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.


  • Postdoc James Day (joins the project in 2020)
  • Peer Ilner (joins the project in 2020)
Mikkel BoltProfessor +45 353-29325E-mail