"On February 27, a courageous group of anti-fascists gathered to counter protest the KKK rally in Anaheim, CA. When the pigs came, they ended up targeting and arresting the counter protesters, many of them Black and Brown people, and not the racists who instigated the confrontation/violence in the first place."Read More
Baal (1919) was the first play by Bertolt Brecht, written before he became a Marxist, at the height of his hedonistic sturm und drang (storm and stress). Sturm und drang was rooted in early German romanticism, and emphasized individual subjectivity and emotion; which in turn influenced 20th century German expressionism. While Baal was thoroughly anti-bourgeois, Brecht was not a Marxist. In his second major play, Drums in the Night, Brecht has a soldier ignore the German Revolution in favor of taking to bed with his girlfriend. Baal, however, hits several Romantic anti-bourgeois notes; not the least in its name, coming from an ancient Semitic word for lord, believed to refer to a storm and fertility god. Among some Christians and Muslims Baal was thought to be a demon. In the 1600s occultists considered him to be one of the seven princes of Hell. In Brecht’s play, however, Baal is a drunk poet. Were that all, and were it produced after WW2 (by which time such stories became the silly cliches of wannabe beatniks), the play would not be particularly interesting. But Baal is not an idealized boheme. He is, more or less, a monster (not totally unlike Mackie Messer, although not as socially situated or likable). One almost wonders, at certain points, if Brecht is making fun of Baal; ridiculing his own pretensions and an extreme version of his own debauchery. In 1982 David Bowie appeared in a BBC production of Baal (as the titular character). The songs (written by Brecht) were retranslated and given new musical scores.
Adam Turl is an artist and writer currently living in St. Louis, Missouri where he is an MFA candidate at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. He is an editor at Red Wedge Magazine where he writes the “Evicted Art Blog.” He also is a founding member of the November Artist Network. His most recent exhibitions are "13 Baristas" at the Brett Wesley Gallery in Las Vegas, Nevada and "Kick the Cat" at Project 1612 in Peoria, Illinois.
I need your help. I want you (readers, friends and comrades) to take some pictures that I will use as source material for paintings. The series is called Red Mars (only tangentially related to the Kim Stanley Robinson novel). It is about a fictional middle-aged guy working in a low wage job; living off “Old 13” (a highway that runs in between my hometown of Carbondale and Murphysboro, Illinois). This character, Alex Pullman, starts to make some drawings based on Robinson’s novel. He then acquires a telescope from his late grandfather. He comes to believe, or imagines he believes, that he can see (and hear the thoughts of) people living on a colonized and terraformed Mars (decades in the future). He begins to record their stories, write poems, sketch drawings and make paintings about their lives.Read More
This article was originally posted three years ago on the old Red Wedge site. In the past three years my ideas on the following have continued to evolve, particularly on the question of narrative conceptualism and the role of the avant-garde. At the same time there are still things I agree with, and due to popular demand (okay one person asked about it who hadn't read it before) I am reposting it to the Evicted Art Blog.Read More
Last year was mostly shit. Remnants of the Arab Spring were consumed by the mutually reinforcing dyad of ISIS and U.S. imperialism. Black bodies lay in the streets of every major American city; murdered by racist police. Whatever you think of Bernie Sanders the life-blood of Occupy has been directed, again, into a bourgeois electoral process designed to demobilize activists. SYRIZA betrayed the Greek working-class and the international left (that had placed so much hope in it). Of course, there are glimmers of hope: the re-election of Kshama Sawant; Jeremy Corbyn’s (Trotskyist, Maoist or Stalinist, pick one) plot to “take over the Labour Party” that he was democratically elected to lead; Black Lives Matter activists are pressing forward… What follows here, however, is not some sort of socialist perspectives-in-disguise. Instead it is my reflection on some of the cultural, artistic and critical products/ideas of the past year (or so); each that I believe are good in their own right, but will also help orient cultural Marxists. What blood-addled revenges and carnivals will we seek in the ruins to come?Read More
Trump embodies a right-wing disgust with the neoliberal state, while Bernie Sanders embodies the left-liberal version of the same. Trump is a fascist the way Sanders is a socialist, a weak echo of an historical phenomenon, not the thing itself.Read More
In 2028, five years after the last winter in the North American continental humid climate zone, Mary Hoagland, the sixteen year old daughter of laid-off Caterpillar workers from Peoria, Illinois, kidnapped Punxsutawney Phil in a bid to stop global warming. She wrote the following poem about the experience during her two year imprisonment in the Peoria County Juvenile Center.
I remember winter
Little Hoths consumed the yard
When it melted
microbes came back to life
hydras battled Hercules
and sloshed in the drainage ditch
running into corrugated pipe
under the drive
The kingdom of six inch trolls
presided over the final frost
I had an epiphany in Sarah’s garage
pulled from a 21 inch Graffix
If Punxsutawney Phil never again
failed to see his own shadow
then winter might return
We could put him in
or immersive light
or decapitate him
like in those old-timey ISIS videos
The construction dividers
blurred into an orange wall
and I thought I saw a coyote
running alongside Sarah’s truck
on the passenger’s side
If I believed in spirit animals
maybe he could be mine
What if he misses winter too?
Maybe he will swing the machete
that kills the enemy groundhog.
By the time the dragons busted me
in the television warehouse
the groundhog was dead
and I had become Saint George
Or maybe they sent me to
the Maxwell Road snow globe
shook it a couple times
forgot about me
and I spent the next two years
catching plastic flakes on my tongue
Adam Turl is an artist, writer and socialist currently living in St. Louis, Missouri. He is an editor at Red Wedge and an MFA candidate at the Sam Fox School of Art and Design at Washington University in St. Louis. He writes the "Evicted Art Blog" at Red Wedge, which is dedicated to exploring visual and studio art.
“Capitalism gives rise to independent individuals who can carry out socioeconomic functions; but when these individuals evolve into subjective individualities, exploring and developing their inner worlds and personal feelings, they enter into contradiction with a universe based on standardization and reification. And when they demand their imagination be given free play, they collide with the extreme mercantile platitude of the world produced by capitalist relations. In this respect, Romanticism represents the revolt of repressed, channeled, and deformed subjectivity and affectivity.” (Michael Löwy and Robert Sayre, Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity)
“Generally speaking, art is an expression of man’s need for a harmonious and complete life, that is to say, his need for those major benefits of which a society of classes has deprived him. That is why a protest against reality, either conscious or unconscious, active or passive, optimistic or pessimistic, always forms part of a really creative piece of work.” (Leon Trotsky, “Art and Politics in Our Epoch.”)
