I’ve been following the work of Indian artist, propagandist, and comrade, Anupam Roy, since early 2018 – after his work was included in the New Museum Triennial, “Songs for Sabotage” in New York. I sought Roy out after reading a review of the exhibition, “How the New Museum’s Triennial Sabotages Its Own Revolutionary Mission,” by the Marxist art critic Ben Davis. Davis is perhaps best known among North American socialists as the author of the (very useful) 9.5 Theses on Art and Class. I felt the approach Davis took to Roy’s work, however, was oddly cursory — almost dismissive. Davis seemed, in this review, to misrepresent the dynamic between art and politics and the character of Roy’s work, even as he was trying to make a more or less correct argument against the art world’s cult of ambiguity. I was particularly interested in Roy’s work as his emphasis on the concept of “excess” (Georges Bataille) is similar, in some ways, to my approach to the concept of “differentiated totality.” In April, Roy and I talked over Skype about his artwork, ideas and politics. That conversation was transcribed by myself and Tish Markley, and then edited by myself and Anupam for publication here. — Adam Turl, May 6, 2019.Read more
In the days following Donald Trump’s election, we at Red Wedge – shell-shocked and terrified as we were – ran an editorial arguing the basics of survival and resistance for artists and leftists alike. Few need reminding of the terrors that were – and still are – gripping those close to us. Non-male identifying friends and comrades were threatened for wearing their hair “too short.” Armed posses of white supremacists were announcing their intent to patrol colleges and abduct professors teaching the “queer agenda.” The need for self-defense was obvious. And it still is.Read more
Sparking arms, busted legs, broken heads, and smoking torsos, fell into the sewer with splashes and wet slaps. I listened from the top of the pile, upside down and pressed between a torso and a cement wall. I heard, above me, men return the cart to SynCorp’s loading dock. I paused for a few beats of silence and turned on my ocular lights.Read more
Social media asserts a massive multi-subjectivity. This is a conundrum for those who aimed to speak to/on behalf of the masses (for good or ill). It is a disaster for those who thought that without overdetermined capitalist media the masses would embrace their own emancipation, beauty and pathos. Storming Bastilles and unknowable poems were expected; instead there are incels and leftbook. (1) Of course, the Internet is also home to social genius and brilliant artworks. But these tend to be exceptions. This is because social media does not help the masses assert their actual subjectivities but leads the masses to create reified performances; it produces subjectivities as simulacra. Just like every other media phase in capital’s history, the majority of the content is mediocre and reinforces bourgeois “common sense.” (2) The difference is that this time we appear to be in control. It is an illusion. We have the apparent form of democratization without social content. We have the unique subject (in theory) without that subject’s emancipation. (3)Read more
Marxism is many things. Whether or not one agrees with the likes of Michael Heinrich that it is not a worldview (I believe it most certainly is), it denotes a varying set of processes of collective and individual human practice and cognition. Whether or not you want to call that a worldview, well, you do you, boo. To define it is thus, in a sense, to engage in it. Marxism of course is not limited to being operationalized, as it were as a “discourse” or a set of written procedures. As is apocryphally told, the great American revolutionary socialist Big Bill Haywood once remarked that he neve read Marx’s Capital but his body was covered with “marks from capital”. Yet accepting the absolute primacy of sensual creative human practice, what Marx calls “form giving fire” of human labour, there is still the word and the set of words, the discourse, better yet, the rhetoric, or even better yet the poetic.Read more
The origins of this piece came out of a discussion about neoliberalism and music in the context of the legacy of the 1960s counter culture. The debate revolved around two lines – whether punk was an ending or continuation of the 60s, and whether neoliberalism has subsumed and commodified counter-cultural themes, making them null and void.Read more
While there have been strides to widen discussions in art history to include issues like gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity, the corporate marketing of pricey art-history textbooks to American college students produces materials that glaringly omit and/or deemphasize Marxism as an analytical catalyst. In addition, examples of historical experiments with self-described "real-existing socialism" tend to be so grotesquely abbreviated as to distort context and content and preclude understanding.Read more
The right to the city is a cultural right as much as it is a political and social one. Over the past fifty years, capitalism has dramatically changed the character and rhythm of the city. As rents have gone up and schools have been neglected and privatized, our alienation from urban environments has been underlined. This is illustrated and concentrated in the relationship of both governments working and poor people to art.Read more
My decade-long engagement as a communist propagandist had convinced me of the importance of revisiting the old question of “political art,” and the linkages and gaps it opens up between the received notions of “aesthetics” and “politics.”Read more
