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 However, the interpretative framework remains light enough that the core of the project resides in the selection of historical documents produced by the artists and activists themselves.
Image: Poster by Emory Douglas