As J. Matthew Camp argues in “New Jerusalem Unbound” the fact we are having an historical and theoretical debate on the Marxist understanding of Romanticism and art is a good thing. The infrequency of such debates has stymied the development of both cultural theory and art itself. In the resulting vacuum cynicism has reigned supreme.
The editors of Red Wedge have done a great service in creating a platform for the exploration of the relationship between Marxism, radical politics and art. It is also important to note these debates are in no way questions of principle when it comes to the main arenas of socialist struggle—working-class self-emancipation, abolishing oppressions and opposing imperialism.
Nevertheless, the conclusion of “New Jerusalem Unbound” leads me to believe that we are engaged not only in a debate about Romanticism but also, in this instance, the attitude of Marxism to art:
“The best contemporary artists, in the horror genre and beyond, are—and will be—those that negotiate the best elements of Romanticism away from itself and bind them to a new militant, revolutionary consciousness.” [emphasis added]
Marxism and Art
In this case J. Matthew Camp appears to see art—and judge art movements—primarily in their relationship to the development of class-consciousness.
While I believe this is an important aspect of any Marxist analysis of art, it must be seen in relationship to two other (central) factors: the origins of what we now call art as a spiritual phenomenon and the dialectical relationship between the evolution of art and its situation in various class societies.
Art is simply unable play a leading role in the formation of class-consciousness.
The best political art tends to lag the development of class-consciousness historically—Constructivism, the short stories of Isaac Babel, the films of Sergei Eisenstein, the plays of Bertolt Brecht, Weimer-era photomontage and expressionism. This high point of conscious Marxism in art occurred in the aftermath of the Russian and German Revolutions. The high point of Marxism in art echoed the high point of Marxism itself.
Since the inter-war years there have been many important Marxist contributions to art—but as Marxism was minimized by capitalist demonization and Stalinist distortion so too was its cultural influence.\
When conceptual art completed the project begun in 1917 by Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain—and the art world became conscious of itself as a lab of signification—artists tended to look to postmodernism.
More bluntly, artists of wildly divergent political and philosophical orientations produced the “best” contemporary art—both popular and “avant-garde”—in the post-war decades (and after). All this had political content (and context) and those things should be part of any critique. But art can’t be judged simply in relationship to the development of class-consciousness—because the development (or retardation) of that consciousness is not, ultimately, the primary function of art.
Marxists do not advocate so-called “pure art”—there is no such thing. All cultural artifacts are a product of their social origins—and all cultural artifacts exist in relationship to the ideological struggle between social classes. Regardless, Marxists do not advocate a defined political program for art.
Trotsky argued, in far more politically developed circumstances, that the revolutionary party should not direct the production of art towards revolutionary consciousness. Revolutionary ideas, he asserted, could only find genuine expression within art when the artist—as a subjective individual—genuinely felt and believed them.
These political concerns evolve in a dialectical interaction with the “spiritual” core of art.
This spiritual core is the web of “internal logics” in art (see Trotsky and Breton)—the seemingly “irrational” methods of signification influenced by a long and collective—but often subconscious—history of past sign systems, each formed in a dialectical relationship with various stages of social development—beginning in the long era of primitive communism and stretching into late capitalism—repeatedly filtered and reformed through individual as well as class subjectivities.
In this light, the bifurcation of consciousness that Matthew Camp refers to is not only characteristic of Romanticism. It is a characteristic of artists and art itself—as well as a characteristic of all mixed consciousness. The “bifurcation of consciousness” is, as a specific charge, an essentially tautological formulation.
“Irrational” signification is also intimately tied with those things that have not yet been answered by the rational—either due to false consciousness or the limits of current social development or the human condition itself—suffering, death, love, birth, loss, etc.
Art is ultimately about the creation of spiritual artifacts and experiences. How those artifacts are shaped, produced and distributed is determined by both the subjectivity of the artist (or art movements) as well as the objective social conditions of their formation.
Trotsky’s comparison to hunger is apt. Capitalism did not create the need to eat. Capital shapes how modern food production is organized. Capitalism did not create the need for art—but shapes how art is produced and organized in bourgeois society.
Romanticism is, essentially, the defense of art’s spiritual core from its status as a utilitarian appendage of capital. It is the art world’s version of a peasant uprising—and like a peasant uprising it looks backwards and forwards at the same time.
The Spiritual and Material Origins of Art
As far as we can tell, tens of thousands of years ago human beings started to carve in stone and paint on walls. Soon after they molded clay and carved musical instruments from bone. What we call art began with a spiritual impulse in societies that did not yet have a word for the “political.” These were primitive communist societies—egalitarian hunter-gatherers that knew nothing of social classes, exploitation or gender oppression.
With little separating early human beings from nature—from animals, disease and hunger—our ancestors sought through the creation of fetishes, familiars and totems to connect the immediacy of their material existence with a vast spiritual unknown. Early humans—through art and storytelling—populated the unknown with spirits.
The spirits created were not “good” or “evil.” They were both creators and destroyers, tricksters and helpful guides, representatives of flora gathered and fauna hunted, as well as the (usually) gendered (but balanced) forces of earth and sky, moon and sun—forces seen as central to the reproduction of life.
Art was a spiritual-humanist action. The specifics of that art varied widely from place to place—but the cosmologies of early art reflected both the egalitarian nature of society and its close proximity to nature. The spirits invented mirrored the vacillations of the natural world—providing abundance one moment only to remove it the next.
The First Artists
During this long pre-history the first artists appeared—the shamans—medicine men and women who served as storytellers, historians, healers, artists and magicians.
The shamans went into altered states of consciousness—through the aid of drugs or rituals—to the “spirit world”—to attain special knowledge for the benefit of a group. This might have been to heal a sick child or to divine what to paint on the wall of a cave.
The shamans, mimicking the ancient spirits, were tricksters. They passed down “magic” tricks from generation to generation—tricks that proved their connections to the spirit world.
Shamanism—along with animism—appears to have ruled the spiritual life of humanity for thousands of years. These were the “faiths” of primitive communism. The spirits were thought alive in all things. All things were magic.
The enchantment of daily life and “irrational” signification were part and parcel of art from its earliest inception—and through the shamans the immediate needs of early human beings—as a collective—became intertwined with the magical play of art.
Art expressed the early human need for a “harmonious and complete life” in an environment that alternated between paradise and oblivion.
