American cultural trends, Crane offers a fascinating look not only at the intricacies of New York's artistic inner circle but also at the sociology of work and professions, the economics of culture markets such as "dealing art," and the sociology of culture.
"Avital Ronell has put together what must be one of the most remarkable critical oeuvres of our era… Zeugmatically yoking the slang of pop culture with philosophical analysis, forcing the confrontation of high literature and technology or drug culture, Avital Ronell produces sentences that startle, irritate, illuminate. At once hilarious and refractory, her books are like no others.”--Jonathan Culler, Diacritics
For twenty years Avital Ronell has stood at the forefront of the confrontation between literary study and European philosophy. She has tirelessly investigated the impact of technology on thinking and writing, with groundbreaking work on Heidegger, dependency and drug rhetoric, intelligence and artificial intelligence, and the obsession with testing. Admired for her insights and breadth of field, she has attracted a wide readership by writing with guts, candor, and wit.
Coyly alluding to Nietzsche’s “gay science,” The ÜberReader presents a solid introduction to Avital Ronell’s later oeuvre. It includes at least one selection from each of her books, two classic selections from a collection of her early essays (Finitude’s Score), previously uncollected interviews and essays, and some of her most powerful published and unpublished talks. An introduction by Diane Davis surveys Ronell’s career and the critical response to it thus far.
With its combination of brevity and power, this Ronell “primer” will be immensely useful to scholars, students, and teachers throughout the humanities, but particularly to graduate and undergraduate courses in contemporary theory.
A certain idea of the avant-garde posits the possibility of a total rupture with the past. The Unfinished Art of Theater pulls back on this futuristic impulse by showing how theater became a key site for artists on the semiperiphery of capitalism to reconfigure the role of the aesthetic between 1917 and 1934. The book argues that this “unfinished art”—precisely because of its historic weakness as a representative institution in Mexico and Brazil, where the bourgeois stage had not (yet) coalesced—was at the forefront of struggles to redefine the relationship between art and social change.
Drawing on extensive archival research, Sarah J. Townsend reveals the importance of projects and texts that belie the rhetoric of rupture and immediacy associated with the avant-garde: ethnographic operas with ties to the recording industry, populist puppet plays, children’s radio programs about the wonders of technology, a philosophical drama about the birth of a new race, and an antifascist spectacle written for (but never performed at) a theater shut down by the police. Ultimately, the book makes the case that the very category of avant-garde art is bound up in the experience of dependency, delay, and the uneven development of capitalism.
Vanguard Performance Beyond Left and Right challenges assumptions regarding “radical” and “experimental” performance that have long dominated thinking about the avant-garde. The book brings to light vanguard performances rarely discussed: those that support totalitarian regimes, promote conservative values, or have been effectively snapped up by right-wing regimes the performances intended to oppose. In so doing, the volume explores a central paradox: how innovative performances that challenge oppressive power structures can also be deployed in deliberate, passionate support of oppressive power. Essays by leading international scholars pose engaging questions about the historical avant-garde, vanguard acts, and the complex role of artistic innovation and live performance in global politics. Focusing on performances that work against progressive and democratic ideas (including scripted drama, staged suicide, choral dance, terrorism, rallies, and espionage), the book demonstrates how many compelling performance ideals—unification, exaltation, immersion—are, in themselves, neither moral nor immoral; they are only emotional and aesthetic urges that can be powerfully channeled into a variety of social and political outlets.
The essays in Virgin Microbe foreground thematic issues and advance recent theoretical agendas, such as the study of identity construction and the relationship between the avant-garde and mass culture, rather than focusing on biographies of individual Dadaists or centers of Dada activity. The authors represent a wider spectrum of disciplines and a broader international perspective than other recent collections on Dada. Ambitious in terms of contemporary academic interests, Virgin Microbe draws on a rich spectrum of intellectual traditions and contexts, prioritizing Dada’s metaphysical enquiries and its complicated connection to modernity.
