Allan Kaprow (1927 – 2006)

November 22nd, 2010
  • studied Art, Philosophy & Art History at Columbia and New York University
  • began his career as an abstract painter; trained with Hans Hofmann (a german-born abstract expressionist painter) at the Hans Hofmann School for Fine Arts
  • inspired by Jackson Pollock’s work, Kaprow focused on the idea of painting as a physical event rather than as the production of an object:
  • invented action collages, which were composed of used and discarded material slapped spontaneously onto a canvas in a manner of Action Painting
  • went on to increasingly three-dimensional assemblages and room-filling environments, where action would predominate over painting and an increasing array of materials would come into play, including “chairs, food, electric and neon lights, smoke, water, old socks, a dog, movies, and a thousand other things” (Kaprow, Artnews magazine article, 1958)

  • in 1957 Kaprow attended John Cage’s class on experimental music at the New School for Social Research
  • besides Pollock, Cage was Kaprow’s other great influence – especially in regard to Cage’s Zen-inspired reliance on chance as an organizing/ disorganizing element in art
  • in Cage’s classroom Kaprow first experimented with live and recorded sound in scored event compositions, which would eventually lead towards the theory and practice of Happenings
  • Kaprow’s first public Happening-like event – named Communication – took place in April 1958 in the campus chapel of Douglass College, New Jersey:
  • the Happening was presented as one of the weekly talks for students and faculty, but instead of giving a speech Kaprow sat silently in a chair onstage, while a tape recorder located in the auditorium’s balcony began playing a recording of the speech he wasn’t giving
  • the recording started out clearly, but was quickly joined by unsynchronized recordings of the same speech from two other machines
  • further actions and stagings of objects accompanied the recordings; Kaprow recalls: “Simultaneously, red placards were raised up from the audience, long striped and colored banners were dropped from the balconies, a woman slowly bounced a red ball up and down the aisle, two men sat at a table at the rear of the aisle drawing from a bag of colored tin cans, plunking them down audibly onto the table top while saying certain phrases I’ve forgotten. I was on the left of the stage near the speaker’s lectern, dressed in white tennis clothes, seated silently and motionless on a red chair. Nearby, facing the audience, were a number of upright panels of leaves, mirrors, and white and black encrusted paint. A red bulb flashed regularly (on the lectern).  After twenty seconds I arose, walked to the mirrored panel, turned my back to the audience, looked closely into the mirror, examined my eyes in a formal way, and carefully lit dozens of matches, blowing them out one after the other. Following this I returned to my red seat and, I recall, sat there for the remaining time.” (Jeff Kelley: Childsplay – The Art of Allan Kaprow, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley/Calif., 2004)
  • throughout his career Allan Kaprow – who referred to himself as an “un-artist” – became an established figure in the art world as well as in the academic sphere
  • his reputation as the Father of Happenings led to many invitations to lecture on the subject at colleges and universities, where he almost always attached a Happening to his visits as a condition of giving lectures
  • through the years Kaprow also taught as a professor at a number of universities in New York, New Jersey and California
  • thus Kaprow’s career took a turn towards the academics, he began thinking of his works as forms of teaching (e.g. he published a series of essays entitled “The Education of the Un-Artist”) and he eventually stopped creating large public events in favor of, what he called, activities – more intimate and less performative, personal pieces for a small number of participants

bibliography & links:

  • Jeff Kelley: Childsplay- the art of Allan Kaprow, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley/Calif., 2004
  • Allan Kaprow: Essays on the blurring of art and life, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley/Calif., 1993
  • Allan Kaprow: Assemblage, environments & happenings, Abrams, New York, 1966
  • documentation and discussions of Kaprow’s Happenings & their Re-enactments can be found at the MOCA (The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) »Blog Archive: Allan Kaprow-Art as Life« :

Antonin Artaud

November 22nd, 2010

Life and Ideas
Antonin Artaud was born in Marseilles in 1896 and died, sitting at the foot of his bed with a shoe in his hand, on March 4, 1948. He was an actor, poet, playwright, director and dramatic theorist. Associated with the Surrealists in the 1920s, he founded, in 1926, the Théâtre Alfred Jarry, named after his fellow Fench writer, best known for the satirical play Ubu-Roi. Artaud later abandoned the Surrealist movement because of its involvement with politics. He advocated a theatre that dispensed with narrative and psychological realism in favour of dreams and  the interior obsessions of the mind. He distrusted words and spoken dialogue, calling instead for a language of gestures, shapes, light and movement – his concept of ‘total theatre’. Artaud was a major influence on avant-garde writers such as Beckett, Ionesco, Genet and Albee.
For somebody who wrote very little in the way of theatrical pieces (‘plays’ would be largely redundant term for Artaud, The Cenci excepted ), directed very little, had next to no success on the stage, and left a body of work open to wild extremes of interpretation, Antonin Artaud is a rare phenomenon.
Add to this the fact that he spent a great deal of his life addicted to drugs or locked up in asylums or attempting numerous, unsuccessful, detoxification programmes; or he was to be found acting in films, or being expelled from the surrealists, or disappearing into the hills of mexico in search of the Tarahumara Indians, or arriving in Ireland with a walking stick he claimed to have belonged to Saint Patrick and eventually being deported, it is a wonder he had the time or licidity to write anything at all.
His theatrical means include ‘words’ being replaced or reduced in significance by gesture, incantation, shouts and groans; use of ancient or newly manufactured musical instruments to create vibrations and ‘unbearingly piercing sound’; exaggerated props and puppets; a redefined relationship between actor and audience and many other ideas.

Theatre, in other words, was a place of ritual, ceremony and healing; church and hospital. It was a place where an audience could exorcise the demon of cruelty; a place where an aucience could both contract the ‘plague’ and be cured of it – a sort of absinthe-ridden Aristotelian tragedy on a combination of laudanum and holy water.

– Artaud, Antonin. Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu, ( audio piece right before his death, 1947 )
– Artaud, Antonin. The Theatre and Its Double ( including ‘the the of cruelty )
+ 3 plays: Le jet de sang, 1925 (The Spurt of Blood), Ventre brûlé, ou la mère folle, 1927 (The Burnt Belly), and The Cenci, 1935, of which two, The Burnt Belly and The Cenci were produced in his lifetime, and the third by the RSC as part of their Theatre of Cruelty season.
– The seashell and the clergyman ( surrealistic screenplay 1927)
I use the word ‘cruelty’ in the sense of hungering after life, cosmic strictness, relentless necessity, in the Gnostic sense of a living vortex engulfing darkness, in the sense of the inescapable necessary pain without which life could not continue.  Good has to be desired, it is the result of an act of willpower, while evil is continuous.  When the hidden God creates, he obeys a cruel need for creation imposed upon him, yet he cannot avoid creating, thus permitting an ever more condensed, ever more consumed nucleus of evil to enter the eye of the willed vortex of good.  Theatre in the sense of constant creation, a wholly magic act, obeys this necessity.  A play without this desire, this blind zest for life, capable of surpassing everything seen in every gesture or every act, in the transcendent aspect of the plot, would be useless and a failure as theatre
Imbued with the idea that the public thinks first of all with its senses and that to address oneself first to its understanding as the ordinary psychological theatre does is absurd.  The Theatre of Cruelty proposes to resort to a mass spectacle; to seek in the agitation of tremendous masses, convulsed and hurled against each other, a little of that poetry of festivals and crowds when, all too rarely nowadays, the people pour out into the streets.

