Radical critique of the state of society and demanding its transformation and radical means used to put forward that critique and demand have always been characteristic of avant-gardes and have constituted so many dimensions for the transgression of existing boundaries: transgression of the traditional functional system of art or its redefinition through autopoiesis, which views art as part of life praxis; art as political intervention; abolishing the boundaries that separate the different artistic genres as well as those that separate artists from their audiences; lifting the spatial and institutional constraints that restrict the arts; “expansions” in the sense of “Expanded Cinema” or of “Alles ist Architektur” [Everything is architecture”]; transitions and/or the lowering of barriers between artistic practice and theory, science, criticism, art education to a point where the boundaries that keep art distinct from everyday life, design, kitsch and entertainment become blurred.
Among the paradigms that were established and explored by the Viennese avant-gardes between 1950 and 1975 two proved especially seminal in view of later developments and trends: the use of the body and of new media, which appeared, at least in part, in an entangled form, representing a staging of the societal encoding of the body and the materiality of the media that predated by far the constructivist turn to the body and to gender as well as the massive spread of the computer and the Internet.
This panel’s agenda included the following issues:
What concepts of varying reach aiming at the dissolution of the traditional concept of art were in evidence in the different variants of the Viennese avant-gardes?
Even in terms of the theoretical basis that the Viennese avant-garde provided for themselves and in the ensuing “closed narratives” a whole series of subtle distinctions was blurred again. Is it possible to pinpoint where this fudging of contours took place, for instance between the Wiener Gruppe and Aktionismus [Performance Art], or between the latter and the intermedia interventions by Valie Export und Peter Weibel?
Or within the Wiener Gruppe between Konrad Bayer, Gerhard Rühm, Oswald Wiener and Reinhard Priessnitz?
Or between language critique as a radical critique of media, institutions and the state and “practised” breaks with societal taboos involving the body, to the point of self-inflicted injuries, the slaughter of animals, the orgies mysteries theatre or the commune utopias of uninhibited sexuality and the abolition of private property?
How do the protest, provocation and taboo breaking activities fit into a psychoanalytic context?
And how do they fit into the political context that formed towards the end of one specific Viennese avant-garde around 1968?
What shifts in the avant-gardes’ significance will result from their being integrated into today’s archives and museums?
What as yet untapped programmatic potential might be revealed by a close re-reading of the Viennese avant-gardes?