Sascha Bru is a Belgian scholar of Russian and Romanian descent. He is a professor at the Arts Faculty of the University of Leuven, a stone's throw away from Brussels. With a family history that in the twentieth century traversed the European continent east to west, Bru has a strong interest in European culture, and in European avant-garde culture in particular.
Avant-garde culture in the broadest sense denotes all cultural practices that combine experimentation with a radical intent to re-imagine or change the world. Such practices can be found in many areas of culture (philosophy, science, everyday life, etc), yet Bru is particularly drawn to their manifestations within the arts. Typical of avant-garde artistic practices is that they seem off or out of joint to most contemporaries and that their value only shows itself at a later date. Classic instances include the early twentieth-century movements of cubism, futurism, expressionism, dadaism, surrealism
and constructivism, to which Bru has devoted several studies. Bru also reflects on later twentieth-century avant-garde practices and on our current, twenty-first-century moment, in which almost everything seems off or out of joint. Whether there can still be talk of avant-garde art today is for that reason a matter of debate. It is important to wage this debate, however, because a culture without an avant-garde, that is, a culture that can no longer imagine itself differently and that can only reproduce itself, may well be in peril.
Bru’s work serves a double purpose. On the one hand, it aims to help disclose the history of Europe’s artistic avant-garde within a global setting so that we come to better understand its past: its richness, complexity and conditions of possibility. On the other hand, Bru is interested in facets of avant-garde culture which we have not yet fully come to terms with and which could still inform cultural practice today or in the future. To these purposes, he frequently enters into dialogue with cultural practitioners and also invests in the promotion of the study of the European avant-garde. Bru is actively involved in many research initiatives (journals, book series, research projects, centres, …) in avant-garde studies throughout Europe (which he understands to include the UK). In 2008 he also helped found a trilingual (English-French-German) European Network of Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies (EAM), of which he later became the chair, and which biennially convenes experts across the humanities to discuss progress in the study of avant-garde culture.
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