Member Services

Vanguard U. (MSA 2018 seminar)

Vanguard U: Research Universities as Infrastructures of the Avant-Garde
Organizers: Joyce Tsai (University of Iowa) and Jennifer Buckley (University of Iowa)

The term “avant-garde” often conjures images of cultural radicals bucking tradition, agitating against the stifling confines of the academy and other institutions, and dismantling established traditions and values. Yet the constitution of any avant-garde is premised upon either the invention or (more often) the seizure and transformation of infrastructures of circulation – publications, exhibition spaces, teaching institutions, etc. – to disseminate their ideas, artworks, and activities.

With the exception of avowedly experimental institutions like Black Mountain College, the New School for Social Research, and Cal Arts, North American universities are not typically imagined as sites of vanguard activity, and scholars rarely consider the ways avant-garde thought and practice rely upon, transform, and even nurture existing public institutions. This seminar aims to account for the presence, practices, and legacies of avant-garde writers and artists in universities, particularly in large land-grant schools geographically far removed from long-established east- and west-coast urban centers of cultural production.

We invite papers that focus on research universities as incubators of avant-garde thought and practice, in the past, present, and future. How have universities (especially land-grant public universities), as both infrastructure and philosophical enterprise, advanced avant-garde ideas and practices in multiple, at times coordinated, domains -- for example, in collecting, teaching, and practice?

We intend for this discussion to constitute a significant contribution to ongoing interdisciplinary efforts to constitute a critical vanguard studies for the twenty-first century.

Papers might address:
- How aesthetic-political vanguards impacted state university student bodies, including programs of study, forms of affiliation and association, etc.
--- Papers on artists and activists of color (for example, on the Black Arts Movement) are especially welcome.
- Departmental and cross- or extra-departmental initiatives that facilitate experimental arts practices (for example, the University of Iowa’s Experimental Theatre courses [1920s-40s] and Intermedia Program [1968-present])
---Of particular interest are university-based arts “workshops” or “laboratories” created to function as incubators for experimental practices.
- How practitioners and researchers engage the expertise, equipment, and other resources at research universities to advance their projects.
---For example, how would our understanding of experiments in art and technology in postwar art potentially shift if universities, and not just private corporations, gained prominence in interpretations of this material?
--- What aspects of vanguard activity can the research university catalyse or support that other institutions or networks cannot?
- Individual or associated avant-garde artists who taught at, were commissioned by, and/or formally visited state universities.
- How university-based performing arts presenters and venues have introduced local and regional audiences to experimental performance practices.
- How university libraries and museums have collected, housed, conserved, and provided access to avant-garde art, in every medium.
- How does the presence of avant-garde repositories activate, or otherwise enable, asynchronous models of interpretation and practice?
- How universities have funded experimental arts practices (for example, with individual donations, university endowments, or outside grants derived from federal, state, or private sources).
- University-based initiatives that support scholarship on the avant-gardes.


Conference Location: Columbus, USA
Conference Starts: November 08, 2018
Conference Ends: November 11, 2018

CFP Submission Deadline: June 01, 2018

For more information, contact: Jen Buckley

Back to Main Index