Avant-Garde + Modernity

Projects of Radical Critical Commitment

Department of Artistic Research (Comparative Literature) University of Helsinki, Fall 2007

 

heartfieldcatalogoferiadada
Cover, Dada Fair catalog, John Heartfeld 1920

This course examines a current of art agitation and experimentalism that ran through the 20th Century and out the other side. A military metaphor inherited from 19th Century revolutionary struggles, the term “avant-garde” today gets applied to everything from anti-social DADA hoodlums of the 1920’s to highsociety New York artistes of the 1950’s (or 2000’s). Anchored in a radical critique of modern capitalist society and its ethics, it often seems no more than a commodity-driven cult-of-the-new guaranteeing that everything stays the same.

Pursuing a trail of poetry, manifestoes, films, visual art and cultural theory, we attempt to follow one major strand of this disorderly tradition through the period of early modernism and into the second half of the 20th Century. Doing so allows us to examine some historical and cultural facts of the modernity that still defines us and will not let us go.

“Mona Lisa della Bazooka”, Banksy


READINGS:

Peter Burger: Theory of the Avant-Garde

Renato Poggioli: Theory of the Avant-Garde

Mattei Calinescu: Five Faces of Modernity

Fritz Lang: Metropolis

F.T. Marinetti, Guillaume Apollinaire: poetry, manifestoes

Tzara, Baader, Hausmann, Huelsenbeck: anti-poetry, manifestos

André Breton: Manifestos of Surrealism, poetic texts

J-L Godard: Alphaville

Guy Debord and the Situationist International: texts

Gene Ray: “Art Schools Burning”

Trevor Paglen, Nato Thompson: Interventionist statements

Critical Art Ensemble: Electronic Civil Disobedience

Bruno Latour: We Have Never Been Modern

Retort Collective: Afflicted Powers

___________________________________

SCHEDULE:

1. MODERNITY
Introductory Brain Dump
(extra session) viewing: Metropolis , Fritz Lang, 1927

2. METROPOLIS
Discussion of the world depicted by Fritz Lang
background reading: pp 14-68 of “The Idea of Modernity”, in Five Faces of Modernity
by Matei Calinescu, Duke University Press, 1987.

3. FUTURISM : from REPRESENTATION to PRESENTATION
read: “Technical Manifesto of Futurist Literature” 1912, and “Geometrical and
Mechanical Splendor” (1919), and selected poems by F.T. Marinetti.

4. DADA I: NONSENSE AND SENSE
read: Tristan Tzara manifestoes: “Monsieur Antipyrine’s Manifesto”, “Dada Manifesto
1918” and “Dada Manifesto on Feeble Love and Bitter Love” (1920).

5. DADA II: AUTONOMY AND ALIENATION
read: Berger, read Baader, Hausmann, Huelsenbeck
background reading: pp 95-148 “The Idea of the Avant-Garde”, in Five Faces of
Modernity by Matei Calinescu, Duke University Press, 1987.

6. THE REVOLUTIONARY AND THE MARVELOUS
read: “First Manifesto of Surrealism” by Breton, read: “Report on the Construction of
Situations” 1957, Guy Debord. etc.
Extra Session: viewing Alphaville (1965), by J-L Godard. Clips from the film,
“Society of the Spectacle” by Guy Debord

7. THEORY OF THE AVANT-GARDE
read Berger: preface and sections from Theory of the Avant-Garde ; and Gene Ray
“Art Schools Burning” sections I. and II.
Extra Session: viewing Alphaville (1965), by J-L Godard.

8. THE SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL
read Guy Debord “Report on the Construction of Situations”, and chapters I. II. and
VIII of Society of the Spectacle

9. SPECTACLE, STRATEGY AND TACTICAL MEDIA
read Trevor Paglen “Tactics without Tears”, and Nato Thompson “Contributions
to a Resistant Visual Culture Glossary” and Intro to The Interventionists.
Extra Session: viewing The Matrix.

10. TACTICAL MEDIA AND TERROR
read Critical Art Ensemble, “Resisting the Bunker” from Electronic Civil Disobedience,
and Retort Collective, Preface, Intro and “Modernity and Terror” from Afflicted
Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War


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