The Stage
We abolish the stage and the auditorium . . . so direct communication will be re-established between spectator and the spectacle, between the actor and the spectator, from the fact that the spectator, placed in the middle of the action, is engulfed and physically affected by it. This envelopment results, in part, from the very configuration of the room itself.

In effect, the absence of a stage in the usual sense of the work will provide for the deployment of the action in the four corners of the room.

For this diffusion of action over an immense space will oblige the lighting . . . to fall upon the public as much as upon the actors . . . the characters, swarming over each other like bees, will endure all the onslaughts of the situations . . . will (produce) the physical means of lighting, of producing thunder or wind, whose repercussions the spectator will undergo.

However, a central position will be reserved which, without serving, properly speaking, as a stage, will permit the bulk of the action to be concentrated and brought to a climax whenever necessary

Theatre & its double
The theatre restores us all our dormant conflicts and all their powers, and gives these powers names we hail as symbols: and behold! before our eyes is fought a battle of symbols, one charging against another in an impossible melée; for there can be theatre only from the moment when the impossible really begins and when the poetry which occurs on the stage sustains and superheats the realized symbols. In the true theatre a play disturbs the senses’ repose, frees the repressed unconscious, incites a kind of virtual revolution (which moreover can have its full effect only if it remains virtual), and imposes on the assembled collectivity an attitude that is both difficult and heroic.

Links & bibliography:
( thesis about Artaud with lot of text excerpts )
( pdf dedicated to Artaud with text and a lot of dead links )
( Australian Artaud re-enactment with video )
( text in English of Spurt of Blood )
( Full translated text and original audio of ‘Pour en finir avec le jugement de dieu’ )
( youtube video of the original ‘the Seashell and the Clergyman 1927 )

special thanks to Tobias – miel

Protocol November 3rd, 2010

November 22nd, 2010

Freie Universität Berlin

Fachbereich Philosophie und Geisteswissenschaften

Institut für Theaterwissenschaft

“American Avant-Garde Performance Part I”

Dr. James Harding

Protocol November 3rd, 2010

-Tobias Birr

I Presentation: Man Ray

–          born in Philadelphia in 1890

–          died in Paris in 1976

–          photographer, director, painter, artist

–          informally connected to Dadaism

–          reproduced all kinds of contemporary painting styles in order to find his own style

–          said he wanted to “paint what cannot be photographed” and “photograph what cannot be painted”

–          applied techniques which were meant to “replace the brush” (cf Andy Warhol)

–          films with Duchamp

–          best known for photography (documents of the 1920s, fashion photography)

–          radiographs and rayographs

The film showing Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven shaving her pubic hair (filmed by Man Ray) raised the questions of ownership and the gender-related distribution of power, as the film is known because of its director, not its model. The right to challenge the artistic concept of film only seems acceptable if it does not involve the challenge of patriarchal society as well. Was / is ownership a male privilege?

II  Text: Peter Burger “The Avant-Gardiste Work of Art”

–          crisis of the category of work

–          on the one hand: mass-produced objects instead of uniqueness

–          on the other hand: signature (an allusion to the traditional concept of “the artist” and a “work of art”)

–          Does provocation replace work?

–          Category of chance: 1) direct; 2) mediated (e.g. Jazz improvisation: takes place within a structured surrounding. The structure is clear, the outcome is not.)

The definition of the term “Avant-Garde” seems to be narrow in the sense that – although using theatre-related terminology – the idea of performance is not included in the argumentation.

Questions: Has the historical Avant-Garde failed in its attempt to connect life an art and thereby make art unnecessary? Is provocation (as a means of critique) only possible once?

III Presentation: Antonine Artaud

–          born 1896 in Marseille

–          died 1848 in Ivry-sur-Seine

–          playwright (only 3 plays)

–          collection of essays (among them: “Theatre of Cruelty”

IV Presentation: Marcel Duchamp

–          Ready-mades: a series of works, among them “Fountain”

–          “beauty of indifference”

–          Duchamp himself acknowledged he was unable to formulate a sufficient definition of the term Ready-made

–          For him the biggest challenge was the choice of objects.

Questions: Is the usage of mass-produced objects a democratization of art? Can any object become a work of art? If so, is it elevated to the state of art by choice of the artist? Or does it have to be presented / discussed in a special surrounding? Can everybody become an artist?

V Black Mountain College

–          site where “events were made possible”

–          South Carolina 1950s

–          collective; network

–          new social form in which new artistic expressions became possible

John Cage Performances

November 18th, 2010


lived from 1912-1992, was one of the most influential american composers of the 20th century. 
He always experimented with new things in musical composition. In his early works he used complex mathematical procedures to compose, going on to improvisation and writing the results down, then using a 25-tone-row as a base of his compositions. He worked with the rhythmic structure of music, trying to put it in the foreground, and experimented with traditional use of harmonies. He also did music for contemporary dance productions and started to use “non musical” items for composition: household items, metals, water, for example.
Then, in the 1950s, he discovered CHANCE as a base of his compositions. For that he used an old traditional chinese book called “I Ching”, that is used for divination. You ask a question and have a complex system consisting of 64 Hexagrams that answer your question. After 1951 Cage seems to have not composed anything without the use of the book.

I was supposed to talk about the aspect of John Cage’s performances that make them interesting to us, about the point where they become “performances”.

I think the best hint to why we can talk about Cages pieces of “music” or “composition” in the 50s as also pieces of performance gives one of the texts we read for today. The one about indeterminacy.

In the final paragraph he defines what he calls “composition which is indeterminate with respect to its performance”. He says that it is

  • necessarily unique for it cannot be repeated – when it is repeated it is always different then the last time
  • not recordable: a record of that “has no more value than a postcard”.

These are also two aspects that we use to define a theatrical performance. The record aspect is in fact more a theatrical aspect than a musical, considering that one very important point of producing music – of course even more nowadays in the classical “pop” music genre – is banning it on records and selling these.