The Overthrow of the Shamans
With the rise of class society priests replaced the shamans. Early agricultural societies even created mythological accounts of the “overthrow of the shamans.” Spirituality became the specialized domain of institutional religions—religions tied to new class orders.
The new ruling-classes understood the power and magic of art, of stories and myths—and that these forces could no longer be the playthings of artists in democratic dialogue with egalitarian groups.
Just as the rise of class society came in tandem with slavery and the oppression of women, it drove the first wedge between art and life. As kingdoms became empires the magic of art was directed toward the majesty of the ruling elites, high priests and hangers on.
The shamans became clowns. Totems became ziggurats. Fetishes became monuments. Art was divided into more and more specialized crafts—at all levels of the new class structure.
Even so, in pre-capitalist class societies, use value reigned supreme—and the primary use value of art was its spiritual function—however tied to the new ruling elites.
Art offered transcendence and ascension—escape from suffering and death—and sometimes escape within worldly pleasures. It did so in images of the medieval plague crucifix, in whirling dervishes, in Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and in the schematics of chakras. There are thousands of examples, each specific but connected to a long historical arc.
Class struggle, of course, shaped the art of every society. New art and ideas challenged—and were metabolized by—ruling elites. Early Christian, Muslim, Sufi, Buddhist, Zen and Taoist art all challenged ruling-classes only to become, eventually, the official art.
Within this long history the shamanistic origins of art continued to echo—even into the Renaissance and Baroque.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Theresa features the saint—known for mystical visions—in what can only be described as sexual abandon—about to be pierced by the arrow of an angel. Here, against “Protestant rationalism,” Theresa is presented as medicine woman.
The Rise of Capital
Art was a qualitative entity—to be judged on its merits as craft and in its success in communicating what often seemed beyond communication.
With capitalism all values were subordinated to exchange. Art became a commodity and its separation from daily life became complete. Nevertheless, capital allowed for the connection of the spiritual core of art to individual subjectivities. The individual—his and her emotions, bodily form, personality, position in the world—became part and parcel of art.
Shakespearean tragedy and comedy would not have been possible without capitalism. In Renaissance art the archetypal forms of the past—death, the virgin birth—became vehicles for tragedy and hopes that relate to us as individual human beings.
In Michelangelo’s Pieta, for example, we do not see the ascension—although the hope of ascension is still there. Instead we see the inevitability of death as Mary cradles (impossibly so!) the dead Christ. It is sadness that is communicated—not for the human race (as in medieval pietas) but the loss of a specific individual.
It is the contradiction—built upon the history of art as spiritual phenomenon—between the rise of individual subjectivity (and specifically that of the artist) and that individual’s debasement before capital—that helps create the Romantic.
The Birth and Character of the Romantic
Camp’s apparent avoidance of art’s spiritual nature shapes his misunderstanding of the Romantic. He emphasis its subjective character as a specific 18th and 19th century movement and de-emphasizes phenomenological commonalities with elements of modern cultural movements.
Without recognizing the spiritual core of art, its defense seems like an anachronism. If one recognizes the spiritual core of art, however, one sees how that core is imprisoned and retarded by capital and how the Romantic can be an ally to revolution.
The argument that the Romantic must be taken first and foremost as a product of early capitalism—rather than, as I argue, both a product of the early capital and its subsequent development—is based on a presentist reading of the initial Romantics.
Far from being a clearly defined subjective movement many of the original Romantics did not identify as Romantic. They shared contrasting philosophical and political ideologies. This supports Löwy and Sayre’s argument that Romanticism was not a coherent ideology as much as it was a weltanshaung—a worldview—sharing a common signifying structure—characterized by opposition to quantification and the disenchantment of everyday life.
The Lake Poets—Coleridge, Wordsworth, etc.—only came to be known as Romantics some decades later. Löwy and Sayre argue, in fact, that elements of the Romantic began long before the Industrial and French Revolutions in tandem with the starts and stops of early capitalist development.
It is necessary here to delineate the origins of the term “Romantic”—and “Romanticism”—and its history as a cultural phenomenon.
The term “Romanticism” only came into use some five or six decades after the heyday of what is widely considered Romanticism. The term “Romantic” appeared long before.
Its earliest uses tended to be associated with certain novels from the Middle Ages in which primacy was given to emotion and imagination. These novels—in which, for example, the concept of romantic love was first widely introduced in Europe—presaged capitalism’s fostering of individual subjectivity.
Löwy and Sayre argue:
“[T]here is a prehistory of Romanticism that has its roots in the ancient development of business, money, cities and industry and that is manifested later, especially in the Renaissance, in reaction to the evolution and abrupt forward surges of progress and modernity. Like its antithesis, capitalism, Romanticism evolved over a prolonged historical period. But these two antagonists only come into being as fully developed structures—as Gesamtkomplexe—in the eighteenth century.”
This is crystallized in the writing of Jean-Jacques Rousseau:
“The ancient peoples are no longer a model for the moderns; they are too foreign in every respect. You, especially, Genevans, stay in your place… You are neither Romans nor Spartans; you are not even Athenians. Leave those names alone; they do not become you. You are merchants, artisans, bourgeois, always occupied with your private interests, your work, commerce, profits; you are a people for whom freedom itself is only a means toward untrammeled acquisition and secure possession.”
Here, from a central Enlightenment and republican figure, is a clear manifestation of the Romantic—nostalgia for a pre-capitalist past, qualitative vs. quantitative value, etc.
This is the cultural counterpoint within capital established—the Romantic antithesis to capitalism’s constant assertion of the “end of history”—an appeal to historical evidence that something else existed before.
The Romantic-political moment—represented by Rousseau—is long gone. The Romantic in culture, however, continues. This is because the political antithesis of capital—proletarian class-consciousness—can’t play the role of cultural antithesis.
No one knows what proletarian culture (which is more or less impossible) looks like. Nor does anyone know what genuine communist culture (which has not yet existed) will look like. There are as of yet no “logics” to post-capitalist signification.
The (conscious or unconscious) anti-capitalist artist turns again and again to the Romantic frame, digging into the vast pool of past signs, searching for a way to express the inexpressible, escape reification, connect with the spiritual and humanist elements of art, or connect to proletarian aspirations.