“Outsider Art” positions art and artists in or outside the art world. “Art Brut” and “Outsider Art” were terms coined during the reign of the modernist avant-garde, in the 1940s and 1970s respectively. In this, whatever problems these concepts had, they initially positioned artists in and outside a conscious stream on ongoing aesthetic innovation, a stream in which a significant minority of artists had political sympathetic with anarchist, socialist, and Marxist politics. But, as Boris Groys observes, the modern avant-garde became, in the late 20th century, a weak avant-garde, avoiding the strong politics of modern art, as well as the strong images of classical and popular culture. There are number of reasons for this transition.Read more
This special online issue includes essays by Shannon Bell, Jordy Cummings, Laura Fair-Schulz, Joe Sabatini, Adam Turl, and Cam Scott; interviews with Anupam Roy, Tyler Bee from the Beehive Design Collective, and Kate Doyle Griffiths; reviews from Jason Netek, Agatha Slupek, annd Neil Rogall; poetry and short stories from Urvi Kumbhat, Benjamin Balthaser, Margaret Corvid, Tish Markley and Trish Kahle; visual art from David Mabb, Richard Reilly, Jon Cornell, Laura Fair-Schulz, Octavio Quintanilla, Nathan Nun, Anupam Roy and Adam Turl; audio/video from Alexander Billet, Magally Miranda-Alcazar and Adam Turl.Read more
There are concepts whose time has passed, and each usage now betrays or strays from the initial power of the term. “Transgression,” when deployed by such thinkers as Michel Foucault and Georges Bataille in the1930’s-to-late 20th century was a radical concept articulated with change and resistance. That is not to say that transgression wasn’t often a means for the homogeneous order to absorb elements marked outside of it and/or or at its limits.Read more
My work pivots from the following ideas and concerns:
Art was shamanistic in origin (under primitive communism).
The present day avant-garde is a “weak avant-garde” (see Boris Groys) detached from both the modernizing and utopian impulses of the modern avant-garde.
The solution to this weakness is a popular avant-garde that deals with the lives and concerns of the majority of the world (the working-class, the exploited and oppressed).
A viable strategy to combat the weak avant-garde is “narrative conceptualism;” putting the stories of working-class people up front in experimental artwork.
The following artworks and artist statements are from Red Wedge #4; previously not posted to our site.Read more
According to Franco Moretti, the fear of bourgeois society can be summed up in two names: Frankenstein and Dracula. He notes how both were born in 1816 on a rainy evening near Geneva, at a time when industrial development was just beginning to get underway (1997, 83). His argument is that Frankenstein and Dracula are dramatic, totalizing monsters. Unlike the feudal or aristocratic ghosts who were confined to a castle, these figures go international, expressing the motions of capital and labour. While originally published in 1983, his argument resonates most strongly in the late neoliberal period.Read more
Glenn Branca made it to my hometown relatively late in his career; as I recall, he stormed the stage rasping approval after a performance of the first movement of his fourteenth, then most recent, symphony — an overture of ambient menace, moving through the harmonic series in cascading waves. Wild-haired and foul-mouthed, long since an institution, Branca took his time in praise of the neo-romantic program in which he appeared, spitting anachronistic condemnation of musical systematizers such as Arnold Schoenberg and Pierre Boulez. I recall thinking this attempted relitigation of musical modernism extremely telling; no one is a context unto their own, and more often than not an adaptive grudge outlives its object as a useless negativity, festering resentfully.Read more
The vanishing point where your bodies appear, / A desert horizon where nothing but light comes / Into being. I sit with two letters, one from a / Journalist and another from a soldier, overcomeRead more
When I was a kid I made a pocket in my head / and held the family dog inside for a whole week / before dad realized he hadn’t run away. / Dad made me bring Hero back but he was older / and he said I was his favorite, now.Read more
Please step aside for a moment, ma’am. / A strike at my bare feet. / someone else exits the coffin, and / they go on and I am here. I have / no bomb but I wish I had / something to mop the blood with.Read more
Wives pick through the avocados, press the rinds, sinking their thumbs into the meat to ensure that this one will produce quality guacamole. In the carts, small children wind their fingers around their metal cages, burn their palms on the nylon safety belts better suited for suicide. Where are the husbands? The only man in sight stands behind the chilled meat counter. He leans now, over the grinder, making sausages. His hand rests on the control, missing an index finger, perhaps an accident that someone has served on a plate of hors d’ouerves two plates down from the guacamole. Almost unseen, a teenager with unnaturally blonde hair sweeps the floors, down each aisle in an easy, angled movement that dances under the wheels of the carts, the only sound the leather pants she wears in defiance of the dress code. The one she tells her manager she would follow if only the job provided health insurance and now she slips a pack of Virginia Slims from behind the counter and steps outside. Nearly invisible, and she promises herself she only took the pack because wages are so low they really stole them from her anyway.Read more