Furthermore two other aspects are interesting: that Cage thinks about are SPACE and TIME in the performance. By space he means the space that the performers need in order to produce the sounds out of their own actions rather then out of collective actions or movements. By time he talks about the absence of a beat as it is usually used in classical music. He says that the sounds that arise from the performers don’t need a beat to unify them. Therefor the conductor should only give an suggestion of time.

All these aspects that Cage talks about for me have one thing in common: they leave a place for chance in his musical performances. They form a structure, in which things happen. But what things exactly happen, you can’t say.

As an example there is his composition 4:33. Which is described by him as “A solo to be performed in any way by anyone”. It is his most known work and was first performanced in 1952. Many people refer to it as a piece where “there is silence for 4:33”.
In fact the duration of the composition is not determined. There is a partitur for it, that just devides the piece into three “movements” and each movement consists of “Tacet” (silence).

The duration of the parts for the original performance after which the composition was named, was decided by the original performer David Tudor who threw the dices about it. He performed it at a piano but it can be performed by as many people and instruments as wanted.
In the original performance the pianist marked the three parts by opening and closing the piano lid.
Secondly and most important, it is not silence for 4:33. For Cage, there is no such thing as silence (as in silence = total absence of any sounds.).
The people expect to hear music and when they don’t they say it is 4 minutes of silence, but of course everyone hears something: the sound of the piano lid, coughing in the audience, people that leave, people change sitting positions, perhaps sounds from the outside etc.

Quotation from youtube-interview:
“When I hear what we call music, it seems to me that someone is talking. And talking about his feelings, or about his ideas of relationships. But when I hear traffic, the sound of traffic—here on Sixth Avenue, for instance—I don’t have the feeling that anyone is talking. I have the feeling that sound is acting. And I love the activity of sound […] I don’t need sound to talk to me.”

The whole interview:

Note that he says a sound is “acting”…

4:33 can also be seen as an example for the theatrical event. What is happening during that “composition” is not only sounds but also theatre. A man is on stage, an audience is watching. Without both this event would not take place and any other day it would be different. The audience becomes very aware of itself, its expectations, its projections etc. In fact, this peace of music is to a high level made by the audience for they create many of the sounds themselves. It is an interaction between audience and stage – and that also defines theatrical performances.

Also, 4:33 shows what Cage means by the fact that this is not recordable: when I watched it on youtube I realized, that this really doesn’t make sense. I as a youtube-viewer can observe the people in the video, I can observe what I might think happens to them, how they act, how they look.. but I cannot experience what they are experiencing. Never. One video tried to connect the two worlds by saying that the screen spectator is free to turn down the volume (of TV i guess) and listen to the sounds around him. But still it is not the same of course, because the situation is completely different. To really “listen” to it, you need to be in the same room.

Another good example is his performance of “Water Walk” on an american Tv Show:

John Cage on UBUWEB

November 9th, 2010

EXILES in AMERICA 1935-1945

In Hitler-era the astonishing list of distinguished and well-known figures came to America, in what was dubbed “the intellectual migration” (Donald Fleming and Bernard Bailyn). With such a large percentage of the German cultural elite having chosen exile, the German community abroad came to be called “Das bessere Deutschland” (The Better Germany)*.

*Artists, authors who lived in Germany during/through the Nazi years, while opposing them (painter Emil Nolde, sculptor Ernst Barlach), suffering from a ban to write or produce art, experienced what is called “The Inner Exile”.


Erwin Friedrich Maximilian Piscator (1893 in Greifenstein-Ulm – 1966 in Starnberg) a German theatre director and producer who, with Bertolt Brecht, was the foremost exponent of epic theatre, a form that emphasizes the sociopolitical content of drama, rather than its emotional manipulation of the audience or on the production’s formal beauty.

1939 – Piscator migrated to the United States in 1939, Piscator was invited by Alvin Johnson, the founding president of The New School, to found a theatre Workshop. Among Piscator’s students at this “Dramatic Workshop“ in New York were Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Judith Malina, Walter Matthau, Harry Belafonte, Elaine Stritch and Tennessee Williams?

Piscator returned to West Germany in 1951

BERTOLD BRECHT  (10 February 1898–14 August 1956)

waited in Finland for his visa for the United States until 3 May 1941.

During the war years, Brecht became a prominent writer of the Exilliteratur. He expressed his opposition to the National Socialist and Fascist movements in his most famous plays: Life of Galileo, Mother Courage and Her Children, The Good Person of Szechwan, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Fear and Misery of the Third Reich, and many others.

Brecht also wrote the screenplay for the Fritz Lang-directed film Hangmen Also Die! which was loosely based on the 1942 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi Reich Protector of German-occupied Prague, number-two man in the SS, and a chief architect of the Holocaust, who was known as “The Hangman of Prague.” It was Brecht’s only script for a Hollywood film: the money he earned from the project enabled him to write The Visions of Simone Machard, Schweik in the Second World War and an adaptation of Webster‘s The Duchess of Malfi. Hanns Eisler was nominated for an Academy Award for his musical score. The collaboration of three prominent refugees from Nazi Germany –Lang, Brecht and Eisler – is an example of the influence this generation of German exiles had in American culture.

Hanns Eisler – a German and Austrian composer.

Hanns Eisler – After 1933, Eisler’s music and Brecht’s poetry were banned by the Nazi Party. Both artists fled, first to Moscow where The Measures Taken was produced and staged.[3] Eventually, they sought refuge in the United States, along with other exiles fleeing Nazi Germany.

In New York City, Eisler taught composition at the New School and wrote experimental chamber and documentary music. Moving shortly before World War II to Los Angeles, he composed several Hollywood film scores, two of which—Hangmen Also Die! and None but the Lonely Heart—were nominated for Oscars. Also working on Hangmen Also Die! was Bertolt Brecht, who wrote the story along with director Fritz Lang.

In 1947 he wrote the book Composing for the Films with Theodor W. Adorno. But in several chamber and choral compositions of this period, Eisler also returned to the twelve-tone method he had abandoned in Berlin. His Fourteen Ways of Describing the Rain—composed for Arnold Schoenberg’s 70th birthday celebration—is considered a masterpiece of the genre.

Eisler’s two most notable works of the 1930s and 40s were the monumental Deutsche Sinfonie (1935–57)—a choral symphony in eleven movements based on poems by Brecht and Ignazio Silone—and a cycle of art songs published as the Hollywood Songbook (1938–43). With lyrics by Brecht, Mörike, Hölderlin and Goethe, it established Eisler’s reputation as one of the twentieth century’s great composers of German lieder


Film Director:  Fritz Lang, Joe May, Ernst Lubitsch, Max Ophüls.

