1. Among the left, there has been much concern about the fascism of Donald Trump. Trump’s “proposals” are truly disgusting. But, historically, fascism is not merely a series of evil ideas. It is a mass movement of the disaffected petit-bourgeois used to smash a militant and organized working-class. Trump clearly does not represent such forces (although he may represent the promise of such forces). But neither does he represent a continuation of neoliberal politics as usual. He rails against the incompetence of the political class, and, aside from his racism, this is key to his success. The neoliberal state is incompetent by design. It is not meant to accomplish anything much more than safeguarding capital accumulation. “Big things” are not up for discussion (except when the core needs of the system are threatened). Trump embodies a right-wing disgust with the neoliberal state, while Bernie Sanders embodies the left-liberal version of the same. Trump is a fascist the way Sanders is a socialist, a weak echo of an historical phenomenon, not the thing itself.
2. This weak intrusion of past (and likely future) ideologies in the present is related to the “weak universalism” described by Boris Groys. In art, Groys describes a modern inheritance, the avant-garde model, a model that required a universal or totalizing spirit, related both to various utopias and innovations. This model persists without its utopias or historic innovative mission. If we have weak fascisms and socialisms we also have a weak artistic avant-garde.
3. The weakness of the present moment is not permanent. The material basis of the aforementioned ideologies will continue to develop, as it is already doing in France and Venezuela (the site of recent right-wing electoral victories) and Greece (where SYRIZA’s betrayal threatens to provide more growth to the far right), etc.
4. Likewise, the disequilibrium, or metabolic rift, between avant-garde art and popular audiences and concerns will not last. Even if the art world is able to structurally remain separate from the world as such, it can’t remain philosophically isolated as the crises mount.
5. For anti-capitalist artists operating within “the weak avant-garde” our first task is to seek a popular avant-garde; an avant-garde that is oriented toward popular, totalizing concerns while seeking multiple audiences beyond the art world: the working-class and the organized left (such as it is).
6. In response, my own recent artistic strategies have oriented on the following:
A. Narrative conceptualism: essentially borrowing from Ilya Kabakov and Boris Groys’ insights about underground Moscow conceptual art, trying to create frameworks for proletarian stories within the art object and space. The goal here is to bring the complex, unique and varied working-class subject into the art space.
B. The constrained proletarian subject: The individual working-class subject is neither a mere symbol for the class nor free from the constraints of capitalism (materially and ideologically). The working-class subject is a unique personality and identity constrained by economic inequality, exploitation, and the various oppressions.
C. The gothic/futurist working-class and the atemporal bourgeois: A particular strand of bourgeois post-modern thought holds that we now live outside of time, in which the styles, ideas and cultures of the entire world and all its eras, can be sampled by the consumers and producers of culture. There is an element of truth to this idea, especially for the ruling elites. Their existential condition, for the most part, only threatens them in their old age. The working-class and poor, however, experience this temporal displacement rather differently, constantly being pushed toward the promise/threat of the future and the promise/threat of the past. As the combined and uneven development of capitalism has become universal, there is a constant churning in which the semi-autonomous space is lost and gained, over and over again. The working-class is therefore constantly looking with anxiety and promise towards both the past and future (and the signs associated with each).
D. The carnivalesque/the differentiated totality: Therefore the working-class, when activated, presents a threatening diversity. It is not flat (like some Stalinist poster of “the worker”) nor does it present a false rhizomatic equality. The aesthetics of the differentiated totality of the working-class are carnivalesque and chaotic.
E. The art space as epic theater, part 1: The art space tends to be read in two incomplete ways. It is seen as hopelessly corrupt by its relationship to capital, to the rich collector, to financialization, etc. Or, as the neutral site of the cannon. Neither of these is correct. Neither is totally incorrect. Because art is both a social and spiritual phenomenon, the art space is both boutique market and cathedral, corrupt institution and cloister. Using the art space as epic theater means using the latter against the former, while acknowledging that structural change is impossible from within art itself.
F. The art space as epic theater, part 2: Seeing the art space as an ancient spiritual and social platform, like the theater, gives us the opportunity to use the gallery or museum as it actually is, as a performative argument for how to look at the world. Borrowing from Bertolt Brecht’s epic theater, we can seek strategies to “interrupt” the residual post-modern disbelief that helps keep totalizing "metanarratives" (like Marxism) at bay. We can push outside the weakness of contemporary art.
G. The valorized art object: The art object becomes a fetish for two reasons. As Adorno indicates, it is both a commodity fetish and another kind of fetish, which I will call spiritual. The former is born of capitalist market relations. The latter is born of art’s ancient origins during the evolution of the species. They are in conflict even as both create auric value. The use of painting in my work aims to associate the auric power of the unique art object with the unique working-class subject.
H. The social unconscious and critical irrealism: The cultural artifact is related to the material base of capitalism but it is also a dream object, related to the social subconscious of the human race and its social classes. This is the mediated “nether” space between economic base and cultural superstructure. Therefore, the Marxist artist must take into account how the proletarian (or bourgeois) subject dreams its life. In this way contemporary anti-capitalist art, again, stands in the tradition of the surrealists and the left-wing romantics.
I. Metanarratives and alterity: Within this dream space we can reassert totalizing solutions like social revolution. This need not be explicit but should be implicit. This is why the installation space (in visual art) and speculative fiction (in literature or poetry) allow us greater political and artistic freedom to pursue a “socialist” approach. By creating worlds like our own, but not our own, we can reassert the social dynamics within the mythological gestures that human beings require in art and literature.
J. Popular forms: An essential (but often essentializing) aspect of modernism was the incorporation of popular (or “primitive”) art within “serious” art. While this framework is not desirable in its modern form, contemporary anti-capitalist artists should learn from the popular art forms of the past (and present) that capture working-class disaffection with the status quo; from EC Comics in the 1940s through the punk rock zine aesthetics of the 1970s and 1980s and the classical “wild style” graffiti of the same era, so-called “out-sider” art, etc.
7. It is worth repeating that neither artist nor art object can emancipate art from capital. Only the working-class can cut the gold leash that tethers the avant-garde to the bourgeois. But artists can play a role, beyond merely going to the protests and picket lines (which we should do regardless), in laying the groundwork culturally for a return of a hard universalism. In this regard we are servants not of Christ but of John the Baptist. We are helping set the stage for things bigger than us, things that are yet to be, things that are now struggling now to be born.
 Boris Groys, “The Weak Universalism,” e-flux (2010): http://www.e-flux.com/journal/the-weak-universalism/
 Renee Silverman, The Popular Avant-Garde, Rodopi (October 25, 2010)
 see Mikhail Bahktin
 see Alain Badiou, Rhapsody for the Theatre
 see Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art
 see Walter Benjamin
 see Gothic Marxism, Andre Breton and Walter Benjamin in particular. See also Michel Lowy and others on critical irrealism.
 See China Meiville on alterity and speculative fiction and Illya Kabakov’s on total installation.
Adam Turl is an artist and writer currently living in St. Louis, Missouri. He is an editor at Red Wedge Magazine and is an MFA candidate at the Sam Fox School of Art and Design at Washington University in St. Louis. He writes the "Evicted Art Blog" at Red Wedge. He is also a member of the November Network of Anti-Capitalist Studio Artists.