The Avant-garde in Theory and Practice
18 Bridge St
Brooklyn, NY 11201
At the start of the 20th century, art became inexorably, but anxiously, linked to politics. Artists renounced traditional criteria of aesthetic beauty and skill to establish a whole new set of ideas about what art should do. Art should transform! Art should critique! Art should inspire! This course will trace this process by asking: what does it mean to be avant-garde? We will examine three central strategies as they unfold from the 1910s to the beginning of World War II: negation, critique, and construction. Looking at Italian Futurism, German Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism, Russian Constructivism, and Productivism, we will pair close readings of foundational theoretical texts, artists’ writings, and manifestos with rigorous visual analyses of artworks. This will allow us to inquire into definitions of the avant-garde across history, prompting us to ask other questions, such as: what kinds of social relations do works of art produce? What is the relationship between form and content, intention and effect? Why do certain artistic goals and ambitions arise in a particular historical period? Are these models still relevant today? And whether yes or no, do these ideals persist today nonetheless?
Course ScheduleWednesday, 7-9pm
January 16 — February 19, 2013