Sara Blaylock

Sara Blaylock

Ph.D. Candidate
Art and culture of East Germany (performance, photography, film, independent galleries and presses); East German film (DEFA); counter-visuality; Modernism; Post-Modernism; 20th century theories of aesthetics and politics; state and experimental art and culture in the Eastern Bloc; art in post-socialism; Photography
831 459-4660
Research Interests: 

My dissertation, Magnitudes of Dissent: Art from the East German Margins, focuses on how artists in the German Democratic Republic translated issues of representation, performativity, and collectivity into forms of autonomous creative production—from photography and film to performance art and print media.


By the Cold War’s final decade, the GDR government’s inability to produce a collective and coherent public significantly frayed its power. Thus, I argue that experimental practice was not only an antidote for, but also a diagnosis of a weakening state: a foil and a mirror to official culture. In fact, the East German experimental arts scene produced an alternative public—a counter-public—with commitments to culture, community, and interdisciplinarity that state-socialism had sought to inspire. This irony, really an inversion of state-socialist principles, illustrates the hazards of subjecting aesthetics to ideology.


More than an oppositional practice, East German experimental art
represented a continuation of the traditions of European Modernism that
confounded and delegitimized state authority. Drawing from Romanticism to Dada,
artists pursued avenues of self-expression, socially responsive art practice,
and experimentations with form that had been cut short in the Third Reich and
retooled in the Cold War. 


In addition to exploring this unique cultural history for its own sake, “Magnitudes of Dissent” contributes to understanding how the East Bloc’s regional specificities both defined experimental art of the period and continue to influence that of the contemporary.

Kresge 220
Office Hours: 

2016 - 17: By Appointment.

Mailing Address: 

University of California at Santa Cruz

Porter Faculty Services

1156 High Street

Santa Cruz, CA 95064

Selected Publications: 


Bringing the War Home to the United States and East Germany: In the Year of the Pig and Pilots in Pajamas,” Cinema Journal, 56.4 (August 2017). 

Contributions to The Handbook of East German Cinema: The DEFA Legacy, ed. Evan Torner and Henning Wrage. (Walter De Gruyter Press, 2017) 


Being the woman they wanted her to be: Cornelia Schleime performs her Stasi file,” Gradhiva, No. 24 (December 2016): 21 - 49. Published in French translation. 

"Aufstand des Materials. Körperbilder im Prenzlauer Berg der 1980er Jahre" (A Material Revolt: Body Portraits in the Prenzlauer Berg of the 1980s) in Gegenstimmen. Kunst in der DDR 1976-1989 (Voices of Dissent: Art in the GDR), ed. Christoph Tannert (Berlin: Deutsche Gesellschaft & Künstlerhaus Bethanien, 2016), 394 - 401. Published in both original English and in German translation. 

Review of Sarah E. James' Common Ground. German Photographic Cultures Across the Iron Curtain (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), Sehepunkte. (May 2015) 

"Cold War Domestics - Home Archives: Paulo Brusky & Robert Rehfeldt's Mail Art Exchanges from East Berlin to South America and Signs Fiction: Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt at Chert gallery, Berlin, January 10 - March 28, 2015," ARTMargins Online. (March 2015) 

Review of Seth Howes' dissertation "Punk Avant-Gardes: Disengagement and the End of East Germany," Dissertation Reviews. (March 2015)

"Whiter Alltag? How the Wende Museum revises East German history and why it matters," Verges: Germanic and Slavic Studies in Review 2.2 (2013) 

Review of Nicholas Mirzoeff's The Right to Look (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), Invisible Culture (January 2013)

Selected Presentations: 

“Unofficial Galleries as a Counter-Public Sphere,” Gegenstimmen: Kunst in der DDR 1976 – 1989 (Voices of Dissent: Art in the GDR 1976 – 1989) Symposium, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (September 21 - 22, 2016).

"DIY Public Sphere: East Germany's Homespun Publications," Red on Red Symposium, Yale University (April 8-9, 2016).

"The Body in Pieces: Radical East German Photography in the 1980s," College Art Association, Washington, DC (February 3-6, 2016).

"Being the woman they wanted her to be: Cornelia Schleime performs her Stasi file," Feminism and Art History's New Domesticities, University of Birmingham, England (July 3-4, 2015).

"The case of Cornelia Schleime: Reading signs of artist agency in Stasi Files," Reassessing East German Art: 25 Years After the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Iowa State University. (September 15-17, 2014).

"The body as a machine: System contact in the art of the Auto-Perforation Artists, Dresden 1985-1991", "Dropping Out of Socialism": Alternative Cultures in the Soviet Bloc, 1956-1991. University of Bristol, England. (June 5-6, 2014).

“The body under duress will be moved: American Pilots and East German Spectators in Pilots in Pyjamas (East Germany, 1968, Walter Heynowski &
Gerhard Scheumann)”, Society for Cinema and Media Studies, Seattle, WA (March
19 - 23, 2014).

"Archiving the Public Sphere: Artist Responses to the Hot Autumn" German Studies Association Conference - Milwaukee (October 4 - 7, 2012).

"Culver City's Wende Museum: East Germany on the Pacific" Berlin Program for Advanced German & European Studies, Berlin Program Summer Workshop "German Studies Between the Global and the Local," Freie Universität - Berlin (June 25 - 26, 2012).

Art and Politics, Art History Graduate Symposium, University of Oregon - Eugene (April 12 - 13, 2012).

Teaching Interests: 

Cold War art and culture in state- and post-socialism (East and West Germany and East Bloc countries)

Theories of Aesthetics and Politics

East German film (DEFA)

Theories and Art of Modernism (19th to 20th century Europe and the US)

Theories and Art of Post-Modernism (US, Europe, and East Bloc)

Photography in the US, Europe, and Russia

Honors and Awards: 

Research Fellowship for International Graduate Students, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Fall 2016

Dissertation Completion Fellowship, University of California - Santa Cruz, 2016-17

Doctoral Student Sabbatical Fellowship, University of California - Santa Cruz, Fall 2015

Arts Dean Summer Dissertation Grant, University of California - Santa Cruz, 2015

German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Research Grant for Doctoral Candidates, 2014-15 academic year in Berlin

Coalition of Women in German, Zantop Travel Award, 2014

Arts Dean Fund for Excellence, University of California - Santa Cruz, 2013, 2014, 2015, & 2016

Summer Institute on Conducting Archival Research, Invited to participate in one week workshop held at George Washington University, May 2013

German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), German Studies Research Grant, 2012

Porter College Travel/Research Grant, University of California - Santa Cruz, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

University of California Santa Cruz, Regents' Fellowship, 2011-12

Education and Training: 
B.F.A. California College of the Arts, San Francisco, Media Arts
Blaylock_CV.pdf121.88 KB