Actors/ Actresses: Marlene Dietrich, Curt Bois, Peter Lorre, Conrad Veidt, Walter Slezak.

Producers: Joe Pasternak und Erich Pommer.


Thomas Mann (6 June 1875 – 12 August 1955) was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual.  When Hitler came to power in 1933, the anti-fascist Mann fled to Switzerland. When World War II broke out in 1939, he emigrated to the United States, from where he returned to Switzerland in 1952. Thomas Mann is one of the most known exponents of the so called Exilliteratur.

Luiz (Ludwig) Heinrich Mann (27 March 1871 – 11 March 1950) was a German novelist who wrote works with strong social themes. His attacks on the authoritarian and increasingly militaristic nature of pre-World War I German society led to his exile in 1933. Together with Albert Einstein and other celebrities, Mann was a signatory to a letter to the International League of Human Rights condemning the murder of Croatian scholar Dr Milan Šufflay on 18 February 1931.

Mann became persona non grata in Nazi Germany and left even before the Reichstag fire in 1933. He went to France where he lived in Paris and Nice. During the German occupation he made his way to Marseille in Vichy France and there was aided by Varian Fry in 1940 to escape to Spain. He then went to Portugal and sailed to America.

During the 1930s and later in American exile, his literary career went downhill, and eventually he died in Santa Monica, California, lonely and without much money, just months before he was to move to Soviet-occupied Germany to become president of the Prussian Academy of Arts. His ashes were later taken to East Germany.


Albert Einstein – celebrated physicist and at that time on a lecture tour in the U.S., decided not to return, and accepted a professorship at Princeton. Among the writers who chose to stay in Germany was Gerhard Hauptmann.


Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (May 18, 1883 – July 5, 1969) was a German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School[1] who, along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture.

In 1937, moved on to the United States. The house he built for himself in Lincoln, Massachusetts, (now known as Gropius House) was influential in bringing International Modernism to the U.S.

Gropius and his Bauhaus protégé Marcel Breuer both moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to teach at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and collaborate on the company-town Aluminum City Terrace project in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, before their professional split. In 1944, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

In 1945, Gropius founded The Architects’ Collaborative (TAC) based in Cambridge with a group of younger architects. The original partners included Norman C. Fletcher, Jean B. Fletcher, John C. Harkness, Sarah P. Harkness, Robert S. MacMillan, Louis A. MacMillen, and Benjamin C. Thompson. TAC would become one of the most well-known and respected architectural firms in the world. TAC went bankrupt in 1995.

Josef Albers (March 19, 1888 – March 25, 1976[1]) was a German-born American artist and educator whose work, both in Europe and in the United States, formed the basis of some of the most influential and far-reaching art education programs of the 20th century. With the closure of the Bauhaus under Nazi pressure in 1933, Albers emigrated to the United States and joined the faculty of Black Mountain College, North Carolina, where he ran the painting program until 1949.


It should be noted that the term “Frankfurt School” arose informally to describe the thinkers affiliated or merely associated with the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research; it is not the title of any specific position or institution per se, and few of these theorists used the term themselves. The Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung) was founded by Carl Grünberg in 1923 as an adjunct of the University of Frankfurt; it was the first Marxist-oriented research center affiliated with a major German university. However, the school can trace its earliest roots back to Felix Weil, who was able to use money from his father’s grain business to finance the Institut.

Early members of the Frankfurt School were:

Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Friedrich Pollock,

Erich Fromm, Otto Kirchheimer, Leo Löwenthal

As the growing influence of National Socialism became ever more threatening, its founders decided to prepare to move the Institute out of the country. Following Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, the Institute left Germany for Geneva, before moving to New York City in 1935, where it became affiliated with Columbia University. Its journal Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung was accordingly renamed Studies in Philosophy and Social Science. It was at this moment that much of its important work began to emerge, having gained a favorable reception within American and English academia. Horkheimer, Adorno and Pollock eventually resettled in West Germany in the early 1950s, although Marcuse, Lowenthal, Kirchheimer and others chose to remain in the United States. It was only in 1953 that the Institute was formally re-established in Frankfurt.

Erich Seligmann Fromm (March 23, 1900 – March 18, 1980) was a German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, humanistic philosopher, and democratic socialist. He was associated with what became known as the Frankfurt School of critical theory. In 1930, he joined the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research and completed his psychoanalytical training. After the Nazi takeover of power in Germany, Fromm moved to Geneva and then, in 1934, to Columbia University in New York. Karen Horney‘s long-term infatuation with Fromm is the subject of her book Self Analysis and it is reasonable to believe that each had a lasting influence on the other’s thought. After leaving Columbia, Fromm helped form the New York branch of the Washington School of Psychiatry in 1943, and in 1946 co-founded the William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychology. He was on the faculty of Bennington College from 1941 to 1949.


Herbert Marcuse (July 19, 1898 – July 29, 1979) was a German philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. Celebrated as the “Father of the New Left” his best known works are Eros and Civilization, One-Dimensional Man and The Aesthetic Dimension.

After emigrating from Germany in 1933, in 1934, Marcuse immigrated to the United States, where he became a citizen in 1940. Although he never returned to Germany to live, he remained one of the major theorists associated with the Frankfurt School, along with Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno (among others).

Erwin Panofsky (30 March 1892 – 14 March 1968) was a German art historian who emigrated to America and remains highly influential in the modern academic study of iconography. Many of his works remain in print, including Studies in Iconology : Humanist Themes in the Art of the Renaissance (1939, reissued 1972), and his study of Albrecht Dürer.

Erik Erikson (15 June 1902 – 12 May 1994) was a DanishGermanAmerican developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on social development of human beings. He may be most famous for coining the phrase identity crisis.

Hannah Arendt (October 14, 1906 – December 4, 1975) was an influential German Jewish political theorist.Arendt’s work deals with the nature of power, and the subjects of politics, authority, and totalitarianism.

Hans Joachim Morgenthau (February 17, 1904 – July 19, 1980) was one of the leading twentieth-century figures in the study of international politics. Morgenthau taught for many years at the University of Chicago, and at the end of his career he taught at the New School for Social Research and the City University of New York.

Paul Felix Lazarsfeld (* 13. Februar 1901 in Wien; † 30. August 1976 in New York City (USA) war österreichisch-amerikanischer Soziologe und wurde auch mit dem Pseudonym Elias Smith bekannt.

Rudolf Carnap (May 18, 1891 – September 14, 1970) was an influential German-born philosopher who was active in Europe before 1935 and in the United States thereafter. He was a leading member of the Vienna Circle and a prominent advocate of logical positivism.