To return to Löwy and Sayre on the advent of the Romantic:
“[I]n this generalization of the marketplace, culture, art and literature were by no means spared; in the second half of the eighteenth century, intellectuals, artists, and writers became, to a vastly greater extent than ever before, free agents in the various marketplaces for their cultural products. The system of patronage increasingly gave way to the sale of books and paintings. The producers of culture thus found themselves confronted with a contradiction between the use value and the exchange value of their products; the new socioeconomic system affected them in their innermost reaches.”
Writers, poets, monks and artists found themselves in a similar position to that of their predecessors—the shamans—adapt to a system that undermined the very nature of their role (as conduit to the spiritual-humanist realm of art) or be vanquished.
Commodification of culture completed the separation of art and daily life. From then on art would be alienated from the vast majority of the human race, filtered through structures of mass and bourgeois consumption.
With capitalism art was separated from both heaven and earth.
The Continuation of the Romantic
It is art’s rebellion at these separations that inform its modern history.
If we are to take the subjectivity of specific literary and art movements into account—and by all means we should—we have to grapple with the many divergences within early Romanticism as well as its expressions within later movements.
Moreover, I would not argue that there is a subjective coherence in all iterations of the Romantic. There is not. In each movement, with its own specific characteristics, artists (both as a group and as individuals) have interacted and reflected the broader social context filtered through the “spiritual core” of art.
Some 20th century art movements—the Romantic surrealists and the unromantic minimalists for example—have had clear manifestos and organizations. Others—the sometimes Romantic Dada and Fluxus—have been chaotic nodes of artistic activity and served more as a clearinghouse for radical aesthetic and political impulses that had built up within art.
Dada is a great example of the sometimes-contradictory nature of the political and spiritual within art. In its short lifespan Dada included radically anti-political anarchists, the Romantic work of Hugo Ball’s “Verse Ohne Worte”—“Poetry Without Words”—and the explicitly Marxist photomontages of John Heartfield.
The Romantic is not the “conjuring stone” of all anti-capitalist art movements. It is a phenomenon of capitalist culture. Futurism, Constructivism, naturalism, minimalism and pop art eschewed the Romantic—for progressive, apolitical or reactionary reasons. Regardless, the Romantic has always returned, because it represents the aspirations of art imprisoned by capital.
To borrow shamelessly from Victor Serge, I have no objection to the idea that the germ of nihilism was present in Romanticism from the beginning. However, there are many germs within Romanticism, as there are in any oppositional tendency within capital. Any movement, idea, tendency or ideology that fails to deal with the actuality of revolution is prone to become the politics or aesthetics of despair.
The germ of nihilism metastasizes in the absence of hope.
The Romantic, however, is not an ideology proper, it is, as mentioned earlier, a worldview, an approach to signification. It is entirely possible to be both a Romantic and a Marxist—and therefore to deal with the actuality of revolution without jettisoning the spiritual core of art (of which the Romantic is the standard-bearer).
In 1968—the year of the student revolts and the French General Strike—the artist Mario Merz scrawled in huge letters on a garage wall the words, “Che Fare?”—echoing in Italian Lenin’s What is to Be Done?
Merz—who was imprisoned as a young man for antifascist activity—was one of the more overtly political artists associated with the Arte Povera—“Poor Art”—movement. His installation did not mindlessly echo the words of Lenin—or seek to undermine them like a common bourgeois.
In front of the words, “Che Fare,” Merz built an igloo—which he saw as a perfectly balanced pre-modern structure—out of pre-industrial materials. Beneath the scrawled text he rigged water to drip into a bucket, overflow on the floor and run into a drain.
The primary example of socialist subjectivity—often misleadingly so—is coupled here with the utterly objective phenomenon of gravity’s effects on water and the balanced form of the igloo.
Art does not have to choose between its spiritual past and the socialist future. On the contrary—it is art where those two things intermix—where the illogical signification of art can be a “conjuring stone” for our imaginations, imaginations that can project an emancipated future.
It is impossible—from the Marxist point of view—to know what art should do between now and its eventual jubilee. What art can do, however, is act as a “mystical” bridge between the past, present and future.
Art can be a social totem—however constrained by this world—echoing the worlds that came before, telegraphing the “New Jerusalem” to come.
- Bowlt, James, Russian Art of the Avant Garde, Thames and Hudson: New York and London, 1957
- Campbell, Joseph, Masks of God Volume 1, Penguin: New York, 1991
- Engels, Frederick, Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, Penguin: New York, 2010)
- Hopkins, David, After Modern Art, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000
- Kunzeli, Rudolph, Dada (Themes and Movements), Phaidon: London, 2011
- Löwy, Michael and Sayre, Robert, Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity, Durham: Duke University Press, 2001
- Lukacs, Georg, History and Class Consciousness, Boston: MIT Press, 1972
- Eds. Marlch, Mayer-Stoll, Pro, Che Fare? Arte Povera: The Historic Years, Luxembourg: Kehrer Verlag, 2011
- Stiles, Kristine, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996
- Trotsky, Leon, Art and Revolution, New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970
- Trotsky, Leon, Literature and Revolution, Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005
- Walsh, Roger, The World of Shamanism, Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications, 2007
I am reposting some of my old articles, lost when Red Wedge updated our website. Here is a review from two years ago of The Walking Dead. Some of the criticisms, particularly around gender, might no longer make as much sense due to some improvements in the show. Other criticisms, for example regarding the show's libertarian survivalism, might be too subdued.
The Walking Dead is now the most popular show on cable television. Over the past two Sundays millions gathered around their televisions to watch the first two episodes of the current season. The University of California-Irvine even offers an online course, “Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s The Walking Dead.” Tens of thousands of students have enrolled. AMC has announced plans for a spin-off show.
Zombies are everyone—and The Walking Dead is the epicenter of their cultural hegemony. While much of the above is rather silly, The Walking Dead is an excellent work of television that has tapped into deep cultural and social veins of American life—while at the same time being very problematic.
The Walking Dead is based on Robert Kirkman’s eponymous comic book series. Kirkman intentionally sees himself standing in the tradition of George Romero. Romero invented the contemporary zombie genre by fusing elements of Richard Matheson’s novel I am Legend (1954), classic Hollywood horror and the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s in films such as Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Dawn of the Dead (1978).
Kirkman sees his comic—and the show—as a Romero film that never ends. Kirkman’s zombies follow all of Romero’s classic rules. They are slow and shambolic. The “virus” or whatever it is that has animated the dead is never really explained. All the dead rise up and consume the flesh of the living. The manner of their death is irrelevant.
