Ta-Nehisi Coates' sharp criticism of Bernie Sanders on racial justice generally, and the issue of reparations in particular, has kicked up some interesting discussion and heated debate. Left responses to Coates piece – and Coates’ subsequent responses to his critics – have foregrounded once more the importance of thinking through the relationship between “race” and “class” in the imagination and the political strategy of an emancipatory social movement. The importance of such discussions, though clearly relevant to the current Presidential campaign, extends well beyond it, revealing and potentially informing the state of the radical imagination, as expressed in artistic works, critical discourse, as well as social movement culture, tactics, and strategy.
In October, 2015 Red Wedge's Adam Turl gave a lecture, "For Art as Epic Theater" at the Brett Wesley Gallery in Las Vegas, Nevada and Project 1612 in Peoria, Illinois. These artist talks coincided with the "13 Baristas" exhibit in Las Vegas and the "Kick the Cat" show in Peoria. The audio above is from the Las Vegas presentation and includes the discussion that followed. The lecture ends around the 45 minute mark. Turl makes the case for seeing the art space as a theatrical space. In addition he advocates for the alternating of distancing and non-distancing artistic tropes. Finally, Turl argues for Epic narratives in art. This includes the ancient mythological nature of the Epic as well as the inclusion of a multiplicity of proletarian narratives (neither idealized nor detached from social and economic relationships). Turl would like to thank both galleries, and the generosity of the Brett Wesley Gallery in particular, for their help in facilitating both the exhibitions and artist presentations.
Contemporary capitalism has produced stark and contradictory forms of development that by extension produce equally contradictory ways of understanding culture and the phenomenon of cultural exchange. The exchange of commodities, ideas and forms of artistic expression has always been a feature of capitalist development. Neoliberalism, however, has accelerated and accentuated these phenomena; therefore the left must reconsider the way we engage with questions of culture and cultural exchange.
The term “cultural appropriation” is one such attempt at engaging with cultural exchange, and one which has moved into common parlance among the radical left over the past decade. However, much of the theory that has emerged to explain cultural exchange, although rooted in an anti-racist instinct, is a product of post-colonial theory.
Dirty his name? The dirt was always there,
just carried under nails of struggling girls,
in rucksacks, tossed in cupboards, hidden, curled
in elbows, tucked between their hats and hair.
The dirt was always there, beneath the shine,
between the lines we thought we understood,
in laurel leaves we garland round the good
This is NOT an obituary. Indeed this article was written on Friday Jan 8th and Saturday Jan 9th. It is clear now that the meaning of "Lazarus" on the new record cannot be reduced to the Thin White Duke persona, though it is clear that, of all of his personae, Bowie felt most comfortable staging his death – his final work of art – using the persona of the dying, emaciated mid-seventies iteration of his chameleon-like ch-ch-ch-changes. The very act of planning an album release – including a tremendously disturbing music video of a very sick Bowie – around one’s death seems of a piece with Bowie’s lifelong artistic project…
"Corpocracy,” currently at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art in Houston, provides another opportunity to reexamine important questions of a genuinely militant and engaged art practice. The show features political, mostly contemporary work by artists such as Michael D'Antuono, Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, Packard Jennings, Eugenio Merino, Yoshua Okón, Stephanie Syjuco, and Judi Werthein. One arts collective is featured as well: the Beehive Design Collective.
Modeled on retro, aluminum signage, with chasing lights that flicker on and off in different patterns, Steve Lambert’s Capitalism Works For Me! True/False (2011) spells out the work’s exclamatory title...
Since appearing last summer, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me has sparked enthusiastic discussion, from Democracy Now! to the Daily Show, from The Atlantic to Facebook, from classrooms and hallways to street corners and barbershops. The text has become a NYT #1 best-seller, has now won the National Book Award for non-fiction, and has no doubt been largely responsible for earning its author a prestigious MacArthur “genius” grant.
Among the many questions being widely discussed is one of literary lineage: Is Ta-Nehisi Coates the new James Baldwin?
Toni Morrison prompted this question with an exuberant back cover blurb, perhaps singlehandedly guaranteeing that Between the World And Me would climb the best-sellers list...
The success of the film Trumbo – starring Bryan Cranston as the titular blacklisted screenwriter and Communist Party member – has come at an interesting time in the American cultural landscape. Discussion of socialism is now commonplace. As is free and open discussion of stripping people of their civil rights because of what their beliefs may or may not be. As a gauge of how important it might be, the film has gladly pissed off the right people.
Filmmaking is a fickle art-form; it is of course impossible to cram every single element of a person’s life into a biopic. Nonetheless, that the film doesn’t mention in any way Dalton Trumbo’s masterpiece novel Johnny Got His Gun is frustrating for those familiar with his work. Telling the story of a young soldier fighting in World War I who, caught in an explosion, loses both arms and both legs as well as his sight, hearing and...
Red Wedge was founded in the wake of Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. Despite any number of heroic struggles, most notably (in the U.S.) Black Lives Matter (BLM), things are far grimmer today. The weakness of the workers’ movement the radical left is mirrored in the weakness of the artistic and cultural avant-garde. This two-sided problem, of course, has a major impact on Red Wedge, rooted in our belief both in the independence of art and the possibility of a revolutionary socialist project.
A defeated and marginalized left bears little fruit. A false dichotomy between theory and activism pervades the left. There are the academics who look down on concrete activism. Then there are the oddly anti-intellectual activists who have internalized diminished horizons. The latter are those who might say the “workers don’t want to read/think/look” at that...
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
Go back and read that opening line. Try, if you can, to de-familiarize yourself with it. Picture it in your head. Allow yourself to be surprised by the imagery. Wake up, in your bed, after a dream you wish to never revisit, only come to and realize that something is very wrong.
Make the realization that you are now, and without explanation, a massive crawling creature reminiscent of a cockroach, a beetle or a bed bug. Let the truth of this realization sink in: the confusion, the panic, the powerlessness, the utter abject terror. The knowledge that when your nearest and dearest see you they will now recoil in disgust and potentially try to destroy you. That you are now decisively outside of humanity.
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