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Conference: 1917-2017: Comparative Looks on the Soviet Artistic Avant-Gardes

1917-2017:  Comparative Looks on the Soviet Artistic Avant-Gardes

December 7-8 2017
University Paris Nanterre and University Paris VIII

The Soviet artistic avant-gardes have been raising a specific interest for a long time. For instance, their multiple practices, their theoretical apparatus, their opuses as well as the influences they exerted have been largely surveyed by the academic world. Ever since the 1990’s a reappraisal of the multiple reuses and reinterpretations of those “avant-gardes” have been carried out. Our international symposium aims to question and put into context that reappraisal and the renewal it induces in the field of scholarly research.

The year 2017 as an historical landmark, the centenary of the Russian revolutions, offers a conducive environment for such reflections and thoughts. While evocating various and contradictory narratives, this centenary leads to rethink the vast array of meanings embodied by the revolutionary events as well as to shed a new light on the opuses they produced or lived through.

During two days, the International Symposium will gather a variety of international social sciences and arts scholars (Architecture, Musicology, Motion Pictures studies, Visual
Arts, Dance, Literature, Drama, History of Arts, Cultural History, Philosophy, Sociology, Anthropology…).

We should like to focus on the main questions raised by the 1910’s avant-garde, with a special emphasis on the interdisciplinary transfers and international exchanges that shaped the Russian and Soviet cultural life. We also endeavor to address the singularity of the 1917 as a pivotal year for the artistic avant-garde, that year being considered not only as a turning point but also as a “political epoch”. Finally, the symposium will seek to underline the contemporaneousness of the 1917 artistic thoughts by looking into different timeframes, from 1917 up to the current days.

The following paths might be followed:

1. What is a political opus?

- Underlining the flexibility of the rapport between art and politics;
- Questioning the various degrees of « policity » (Rancière’s concept) of an artwork (propaganda art, art as a contestation against the existing social order, revolutionary art as a social/political enfranchisement, self-proclaimed apolitical art, etc.);
- To what extent are the post-1917 opuses, even more, political opuses? According to us the latter expression cannot be meant as a constraint but rather as a creative opportunity enticed by the might of a political cycle, the Bolshevik Revolution.
- How to think the meeting of two revolutions, artistic and political? The meeting of modernity and political revolution?
- What are the artistic experiments, the new practices et artistic forms in a “revolutionary” view? (daily use objects, production modes, acoustic experiments, new materials, and so forth)?
- What approaches to the artistic celebrations of the 1917 Revolution to the extent they are supposed to capture the very essence of the Bolshevik Revolution (especially the 1918, 1920 and 1927 celebrations)?

2. Cross-disciplinary avant-gardes turned toward Europe

- Underlining the flux and exchanges (i.e. influences, inputs, co-buildings) between the different artistic fields with porous boundaries: Architecture, Music, Motion Pictures, Visual Arts, Dance, Literature (Drama, Poesy).
- The rise of communities of thought around several artistic centers: Moscow/Petrograd but also in the countryside and the Soviet Republics (Vitebsk, Kiev, Tbilisi…);
- Shed a light on the fruitful exchanges between the Soviet and European avant-gardes. How and by what means are those links created (artistic press, publishing houses, exhibits, concerts, personal relationships)?

3. “Contemporaneousness” of the esthetical and artistic issues raised by the avant-garde

- How do the current artists think about the political involvement of the revolutionary artists from 1917? Can they claim they somehow are their heirs?
- Relevance –or lack thereof- of the esthetical issues raised by the avant-garde artists and of the political issues borne by the 1917 Revolution when it comes to the current artists.
- What about the rediscovery of the past avant-garde nowadays? Current relevance and different re-uses or interpretations. How to question those new approaches with our current intellectual tools (media theory, pragmatism…)?
- How are those avant-gardes perceived? To confront their practices with the facts on the ground; to live and experiment the avant-gardes (how to inhabit a constructivist architecture, how to stage a play, what are the avant-garde music opuses played during the concerts/festivals, and son forth).

The presentations will last 30 minutes and will be delivered either in French, English or Russian. The scholars are kindly invited to emails their proposals at before July, 15th.

The proposals will include a 4000-character abstract. The Organizing Committee will inform the participants of its decisions on the 1st of September.

Scientific Committee
BAZIN Jérôme (Université Paris-Est/Créteil Val-de-Marne), DESCHEPPER Julie (INALCO), DULGUEROVA Elitza (Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne), JOSCHKE Christian (Université Paris-Nanterre), MARTIN-CHEVALIER Louisa (Université Paris 8), MILBACH Juliette (EHESS), PICHON-BONIN Cécile (Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po), POZNER Valérie (CNRS), SELIVANOVA Alexandra (Centre de l’avant-garde, Moscou), THOUVENOT Claire (Université Paris-Nanterre),

Organizing commitee :
MARTIN-CHEVALIER Louisa (Université Paris 8)
THOUVENOT Claire (Université Paris-Nanterre)
Numerous cultural events will take place during the symposium: roundtables, creative workshops, artistic performances, creation of a musical opus.


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