Marcel Duchamp’s Ready-mades

November 8th, 2010

1913 Duchamp asks himself “Can we make works that are not art?”. He gave himself and us an affirmative answer conceiving a series of works he defined as having a “beauty of indifference”.

The first Ready-made is Bicycle Wheel from 1913. (assisted Ready-made) It is a bicycle wheel mounted by its fork on a painted wooden stool. He fashioned it to amuse himself by spinning it, “…like watching a fire… It was a pleasant gadget, pleasant for the movement it gave.” It is the first Ready-made, though he initiated the concept of Ready-made two years later.

The first definition of “Ready-made” published under the name of Marcel Duchamp (or his initials, “MD”) exists in André Breton and Paul Éluard’s Dictionnaire abrégé du Surréalisme 1938: “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.”

Duchamp was unable to define or explain his opinion of Ready-mades: “The curious thing about the Ready-made is that I’ve never been able to arrive at a definition or explanation that fully satisfies me.” (He had actually no clear intention when he made the first Ready-made. He conceived the idea in 1915, NY). But probably the best definition he gave was the Ready-mades as “third dimensional wordplays”.

– Different types of Ready-mades

Ready-mades (un-altered objects)

Assisted Ready-mades

Rectified Ready-mades

Corrected Ready-mades

Reciprocal Ready-mades ( using Rembrandt as an ironing board)

– Examples:

Ready-mades (un-altered manufactured objects)

Fountain, 1917.

Porcelain urinal inscribed “R. Mutt 1917.” (The board of the 1917 the Society of Independent Artists exhibit, of which Duchamp was a director, after much debate about whether Fountain was or was not art, hid the piece from view during the show. Duchamp quickly quit the society, and the publication of Blind Man, which followed the exhibition was devoted to the controversy).

Bottle Rack, 1914 (also called Bottle Dryer or Hedgehog) (Egouttoir or Porte-bouteilles or Hérisson), 1914.

A iron bottle drying rack that Duchamp bought in 1914 as an “already made” sculpture (but it gathered dust in the corner of his Paris studio because the idea of “Ready-made” had not yet been born).

Assisted Ready-mades

Unhappy Ready-made, 1919.

Duchamp instructed his sister Suzanne to hang a geometry textbook from the balcony of her Paris apartment so that the problems and theorems, exposed to the test of the wind, sun and rain, could “get the facts of life.” (Suzanne carried out the instructions and took a picture of the result).

Rectified Ready-mades

L.H.O.O.Q., 1919.

Pencil on a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa on which he drew a goatee andmoustache. The name when pronounced in French is a coarse French pun — “elle a chaud au cul” translating colloquially as “She’s got a hot ass.”

(Most of the Ready-mades have been lost, but years later he commissioned reproductions of most of them. Duchamp limited his yearly output of Ready-mades, making no more than twenty in his lifetime. He felt that only by limiting output, could he avoid the trap of taste. Taste, “good” or “bad,” he felt was the “enemy of art.”)

Since the early beginning of his artistic production, Marcel Duchamp tried to avoid the traditional ways of conceive and produce art, that is “retinal art”, art as only visual. He was tired of the excessive importance attributed to the retinal, of art as only reproducing sensorial data. “Since Courbet, we are convinced that painting is dressed to the retina, to the eye. A mistake that everybody did. Once painting had other functions. It could be religious, philosophical, moral. We have to try to put painting at the service of the mind again”.

This observations and way of thinking will lead him to Ready-mades, passing trough a long and various path: interest in fourth dimension, mechanical technique of painting execution (Boxing match, 1913), kinetic and optic works, The Large Glass (1915-23), the interest for chess, wordplays, the focus on chance element in art, and his attitude of non objectivity and doubt towards reality. “I came to the idea of the Ready-mades trying to draw a conclusion or consequence from the deshumanisation of the work of art”.

Duchamp seeks desperately new ways of expression in order to bring art at the service of the mind again. Crucial is thus the intellectual and mental process behind the product of art. Art is for Duchamp an intellectual process, a third dimensional thought, not simple a satisfaction for the eye. Even though this way of thinking was at the basis of the historical avant-garde of the period, Duchamp brought this concept to the extreme.

Just because the artist says that an object is art, then it becomes art, even if the object in question is an ordinary, manufactured object, just bought in stores. Duchamp buys a manufactured urinal, signs it and present it as a piece of art. The mental process that should lie at the bottom of art is taken here as pure. Just the thought of art turn the object to art.

With the Ready-mades the boundary between artist and not-artist, between artist and viewer doesn’t exist anymore. Everyone is theoretically capable of create art. In his 1957 speech at the American Federation of Arts in Houston Duchamp affirms that there are two poles in the artistic creation: the artist and the viewer. The artist is not alone in the act of creating, to the extent that the viewer sets up a link between the work and external reality, interpreting, decoding the work. “The viewers make the painting”. It is exactly the point of the Ready-mades. They are not passive art objects with the only aim to please the viewer’s eyes. They are strong and provocative signs of questions directed to the viewer. The traditional meaning and value of art doesn’t exist here. Ready-mades are a clear attack to the traditional conception of the work of art and of the traditional way to deal with it and to receive it. An active contemplation is needed, a creative participation from who is in front of the Ready-mades. Duchamp affirms that the work of art is not a piece in a museum, not a object to adore nor an object of use, but an object of invention and creation.

Here I think there is the closest link to theatre theories of Gertude Stein, Artonin Atraud, Brecht, John Cage: the aim to fuse art and life, that in fact we could say begins with Duchamp. Art fused to life doesn’t mean art at the direct service of the society, nor production of object of beauty or decoration. Art fused to life means one of the most difficult ways of art: that that forces the viewer to transform itself in artist.

– Bibliography:

Schwarz Arturo, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, Thames & Hudson, London 1969; Abrams, New York 1970.

Duchamp Marcel, Duchamp du signe, Écrits, 1975 e 1994, Paris, Flammarion.

Duchamp Marcel, Ingénieur du temps perdu – Conversations avec Pierre Cabanne, Pierre Belfond, 1977.

Clair Jean, Marcel Duchamp ou le grand fictif, Paris, Editions Galilée, 1975.

Calvin Tomkins, Duchamp A biography, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1996.

Tout-fait: The Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal”,

Man Ray

November 4th, 2010


Man Ray was born in 1890 in Philadelphia as Emmanuel Rudnitzky or Radnitzky (birth certificate destroyed by a fire).

Life and Death
Man Ray spent most of his career in Paris (1921-40 and 1951-76), where he died in 1976.

Work and Style
Man Ray worked as a photographer, film director, painter and object artist.

Man Rays art refers to both the Surrealist and the Dada movements, although he is related to them more informally.

