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"Avantgarde in the Rearview Mirror, On the Paradigm Shifts of Reception of the Avantgarde in (ex) Yugoslavia and Russia from the 80s to the Present", a book by a young and acclaimed German theoretician Inke Arns, an expert in contemporary Slovenian and East European art, has been published in the book series Transformacije.

The book examines the paradigm shift in the way artists reflect on the historical avant-garde in visual and media art projects, or to be more precise, it analyzes two phases or significant paradigm shifts in the artistic reception and valuation of historical avant-garde in the 80s and 90s.  

Gaining importance in the 70s and in the beginning of the 80s with postmodernism and being represented by the then Yugoslav retroavantgarde (Laibach, Irwin, Sisters Scipion Nasice Theatre, Mladen Stilinović, Malevich from Belgrade) and Soviet postutopianism (Ilya Kabakov, Erik Bulatov, Oleg Vasil'ev, Komar and Melamid, collective Joint Actions), new reception of the avantgarde is characterized by its rejection of the till then dominating “naïve” associations with the (interrupted) tradition of the avantgarde and by its interest in the possible totalitarian elements of the avantgarde. The relation of the avantgarde turns ambivalent and ambiguous, while, due to its seeming compatibility with totalitarian systems, its utopian representations suddenly become threatening and aporetic. 

The (for now) last phase of the shift in the reception of the avantgarde, which coincides with the end of Sots-realism in Eastern Europe around the year 1990 and which has been influenced by the simultaneity and omnipresence of new digital media, is characterized by a different understanding of the notion of utopia and the loss of interest in engaging with the ambivalences, political complexities and (potentially) totalitarian dimensions of artistic avantgarde. In retroutopianism, its representatives being Marko Peljhan, Dragan Živadinov, Vadim Fiškin, utopian thought of the avantgarde cuts apart from its evidently negative, politically-totalitarian tinge and starts to be understood as a liberating or visionary potentiality. In this kind of art projects it is possible to discern a fascination over the early utopian technological fantasies of the historical avantgarde and over the meaning they have – as a corrective – for the contemporary development. 

About the author:

Born in 1968. From 2006 on she works as an artistic director of Hartware MedienKunstVerein in Dortmund (www.hmkv.de). She studied East European Studies, Slavic Studies and Politology (PhD. in 2004) at Free University in Berlin, University in Amsterdam and Humbolt. As a curator and author, she concentrates on art and culture in the media. She is the author and organizer of numerous projects (www.projects.v2.nl). 

German version of PhD dissertation in pdf (7.5 MB)



Three phases of the reception of the avantgarde: From the great utopia over the damaged – and negated – to the latent utopia First paradigm shift: Aporias of the avantgarde in postutopianism and retroavantgarde Second paradigm shift: Neo and retroutopianism
Avantgarde in the rearview mirror – among the automobilists
Structure of the work

1.1. Three phases of the reception of the avantgarde
1.2. First paradigm shift: Aporias of the avantgardes Towers and caves (Kafka, Platonov) Critiques of the avantgarde (Einstein, Arendt, Enzensberger)
A break or continuity between the avantgarde and socialist realism (Paperni, Groys, Golomštok)
Ambivalences and aporias of the (Soviet) avantgarde
(Dis)functionality of avantgarde principles and procedures for the “total realism” (Günther, Clark)
1.3. Media archaeology as the second paradigm shift (the 90s)

2.1. Negation of utopia – postutopianism
2.1.1. Postutopianism and the postmodern Russian discussion on postmodernism from the 80s on The birth of the state out of the death of the author
2.1.2. Negation of utopia – Groys’ postutopianism Pavel Korchagin as “the concealed narrative of the avantgarde” – (art) history as a myth The pact Malevich-Mondrian- Khlebnikov-Pollock-Hitler-Stalin: Parallels between artistic-poetic and political will to power Not an arbitrary eclecticism but the revealing of mythological networks
2.1.3. “How was it?” – Back from the future Radio Rojter: From great utopia to the shabby box Back from the future
2.2. Re-evaluation of the avantgarde: retro(avant)garde
2.2.1. Laibach, Irwin, Sisters Scipion Nasice Theatre: Monumental retroavantgarde, retro principle, retrogarde Avantgarde and retrogarde Retrogarde I.: Emphasized eclecticism as authentic national culture Retrogarde II.: psychoanalytical: Return to collective traumas Retrogarde III.: Radical intertextual practice. Original as a mosaic of texts. Retrogarde and art of appropriation Retrogarde, overidentification and “impossible complicity” of art of appropriation.
2.2.2. On the career of the concept of “retroavantgarde” in artistic and art historical context Peter Weibel: Retroavantgarde as “retrospective axis of avantgarde” Marina Gržinić: “(Post)socialism, ideology, projects of imitation and retroavantgarde”
2.2.3. Irwin: “History is not given. It has to be constructed.” Retroavantgarde as “retrospectively constructed avantgarde”, art history fiction and “modernism of the East”

