Umberto Boccioni, Dynamism of a Soccer Player, 1913

European Avant-Gardes: Art History, Theory, Practice

Instructor: Rebecca Ariel Porte

“They found beauty bitter,” Arthur C. Danto writes of the later Dada artists, “because they were embittered by a society that venerated beauty”. In the movement from pre-World War I to post-World War I avant-gardes, the problem of how to make and respond to art beyond the limits of beauty preoccupied the architects of European movements from Dada to Surrealism to German Expressionism to Russian Constructivism to Italian Futurism. With reference to the rich material cultures produced by these artistic factions, this course asks two related questions: “What is an avant-garde?” and “What are the uses of an avant-garde?” An inquiry into the aesthetics, ethics, and politics of avant-garde praxis, this course will combine readings of theoretical texts and artistic manifestos with visual and literary analysis of multiple species of artwork. In addressing historical models of the avant-garde, we will attempt to think through some of the perennial questions of aesthetic discourse, including the relationship between conditions of history and artistic production, between form and content, between the material world and the vexed unit of the person, and between, at last, the personal and the social.

Course Schedule

Tuesday, 6:30-9pm
September 29 — October 27, 2015
5 sessions

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