Sascha Bru (Ghent University)
The Phantom Avant-Garde.
The Centennial Debate on the Avant-Garde and Politics
In 1906, F.T. Marinetti, for the first time in his life, used the term avant-garde in connection with the idea of the future, and in doing so he paved the way for what is now commonly called the modernist or historical avant-garde. Since 1906, the ties between the early twentieth-century European aesthetic vanguard and politics have been a matter of continual critical debate. With a century gone by and a vast archive of research on the matter filled, it may be a good idea to look back on the debate. What major currents and topics can we discern in it? Are there noticeable shifts in the way critics have approached the interconnection between the modernist avant-garde and politics in the course of the foregoing century? And what do critics actually mean when they talk about the "political" aesthetic vanguard? Finally, is there anything left to be added to the immense archive?
Kirsten Strom (Grand Valley State University)
"Sometimes I Spit for Pleasure on My Mother's Portrait".
On the Strategic Uses of Inflammatory Rhetoric in French Surrealism
If we are to take the collected documents of the French Surrealists literally, we can only conclude that the group consisted of nothing less than murderers, child molesters, and slashers of women's eyeballs. Was it not Breton himself who publicly advocated that the "purest Surrealist act" was to aim a loaded pistol into a crowd and begin shooting indiscriminately? And yet, as we know, there is no evidence to suggest that any Surrealist was ever guilty of such crimes. A