Disordering the Establishment Participatory Art and Institutional Critique in France, 1958–1981

Lily Woodruff

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 country-wide 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.

Woodruff cover


  • $28.95 paper, 9781478008446
  • $104.95 cloth, 9781478007920
  • $28.95 ebook
  • 336 pages
  • 98 illus., 17 in color, 6 x 9 in.

about the author

Lily Woodruff is an associate professor of art history and visual culture at Michigan State University. She received a dual Ph.D. in Art History from Northwestern University and in Histoire et Civilisation from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris), both in 2012. Her research examines contemporary art with specific focuses on art and ecology, social and institutional critique, technology, participation.

Woodruff’s current work examines new ecological models of history and aesthetics that have appeared in recent artworks that take up methodologies of institutional critique and archival research on the subject of the Anthropocene.

Woodruff serves as President of the European Postwar and Contemporary Art Forum (EPCAF), and as caa.reviews editor for exhibitions in the Midwest. At Michigan State, she is a regular contributor to the Film Collective and the Broad Underground Film Series.