Disordering the Establishment

Participatory Art and Institutional Critique in France, 1958–1981

Disordering the Establishment

Art History Publication Initiative

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Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 98 Illustrations, incl. 17 in color Published: May 2020

Author: Lily Woodruff

Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Cultural Studies, History > European History

In the decades following World War II, France experienced both a period of affluence and a wave of political, artistic, and philosophical discontent that culminated in the countrywide protests of 1968. In Disordering the Establishment Lily Woodruff examines the development of artistic strategies of political resistance in France in this era. Drawing on interviews with artists, curators, and cultural figures of the time, Woodruff analyzes the formal and rhetorical methods that artists used to counter establishment ideology, appeal to direct political engagement, and grapple with French intellectuals' modeling of society. Artists and collectives such as Daniel Buren, André Cadere, the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel, and the Collectif d’Art Sociologique shared an opposition to institutional hegemony by adapting their works to unconventional spaces and audiences, asserting artistic autonomy from art institutions, and embracing interdisciplinarity. In showing how these artists used art to question what art should be and where it should be seen, Woodruff demonstrates how artists challenged and redefined the art establishment and their historical moment.


“Lily Woodruff's examination of conceptual painting in France is at once timely and long overdue. She offers a satisfying total narrative of the artworks situated in relation to the changing dynamics of both the state and the market as they came to determine culture without losing focus of the specificity of the aesthetic dimension of these interventions. She situates artwork as a vehicle for an intellectual and sensual proposition charged with capacity. I learned a tremendous amount from this book.” — Jaleh Mansoor, author of Marshall Plan Modernism: Italian Postwar Abstraction and the Beginnings of Autonomia

“This extraordinarily lucid book is required reading for anyone wondering how the 1960s—and even ‘democracy’ itself—still matters. As Lily Woodruff demonstrates, the top-down instrumentalization of participation was countered in that decade by an artistic landscape ranging from kinetic painting and wearable objects to handheld props and logos. In beautifully readable prose, she replaces French artistic practice in a geopolitical terrain that negotiates both Soviet and Maoist histories, making those practices once again urgently contemporary.” — Rachel Haidu, author of The Absence of Work: Marcel Broodthaers, 1964–1976


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lily Woodruff is Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at Michigan State University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations  vii
Acknowledgments  xi
Introduction  1
1. The Groupe de Recherche d'Art Visuel's Social Abstractions  31
2. Daniel Buren's Instrumental Invisibility  91
3. André Cadere's Calligrams of Institutional Authority  143
4. The Collectif d'Art Sociologique's Sociological Realism  195
Conclusion  257
Notes  265
Bibliography  293
Index  304
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0844-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0792-0
Funding Information

This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem)—a collaboration of the Association of American Universities, the Association of University Presses, and the Association of Research Libraries—and the generous support of Michigan State University. Learn more at the TOME website, available at www.openmonographs.org.