Modernism and Postmodernism

Modernism and Postmodernism
Dates: 24-28 August 2015 at 15.00-18.00

Venue: Suur-Kloostri 11, Auditorium 104, Institute of Art History, Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn

Credits: 6 ECTS

Language of the course: English

Hosting Institutions: Estonian Academy of Arts; Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts (GSCSA)

Supporter: European Union Social Fund, Estonian Academy of Arts

Programme director: Prof dr Krista Kodres (

Student coordinator: Ms. Heili Sõrmus (

Guest lecturer: Dr Aleš Erjavec

The course will offer an overview of key narrative categories that emerged in the last two centuries in theory and in philosophy of art, as well as in art proper. Such categories will be modernism, postmodernism, contemporary art, and avant-garde art movements. Discussed will be both art from Western and Eastern Europe, with special attention being paid to avant-garde movements and to border phenomena such as the Situtionist International. Peter Bürger’s historical avant-gardes will serve as a launching pad for a discussion of recent (“third generation” or “postsocialist”) avant-gardes. Modernism and postmodernism will be presented within a global setting, along with alternative dispositifs developed by Jacques Rancière (aesthetic regime of art) and by Hans Belting, Arthur C Danto, and Terry Smith (contemporary art). In the closing part two particular contemporary instances of postsocialist avant-garde art, namely the Slovenian movement NSK and contemporary Chinese art, will be presented and will serve as possible entries into the avant-garde art of the twenty-first century.

1. Modernity and modernism
Key concepts
From Enlightenment to Marx
From Orthodox Marxism to Critical Theory
The birth of art and aesthetics & the end of art theory
Modernism: Theodor Adorno – Clement Greenberg – Walter Benjamin
20th-century avant-gardes: Peter Bürger and Boris Groys
From Futurism to Situationist International
Marcel Duchamp and a new paradigm in art
Jacques Rancière: Aesthetics and art
2. Postmodernity – postmodernism – contemporaneity
Modernism vs. Postmodernism
Charles Jencks – Jean-François Lyotard – Jürgen Habermas – Fredric Jameson
Contemporaneity: globalization (Hans Belting) – posthistorical art (Arthur Danto) – contemporary art (Terry Smith)
The postsocialist condition:
d. a. Third generation avant-gardes

d. b. U.S.S.R. – Eastern Europe – Cuba

d. c. Neue Slowenische Kunst

d. d. China: “Avant-garde with two heads” & Contemporary art


Fredric Jameson: Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (London: Verso 1991), pp. 1-66.
Aleš Erjavec (ed.), Postmodernism and the Postsocialist Condition. Politicized Art under Late Socialism (Berkeley: University of California Press 2003), pp. 1-54.
Aleš Erjavec (ed.), Aesthetic Revolutions and Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde Movements (Durham: Duke University Press 2015), pp. 1-18 and 254-285.
Reading materials (password will be provided by Ms Heili Sõrmus upon registering to the course)

Requirements for participation

Reading the required texts is the prerequisite for participating in the course. Interested graduate students can apply for the course by e-mail by 1 August 2015 at

Seminar papers are to be (a) on topics related to the themes of lectures or (b) on art (artists, works, movements) since 1900. Their length should be approximately 15 000 characters (with spaces). Students should send in their seminar papers before August 17, 2015 to Dr Aleš Erjavec ( By that date they should also indicate whether they wish to present their seminar paper in class (max 30 minutes) or just hand it in in writing. In case of oral presentation of the seminar paper students should make their own arrangements as concerns technical support. The course will consist of lectures and tentatively seminars, with the time allotted to the latter depending upon the number and the length of oral presentations.

Participation in the course is free of charge. The accommodation and travel costs of the members of the GSCSA will be reimbursed.

The event is supported by the European Union through the European Social Fund (Estonian Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts)