The Total Art of Neoliberalism

This video was presented as part of the Red Wedge stream of panels at the Historical Materialism conference in London last November. Its author, Red Wedge art and design editor Adam Turl, was unable to attend as he got sick at the last minute, but Turl produced the video to be shown in his absence. It is based on his article, “The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction” in Red Wedge #6, “In Defense of Transgression.” That article begins as follows:

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. 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.” 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.

This post originally appeared on the Red Wedge Patreon page. To read exclusive content such as this early, and to receive a subscription to Red Wedge, become a supporter.


Adam Turl is an artist and writer from southern Illinois (by way of upstate New York, Wisconsin, Chicago and St. Louis) living in Las Vegas, Nevada. His is the art and design editor at Red Wedge and an adjunct instructor at the University of Nevada - Las Vegas. He has an MFA from the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, and a BFA from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. Turl’s most recent exhibitions include Revolt of the Swivel Chairs at the Cube Gallery (Las Vegas, NV 2018), The Barista Who Disappeared at Arspace 304 (Carbondale, IL 2018) and The Barista Who Could See the Future at Gallery 210 as part of Exposure 19 (St. Louis, MO 2017). In 2016 he received a fellowship and residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, France. Turl’s Instagram is adamturl_art. His website, which he shares with writer Tish Markley, is evictedart.com.