By Marco Deseriis and Brian Holmes

(Originally published by Mute Magazine)

The 2007 reader Art and Social Change offers a genealogy of today’s radical cultures. Here, Brian Holmes and Marco Deseriis glean insights from the book into today’s dilemma of producing critical culture within recuperative ‘ semiocapitalism’

Among the groundswell of books investigating the link between aesthetics and politics, Art and Social Change: A Critical Reader is particularly ambitious. Published in 2007 as a companion volume to the historical survey exhibition Forms of Resistance at the Vanabbemuseum in Eindhoven, Holland, the book features a wide-ranging collection of texts and manifestos, divided into four sections corresponding to four major watersheds in contemporary social and political history: the Paris Commune of 1871, the Soviet Revolution of 1917, the social uprisings of 1968, and the 1989 revolutions in the former Eastern Bloc.

Editors Will Bradley and Charles Esche have completed the anthology by inviting six contemporary critics (Geeta Kapur, Lucy Lippard, John Milner, Gerald Raunig, Marina Vishmidt, and Tirdad Zolghadr) to provide both a historical context and an interpretation for some of the readings. However, the interpretative framework remains light enough that the core of the project resides in the selection of historical documents produced by the artists and activists themselves.

Poster by Emory Douglas

Image: Poster by Emory Douglas

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(Originally published in Mute Magazine.)

What’s the difference between a commissar’s propaganda and a Constructivist’s poetics of production? Marco Deseriis reviews Gerald Raunig’s ‘Art and Revolution’ and ponders some of the gaps in his aesthetic-political theory.

There are books which are imbued with an anachronistic aura from their very release. Books whose untimely publication makes you wonder whether their moment has irrevocably gone by or is perhaps still yet to come.

Such is the case with Gerald Raunig’s Art and Revolution: Transversal Activism in the Long Twentieth Century, a dense reflection on the concatenation of European artistic and revolutionary practices of the last two centuries. A potential theoretical tool for the Seattle movement, the book hit the bookstores when the movement was clearly ebbing, and resurgent fundamentalisms, nationalisms and widespread anti-immigration feelings were reshaping the political climate in a conservative fashion. The paradox is that if there was a ‘right time’ for a book such as Raunig’s, this ideal window of opportunity was no longer than the three months dividing the Genoa anti-G8 protests of July 2001 from September 11, that is, before the global state of war seized the stage from the Seattle movement. To be sure, (what is left of) the movement of movements continues to produce its own analytical tools. But what seems to be missing in the current phase is a political and imaginary space in which those movements can articulate theory and practice in their dialectical unity.


Cover – Art and Revolution

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