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
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 editor Adam Turl, was unable to attend as he got sick at the last minute, but the video was well received. It is based on Turl’s 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.Read More
Sitting at a piano, decked out in Ray Bans and a black suit, Nicolas Cage sings his heart out about “Pachinko”. A sort of cross between a slot machine and pinball, Pachinko is, like your favorite late seventies rock band, big in Japan, indeed it is part of the fabric of modern Japanese capitalism. Gambling is illegal in Japan, yet Pachinko is tolerated. Instead of winning money at Pachinko parlours, players are awarded golden tickets which are thus exchangeable for cash at other locations affiliated with the parlours themselves. The industry, targeting poor and working-class people not unlike video terminal gambling in North America, is primarily staffed by ex-police.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
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
It’s about time. Not the obvious reaction when one of your heroes dies. But Holger Czukay was all about time. Not just in the sense, as Can’s bass player, of playing in time, though few could better that Czukay (just listen to “One More Night”), but in the sense of sequencing time: ordering and shaping it, as an editor. Between the two approaches, his two roles, Czukay created a sense of time speeding up, time slowing down, time as an elastic, malleable essence. Working against the regulation, the containment of capitalist time. But Holger Czukay is all about time in another sense. Due to both forming a band late – in his thirties – and dying relatively late in musician terms, Czukay’s life spanned a huge stretch of history and culture.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
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 delighted to share an excerpt from Matthew Flisfeder’s book Postmodern Theory and Blade Runner (2017). The book is part of the Bloomsbury series Film Theory in Practice, edited by Todd McGowan. This excerpt comes from the end of the second chapter.
With a sequel coming up later this year, the time to revalue Blade Runner as a profoundly historical film has come. The film was made during a critical transition point within the history of capitalism.Read More
Musician and socialist Dave Randall’s Sound System: The Political Power of Music was released to positive reviews in May. Randall, a veteran musician who has worked with Faithless, Sinead O’Connor and Emiliana Torrini among others, examines in the book music’s many uses and abuses from the perspective of both a practitioner and a serious Marxist. Here, Red Wedge republishes an interview conducted with Randall by rs21’s Colin Revolting on the book, its inspiration, some of its highlights, and how a radical movement can subtly but actively approach popular music.Read More
“Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, ‘Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.’ Man bursts into tears. Says, ‘But doctor... I am Pagliacci.’ Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains." – Rorschach, Watchmen
It’s easy to say that it’s because of Halloween. But why this Halloween? Why not last year or the year before? Will 2016 (already an ignominious year) be remembered as the year that sent in the clowns?Read More
Red Wedge is currently fundraising to attend the Historical Materialism conference in London. We need your help.
Red Wedge is the only English-language Marxist cultural website and publication dedicated to all aspects of creative culture (art, music, film, poetry, fiction, dance, etc.). We believe that art and creativity aren’t just side issues to the fight for a radically different future, but integral to it. The ability of ordinary people to imagine something different is essential to the socialist vision, and we seek to highlight art, music, poetry, fiction, film and analysis that help feed this radical imagination.Read More
The experimental hip-hop group clipping. have a new E.P. out. It’s called Wriggle. The group’s M.C. Daveed Diggs has recently become nothing short of a Broadway celebrity lately since winning a Tony for his role in Hamilton. The man is a phenom, an insane talent on the microphone. There’s no question about this. Diggs’ more usual fare with clipping. is, however, of a somewhat different fare. As I’ve put it previously, he’s far more Marquis de Sade than Lafayette, and clipping. fit right in with the insurgence of “industrial hip-hop” we’ve seen over the past few years that also includes the likes of Death Grips. Here’s the title track and lead single from the new E.P.Read More
Red Wedge presented two panels at last month’s Historical Materialism conference in Toronto. The first panel was designed to expound on the theme of our second issue, “Art Against Global Apartheid,” which was officially launched at the conference. The following presentations were part of the panel:
- “Time/Space/Resistance and the Aesthetics of Neoliberalism” by Alexander Billet
- “Bitch Better Have My Marxism: Notes On the Intersection of Politics and Pop Culture” by Crystal Stella Becerril
- “November Network of Anti-capitalist Artists” by Adam Turl
In the face of profound social, political and economic tragedy, it has often been the case that popular musicians, out of a sense of solidarity, put out a song to capture the moment and inspire the movement. It is often the case, by virtue of historic specificity, that these songs don’t date well, their universality caught in the particularity of a given moment. There are a few songs, however, that have outlasted their origins and continue to resonate. Neil Young’s “Ohio,” Bruce Springsteen’s “American Skin (41 Shots)” and, most recently, in the face of the spate of police murder of Black youth, and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, Prince’s “Baltimore.”
Reminiscent of mid-period Prince and the Revolution, it combines a funkish shuffle in a minor key with vaguely country/western sounding acoustic and electric guitars. The lyrics, while angry, are more sad and resigned than anything else...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 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
The following is the lead editorial from Red Wedge's first full print issue, which is being sent to the printers shortly. Copies of Issue One can be ordered at the Red Wedge shop.
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In August 2012 a handful of Chicago-based Marxist art junkies launched Red Wedge. The moment was distinctive: Tunisia, Egypt, Occupy Wall Street, the Indignados in Spain, general strikes in Greece and South Africa. Our aim was to try to pull together the artistic and creative flourishes that came with the social and political upheavals: the music and poetry of Tahrir Square, the painting, sculpture and performance of Occupy. It was impossible to ignore the transformation of public space when working-class people took it over. The static reminders of authority and alienation became living breathing carnivals of resistance. It was our belief that this indicated a new audience eager to discuss the aesthetics of rebellion and ready to explore the intersection between art and radical theory. We hoped our website might be a humble contribution to building and cohering a new cultural resistance.Read More