In late 2015, Red Wedge began considering some changes to its format and mission. We started asking challenging questions of ourselves and our readership. Most of our active editors wanted to go in a different direction. This direction is, we believe, rooted in the very specific and formidable challenges facing art and the radical left today. But, perhaps unsurprisingly, not everyone agreed with this new trajectory.
Brit Schulte was one of two founding editors who had been with the publication from its inception in the summer of 2012. Brit has been an undoubted asset to the Red Wedge project. She brought a unique passion to the table, along with specific knowledge regarding gender, queerness, persona, and sexuality that we believe the contemporary left needs to take seriously. Through the course of discussion, Brit's disagreements became clear, and she decided to step down in February.
Brit’s final request upon resigning was that we publish her resignation letter. We have done that below. Later today we will be publishing a response to some of the criticisms she has of the publication. We do so not to undermine a friend and comrade but in the spirit of constructive debate, as an opportunity to clarify Red Wedge’s positions, with the hope that some further questions regarding art and radical change in the 21st century can come to the surface. – The Editors
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This is not an easy document to write. It’s been over four years, with thousands of written and spoken words, always building toward the next big thing.
I was frustrated. Like I oft am, I admit. None of the contributions from the conference floor seemed to carry with them a nuanced understanding of aesthetic criticism, of art, of culture (let alone how Marxists or more broadly how the Left could participate in these things). I wasn't alone: there existed a small, equally frustrated community, with an even larger periphery of curiosity and cultural interest.
We endeavored to establish a dialogue, debate, body of writing and eventually a performance circuit that saw itself in the many traditions of: surrealism, constructivism, Marxist cultural criticism, DAdA, the propaganda of Bolshevism, the W.P.A. art campaigns, pop culture, German expressionism, Afrofuturism, urban craftivism and street art, spoken word, dance, all the things and more that we were doing, that those we loved were doing/making/feeling. We established an email chain, then an aim, then a name, then an editorial collective. Then we wrote. Then we argued, a lot, we dreamed, a lot, we kept writing. We wrote so much that first year. We lost people, gained people, got in some trouble, but shit was never dull. Then we published! Twice! What a colossal undertaking that all was.
Red Wedge was founded because, at the time, there were no Marxist cultural publications which were attempting to ignite our collective revolutionary imagination. So we began, to fill a literature gap, rather than as a reaction to specific historical events. There were/are critics, but there was really no centralized forum for dialogue between and among artists, writers, activists, and really anyone thinking about cultural questions. Socialist organizations, of which most of us belonged to at the time, lacked a serious outlet of this variety. As it stood, cultural and artistic analyses were either excluded from organizational publications, or they were without nuance. To put it simply: we wanted to help create a space where the Left took art and culture seriously.
During my time with Red Wedge, I’ve covered topics ranging from a feminist defense of the queer elements in horror films, critical image analysis of racist advertisements, photographic essays on punk shows, to examining Islamophobia in modern cinema, and actively taking up questions involving sex work and performance art. My work numbers over thirty individual articles, several major collectively written projects, and dozens of editorials; I have appeared in both our online and paper publications. I was also our most active voice on Twitter – constantly doing online outreach and building our community through that platform.
In considering the above outlined history, acknowledging the redirection the editorial board is taking, and directing my focus towards my future critical endeavors, I am leaving the publication. My reasons are equally based in the structural and content-based changes of the publication:
- I remain committed to a horizontal, collective model of creative organization.
- My academic pursuits involve projects and publications that center queering space.
- The intersection of sex work, performance art, and art practice as struggle and survival are key questions for me in my current work.
There are collectives and organizations that I am currently interested in lifting up, and supporting, while I focus on my writing and organizing, my MA, and my mental health. I ask that folx also seek out these efforts and do what they can to support them: For The People Artist Collective comes immediately to mind.
I also wanted to include some brief responses to the announcement that two of our editors penned. I am doing this to clarify positions for myself, and distinguish my perspectives from the current editorial board. I have spent a good deal of time reflecting on that document, the questions it outlines, and some solutions it points to, and I wish to offer some direct commentary.
When we call for the "independence of art," I believe this needs to be more clearly written as championing art unfettered by capitalist modes of production, criticism, etc.
When we identify the "possibility of a revolutionary socialist project" this ought to be "necessity of revolutionary projects." This is the first instance where the use of the term "socialist" actually serves to be at once too weak and at the same time exclusive of other revolutionary projects that are equally necessary.
Does there exist an inherent exclusivity to the term "avant-garde?" Does Red Wedge not seek to engage with any and all cultural products that it encounters? Nothing should be off limits.
The statement: "ongoing refugee, climate, and other crises" is dismissive, non-concretized, and unhelpful. It is a sentence that serves no purpose beyond a sweeping gesture of the hand revealing a host of ills under a system that targets immigrants, folx of color, pollution of natural resources, etc- we could have said systemic, institutionalized racism and environmental racism to be more accurate.
What is the "wall" between activist and intellectual? Is it grad school applications, the lack of tenure-track positions, or the absence of opportunities for academics to participate in social movements? Believe it or not, workers think and thinkers work. Where are the workers that DON'T read in the Brechtian sense? Who are the synthetic or inorganic intellectuals against which Gramsci might rail?
Why not re-establish goals for panel discussions, book tour stops, fundraisers, and concert events after the example of Rock Against Racism? Red Wedge should be a cultural hub which promotes writers, artists, thinkers of the left AND puts them in conversation with readers, activists, other artists, etc. "How do we make working-class narratives central to art again?" Fund them. You don't only write about it, bemoan it, thunder on about the lack of it, you give it resources and help it grow. You get in touch with folx already doing this work, you band together, and build community. This is certainly not just a lesson for those of us at Red Wedge or in other cultural publications – it’s a good rule and modus operandi in general: find good work and support it.
We ought to develop relationships with thinkers/writers/artists/etc. who will bring forth the issues/topics/ideas which are most productive for our publication. Any sort of list is at least as exclusive as it is inclusive; the issues it misses will be more prominent than those it notes. Those fostered relationships will develop their own lines of thought, exploration and insight, better than any list could.
The revolutionary potentialities of various mediums may be closer to the thrust of some of the umbrella questions at hand. Is this the forum to engage in debates about medium specificity? If so, perhaps it is the artists rather than the critics who ought to have sway here; the critics have been arguing about this since Schlegel at least. Let’s keep putting folx in dialogue, creating spaces to reintroduce cultural criticism in a way that is accessible and thoughtful.
Finally, I use “we” and “our” in the above passages because I still believe very strongly in a project that seeks to center art and culture within a Marxist framework, and the Left more broadly. Priorities do change, the boundaries we set for ourselves shift and expand or contract, some things we were able to contribute or find compromise on, we simply can't anymore – and that is okay. We don't need to be everything to everyone all the time, or at all. Just like in love, sometimes you're not. Sometimes you need to know when your moment has passed. Sometimes you fight like Hell to keep your original vision and press on, sometimes you lose. This is the nature of learning boundaries, and testing limits. So here’s to making music, and writing criticism, to highlighting visual studies, and aesthetics, and to exploring performance and absolutely rekindling the revolutionary imagination.
"The Hour Glass" is the blog of Red Wedge editor Brit Schulte: grass-roots organizing, burlesque dancin', comic book reading, punk rock listening, not-taking-shit, queer, Marxist-feminist. Follow: @britschulte