Every new technology seems to promise both liberation from drudgery and new forms of economic and social control. The contradictions between dead labor (accumulated productive capital) and living labor (workers), between the forces and relations of production, have always been at the center of Marxism. The way these contradictions play out in the cultural realm is contingent and evolving. Karel Capek’s 1920 play, R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), was translated into dozens of languages, popularizing both the idea of the robot – and the idea of robot rebellion. Working-class audiences, at the time, tended to identify with Capek’s robots – who were not exactly mechanical automatons, but rather artificial persons of a sort. Within a few decades, however, the mechanical automaton “robot” replaced Capek’s artificial humans in popular consciousness. The mechanical robot was increasingly viewed as a threat; perhaps in response to the growth of unemployment by automation, the mechanical slaughters of the imperialist and world wars, and the alienation of post-war corporatism.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
These compositions are the latest in a growing body of work exploring connections between humans and nature in contemporary society. I work part time in the shipping department of a small company, and witness a surprisingly large amount of paper waste. As an artist, and avid environmentalist, I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the paper left behind from generating shipping labels. This paper contains a waxy coating, allowing the sticky label to be removed easily while preventing easy recycling. These mixed media works consist of photographs printed on those label backings.Read More
The pooling of artists in global cities has become a destructive anachronism; destructive to artists, working-class communities in those cities, and destructive to art itself.
The formation of art enclaves in industrial capitalism, during a century of accelerating aesthetic and conceptual innovation (1850-1950) had a progressive logic. Artists’ innovations fed off their physical proximity to each other. Moreover, these aesthetic and conceptual interventions were often in political sympathy to the industrial working-class concentrated in cities like London, New York, Paris and Berlin. Artists found a radical, and oftentimes working-class, cosmopolitanism in these artistic enclaves. Gentrification had not yet evolved to exploit artists as it does today.Read More
Red Wedge spoke with one of our close comrades and collaborators, Kate Doyle Griffiths, for what was initially to be a discussion of transgressive social practices within the context of the West Virginia uprising. What transpired, however, was a wide-ranging discussion of transgression and Left politics, social reproduction theory, Insane Clown Posse and of course, the cultural practices of the striking workers in West Virginia, the polysemic quality of Twisted Sister. The following interview was conducted in June and July 2018. It will featured in our upcoming sixth issue, which you can subscribe to by supporting us through the Red Wedge Patreon.Read More
The term “critical irrealism,” though present and well-known in the spheres of literary and arts scholarship, is unfamiliar to most. But then, so is living in the world of 2018. It is also alienating and in constant violent flux. Which means perhaps there is something for this critical irrealism to teach us…
Michael Löwy has written about critical irrealism – along with realism, Surrealism, Situationism, Romanticism and a great many other aesthetic approaches. He is the author of many books on a wide array of topics written from a Marxist perspective, from liberation theology to uneven and combined development, from Che Guevara to Walter Benjamin and Franz Kafka.Read More
Ring around the rosies,
Pocket full o’ posies,
We all fall down!
Most everyone knows this nursery rhyme. Urban legend places its origin in the Great Plague of London in 1665 and 1666 – one of the last major outbreaks of bubonic plague on the European and Asian continents – the beginning of the end of a three hundred year pandemic.Read More
Paris based cultural theorist Boris Groys exerts a strange pull on the minds of many who seem predisposed to accept what he has written about everything except the Soviet experience. When it comes to his writings about the relationship between art, curation and the internet, he is listened to and his ideas are formative of our contemporary discourse on modern art.
When it comes to his varied works on philosophers, we engage with his iconoclasm. There is something attractive about a way of looking at philosophy that draws its model from Duchamp’s (or R. Mutt’s) expo of an upside-down urinal.Read More
Educational institutions are sites of struggle. Sometimes openly, sometimes hidden under layers of bureaucracy, but always consequential. Last week, lecturers at 64 UK universities walked off the job to prevent their pensions being gutted. On the other side of the Atlantic, public school teachers in every one of the 55 counties in West Virginia also went on strike. It is illegal in the state for public employees to strike at all, and yet the teachers have already appear to have wrenched concessions from the putrid opportunist of a governor, Jim Justice.Read More
The installation Long Live the New! Morris & Co. Hand Printed Wallpapers and K. Malevich’s Suprematism, Thirty Four Drawings, including covers, addendum and afterword is made from a combination of two books: a Morris & Co. wood block printed wallpaper pattern book from the 1970s containing 45 sample wallpaper designs by William Morris, the 19th Century English wallpaper, textile and book designer, poet, novelist and Communist; and the Russian artist and pioneer of abstraction Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematism, Thirty Four Drawings, published in 1920.Read More
We are born. It should be a start, but it is in fact a non-start; for we almost immediately have our full agency and autonomy as human beings robbed from us. We spend a lifetime trying to grasp it back from beneath a growing pile of rubble.