Judging by the ratings millions of people share Kirkman’s vision of never-ending horror. It is a macabre fascination that has only grown in recent years. As the Canadian Marxist David McNally argued on Jacobin:
“Driving the success of The Walking Dead is a doomsday fascination with zombie apocalypse. In the face of crumbling cities, soaring job loss, decaying social services and ecological destruction, impending doom can seem not only inevitable, but even preferable to the slow death march of late capitalism.”
“But the global economic slump that began in 2008 sent the popular infatuation with the undead truly viral. As millions entered the night of the living dead of mass unemployment, zombies invaded popular culture, prompting Time magazine to declare them ‘the official monster of the recession.’”
McNally criticizes The Walking Dead as representing a break from earlier more explicitly left-wing iterations of the zombie narrative. In particular he traces a break from the zombie-laborer of films like White Zombie (1932) and the consumerist zombies (who eat everything in their path) in Night of the Living Dead. But the zombie-consumers of Romero’s films were present in a moment of cultural and political criticism. The political and historical meanings of Night of the Dead or Dawn of the Dead are (and were) immediately clear. The Walking Dead, however, seems to stand outside that historical razor’s edge. It is like a child’s dream or the slow movement of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979).
George Romero’s films were, in a sense, prophetic warnings. Romero warned of the dangers of militarism, violence, consumerism, Reagan’s reheated Cold War (in Day of the Dead ), of class polarization and war (in Land of the Dead ), and of the contradictions of mass media (in Diary of the Dead ). If Romero was the author of Revelations, than Robert Kirkman is the Beast.
In this sense, The Walking Dead is about life after the prophetic doom has come to pass. I do not simply mean that it takes place “after the zombie apocalypse” (although it does). I mean that The Walking Dead is produced by a world that long ago failed to heed Romero’s warnings.
A few weeks ago in Philadelphia a twelve year-old African American girl died of an asthma attack because the school had no nurse. In Georgia—where The Walking Dead takes place—police recently shot a Black man to death after his family called 911 worried he had taken too much diabetes medicine. Racism, economic crisis and environmental catastrophe are closing in. Wars seem to go on endlessly. Neo-confederates shut down the U.S. government. America eats its young; and its old and its middle-aged. Just like a character in one of his movies Romero has fled to Canada. The barbarism of the United States seems unfettered.
Kirkman, unlike Romero, is coy about what he thinks about the disasters of contemporary society. The Walking Dead has befuddled conservative, liberal, feminist and Marxist critics. This is because The Walking Dead is a fairly seamless fusion of two key American narratives and mythologies: the zombie apocalypse and the western. As Dan Hassler-Forest argues of Kirkman in Study of Comics:
“Dead conflates the western with the zombie genre. This combination of genres is all the more thought-provoking as the western genre traditionally stages the Grand Narrative of patriarchal power from within the historical context of colonialist imperialism, whereas the zombie genre is associated with the destablization of such forms of power.”
This inbuilt contradiction helps explain why critics have found it difficult to get a bead on the “deeper” meanings of The Walking Dead. In addition to these two key genre elements the show also evokes the mythologies of the “fallen South” during and after the Civil War, aspects of the Holocaust and fairly traditional (however well written) psychological studies of human beings under severe stress. According to The Atlantic, every Walking Dead writer was “required to read Vicktor Frankl’s account of concentration camp-survival” during World War Two.
This prismatic consciousness, reflected in the show and its viewers, explains why some conservatives can hail the show while others—like the morons at Fox News—can proclaim, “America’s obsession with The Walking Dead is hurting our society.” It is why some liberal commentators see The Walking Dead as a horrific object lesson in humanism while others can see it as a cesspool of patriarchy. It is, in a way, both.
The Post-Mortem South
While the Southern and racial motifs of The Walking Dead are less central to the daily narratives of the show they are hard-wired into its premise and location. The hero of the show, Rick Grimes, is a southern sheriff only a few decades removed from the days of Bull Connor (although one would never know this from the show itself). His “post-racial” bona-fides are established early on as he befriends a Black man and his son (in both the comic and the television show). In the television show Rick defends T-Dog, another African American character, from the stupid “red-neck” racism of Merle. But nowhere is race or racism explored in any great depth.
The fact that Rick is a police officer does not in and of itself make the show racist. Two of the four main characters in Romero’s Dawn of the Dead were riot policemen. They fled the city not so much because of the zombies but because of the racism of their own police force. They were ordered to clear out a housing project of mostly Black and Puerto Rican residents, killing countless people in the process. They recoiled in horror. Rick does not recoil from his position. His entry to the zombie apocalypse comes as he wakes up from a coma—a coma he suffers after being shot in the line of duty.
Upon finding his wife and son—with a band of survivors outside Atlanta—Rick reprises his pre-apocalypse role rather than attempt to escape it. He leads the group in its attempts to find refuge from the chaos. He is the Southern Sheriff defending the community from the others. Ultimately he leads them to take refuge in a prison—the West Georgia Correctional Facility—the panopticon meets the ultimate gated community—and seizes dictatorial control of the group. In the comic he goes even farther, murdering to maintain his power and beating people to death to show his dominance.
A kind of democracy returns to the group—in the fourth season—in the form of a council. But it is already clear that Rick will have to assert himself once more to protect the living. More importantly, while the comic and show contain many characters of color (more in the current than past seasons), Black men in particular are not allowed to rise to the point in which they might challenge Rick for control. It is a world in which white men still rule. It is the undead version of the New South (the real life notion of the “New South” is all but forgotten): Do not mention the racism in polite company. But please do what the white sheriff says.
It is not hard to think of the last time Georgia was “destroyed”—as slaves rose up in defiance of their masters and joined General Sherman’s March to the Sea. One has to wonder what the end of civilization means to the thirty to forty percent of white Americans who are incorrigibly racist? When those crackers think of cannibalistic hordes do they think of war and inequality—or do they imagine the ghost of Nat Turner?
The Zombie Western
The western was arguably the most important cultural narrative of the 20th century United States. It celebrated both the individuality of the cowboy and the taming of the “savage” west by civilization. Its central figure was the patriarchal hero who saved the idyllic settlement from “Indian savages” or “criminals” while carving out his own little kingdom from the frontier.
The inherently racist and imperialistic western could not survive the anti-war and civil rights struggles of the 1960s. The revisionist westerns of the late 1960s and 1970s—Sam Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch (1969) and Philip Kaufman’s The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1982) for example—used the language of the western to roll back its racist and expansionist mythology. By the 1980s the western had died its well-deserved death.