Because of his complex/multilayered art work he is mostly talked of as a modernist.


Relation between painting and photography
I paint what cannot be photographed, that, which comes from the imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive. I photograph the things that I do not wish to paint, the things which already have an existence.

Between 1911 and 1917:
Man Ray reproduced nearly every painting style of his contemporaries, starting from impressionism to (futuro-)cubism, always looking for his very own iconography.

He was always looking for a system that could replace the brush or even surpass it.
Between 1917 and 1919 he worked with Aerographs.
To create these aerographs, Man Ray used spray guns and stencils. He introduced it as a mechanichal, multifunctional stylistic device into painting. He anticipated Andy Warhol’s concept of serialism and reproducibility.


I photograph what I do not wish to paint, and I paint what I do not wish to photograph. Initially he bought a camera in order to be able to reproduce his own pieces of art. He also wanted to free himself from the pressure of competing with all the other painters.

Object photographies
In 1915 Man Ray started to experiment around with objects (examples: Man (1918), Woman (1918), Cadeau/The Gift (1921) )

1920/21 Man Ray experimented with photograms and called them rayographs. Producing his rayograms or rayographs enabled Man Ray to take pictures without a camera. He wanted to use his camera like a typwriter, he wanted to automate the photographic process.
This approach reminds strongly of André Bretons „ecriture automatique“.

Portrait photographies
He took many portrait photographies of contemporary artists. These photographies document a very important period in arts and culture in Paris in the 1920s.
Soon not only photographic magazines like LIFE Magazine (photojournalism magazine) published photo galleries of Man Rays work but also fahsion magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
Man Ray did also fashion photography for designer Paul Poiret (1922).
He experimented with several techniques: mirroring, superimposition (Doppelbelichtung), solarization and pseudo-solarization.

Man Ray and FILM

Toghether with Duchamp Man Ray realized some experimental films in New York. One of them shows Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, shaving hev pubic hair. (Examples: view link list at the bottom)
With the appearance of sound film and the great success of Buñuel’s and Salvador Dalí’s L’Age d’Or, Man Ray soon lost interest in experimental films.


Informal connection to Dada and Surrealism. He took the position of the outsider, always wanting to reinvent himself.

The Resolution
In 1922 Surrealists and Dadaists separated. (André Breton had his dispute with Tzara, Satie, Eluard and other Dadaists. He prepared his „Surrealist Manifesto“.) Man Ray signed this resolution that separated both movements (and with him another 40 subscribors). This was the first and last time Man Ray took a stand on an artistic doctrine.

The Unconscious
He paints what comes from the imagination or from dreams, or from an unconscious drive.

Producing his rayograms enabled Man Ray to take pictures without a camera.
One can transfer this also to his Aerographs.

He had always been looking for metaphysical layers in his paintings and in objects. Making a rayograph enabled him to catch and reproduce this metaphysics automatically, like a machine.


It is hard to categorize Man Rays work. In those times photography was not considered as a form of art. The Dadaist and Surrealist movements were dominated by writers. They appreciated Man Ray as a friend and documentarist, but did not fully acknowledge his work as an artist.

The inscription on his gravestone says: “unconcerned, but not indifferent”


Foundation Man Ray Trust (-> large image archive of Ray’s photographs, paintings, film stills etc.)

Some of Man Ray‘s films on youtube:

Le retour à la Raison

Anémic Cinéma

Emak Bakia

L’étoile de mer

Man Ray on open art archive Ubu Web:

short cuts – Jazz/improvisation

November 3rd, 2010

Very, very short keynotes about Jazz/improvisation

1) Social reasons of the development of Jazz 1850-1900

a) first important event the liberation of the slaves à causes a lot of new free manpower

b) the south of America is region where a lot of French colonies were à different culture influences

  1. French culture of the “anciem regime” including music and celebrations
  2. afro-American cultur à mistrals à vocal music à work songs (worker)
  3. African cultur à  rhythm
  4. French-african culture (Creole) à worker but educated

c) New Orleans is a town with an harbor à different people pass by, or settle down

d) rual exodus (moving from landsite to towns) à separated areas for black and white people

  • the new citizens need work

e) because of being a trading center New Orleans economy race very much

  • entertainment for the rich people à needs music à bras bands (wind instruments)
  • the musicians getting more and more professionals
  • musicians started learning different styls of music depending on the cultural background of the celebration host
  • starting mixing styls

f) music influences on Jazz  blues, mistrals, rag time (off beat music)

2) Improvistation 1900-1910

a) difference between afro-americans and Creoles à both black but belongs to different classes

b) afro-americans are farmers

  • creoles are educated citizens of towns

b) both try to earn money with music

c) a-a could not read notes or write down their music à they are ear musicans imitate styles by hearing it à unconventional use of the different styles of music à improvisation is a constituting part of their music

d) creoles could read and wrote down notes à different dealing with other styles à more conventional

Example for improvisation ‘the quartet’

  • the instruments plays in different pitchs, so they cannot cross each other
  • all group of instruments have a clear function and if one group is improving, the other play the basics
  1. drum (just rhythm)
  2. contrabass (very low pitch, rhythm)
  3. guitar/piano (chord instrument)
  4. sax/trompet (one voice)

3) From entertainment music to mainstream 1910-1960

a) development of the record in USA in the teens à especially the 78rpm record in 1909

  • à wide spread of the idea à cutting down a normally 10min session to 3min record à notes are absolutely necessary àprocess from street and live musicians to studio musicians pros/unpros

b) around 1912-13 first emerge of the term jazz

c) 1917 first Jazz record by the Original Dixiland Jass Band

d) second generation appears à more professionals à rose up with mixing style in big citys (Bras Bands, small orchestras)

e) famous dance music in bigger towns (Chicago, NY, NO )

f) different jazz-styles were founded (Dixland(whit) Swing, popular blues etc.)

g) Swing was still in 60’s mainstream Frank Sintra

4) From Mainstream to Bebop/Rock’n’roll in the early 40’s

a) Blues (elements of blues) + Jazz-Element à evolve to Rhythm and Blues (R&B) à Popular music

b) R&B + Country/folk derive to rock’n’roll à popular, but initially it was a movement of the younger generation (after WWII) à like Jazz a combination of landside in town music à founding a new style for a younger generation

c)Bebop is a self-awareness jazz style by black musicians

d) improve in a direction to more highbrow jazz , because of record labels exploited black musicans in the mainstream section

c) shift from entertainment to experimental music à from big theatres back to bars in the separated areas of black people

e) Bebop was not an exidence of meltingpoints it was a program to be more artificial

5) Jazz as an avant-garde movement???

  1. Jazz is an especially American phenomenon?
  2. first/second generation had no ‘manifesto’ but change the convention of music
  3. bebop had a social self-awareness background
  4. wanna change into high art.


