Avant-Gardes in Crisis

Art and Politics in the Long 1970s

Edited by Jean-Thomas Tremblay & Andrew Strombeck

Subjects: Literary Criticism, Twentieth- And Twenty-first-century Studies, Cultural Studies, Aesthetics, Queer Studies, African American Studies
Hardcover : 9781438485157, 264 pages, October 2021
Paperback : 9781438485164, 264 pages, January 2022

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction: Avant-Gardes in Crisis
Jean-Thomas Tremblay and Andrew Strombeck

Part I: Enclosures

1. Against Possession
Sarah Dowling

2. The Poetics of Drift: Coloniality, Place, and Environmental Racialization
Samia Rahimtoola

3. Pansexual Public Porn: Trans Gender Docu-Porn in the Long 1970s
RL Goldberg

4. The Ethics of Provocation: Censoring the Past in German Cold War Punk
Priscilla Layne

Part II: Infrastructures

5. Indexing Post-Fordism at P.S. 1
Andrew Strombeck

6. Under the Figure of the Palm Tree
Jennifer Wild

7. I Felt Like a Machine: Martha Rosler's Aesthetics of Survival
Matt Tierney

8. Yayoi Kusama's Immaterial Drive
Shannon Finck

Part III: Commitments

9. Sandinista! The US Avant-Garde's Response to Central American Upheavals in the Long 1970s
Javier Padilla

10. The Making of New Narrative: Gay Liberation and the Poetics of Revolutionary Agency
David W. Pritchard

Afterword: On Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Untitled
Jean-Thomas Tremblay


Charts underexamined genealogies of minoritarian aesthetic responses to the multiple crises of the long 1970s.


Avant-Gardes in Crisis claims that the avant-gardes of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries are in crisis, in that artmaking both responds to political, economic, and social crises and reveals a crisis of confidence regarding resistance's very possibility. Specifically, this collection casts contemporary avant-gardes as a reaction to a crisis in the reproduction of life that accelerated in the 1970s—a crisis that encompasses living-wage rarity, deadly epidemics, and other aspects of an uneven management of vitality indexed by race, citizenship, gender, sexual orientation, class, and disability. The contributors collectively argue that a minoritarian concept of the avant-garde, one attuned to uneven patterns of resource depletion and infrastructural failure (broadly conceived), clarifies the interplay between art and politics as it has played out, for instance, in discussions of art's autonomy or institutionality. Writ large, this book seeks to restore the historical and political context for the debates on the avant-garde that have raged since the 1970s.

Jean-Thomas Tremblay is Assistant Professor of English at New Mexico State University. They are currently completing a monograph titled Breathing Aesthetics. Andrew Strombeck is Professor of English at Wright State University. He is the author of DIY on the Lower East Side: Books, Buildings, and Art after the 1975 Fiscal Crisis, also published by SUNY Press.


"This is an excellent collection of essays. It will serve as an important resource for scholars interested in the idea of the avant-garde as it figures in contemporary literary studies, art history, and poetics. Taken individually, the essays are all smart and engaging and, collectively, they hang together especially well, thanks in part to the exemplary introductory and closing essays." — Brian Glavey, author of The Wallflower Avant-Garde: Modernism, Sexuality, and Queer Ekphrasis