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
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 artist’s narrative conceptual “Red Mars” is a mixed-media installation of acrylic, coffee, meteorite dust, glitter, stickers, wheat paste on canvas, a telescope, LED sign and booklets. His fictional artist/character views the future of a colonized Mars through a backyard telescope. This character views freedom from a very different perspective, as he creates art and invents “Stories” that confront injustice and consumerism.Read More
We have reached the Hegelian endgame; the fusion of art and philosophy. Not quite, as Arthur Danto notes, a negation of art by philosophy but the fusion of both. The art object has become, it is claimed, a philosophical argument in itself. But it is a pyrrhic victory – a Twilight Zone ending for art history, modernism and the avant-garde.
Anything can be made into art. But there is a small army of theorists dedicated to parsing out what is and isn’t art. Anyone can be an artist – if they aren’t too attached to the idea of eating dinner. Art and philosophy have fused but in the absence of the social revolution that was meant to accompany that fusion. The result is a philosophical-art object that is profoundly weak. If the present model of serious contemporary art is a weak avant-garde, the solution is a popular avant-garde: a rapprochement between artistic experimentation (as art) and mass emancipatory politics.Read More
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is leading a one-day strike on April 1st. In Illinois, leaders of both political parties have orchestrated an artificial budget crisis. Under the pretext of this false scarcity of resources people like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner are firing teachers, closing schools, and wreaking havoc on public education.
Something particularly notable out this strike is that it is not just the CTU out there today. The strike is being billed as a call to action for entire city. This makes it unique.Read More
In October, 2015 Red Wedge's Adam Turl gave a lecture, "For Art as Epic Theater" at the Brett Wesley Gallery in Las Vegas, Nevada and Project 1612 in Peoria, Illinois. These artist talks coincided with the "13 Baristas" exhibit in Las Vegas and the "Kick the Cat" show in Peoria. The audio above is from the Las Vegas presentation and includes the discussion that followed. The lecture ends around the 45 minute mark. Turl makes the case for seeing the art space as a theatrical space. In addition he advocates for the alternating of distancing and non-distancing artistic tropes. Finally, Turl argues for Epic narratives in art. This includes the ancient mythological nature of the Epic as well as the inclusion of a multiplicity of proletarian narratives (neither idealized nor detached from social and economic relationships). Turl would like to thank both galleries, and the generosity of the Brett Wesley Gallery in particular, for their help in facilitating both the exhibitions and artist presentations.Read More
The following are images from an installation by Adam Turl at the Project 1612 art space in Peoria, Illinois. The installation tells the story of the artist Mary Hoagland, a Peoria native and former member of the 13 Baristas Art Collective, forced to move into her brother's garage after a serious car accident. The title comes from an exhibit Hoagland organized in her garage as well as the rank-and-file union newsletter produced by Caterpillar workers in the 1990s. In her paintings Mary tells fictionalized stories of the children and grandchildren of laid-off Cat workers and other residents of the greater Peoria area. This includes Kyle, who came to life fully grown when his father, a Fulton county sheriff, was cut in two with an ax; and a young Mary, who, in a bid to stop global warming, kidnaps Punxsutawney Phil so that he will never again see his own shadow.Read More
Constructivism presents a particular problem for contemporary artists who must produce art within capitalism. The entire meaning of Constructivism is bound up with the period of socialist construction (such as it was) in the USSR. Without the revolution Constructivism was not possible. This explains why contemporary anti-capitalist artists tend to look to different models — Brecht, Dada, Heartfield, Fluxus, Situationism, Godard, Fo, Hip Hop, punk, folk music, Surrealism, the Mexican muralists, etc. We have no socialist world in which to construct our art. Moreover, the ideological origins of Constructivism, between the 1905 and 1917 revolutions, are problematic for an over-determined “Marxist” conception of art. Many of the artists who gave birth to the most important art movement in Marxist history were essentially mystics.Read More
In late May 2015 Red Wedge editors Alexander Billet and Adam Turl spoke at the Left Forum in a workshop on "Neoliberalism and the Importance of the Radical Imagination." The above audio includes the presentations by Billet and Turl as well as the discussion that followed — touching on how neoliberalism has narrowed the radical imagination, the relationship of labor to culture, as well as possible practical and aesthetic strategies for contemporary art and culture.Read More