Ekkehard Jost: Sozialgeschichte des Jazz. Frankfurt/Main 2003.

Jürgen Arndt/Werner Keil (Hrsg.): Jazz und Aavntgarde. Hildesheim 1998.

Frank Tirro: Jazz. A history. London/New York 1993.

The 1913 Armory Show

November 3rd, 2010

“The Armory Show has come to stand for the singular moment at which the ‘new’ vanquished the ‘old’ in American culture with a single and stunning revolutionary blow … Historians continue to veil the Armory Show in the language of crisis, and particularly in the language of political crisis.” (Mancini 834)


  • Organized by the American Association of Painters and Sculptors
    • by 1911 the AAPS had decided: too few exhibition opportunities in the U.S.
    • primary movers: Arthur B. Davies, Walt Kuhn, Walter Pach
  • First large-scale exhibition of modernist art in the United States
    • ran for 2 months in New York (February 17-March 15, 1913) and Chicago
    • approximately 1300 works
    • more than 1/3 European (including Picasso, Matisse, Gauguin)
    • almost $45,000 worth of art changed hands
    • approximately 275,000 people came to see it


  • Davies and Kuhn were confident concerning the impending success/importance of the show
    • letter, Davies to Kuhn, 1912: “The great success in London cannot be compared with what may be attained here if we get the start.” (Smithsonian)
    • letter, Kuhn to his wife, December 1912: “Our list of European stuff stupefies every body—I am simply in heaven with delight at the coming certain success. This show will be the greatest modern show ever given anywhere on earth, as far as regards high standard of merit.” (Smithsonian)
  • Buzz among artists: originally intended only to show invited work but formed a committee to select from uninvited submissions due to demand

At the Show (fantastic tour at this website)

  • Divided into a series of Galleries (A thru R) arranged according to various criteria
    • historical section
    • Americans
    • Cubists
    • organizers’ gallery
    • French, etc.

Eberle's "White Slave," which was investigated during the Armory Show by a Chicago censure committee for its open portrayal of the sex industry. (Staples)

  • Davies and Kuhn exhibited, and Davies’ paintings were well received as an example of an artist who integrated a number of late 19th- and early 20th-century concepts into his work while avoiding imitation (Staples)
  • Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase became the show’s icon, but Matisse was received with greater shock: “The Blue Nude, Le Luxe, II and Goldfish and Sculpture were chosen by students at Chicago’s Art Student’s League as the most appalling and blasphemous pictures in the exhibition … While Matisse maintained aspirations to bourgeois gentility, his work was seen by some as an attack on the progress of Western civilization as a whole.” (Staples)

Henri Matisse's "The Blue Nude," one of the three paintings condemned by Chicago's Arts Students League

  • Nude Descending a Staircase itself was found in Gallery I, the “Chamber of Horrors” where most of the Cubist work resided
  • Nude was bought in the third week by California art dealer Frederic Torrey without Torrey seeing it first, based solely on its reputation (Staples)
  • Earliest represented artist: Goya (in historical section)
  • Most attention received by an American: John Marin for his watercolor series of Manhattan buildings (Staples)


  • The AAPS
    • shortly before opening, Gutzon Borglum (AAPS member) accused other members of “overlooking important American sculptors and focusing instead on whimsical amateurs” — public declaration of objections to in the New York Times, withdrawal of work from the show; brother and other sculptors also removed their work in support (ctd. by Staples)
    • “Long simmering rancor over the conduct of Davies, Kuhn, and their followers erupted at a membership meeting of the Association on May 18, 1914. Henri, Bellows, Sloan, and several others formally resigned, an act that effectively broke up the organization.” (Smithsonian 33, caption)
  • Artists
    • letter, Kenneth Hayes Miller (4 paintings in show) to Rockwell Kent, March 1913: show “had a broadening influence and accomplished in a few weeks what in the ordinary course would have taken as many years. It was like setting off a blast of dynamite in a cramped place – it blew everything wide open. I feel that art can really be free here now.” (Smithsonian)
    • Harriet Monroe (Chicago poet, founder of Poetry) loathed Matisse at first, but throughout the course of the show changed her mind: “In a profound sense these radical artists are right. They represent the revolt of the imagination against nineteenth century realism . . . They represent a search for new beauty . . . a longing for new versions of truth” (qtd. by Staples)
    • some American artists only represented by 2 paintings and thus felt their overall effect was “distilled” (Staples) — underrepresentation due to Davies/Kuhn aesthetic, as Davies wrote to Kuhn: “The ‘better painters’ of America are not of the slightest interest to any serious artist.” (Smithsonian)
    • John W. Alexander, president of National Academy of Design: show demanded critical recognition not just because it offered glimpse into stylistic future of American art but because it provided evidence of the art world’s continued organizational innovation (Mancini)
  • Critics
    • Most vocal in tearing down the show: painter/writer Kenyon Cox (“Do not allow yourselves to be blinded by the sophistries of the foolish dupes or the self-interested exploiters of all this charlatanry”)
    • Cox joined in vehemence by Art and Progress editor Leila Mechlen; the two linked modern art to dangerous trends in politics and manners
    • Most other responses were mixed, “demonstrated critics’ profound appreciation of the changes taking place…within the American art world” (Mancini 837)
    • Mancini argues that the show had a profound effect on criticism itself; U.S. art critics since the Civil War had been concerned with promoting public art institutions and educating the public about art in general, not with criticizing specific works of art
    • Royal Cortissoz: concluded Post-Impressionism’s proponents had deliberately thwarted public comprehension of the new art as a way not only to guarantee the ascendance of the work itself, but to solidify their own position as its interpreters
    • “‘Conservative’ critics’ fears of the show…were grounded…in a deep suspicion of the interpretive machinery that accompanied the new art, which seemed to shake the very foundations of the American art world” (Mancini 838)

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Protocol 27.10.