Rubble is literally at the center of Ilya Kabakov’s Labyrinth (My Mother’s Album). A large installation among many included in the Tate Modern’s exhibition of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s work, it is a spiral of long hallways reminiscent of Soviet era communal apartment buildings.Read More
At 9:40pm on October 25th, the forecastle gun of the battleship Aurora fired an ear-shattering round into the air. It was a blank, an empty shell. One-year prior, the Aurora had been contributing to the carnage of World War I, patrolling and bombarding in service to the Russian Empire. Now it was docked in Petrograd and under the control of a revolutionary sailors’ committee, most of whom supported the Bolsheviks. The blank round was, so the story goes, the first shot in the October Revolution, which overthrew the Provisional Government and established the first workers’ state in history.Read More
“No one today can reasonably doubt the existence or the power of the spectacle; on the contrary, one might doubt whether it is reasonable to add anything on a question which experience has already settled in such draconian fashion.” – Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, 1989
Within five years of writing these lines, Guy Debord – author, filmmaker, and leader of a coterie of radical intellectuals known as the Situationist International – despairing at the ever quickening advance of the society he opposed, brought his own life to an end. He had lived long enough to see the collapse of the bipolar world order of the Cold War and the Americanization of the world.Read More
Red Wedge will be presenting two panels at this year's Historical Materialism London conference. This year's conference takes place at the confluence of three auspicious anniversaries: the 20th anniversary of the HM journal, the 150h anniversary of the publication of Marx's Capital, and the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.
It is no surprise to anyone familiar with Red Wedge that we share HM's commitment to Marxism's reinvention and rediscovery. Which is why we are glad to be contributing these panels, dedicated to a creative and critical assessment of the Marxist aesthetic experience.Read More
It has been a century since the Russian Revolution. The occasion has naturally provoked all manner of commemorations. The establishment calls it an unfortunate sequence of events never to be repeated, the right spits its vicious bile at the memory of a workers’ world, and the Left, to one degree or another, celebrates and analyzes and tries to ask how to make the history come alive again. How to make the dream of total liberation, of workers power and radical democracy, into a reality.Read More
Red Wedge is proud to be contributing to the organizing of the very first Montreal Historical Materialism Conference. Held from May 17-20, it is a bilingual conference, and an excellent chance to break down barriers between English and French speaking activists and scholars. The them of the conference is ambitious: “The Great Transition,” reflecting a sorely needed optimism but also rooted in practical and sober theory.Read More
Welcome to Dumpster Pizza Party: a podcast about art and DIY counter-culture with your host Craig E. Ross...
My guest today is VHS Girl, as known as the artist and tape-head Katie Winchester. In this podcast we discuss VHS Girl’s artistic journey from VHS collecting to creating paintings of her favorite VHS covers and becoming heavily involved in the DIY outsider art world. We also discuss the Solar Eclipse Comic-Con in Carbondale, IL that we both had the pleasure of participating in as well as movies, breakfast food, nerd culture, and the history of resistance against the KKK.Read More
In early 1940, just before he attempted to escape to Spain from Vichy France, the Marxist theorist and art critic Walter Benjamin penned his Theses on the Concept of History. In twenty numbered paragraphs, Benjamin sketches his vision of the task of the materialist historian. In contrast to the historicist, whose method consists of merely adding “a mass of facts, in order to fill up a homogeneous and empty time,” the materialist historian employs a “constructive” method (XVII), piecing together the “tradition of the oppressed” (VIII) from the rubble of the catastrophic past into a “constellation” (XVII) that most accurately reflects the fragmented character of modern reality.Read More
How in the hell does Jeremy Corbyn become such a sensation at Glastonbury? A sixty-eight-year-old politician propped in front of a crowd of young people gathered to take in Run the Jewels does not on the surface sound at all like the raw material of cultural memory. And yet, when he spoke, the crowd chanted his name (to the tune of the White Stripes no less). They cheered and applauded and shouted themselves hoarse.
There is, ultimately, no reason they shouldn’t have. The leader of the Labour Party who led it to its best showing in twenty years did so by saying that this crowd of young people matters.Read More
Red Wedge is now taking orders for our third issue "Return of the Crowd." Get a copy on wedge shop or subscribe. We are also strongly encouraging all supporters to become part of our patron program through Patreon.
As the above video details, we are hoping for issue three to be a big step forward for a publication that deserves to play a role in building the kind of imaginative and militant left we so sorely need. As with any radical project, it doesn't happen without support. Lend us some and we will do our best to return the favor in the form of a fantastic magazine and website.Read More