John Berger is dead. There are very few people who, when they pass on, leave you at such a loss for words. Mostly because there are so few as versatile and prodigious as he was. Art critic, painter, poet, novelist, socialist. And he was consistently brilliant in every one of these roles. Often, he was more than one simultaneously. His first novel A Painter of Our Time was available for a month in 1958 before the publisher withdrew it under pressure from the anti-communist Congress for Cultural Freedom. When he won the Booker Prize in 1972, he donated half the prize money to the Black Panthers. Landscapes, a recently published collection of his works, nestles musings on Cubism next to moving tributes to Rosa Luxemburg.
Count us among those who wish to drive a stake into the heart of 2016. This was a year in which the world definitively became a darker, more impoverished place. We lost battles and we lost friends. Trump won. Aleppo fell. The Ghost Ship burned and looks to have opened a rash of low-level war against DIY art venues. Some great artists left us and some important comrades. There were victories, and important ones at that (Standing Rock, the defeat of a few authoritarians at the polls in Europe), but too few
The student butterfly that flapped its wings in Paris, May 1968 led to an earthquake which shook factory walls across western Europe in the 1970’s. Out of the dust emerged an ugly snarling rodent called punk rock.
The 1970s in the UK was a time of open conflict. Strike leaders sent to prison and then freed by a massive strike wave, teenagers fighting in the streets against each other, against the police and against the army in Ireland, miners strikes, power cuts, three day week, women battling for equal rights, Tory government brought down. The working class – loud, proud and winning.
We are looking for essays, papers, reviews, short stories, poetry, visual art, comics, and other submissions that deal with some of these questions. What does the return of crowds mean for an insular art world and its weak avant-garde? What are the aesthetics of anti-capitalist totalities? What are the aesthetics of today’s neo-fascists? What is the difference between socialist and fascist aesthetic leveling? What lessons for contemporary art and culture can we take from the Russian Revolution – and its artists and writers? What about lessons from other key revolutions – the Mexican Revolution for example? What about the aesthetics of anti-fascist struggles – in Spain, in Italy, in Germany, in occupied France? What are the aesthetic relationships between class and other identities in trying to build militant anti-fascist resistance as well as counter-narrative to neoliberal capitalism? What do the crowds of art history and past literatures – Zola, Courbet, Brecht – have to tell us about making socialist art today?
Red Wedge Magazine is pleased to announce our new project wedgeshop; aiming to distribute socialist and popular avant-garde art, media and cultural artifacts (at affordable rates that compensate artists). At wedgeshop you will be able to order copies of Red Wedge, subscribe to our print journal, order special chapbooks, pamphlets, posters, digital materials, t-shirts, and more. We are also building up a platform for our co-thinkers and other left-wing artists to distribute artwork. It has become clear that the institutions of the art world and the culture industry will not sufficiently support a popular avant-garde. It is up to us.
America hates its artists. America hates its young working-class people. Thirty-six people are dead. They are victims of an art and music economy that doesn’t work for the majority of artists and musicians. They are dead because art has become financialized. They are dead because gentrification is taking away our right to the city – and pushing artists and young workers to the margins – especially (but not only) artists of color. And because of gentrification the urban life-rafts for gender non-conforming and queer young people are shrinking. You can’t stay in the small towns, but you can’t afford San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle and Portland.
We desperately need to explore a new genealogy for radical art – one that does not focus on obsessive materiality or abstracted gestures (isolated from social catastrophe); that does not avoid the brilliant moments of resistance that sustain us, but is not simply propaganda (although we need propaganda). Soulèvements – curated by philosopher and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman (winner of the 2015 Adorno Prize) – on display at the Jeu de Paume in Paris –provides an important contribution to exploring an alternative tradition for radical art.
Recently, one of Red Wedge's editors had the chance while in London to stop by the picket line at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton. It was perhaps one of the more spirited and creative picket lines that he's attended in quite some time, particularly considering the bitter cold and the utter intransigence of management.
The Ritzy is part of the Picturehouse chain of cinemas in Britain, which presents itself as somewhat art-house but unpretentious (the Ritzy, for example, is currently showing Jim Jarmusch's latest film Paterson as well as Office Christmas Party).
These are hard times. These were hard times before the ascendancy of Donald Trump; before the fascist human dust of the United States became emboldened; before the incoming administration started planning a series of social policy arsons. Times are even harder now. To pay for these hard times the Dollar Art House is selling out; or rather we are selling artwork and putting on some first rate poetry and musical performances. From 5pm to 11pm on Friday, December 9, the “Dollar Art House Sells Out” will feature music and performances by Poet X, IndyBlack, Sunni Hutton and Jesa D’Or, along with artwork by Craig E. Ross and Adam Turl.
“To defend our beloved Cuba.” The closing line of this poem from the great Chilean communist and surrealist writer Pablo Neruda rather sums up how working and oppressed people – in Latin America and around the world – are feeling in the wake of Fidel Castro's death. There is a lot to say about Castro the man, but it is far less important than the Cuban Revolution he helped lead, build and maintain for more than fifty years against the outside pressures of American empire.