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Genealogy and identities of the Dutch Neo-Avant-Gardes

Genealogy and identities of the Dutch Neo-Avant-Gardes


Marga van Mechelen (Modern en Contemporary Art History)




Dr. Jennifer Steetskamp, Drs. Antoon Melissen


Description of the research

The critical reception of the Neo-Avant-Garde movements since the early seventies shows very diverse approaches and opinions.  While one approach stressed the failure of the project of the neo-avant-garde, another put the emphasis both on our understanding of the historical avant-gardes thanks to the neo-avant-garde, and the specific, although temporary merits of the post-war movements.  Few attempts are made to make these approaches more specific by looking at the diverse socio-political backgrounds of the neo-avant-gardes and the national branches of international movements such as Fluxus, Happenings and Zero.  This research tries to formulate the identities of the Dutch neo-avant-gardes and its genealogy.  It is a continuation in a more broader sense of a former research focussing on the Dutch Zero (Nul) artist Henk Peeters (see Echt Peeters 2011), that already touched upon the genealogy of the Dutch neo-avant-garde movements, not only the Zero movement but also Happening and Fluxus.  Besides these neo-avant-gardes the research contains also the Dutch Experimental and Expanded Cinema as a research topic.  This project as a whole knows four nexuses:

1.       Historiographical research about how the history of Dutch neo-avant-garde has been written in relation to approaches that have a more international scope or national based research parallel to the one proposed here.

2.       The genealogy, and more specific the relation to the pre-war art movements and the question to what extent the Second World War influenced the memory of these movements in the Netherlands, compared to other Western-European countries.

3.       The interrelation of the Dutch neo-avant-garde movements and its involvement in the political avant-garde and media culture of the Netherlands, with a strong Dutch identity.

4.       The Dutch contribution to the international Expanded Cinema as a topic affiliated to my former research (De Appel. Performances, Installations, Video, Projects 1975-1983 (2006) and Art at Large. Through Performance and Installation Art (2013)) on the intertwinement of diverse new media forms.


Envisaged results

articles, monographs, conferences, exhibitions


Societal relevance  

It is time to reconsider the history of the neo-avant-gardes by a rather new approach that starts from specific, relatively small histories as single artists, national identities and local socio-political circumstances. It is a critical answer to the more generalizing approaches that confirm (un)willingly the idea of the art world as a gated international world.