The New Avant-Gardes
In his canonical study Theory of the Avant-Garde (1974), Peter Buereger announced the death of the avant-garde in the 1930s and argued that post-World War II experimental works are unoriginal imitations of the truly provocative works of the first decades of the twentieth century. Numerous scholars have contested Buerger’s claim, aspiring to show how the understanding of the avant-garde evolved to address new political and social realities. In this course, we will weigh on these scholars’ theories and histories and perhaps create our own.
Structured in three parts, this course explores the post-World War II artists, companies, and movements, called “avant-garde” and how they have been theorized by a range of critics. Part one focus on works before the mythologized events of 1968, including pieces by The Living Theatre, Tadeusz Kantor’s Cricot 2, and Carolee Schneemann. Part two examines the period between 1968 and 1989, the height of the Cold War era, focusing on a variety of American and European artists, including, among others, artists of the Black Arts Movement, Marina Abramovic, Laurie Anderson, and the Wooster Group. How racial and gender politics informed the definitions of avant-garde in this period will be central to our discussions of this period. Part three looks at the quarter century following the fall of the Berlin Wall. We will analyze works by Forced Entertainment and the Mabou Mines, among others.