Description of an (Unrealized) Project: Women in Avant-Garde - Gender Aspects in the Digital Age

Bojan Jović, Predrag Todorović, Aleksandra Mančić, Milan Miljkovi?

In its historical context, avant-garde movements represent a wide range of cultural and artistic practices which aimed to introduce new modes of identity that could overcome social, political, national and other differences in the European space, at the time of the socio-political crisis related to the First World War. However, it is often said that many, essentially avant-garde techniques and strategies had become an indistinguishable part of the contemporary popular and mass culture (art, media and advertising, film, theatre); thus, losing their critical edge and intention to foster people’s individual personalities and truly critical, international cooperation. Therefore, a new research into the avant-garde should be based on the attempt to revisit and revise the historical context, looking for some less known avant-garde practices, in order to assess and transform current trends in the affirmation of the European cultural heritage and promotion of Europeanism. Within the avant-garde itself, there is a significant segment of production that has been overlooked and neglected by scholars, educators and cultural institutions – women’s artistic and cultural work. The research project (working title “Women’s avant-garde / Women in avant-garde”) will attempt to “uncover” the role and significance of the female authors during the period 1905–1939, to investigate how women participated in the international avant-garde events, how they collaborated at various levels (local, regional, national, etc.) and throughout Europe, establishing new models of aesthetic, cultural and political activism. The research would specifically emphasize the historical and contemporary importance of the women’s avant-garde legacy of multilingualism, the ways in which the avant-garde multilingualism corresponds with language/culture politics in Europe. Also, the research will show the significance of the gender aspect in the avant-garde movements and how this gender perspective helps in revising and reaffirming core cultural values of the avant-garde (internationalism, Europeanism, individualism, antimilitarism, productive criticism of socio-political institutions). Following the multidisciplinary and multimedia nature of the avant-garde itself, the project would include scholars from various disciplines, representatives of different cultural institutions (museums, galleries and other centres…), IT experts and people that are particularly engaged in the digital humanities, educators and contemporary artists or artistic groups. Having in mind that cultural heritage and values are at the heart of our capability to overcome the current EU crisis, the results of this research project –disseminated through workshops, conferences, printed publications and digital databases – will present a new historical perspective on the less known part of the avant-garde production: women’s work. Furthermore, by critically revising the contemporary understanding of the historical avant-garde movements, and uncovering new data on the role of women, this research will offer a deeper understanding of what “truly European identity” should mean, and an innovative approach to establishing new, synergetic models of collective cultural memories.