3.1. Repetition and/as difference
3.1.1. Return of the Black Square in the art of the70s and 80s
3.1.2. Repetition as productive difference Difference and return Repetition, singularity, universality Temporal and index character of repetition Static and dynamic repetition Repetition as synthesis of the present Repetition and the past Repetition and the future For the archaeology of (im)material palimpsest
Palimpsest and cultural-semiotic notion of memory
(Im)material palimpsests of the group Irwin
Accumulation of connotation layers
3.1.3. Black Square on Red Square: Transparency vs. obscuration, confrontation vs. occultation
Aggressive palimpsests
Occultation/overgrowing vs. transparency/confrontation Occultation/overgrowing Erik Bulatov: Surface vs. space Ilya Kabakov: Wallpaper as palimpsest Oleg Vasil’ev: Red/dead banner/square
Dear customers …: Soviet everyday life dismisses its avantgarde children
Kollektivnyje dejstvija: White field and ideological text Transparency/confrontation Irwin: Black Square on Red Square Irwin: Malevich between the two wars
Replicants with/out the past – The last futurist exhibition 0.10 (1986)
Mladen Stilinović: Exploitation of the dead and The praise of laziness
3.2. In the lap of the collective: How to re-enact collectivism? With a collective body!
3.2.1. In the collective of Collective Actions
3.2.2. Laibach: Let’s construct a collective which will liberate us
3.2.3. Collective in zero gravity: Panoptic theatre of docile bodies of Cosmokinetic Cabinet Noordung Theatre of docile bodies Observatory as orbital panopticon
3.3. Dialogue as destruction, destruction as dialogue: repetition/overinscription as terrorist palimpsest and as dialogical “counter-signature” (Alexander Brener)

4.1. From the great over the damaged – and negated – to the latent utopia
4.2. “Will to utopia”: Neoutopianism is postutopian too
4.3. Ejection seat to utopia is not a prayer-machine: Working on the myth of the astronaut in post and retroutopianism
4.3.1. Space and avantgarde, utopia of flying and the myth of the astronaut
4.3.2. Space flight as ruinous/ruined utopia Utopia as ruin: Ilya Kabakov’s The man who flew into space Breath of death in everyday life: Last Call (Komarov Memorial room) Deficient technique, disabled heroes: Space flight as a fake in the novel Omon Ra by Viktor Pelevin Disabled heroes: A look in the torture chamber of socialist realism
Deficient technique
Ruthlessness of the system
4.3.3. Space flight as cosmic utopia
Back to the future: Noordung 1995-2045
Herman Potočnik Noordung, pioneer of space flights Red Pilot and the overcoming of gravity From retroheroes to Noordung Zero gravity and antimimesis – elimination of horizon
Retroutopianism – physics and metaphysics of avantgarde
4.3.4. Topos of space flight/myth of the astronaut: Utopia as ruin (postutopianism) and prospective reconstruction of utopia (retroutopianism)
4.4. Machines of the potential: On angels, dreamers, metaphysics and parallel realities in the works of Vadim Fishkin
4.5. Faktura and interface: Khlebnikov, Tesla and heavenly data traffic in the works of Marko Peljhan
Material and immaterial space structure – two intermeshed reality organizations
Faktura and interface: LADOMIR- FAKTYRA (LADOMIR- FAKTURA) LADOMIR- FAKTYRA (LADOMIR- FAKTURA): Third surface – macrolab (1997-2007)
Plejhan/Khlebnikov: “An uncannily contemporary vision” Radio visions I.: Radio theories of Velimir Khlebnikov and Bertolt Brecht Radio visions II.: Nikola Tesla’s “World System”






Slovene edition.

Regular price: 20.45 EUR 

25% discount for Maska subscribers: 15.34 EUR

Publication description:

320 pages, 170 x 240 mm, 80 bw illustrations.