The omnipresent influence of Leevi Lehto on Finnish twenty-first-century poetry can hardly be exaggerated. He experimented in the fields of poetry, translation and publishing, and his work has encouraged others to invent new means of expression and new ways of distributing poetry. He was an unusual international figure in Finnish poetry, whose work – which included organising networks and introducing French theory and American poetry – has influenced poets both in Finland and abroad, especially in the Nordic countries. His innovative approach to both publishing and poetry relied on the possibilities provided by the new technologies.
This essay analyses an essay and a video work by the Norwegian artist Matias Faldbakken (b. 1973). It argues that issues of transgression and institutional critique do not necessarily grasp what is at stake when contemporary artists recycle strategies and objects from avant-garde history. Rather than asking whether artists such as Faldbakken are avant-garde, the essay argues, we should study how contemporary art mobilises avant-garde history as a reservoir to critically examine the confusing logics of digital media culture.
What makes Pia Arke’s work avant-garde in a Nordic context is a combination of several characteristics: its post-colonial themes, her way of mixing numerous media and found photographs, the archival impulse and the way she worked with a personal embodiment of the (post-)colonial relationship as well as the deconstruction of all national borders, identities and ethnic specificities. She used photography in radically new ways to construct an alternative “mongrel” “ethno-aesthetics”, to use a term invented by herself. By using this term in a provocative and ironic way she introduced a post-colonialism related to Danish colonial history when no one else was doing so. This article focuses on Pia Arke’s pioneering work with photography from the early 1990s until 2003, arguing that this body of work has been seminal in starting a Greenlandic discussion of post-colonialism and giving Greenlandic artists a voice of their own, which has only been recognised and inscribed in Danish art history much later.
This article presents the work of the Danish–Faroese composer and multimedia artist Goodiepal (b. 1974) in the context of a rejuvenated historical avant-garde. With his roots in experimental computer music, Goodiepal has broadened his platforms to include visual art and, more generally, a multifarious activism that includes performances, lectures and support for refugees, all blurring the boundaries between life and art. Goodiepal’s dissolution of autonomous identities – relating not only to art but also to personhood, consciousness, creation, personal belongings, home and nation – is framed within a Rudolf Steiner-influenced low-tech posthumanism, in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) is broadened to a more extensive network of material clusters, which Goodiepal designates Alternative Intelligence (ALI). His so-called “Radical Computer Music” appropriates existing media works and genres and transforms them into democratically handmade multimedia scores that may serve as points of departure for more imaginative music by and for alternative intelligences.
This essay revolves around the theoretical question of whether “avant-garde” is a useful notion when it comes to contemporary art. It picks up on the scepticism that many professionals express when the term is brought into discussions of contemporary art. This scepticism about the avant-garde discourse may be related to the fact that much contemporary art has become globalised to the extent that the term “global art” now occupies a central position in the mainstream vocabulary of art history and art criticism. Moreover, many professionals associate the term “avant-garde” with the historical avant-garde, which is why the designation “contemporary avant-garde artist” seems to be a contradiction in terms. The essay seeks to re-open what appears to be a closed discussion by posing three questions. First, could the concept of the avant-garde be productively applied to so-called global art? Second, could it be complemented with a post-colonial perspective to ensure that anti-Western aspects are not glossed over? A third, regional question follows from the second: namely the question of how to apply a post-colonial perspective to material from the Nordic countries, particularly to art from Denmark, which has a colonial history that has never been properly worked through. The test case is Whip it Good (2013), a performance by the Copenhagen-based artist Jeannette Ehlers and one of several works by Ehlers that address sensitive issues related to the history of the Danish slave trade and Danish colonialism.
This essay explores collaborations between art and technology at the Swedish computer manufacturer Datasaab and at IBM Sweden between the late 1960s and the end of the 1990s. It describes the collaborations between the computer art pioneer Lars-Gunnar Bodin and the computer programmer Göran Sundqvist, between the computer art pioneer Jan W. Morthenson and Göran Sundqvist, and the collaboration between the computer art pioneer Sture Johannesson and the computer expert Sten Kallin, examining how these collaborative projects contribute to the understanding of Bodin, Morthenson and Johannesson as avant-garde artists. The interest in the emerging computer technology expressed by the artists fits well into their general art practice and thus played an important part in defining them as belonging to an avant-garde. Given the limited access to computers during this era, Bodin, Morthenson and Johannesson needed to collaborate with computer experts.
This essay is a presentation and study of the Swedish-American avant-garde film-maker Gunvor Nelson’s remarkable production of five diverse animation films from the years 1983 to 1990. The films were produced during the final breakthrough of video art and the decline of American avant-garde film. At the time Nelson was an American citizen, but most of her actual work on the films took place in her native country, Sweden. Nevertheless, the primary culture and context of the work was the United States.
The essay claims that Nelson’s collage films of the 1980s challenge not only some principles of avant-garde film but also the status of the avant-garde film institution as the films coincide with the transformation of avant-garde film into video art and thus the emergence of a new institutional apparatus. The significance of her films as avant-garde acts lies in their status as film-based media and their transgressive aesthetics. Thus they challenge an art world marked by the commercialisation of digital video.
This essay explores a recent tendency among Danish designers such as benandsebastian, Bækkel Fex and Ditte Hammersstrøm to engage in a practice that problematises design itself in a self-critical and reflexive manner and discusses this approach in relation to Peter Bürger’s concept of the historical avant-garde. By way of introduction the Danish designer Børge Mogensen will be briefly discussed as a representative of an alternative conceptualisation of the avant-garde that can still be detected within the field of design, the so-called “romantic” or “idealistic” avant-garde, dating from William Morrris and including Bauhaus and later design. The essay thus offers a historical contextualisation of two opposing avant-garde concepts within design.
In the early 1980s a new generation of artists had their breakthrough on the Danish art scene. From the very beginning these artists – soon characterised as De Unge Vilde (The Young Wild Artists) – were linked to the Italian Transavanguardia as well as to contemporary German and American movements, in every way positioning the new artists outside or after the avant-garde. Building on avant-garde and related theories by Achille Bonito Oliva, Peter Bürger, Hans-Jørgen Nielsen and Guy Debord, this essay problematises the notion of De Unge Vilde as representatives of something other than the avant-garde. Instead, it discusses how De Unge Vilde on the one hand continued well-known avant-garde strategies forming a sort of retro-avant-garde while on the other challenging the avant-garde paradigm by recycling its strategies on new premises, thus forming a meta- or even meta-meta-avant-garde.