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Semester and Year Offered: Winter, 2019
Course Coordinator and Team: Santhosh S.
Email of course coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org
This course is an attempt to read history through some of the exceptional events in the field of artistic/cultural production, which are broadly bracketed under the category of the avant-garde. Such alternative readings on the history of artistic production would enable students to understand the heterogeneity of artistic positioning regarding the question of the relationship between art, aesthetic, society, and politics. This course initiates an in-depth analysis of various theories and critiques of the avant-garde in order to unearth the historical specificities of each form of artistic positioning. It attempts to conceptually distinguish between the definition of avant-garde as a moment of formalist or linguistic rupture and the political and aesthetical radicalism of the ‘historical avant-garde’. A close reading of some manifestoes along with the social, cultural, and political conditions which paved way for those moments and movements, allows students to understand the nuances and complexities of our own historical times.
This course is also an attempt to capture the historical role that manifestoes have played in our understanding regarding the relationship between art, society and politics. In a broader sense, the concept of manifesto is very often tied up with the concept of the avant-garde. Manifestoes are considered as a movement and moment in history which are situated in the interstices of theory and practice. This course familiarises students with the structure and function of manifestoes and differing roles of manifestoes and artistic collectives in different historical and geo-political locations. Further, this course may lead to newer understandings about manifestoes and collectives, their problematics and contemporary relevance. In that sense, this course shares AUD’s larger concern regarding engaged scholarship and works towards more historically and politically informed artistic practices.
Upon the successful completion of the course the students will be able to:
Brief description of modules/ Main modules:
Theories of the Avant-Garde: This introductory module exposes the students to various theories of the avant-garde in order to engage with its relevance as well as the spectral presence that it has even today in almost all the discourses around art. The critical purchase and potency this concept occupies suggests that it has become a synonym for both formalistic innovation and what constitutes the ‘political’ in any form of artistic practice. This module introduces the students to various critical and contradictory positions regarding the notion of the avant-garde by analysing important theoretical propositions.
Critiques of the Avant-Garde: This module provides a broad outline of various critiques on both the concept of avant-garde as well as various movements that are categorised and claimed as avant-garde. It explores various critiques on the notion of avant-garde from multiple vantage points. For instance, it tries to critically engage with the racial, gendered, casteist, and Eurocentric undercurrents of the Avant-Garde positioning and movements. It brings together critiques both from within Euro-American contexts as well as from post-colonial perspectives and positionalities. This module also engages with the notion of avant-garde within the Indian context and the nationalist, male, upper caste, and upper class inheritances of this notion and movement. It addresses the complex intermixture of resistance to Western hegemony on the one hand, and an equally hegemonic relationship these positions and movements had with the ‘subaltern classes’ in general.
A Brief History of Manifestoes: This module primarily deals with the genealogy of manifestoes, both in terms of their form as well as objectives and purposes. It traces the theological and political intersection of the origin of the manifesto form. This module on the one hand attempts to engage with the formal structure of manifestoes such as its polemical positioning, and the urgent tone it invokes. On the other, it engages with their moral and ethical positioning, their attempt to communicate an experience of crisis, and a conceptual rupture with the past and traditions. This module includes a close reading of pioneering examples like the Communist Manifesto along with multiple translations of it. Further it focuses on the history of Artistic manifestoes and builds the interconnection between the political manifestoes, the avant-garde and artistic manifestoes, especially in the European context. It focuses primarily on artistic manifestoes and analyses them through the prism of manifesto studies as well as their role in the formation of various historical avant-garde movements.
Counter Cultures of Manifestoes: This module engages with the later manifestoes which use the form/format of manifestoes to evoke/mark certain crisis in the Euro-American imagination/experience regarding modernism and modernity. It engages with the question of (artistic) manifestoes from the vantage point of anti-colonial and post-colonial predicaments, various minoritarian movements premised upon oppressions based on gender, race, caste, ethnicity, sexuality, language, region, and so on. This module furthers the critique on the avant-garde through critical studies on the counter-cultures of manifestoes.
Assessment Details with weights: