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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - bologna.lab - Neue Lehre. Neues Lernen

Vanguards and Jesters: Art and the Absurd from Lenin to Lolcats

Taught by Dr. Rositza Alexandrova

Starts 24.10. / Monday, 10:00 - 12:00, Hausvogteiplatz 5-7, Room 0323-26

Language requirements: min. English B2



Course Description

How do the comedic and the avant-garde intersect? Are they two antithetical avenues of irreverence — one with a valiant pedigree of open confrontation (or outright self-sacrifice in battle), the other — a cowering court jester making light of injury and insult, disarming with laughter. If comedy is indeed ‘the new rock-and-roll’, as repeatedly affirmed by the reality of stand-ups filling football stadiums, how could it ‘speak truth to power’ in its ‘cooption by the culture industry’? Conversely, how is it that a growing contingent of current affairs aficionados rather reliably source their news exclusively from daily comedy shows and tersely formulated ‘tweetticisms’?
Beyond the instrumentally political, how does experimentation in art relate to the inner logic of comic provocation? Does the shared modality of ‘playful amusement’ only ever end in ‘effete entertainment’ or is it inroads to revolution!? Does the imperative to regale automatically relegate comedy to craft? Which of its tools of trade then (ambiguity, surprise, hyperbole) might be aligned with the avant-garde’s arsenal of Verfremdung, Umfunktionierung, montage, détournement?
Structured as a survey of the historical avant-gardes in Europe, with important transatlantic connections and reaching for precursors and successors on either side of the twentieth century, this course will work comparatively across media and languages to encompass music and the visual arts, theatre, literature and film. The traditional
format of the weekly seminar will be varied by an introductory workshop, guest presentations by practitioners, field trips and an art-school-style critique of a concluding collective assignment.