Vanguard Performance Beyond Left and Right challenges assumptions regarding “radical” and “experimental” performance that have long dominated thinking about the avant-garde. The book brings to light vanguard performances rarely discussed: those that support totalitarian regimes, promote conservative values, or have been effectively snapped up by right-wing regimes the performances intended to oppose. In so doing, the volume explores a central paradox: how innovative performances that challenge oppressive power structures can also be deployed in deliberate, passionate support of oppressive power. Essays by leading international scholars pose engaging questions about the historical avant-garde, vanguard acts, and the complex role of artistic innovation and live performance in global politics. Focusing on performances that work against progressive and democratic ideas (including scripted drama, staged suicide, choral dance, terrorism, rallies, and espionage), the book demonstrates how many compelling performance ideals—unification, exaltation, immersion—are, in themselves, neither moral nor immoral; they are only emotional and aesthetic urges that can be powerfully channeled into a variety of social and political outlets.
“Theoretically sharp and featuring diverse case studies, Jannarone's collection compels us to reevaluate the connections between experimental performance and politics, and further to rethink the role of political performance both historically and in contemporary culture. It's an important and timely book that will challenge much of what we think we know of political theatre and the avant-gardes.”
—Sarah Bay-Cheng, Bowdoin College
"Kimberly Jannarone's collection of essays cracks front-seated beliefs about experimental performance and the political reactions it is supposed to arouse, while also disclosing how even the most ingenious and radical vanguard acts, set out to challenge and protest against oppressive powers of various allegiances, can not only decline in their bid, but also be perverted to willfully back those very same powers."
"Although Vanguard Performance Beyond Left and Right concludes with [a] call for a 'critical vanguard studies,' this well-timed and ambitious collection is already contributing to just such a project."
"The final part of this now essential text subtly striates back through all of its frighteningly thrilling collective
—Contemporary Theatre Review
"At a moment when “innovation” and “disruption” — signature values propelling any vanguard act — have become corporate slogans, Vanguard Performance’s call to critical vigilance is timely."
—The Drama Review
"This valuable anthology, has changed how I teach Artaud, Marinetti, and other revolutionary artists."
—John Fletcher, Theatre Survey
"In the current political moment, when the staging of mass rallies in the service of xenophobia and autocracy are
finding their way across Europe and the United States, this study of totalitarian spectacle—that accepts and scrutinizes its place in the performance universe—could
not be more timely."
—Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism
Photograph: Renato Bertelli, "Profilo Continuo (Testa di Mussolini)"(1933) © IWM and the estate of Renato Bertelli. Used with permission.