The Avant-Gardes in the Nordic Countries 1975-2000: History, Culture and Aesthetics

Is avant-garde a useful notion when it comes to contemporary art practices? And if so, how is the avant-garde to be defined today? Maybe the title of the conference and the last volume of A Cultural History of the Avant-Gardes in the Nordic Countries ought to be followed by a question mark?

The artistic landscape of the period 1975-2000 seems to be more diverse and spread across different media, platforms, and new technological and social means of organisation and collaboration than has been the case earlier in the century. Our own nearness to the period also makes it harder to make the (always reductive) categorisations that are part of the selection mechanism of writing history.

The nearness, however, makes it easier to look beyond canonisation and keep an open and nuanced approach to the wide range of themes, media and modes of expression present in the period; ranging from, for instance, focus on gender and postcolonial issues, dematerialised and participatory relational practices, to new modes of communication and networking due to new media.

Many of the artistic practices of the period deliberately draw on or refer to previous practices. Should the many re-enactments of earlier avant-garde manifestations be considered avant-garde themselves, or are they simply mainstream examples of already established artistic norms and standards? And what does it mean to discuss them in an avant-garde context? Should a contemporary avant-garde rather relate to technological changes and new media? Or to the social changes in a complex and globalised world? Should we look at the field of countercultures and subcultures? Or should we talk of many different contemporary avant-gardes? From relational art, feminist and queer manifestations, net art, flashmobs, and challenges of high and low in design and music to appropriation and digital piracy?

The frame of the conference is cross-aesthetic and transnational, focusing on avant-garde activities in the Nordic countries, as well as on Nordic avant-garde artists working abroad. It includes aesthetic activities within, between and beyond the traditional arts (painting, literature, theatre, film, photography, music, dance, architecture).

Everybody is welcome to attend the conference.

The conference is organised by

Benedikt Hjartarson, University of Iceland (
Camilla Skovbjerg Paldam, Aarhus University (
Laura Luise Schultz, University of Copenhagen (
Tania Ørum, University of Copenhagen (
And the conference secretary Marianne Ølholm (