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
Photograph: Renato Bertelli, "Profilo Continuo (Testa di Mussolini)"(1933) © IWM and the estate of Renato Bertelli. Used with permission.