That does not mean, of course, that the imprint the western left on the culture died with it. The genius of The Walking Dead is its fusion of the dead western genre with the living genre of the zombie apocalypse.
It is an impossible (yet perfect) fusion. When the narrative logic of one genre threatens to bring the story to a conclusion the other genre can reset the story. When the patriarchal hero—the cowboy, the sheriff, the gunslinger—kills the savages or the criminals and should, therefore, be rewarded as the man who saved the town, the undead ensure that the story continues. When the undead threaten a gastronomic denouement the patriarchal hero saves the day.
It would be wrong to see this as a cynical fusion of genres. It is much deeper. The cowboy narrative is one of individual triumph and sacrifice against “savagery.” Order defeats chaos. But as Hassler-Forest argues:
“The zombie narrative on the other hand represents the exact opposite: this genre presents a world in which all forms of order and traditional patriarchal power have beendestroyed, leaving the small groups of survivors to reassemble themselves into new types of communities.”
Rick Grimes may be a southern sheriff, but more importantly he is a western sheriff. He rides a horse into Atlanta, with a satchel of guns on his back, wearing a cowboy hat. He is the archetypal cowboy coming into town. But he does not clean up the city. He is utterly defeated by Atlanta. He loses his weapons. His horse is eaten by the undead. He hides until he is saved by a young Asian-American man named Glenn. Rick redeems himself and helps Glenn’s group escape Atlanta. But it is not a heroic escape. They disguise themselves by covering their bodies with human remains.
Rick embodies the constant achievement and deferment of patriarchal power—he embodies the contradiction between the western and zombie narratives. In this way The Walking Dead is about (a particular version of) American culture facing oblivion. Rick continually tries to establish a new community—and those communities always must fail, succumbing to the savage others/zombies that surround them.
In classic westerns the city usually represented, as Hassler-Forest puts it, “dens of decadence and perversion.” In The Walking Dead the cities are full of zombies. They have become just as “savage” as the mythological frontier. There us no longer a civilization to counterpose to the wild. The entire world is a frontier. Every character is traveling up a river toward their own personal heart of darkness. In this sense the character of the “Governor” is Colonel Kurtz. It is only when confronting the Governor that Rick tries to salvage his humanity and turns power back over to his group.
But even with the governor defeated Rick can’t establish a new idyllic community. As the fourth season begins we see Rick as a farmer tending crops and tending to pigs. This is not Little House on the Prairie—it is the beginning of Unforgiven (1992). Rick is Clint Eastwood. He is a killer pretending to be a farmer. By the end of this season’s second episode Rick has strapped on his gun belt. He is ready, once more, to kill. He will win. But then he will also lose—more of his people, more of his humanity, more of his sanity. His patriarchal victory will be endlessly deferred.
In the comics Rick is both a hero and villain—saving lives but willing to murder those who stand in his way. He is willing to beat a man to death to prove his alpha status. In the television show is both a hero and a man collapsing under the weight of his sins. He wonders if he will ever be able to return from the things he has done. He won’t. There is no future or past in The Walking Dead. There is only the ruthless homicidal present.
Libertarian Utopia vs. Undead Humanism
Oddly enough, the show’s western elements have allowed certain conservatives and libertarians to embrace it—not as a morality tale in a dystopian nightmare—but as a utopian paradise. Breitbart.com’s Kurt Schlichter writes, in an article actually titled “Walking Dead summons American spirit of independence, grit,” that:
“The Walking Dead is a western, a show about life on the frontier, about the trappings of civilization being stripped away. This is uniquely American--the frontier is in our cultural DNA. In the world of TWD, it’s just a man and his gun against the savage hordes. Just substitute cowboys and townspeople for the characters and Indians for the zombies…
“Americans, prosperous, comfortable and (except for the .5 percent off at war) living in peace, wonder if at some level if they still have what it takes to do what the pioneers did. Americans’ fierce defense of their right to keep and bear arms comes from the same place. Unlike Europeans, liberals and other submissives, they believe it is their personal duty to act to protect their community and country in time of crisis—with an AR-15 if need be.”
Schlichter also waxes poetically about Dale—a somewhat liberal elderly character—being killed off in season two. He also seems way too excited about the death of several female characters. But for him the zombie apocalypse is merely a chance to prove how manly a survivor you can be. He is oblivious to the fact that Rick lost his mind.
In other words Schlichter looks at aspects of the show inspired from the narratives of Holocaust survivors and says, “neat.” The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is shut down. “Excellent. This is my chance to be a self-made man.” This is the lunacy of the present political moment. But it also explains why the show is so popular among people of all political stripes—among those who fear we are already living in a nightmare, and among those who welcome the monsters.
The flip-side of this has been commentary by moderate and liberal critics that see The Walking Dead mainly about the struggle to remain human: Can you come back from the things (the horrible things) you have done? One critic, writing in an Atlantic roundtable on the Walking Dead, argued: “I’m … more inclined to see its ‘world suddenly dominated by radical inhumanity’ as (and admittedly gory) playground to discuss human nature in general.”
While this is an aspect of the show it is not nearly as important as the contradiction of the zombie and western motifs—and their associated “moralities.” Moreover, it is a weakness of the show that this “study of humanity” is treated so apolitically and outside of historical context. Human nature, as Marxists have correctly argued, is not static. It evolves and changes in various circumstances.
In terms of the show itself, The Walking Dead’s power and impact does not arise from trite clichés about the human spirit attributed by milquetoast liberals. The power comes from that humanity being crushed between the cataclysm of the zombie apocalypse and the ideals of power and patriarchy. It is not, ultimately, the zombies that are destroying humanity. It is Kurt Schlichter.
The Zombie Flower of Southern Womanhood
Of the most criticized elements of The Walking Dead has been its treatment of women. While it is correct to say that the representation of sexism in literature, television and film does not mean the artworks are themselves sexist, in the case of The Walking Dead it is easy to make a case that the treatment of female characters is clumsy and relies on worn out (and sexist) clichés and stereotypes. This problem is highlighted by the fact the writing is otherwise of a higher caliber.
The most glaring stupidity was the second season confusion of emergency contraception and pharmaceutical abortion—as Lori decided whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. Leaving aside the question of abortion itself the lazy and stupid writing makes one wonder if there was ever a woman within 10,000 feet of The Walking Dead writers’ room. On the question of abortion itself Kirkman issued an ambiguously pro-choice statement, but the arc of the storyline left the question even murkier.