Early in this century, Futurist and Dada artists developed brilliantly innovative uses of typography that blurred the boundaries between visual art and literature. In The Visible Word, Johanna Drucker shows how later art criticism has distorted our understanding of such works. She argues that Futurist, Dadaist, and Cubist artists emphasized materiality as the heart of their experimental approach to both visual and poetic forms of representation; by mid-century, however, the tenets of New Criticism and High Modernism had polarized the visual and the literary.
Drucker suggests a methodology closer to the actual practices of the early avant-garde artists, based on a rereading of their critical and theoretical writings. After reviewing theories of signification, the production of meaning, and materiality, she analyzes the work of four poets active in the typographic experimentation of the 1910s and 1920s: Ilia Zdanevich, Filippo Marinetti, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Tristan Tzara.
Few studies of avant-garde art and literature in the early twentieth century have acknowledged the degree to which typographic activity furthered debates about the very nature and function of the avant-garde. The Visible Word enriches our understanding of the processes of change in artistic production and reception in the twentieth century.
Nazi Germany’s book burnings, its campaign against “degenerate art,” and its persecution of experimental artists pushed the avant garde to the brink of extinction. How the avant-garde came back, finding a new purpose in the wake of the war, is the subject of Visions of Violence.
An extreme faction of aesthetic modernity intent on bulldozing contemporary life, the avant-garde has regularly employed visions of violence in their push for societal and cultural renewal. But in the shadow of unparalleled war and genocide, such aesthetic violence lost its force. This book explores the reconfiguration of the avant-garde in response to the violent transformation of European reality. Citing the emergence of independent avant-garde practitioners in the place of the previous collective, Richard Langston considers six individual exemplars of Germany’s post-fascist avant-garde—works that span the last six decades: painter, writer, and filmmaker Peter Weiss’s appropriation of French surrealism in the fifties; writer Dieter Wellershoff’s coterie of “new realists”; artist Wolf Vostell’s mediation and conflation of the experiences of the Auschwitz trials and the Vietnam War; poet and novelist Dieter Brinkmann’s collages from the seventies; the multimedia displacements of Alexander Kluge; and the performative engagements of dramatists Christoph Schlingensief and Rene Pollesch.
Taking stock of the evolution of Germany’s post-fascist avant-gardes, Langston’s book shows how the movement from Weiss to Pollesch exhibits the problems that both modernity and postmodernity pose for an aesthetic engagement of Germany’s violent past.
Winner, 2015 International Research Society in Children's Literature (IRSCL) Book Award
Voiceless Vanguard: The Infantilist Aesthetic of the Russian Avant-Garde offers a new approach to the Russian avant-garde. It argues that central writers, artists, and theorists of the avant-garde self-consciously used an infantile aesthetic, as inspired by children’s art, language, perspective, and logic, to accomplish the artistic renewal they were seeking in literature, theory, and art. It treats the influence of children’s drawings on the Neo-Primitivist art of Mikhail Larionov, the role of children’s language in the Cubo-Futurist poetics of Aleksei Kruchenykh, the role of the naive perspective in the Formalist theory of Viktor Shklovsky, and the place of children’s logic and lore in Daniil Kharms’s absurdist writings for children and adults. This interdisciplinary and cultural study not only illuminates a rich period in Russian culture but also offers implications for modernism in a wider Western context, where similar principles apply.
Longlist finalist, 2015 Historia Nova Prize for Best Book on Russian Intellectual and Cultural History
In postrevolutionary Russia, as the Soviet government pursued rapid industrialization, avant-garde artists declared their intent to serve the nascent state and to transform life in accordance with their aesthetic designs. Despite their utilitarian intentions, however, most avant-gardists rarely created works regarded as practical instruments of societal transformation. Exploring this paradox, Vaingurt claims that the artists’ fusion of technology and aesthetics prevented their creations from being fully conscripted into the arsenal of political hegemony. The purposes of avant-garde technologies, she contends, are contemplative rather than constructive. Looking at Meyerhold’s theater, Tatlin’s and Khlebnikov’s architectural designs, Mayakovsky’s writings, and other works from the period, Vaingurt offers an innovative reading of an exceptionally complex moment in the formation of Soviet culture.