There are different methods of celebrating an anniversary. There is that which looks back with pure nostalgia; a soft, uncritical reification that half expects time to repeat itself. It is safe to say that the vast majority of anniversaries are celebrated in such a way.
Then there is the method of commemoration that looks forward, that intrinsically understands history as a constant process, unfolding in this way or that depending on who pushes, who is pushed, and whether they are willing to push back. Not events as blueprints, but as ruptures and openings though which we can see a different future. 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
The strong images of the dominant culture offer no way out for the proletarian subject. Likewise the weak images of much of the academic avant-garde offer very little. The solution, for the class-conscious artist, is to connect weakened art and a weakened working-class to universal and totalizing aspirations. In my opinion the strong-weak image is the mode of the popular avant-garde. And historically it has come from outside the art world as often as within it – and sometimes both, in the work of the Wild-Style graffiti innovators of the 1970s and the punk rock DIY posters and zines of the 1970s and 1980s. Raymond Pettibon, highly influenced by William Blake and Goya, was central to the early punk visual aesthetic, producing art for his brother’s band, Black Flag. The tension between “weak” and “strong” inherent to his work was summarized by Pettibon himself when he argued, “I am really asking is for you to look at Gumby with the same kind of respect that you would if it was some historical figure or Greek statue.” Read More
There is no getting around the popularity or cultural clout that both Afropunk and Afrofuturism have in contemporary culture. It’s been over ten years since James Spooner’s film on Afropunk came out, the website that bears its name is visited by hundreds of thousands each month, and the yearly festival recently expanded from Brooklyn to Atlanta and will soon be making its way to Paris. Afrofuturism, for its part, has become quite trendy in certain circles, with advertising companies attempting to cash in on its aesthetic. It is not difficult to see its influence in a growing array of artists. Read More
Red Wedge was founded in the wake of Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. Despite any number of heroic struggles, most notably (in the U.S.) Black Lives Matter (BLM), things are far grimmer today. The weakness of the workers’ movement the radical left is mirrored in the weakness of the artistic and cultural avant-garde. This two-sided problem, of course, has a major impact on Red Wedge, rooted in our belief both in the independence of art and the possibility of a revolutionary socialist project.
A defeated and marginalized left bears little fruit. A false dichotomy between theory and activism pervades the left. There are the academics who look down on concrete activism. Then there are the oddly anti-intellectual activists who have internalized diminished horizons. The latter are those who might say the “workers don’t want to read/think/look” at that...
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
If the grand conversation around race were to be neatly divided into “before” and “after” Ferguson, then Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly would have to be regarded as something of an artistic landmark, a stunning musical distillation of the post-Ferguson mood. I am inclined to agree with Rolling Stone’s Greg Tate when he writes: “Thanks to D'Angelo's Black Messiah and Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, 2015 will be remembered as the year radical Black politics and for-real Black music resurged in tandem to converge on the nation's pop mainstream.”
Lamar’s album has far exceeded all expectations. In its first day of release, To Pimp a Butterfly became the mostheavily-streamed album in Spotify’s history, racking up a reported 9.6 million listens on that day alone. It’s the first hip-hop or R&B album since Beyoncé to spend multiple weeks on top of the Billboard charts, and has already been certified Gold. Read More