The love triangle between Lori, Rick and Shane—and Lori’s manipulation of Shane and Rick—has been pointed to as another indication of the show’s sexism. I have no problem with this storyline in and of itself. People, male and female, manipulate each other. The problem is that the role of women in the show is starkly limited to such interactions.
Moreover, women are repeatedly seen and described as objects that must be protected. In the show—in the first few seasons—women who tried to escape their roles as domestics and lovers were brutally punished—notably Andrea. In the comic, the Governor brutally and repeatedly raped the sword wielding Michonne.
There is no Fran (from Dawn of the Dead) or Dr. Sarah Bowman (Day of the Dead) to pose an alternative to pre-apocalyptic gender roles. The Walking Dead is Rick’s story. It is the story of the failure of the small patriarch—the male breadwinner, the small businessman, the blue color (but white skinned) man of days long gone. We watch him win and then lose it all—over and over and over again. The women are just one more thing to win or lose.
An Endless Romero Movie?
And so it goes on—this endless Romero movie (with all the impact but without the racial, class, social and gender consciousness of an actual Romero movie). Whenever the story goes into a narrative cul-du-sac it shifts from one genre to the other, nothing is resolved or transcended. It is like the death rattle of a lung. Here is the victorious cowboy. Here is the end of everything. Here is the sad victorious cowboy. Here is the end of all things.
Adam Turl: In 2003 you invited Howard Zinn to Milwaukee to speak to your students and the idea for this book came out of that discussion. What animated both you and Howard Zinn to propose this book to New Press?
Nicholas Lampert: When I met Howard Zinn in 2003 he was already the series editor for the “People’s History” series through The New Press. After talking about radical art with Professor Zinn for a day he invited me to submit a proposal for A People’s Art History of the U.S. He promised to pass it on to Marc Favreau at The New Press if he liked the direction of the proposal. Both he and Marc eventually gave the go ahead which set me on the course of a book contract and eight years of research and writing.
AT: One of the important themes woven through the book is the connection of art to the radical press, in The Masses in the 1910s, The New Masses in the 1930s, and the artwork of Emory Douglas and The Black Panther (the newspaper of the Black Panther Party). Before talking about the 1930s or Emory Douglass later in the interview, I wanted to ask about The Masses, edited by Max Eastman—but run by a sort of collective of writers and artists. The Masses seems unique because it was both a partisan journal of socialism but also an independent, almost anarchic, center for cultural expression. Can you elaborate on that as well as some of the artists and writers involved—and the events that ultimately led to the magazine being shut down in 1918?
NL: The Masses was indeed unique. It was a socialist magazine—founded in 1911 in New York City—that was dedicated to art, literature, and politics. The artists and writers than run the publication largely came from the bohemian counter-culture scene in Greenwich Village. They advocated for radical ideas that ran counter to mainstream society—ideas like free love and birth control. This irritated the more conservative wing of the Socialist Party who felt this angle would alienate segments of the working class and that the publication should adhere more closely to a party line. I cited a critic of The Masses who deemed them “sentimentalists in revolt”—individuals who were more concerned with the lifestyle of radical politics than actually building a Socialist Party and a movement to challenge capitalism. This critique had some merit, but also reflected the dogma of the Socialist Party that many involved with The Masses resisted. And from my perspective, the beauty of the publication was the two worlds that it traversed—socialist politics and the more utopian ideas that came out of the counter-culture. It was a publication that housed extraordinary art and poetry, but also serious political commentary and journalism. The mindset of The Masses was to reject dogmatism whether it was the conservative norms of the day, the oppressive actions of the state, or the rigid thinking found amongst their allies in the Socialist Party.
The Masses was shut down due to the First Red Scare. The Espionage Act (1917) and the Sedition Act (1918) made speaking out against World War I illegal. The U.S. government—at the urging of the U.S. Postal Service—brought charges against The Masses and stated that four editorials and four cartoons had violated the Espionage Act. Max Eastman, Art Young, John Reed and others were dragged into court in what can only be described as chilling attack on free speech. Ten of the twelve jurors found them guilty, but two jurors refused to cooperate, resulting in a mistrial. A second trial also ended in a mistrial—but considering that the postal service refused to carry The Masses, the publication lost its subscription base and revenue stream.
AT: One of the problems in contemporary art, in the U.S. in particular, is the ubiquity of the gallery system. In fact, the gallery system itself is being squeezed by mega-galleries, big art festivals and auction houses. The 1930s stand out in U.S. history as the only time with substantial government funding for the arts through the Works Project Administration (WPA) Federal Arts Project (FAP). But the WPA-FAP wasn’t just a case of liberal largesse. Artists organized and demanded relief—and much more. Can you discuss some of the key features of that moment, such as the Artists’ Union, Art Front and the John Reed clubs?
NL: Visual artists in the 1930s saw the art market collapse during the Great Depression and looked for other options outside the gallery system. In general these artists were already suspect of galleries. They felt that most galleries were hostile to contemporary art and that only a few centers in the country were viable for artists to even sell their work—primarily New York. Even more, they critiqued the notion of art being viewed as simply a commodity. They wanted art to become public and they looked to the example of the Mexican Muralists. Artists advocated that the federal government should pay artists “plumber wages” to create public works of art—this included decorating federal buildings. This idea—first pushed for by the Unemployed Artists Group in 1933—caught wind in the Roosevelt Administration and led to the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) and then the WPA-FAP in 1935—representing the heyday of government arts support.
The point that I stressed in my book was that this program was not a gift from a benevolent government; it was fought for and protected by organized artists. Artists identified with organized labor. They formed the Artists’ Union—to mediate between the WPA-FAP Administrators and the 5,000-plus artists in the program. They also advocated that a permanent funding structure be established—a Bureau of Fine Arts—that would view arts funding as an essential part of the cultural wellbeing of the nation, and not simply relief funds during the Depression. These artists were extremely well organized. They demanded rental fees from museums (the idea that artists should be paid to show their work), the establishment of municipal art centers in urban and rural areas, and other ideas that would make art become accessible to a vast public audience.
These ideas were debated in the pages of the Artists’ Union publication, Art Front. The debates highlight two themes: the optimism and energy that many artists felt in the mid-1930s and the right-wing counter attack that ended many of these programs by de-funding them. Although the WPA-FAP lasted until 1943, the funding cuts in 1937 and 1939 decimated many of these programs, and in 1940 the vast majority of WPA-FAP activity was rolled into the Office of War Information (OWI) where artists were assigned tasks like painting camouflage on military vehicles and screen printing targets for military training.
