The paper explores three projects by Christoph Schlingensief, Müllfestspiele (1996), Seven X (1999) and Erster Attaistischer Kongress (2002), none of which has previously been examined in detail by scholars. The paper first identifies the tremendous extent to which Schlingensief expanded on the avant-garde traditions of the Berlin Volksbühne. It then goes on to demonstrate how Schlingensief’s artistic research into the avant garde generated and pursued a paradigmatic change in institutional critique. In the process, Schlingensief revealed artistic strategies for gaining autonomy with and within institutions. This also means that, in his artistic practice, Schlingensief had already anticipated and implicitly refuted Andrea Fraser’s later theoretical framing of the supposed limitations of institutional critique by artists.