Aesthetic Protest Cultures: The Avant-Garde after the Avant-Garde

Aesthetic Protest Cultures: The Avant-Garde after the Avant-Garde’ is a collective research project analysing what happened to the artistic avant-garde after the so-called death of the avant-garde in the late 1960s.

 Within art history it is customary to argue that the avant-garde disappeared after World War Two, or, had its last gasp in the 1960s. This research project will propose a new reading of the development of the avant-garde, arguing that the avant-garde perspective found its way into protest culture and political activism. Our empirical material consists of three specific protest cultures, spanning the period from 1968 until the late 1990s: Autonomia Creativa in Italy in the 1970s, the alter-globalisation movement in the late 1990’s and the contemporary square occupation movement in Southern Europe and the US. The project will embed the three case-specific analyses in a broader historical investigation of the relation between art and politics after 1968, contributing to a new understanding of the role of collective protests and the aesthetic dimension of politics today, arguing that collective protests constitute a continuation of the artistic avant-garde project outside the art institution.

The research project has a theoretical part that has to do with the elaboration of a vocabulary with which to describe and analyse the avant-garde after the avant-garde and a historical part where we will look closely at three specific groups and the way they continued the project of the avant-garde. The research project will integrate these two dimensions and argue for the necessity of a nuanced theoretical and historical account of the fate of the avant-garde that both builds on existing avant-garde theory and its interpretation of a shift taking place in the Post-World War Two era but will also propose a revision arguing that the avant-garde actually did not just disappear but left the institution of art and re-emerged as post-artistic post-activism.

Research output

Two special issues of K&K will be published in 2023 followed by an anthology published by Minor Compositions with contributions by, among others, Angela Harutyunyan, Esther Leslie, Gene Ray and Marina Vishmidt, edited by Peer Illner and Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen. James Day and Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen are editing an anthology with translation into Danish of texts from the French-Italian ultra-left movement in the early and mid 1970’s.


Postdoc James Day

Postdoc Peer Illner

Name Title Phone E-mail
Bolt, Mikkel Professor +4535329325 E-mail


Novo Nordisk Fonden

Project period: 1 January 2019 - 31 December 2022

PI: Mikkel Bolt