November 2nd, 2010

Freie Universität Berlin
Institut für Theaterwissenschaft
Seminar: American Theatre Avant-Garde: Theory and Foundations Dr. James Harding
Protocol prepared by: Angelina Georgieva

Protocol to the session on 27.10.2010

I. Introduction:
In the beginning Dr. Harding discussed the differences of the approaches in defying the avant-garde applied by Renato Poggioly in “Theory of the Avant-Garde” (1962), focused on the European concept of avant-garde in the arts, and by Arnold Aronson in “American Avant-Garde Theatre: a history” ( 2000).
The talk continued with clarifying main concepts in regard to avant-garde each of the authors work with. Out of them some main general characteristics of the avant-garde in Europe and respectively in the USA were drawn out.
II. Renato Poggioly’s “Theory of the Avant-Garde”

– Psychological condition, defined as disposition, as a set of assumptions and attitudes
– Ideology: the way that this set of attitudes is rationalized /for example: in manifestos/, their presentation to the world. Here was cited L. Althusser’s definition of ideology as a set of rationalizations that allows you to act with the world. Ideology gives you a means to orientate to the world.
From that the first main characteristic of the avant-garde was formulated:
– The avant-garde is at odds with society. In its beginnings it can be described as an anti-social Gegenkultur/ Gegengesellschaft. Its critical standpoint turns it into a social and political phenomenon and it manifests itself in abstract forms of expression.
– Important difference between Europe and the USA is that in Europe there is a long tradition of workers’ movement and revolutions that goes back to the crucial events of 18th century in France and formed the first political avant-garde movements . In the USA this is not the case.

Different origins of the concept of avant-garde:
Poggioly divides them in political and in cultural but they constantly interact.
The first conception of the avant-garde is not about avant-garde art but the art of avant-garde, i.e. of being in the socio-political avant-garde.
Does art belong to political avant-garde ?
The cultural avant-garde begins to see itself not as subordinated to political ideas that come from political philosophy. The artists emancipate themselves believing that they can work the ideas out on their own and put forward political and artistic innovations.
What is its strategy:
By means of shock: to shock the bourgeois.
Critic of the avant-garde:
Marx’ critic of the avant-garde: it is just a bourgeois art, bourgeois bohemianism
Poggioly’s important thesis is that the idea of avant-garde is impossible without bourgeois society. The American scholar Aronson continues it by claiming that at the end it feeds it and the cultural industry with new ideas.

III. Arnold Aronson’s “American Avant-Garde Theatre: a history”, chapter 1.
Definition of Avant-garde:
Aronson situates the beginning of the American avant-garde in the ‘20s of the 20th century. The main characteristic for this period in drama and theatre is that it happens in a more or less conservative stylistic manner – writers borrow technical means from avant-garde movements in Europe.
For Aronson the specific characteristic aim of avant-garde theatre is to restructure theatre experience itself.
Comments on the beginning of the American avant-garde of the ‘50’s:
– It arises out of bold spirits of experimentation among graphic artists against galleries culture at that time based on commoditification of art: happenings for example cannot be bought /with a reference to first happening of Alan Kaprow in a gallery/. I.e. in the beginning the innovative processes that flew into the performing arts happened in the graphic arts and music (John Cage, New School for Social Research)
– Main aims:
– reshaping the theatre experience through rethinking of the role of the audience and at the end changing its attitude.

The performance “The Connection” of Living Theatre mentioned by Aronson led to the subject about jazz improvisation that was presented by a referent in the afternoon session. In this performance of 1959 Living theatre put black jazz musicians on stage to play. But they were junkies (representatives of the junk subculture integrated into a performance) that were waiting at the same time their connections: real situation and framed performance situation merged.

IV. Presentations and discussions:

4.1. Presentation: Improvisation and Jazz
The referent presented the development of jazz music in the USA from the end of the 19th century onwards with centre New Orleans. For its diverse formations it is significant that it is based on the segregation of the society in different communities (such as former English, “creos” (former French culture), Afro-Americans, Africans, French-Africans etc. ) and the general separation between white and black. The improvisation is introduced by the Afro-American musicians who were not professionals and could not read notes but formed brass bands for earning money. They started to perform different songs as different parties with a mix of styles on the principle “learning by hearing”: an instrumential sequence of notes is used as a kind of reference and it is being passed to the other instruments.
The relevance of jazz for the black culture:
For the African community it meant freedom through art that they did not have in society that wanted to hold them down; sublimation of anger against repression.
A point of criticism on Aronson is that in his survey he does not discuss the black culture and its developments within the US theatre avant-garde. The principle of jazz improvisation is crucial for the chance operations in the performing arts of the ‘50’s.

4.2. Presentaion: Armory Show, 1913 in New York
It was held for 1 month in New York and Chicago organized by the American Associations of Painters and Sculptures which fell apart after that because of inner controversies. Armory Show was an exhibit of 13 000 international works , 2/3 from Europe, that presented for the first time the European modernism to the American public.

Significance of Armory Show for the American avant-garde:
– Armory Show brought the European modernists to the USA. It was the event that made the advent of modern art in US to happen abruptly – modern art arrived in the US overnight and changed the notion of art – no one knew what to do with it, it was over the comprehension of art and the art scene in the US needed to adjust to it.
– Changed the way art was criticized: It marked an end of the abstract principles in dealing with art. It happened so because this type of art turned upon itself, it reflected about the institution of art itself.
– Caused a shock effect. The general reaction on the Armory Show: it is the end of the civilization as we know it

The presentation was followed by a discussion on mechanisms of the shock effect in the avant-garde. Using as a departure point P. Brügel’s statement that neo-avant-garde is a repetition of previous innovation which thus lose their value and shock effect, the question was raised if arts today are able to produce a shock effect and how does it function.
Several characteristics of the way of functioning of the shock effect were outlined:
– It can be defined as an experience that brings a change, changes our understanding of the world.
– It is an event, a live-changing event
– It is both mental and physical reaction
The argument was made that today the shock effects happen more or less effectively on the level of content, while Armory Show performed a shock effect not because of the things and subjects that the works were presenting but it was more on their structural specifics – i.e. it was a reaction mainly on their structural approach.

4.3. Presentation: Exiles
Exiles: artists and emigrants who came to the USA during the I and later on – the II World War and continued to do their artwork there. They have a significant influence on the American cultural scene.

V. Conclusions:
Main points driven out of the discussion on the differences between American and European phenomenon and concept of the avant-garde and its political dimension:
– In the US it can be spoken about I (in the 20’s) and II (‘50’s and ‘60’s) wave of avant-garde in the arts. What happens in the US is different from the European avant-garde movements and cannot be considered as their replica. It is more correct to talk about influences.
– The European avant-garde can be described as anti-cultural, radically oppositional with a strong ethical accent. The US avant-garde is not anti-, but contra-cultural. It is a result of the emergence of different contra-cultures and each of them forms a separate community (for example Black Mountain College): “in the US there is a lot place for alternatives”.
Avant-garde in the arts and its political dimension:
The main definition of the avant-garde is that it is radical politics and radical innovation – it seeks to redefine the very notion of what theatre or art and the motivation behind this is political. It is interrelated to the question about the role that art has to play in political avant-garde. Aronson postulates that the avant-garde movements create experiences which is also intensively political gesture. The avant-garde is moved forward by an urge for a change: when you don’t fit into the society, change it by creating spaces in which you can function and this gesture is strongly political.