In regards to your question about the John Reeds Clubs—which were meeting hubs for CP (Communist Party) USA cultural organizing—many of these folded in 1936 during the Popular Front that called for a “united front against fascism and war” and urged CP USA members to build alliances with progressive movements, labor unions, and some aspects of the New Deal.
AT: As you mention early in your book, the idea of “art” is a social construction. You bring this up this up in relationship to Native American artwork before and during European colonization. Before colonization, art was part and parcel of everyday life, not something fundamentally set apart. Can you discuss the process by which the Native American concept of art came into conflict and negotiation with the European?
NL: The early contact period—seen in its entirety—was a period of conflict. It was a collision of two completely different societies and cultures. I wrote specifically about the Northeast Woodlands (present day New York, New England, and Quebec) so my chapter focused on the Dutch, French, and English colonists and their relations with the most powerful Native confederation in the region—the Iroquois.
Early European colonists in this region were, at first, primarily interested in beaver pelts—obtaining large numbers of pelts from various Native American tribes to ship to Europe for a profit. As time went on their interests turned to obtaining land. Colonial powers needed to negotiate with Native tribes to obtain these items.
Native tribes were also in competition with one another and they viewed trade with European colonists as largely beneficial. Trade with European partners meant an influx of iron, copper, wampum, shells, and weapons (axes and guns) that made it easier to decimate their Native and non-Native enemies. There was also a spiritual reason for trade. The Iroquois believed that the afterworld had an abundance of traditional Native goods and that European goods were lacking. Trade would help strengthen their voyage to the next world.
My chapter primarily looked at wampum belts—which were a cross-cultural product. Wampum were cylinder-shaped beads that were made from the central column of whelk and quahog shells. European tools allowed for the mass production of these shells that were then stringed into belts. Thousands of white and black beads would be strung into geometric patterns to denote specific meanings, depending upon its imagery and colors.
These belts were essential during treaty negotiations. A wampum belt had to be passed for each major provision of a trade agreement. It could take days, if not weeks, for the entire process to be completed. Europeans preferred signed documents, but they had to abide by Native customs if they wanted to trade with Native groups. To the Iroquois, the passing of wampum belts was a process that allowed for face-to-face communications. In this way alliances could be nurtured as conditions changed. The belts also served as their visual record of trade agreements. These agreements could be further explained through oral history.
To the colonists, wampum belts were seen as an inconvenience—a long step that they needed to take in the negotiation process to eventually get to a signed paper document. The belts can thus be seen as representing this vast disconnect between Native populations and the early colonists and the complex trade relations that defined the era and its outcomes.
AT: Your chapter on art and the American Revolution is also interesting. If I aim to think of contemporary echoes of the art that you discuss I am drawn towards meme and performance rather than painting, sculpture or installation. You make an explicit connection between the “mobs” of New England (the gatherings at the Liberty Tree and Liberty Pole) and the actions of Occupy Wall Street. Then, of course, there are the reproductions by Paul Revere and others of the Boston Massacre and other events that created a collective narrative of the revolution.
NL: I made this connection because it was so apparent. Political and social struggle often situates itself in specific geographical locations by choice or by chance. We saw it in recent years in Tahir Square in Cairo, the Wisconsin State Capital Building in Madison, and Zuccotti Park during Occupy Wall Street
What surprised me about my research during the lead-up to the American Revolution were the sites for struggle in Boston that the working class identified with. Some were due to flashpoints—the Boston Massacre site—but others were self-selected by the movement. By far the most interesting site to me was the Liberty Tree that had become a symbolic site of resistance from 1765 onward, until 1775 when the British cut it down. This tree was an epicenter for working-class organizing. It was a meeting place for assemblies, orations, street theater, mock trials, and was consistently decorated with effigies and lantern slides. It was a place where the working class of Boston could organize and visualize their opposition to the British: a place that asserted that the Revolution was spurred by “the mob”—artisans and farmers—and not simply by the colonial elite—the spokespeople of the Revolution.
I juxtaposed the Liberty Tree example in my chapter with the famous Paul Revere engraving “The Boston Massacre” which helped visualize the narrative of the uprising from a more elite position. Revere visualized the Boston Masscre by showing the “mob” as respectable. A few dozen participants victimized by British soldiers, instead of a mob of one thousand largely comprised of sailors and artisans. He also visualized the first martyr of the American Revolution, Crispus Attucks, as white, when he was part Native, and part African.
This image did create a visual narrative of the Revolution – but it was a misleading narrative. It whitewashed the working class elements and the race dimensions of the uprising.
AT: The artwork of the abolitionist movement seems to follow three different strands: the rendering of the slave trade (mostly by artists in Britain), the initial American efforts (including the postal campaign) and then harder propaganda efforts as the conflict grew sharper. I was wondering if you could say something about these different strands of abolitionist art.
NL: I would say that two main points stand out rather than various strands. One point was that U.S. abolitionists were greatly influenced by the U.K. movement. This included the use of graphics. One of the iconic images of the movement- the architectural rendering of the Brookes slave ship – came out of the U.K SEAST (Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade) campaign and was subsequently used by U.S. abolitionists with only slight modifications.
The other point was that U.S. abolitionists faced much different conditions than their counterparts. Slavery was on U.S. soil. U.K abolitionists were attempting to end Britain’s role in the slave trade and slavery in the British colonies. U.S. abolitionists were confronting the issue in there own backyard. In essence they were challenging the economic, political, and cultural apparatus of the South. Northern industries—particularly the textile industry—bankrolled Southern plantations, so challenging the slave system was challenging the status quo, making this work exceedingly dangerous. Abolitionists were beaten and killed in the North and the artwork produced was done mostly anonymously because it was so dangerous to reveal one’s identity.
I discuss how abolitionist artists tried various tactics to try to win public opinion against slavery. They created images that celebrated heroic Africans and images that vilified slavery. These presented a moral argument against slavery but this tactic ultimately fell short. Words and images were not enough. Slavery was ended by force: by slave uprisings and by the Civil War.
AT: The chapter on "Abolitionism as Autonomy, Activism and Entertainment"—particularly the story of Henry Box Brown—is fascinating. Could you talk about the story of Henry Box Brown, his escape from slavery, his use of the panorama, and the eventual controversies that surrounded his work?
NL: Henry Box Brown stands out in history because he had one of the most ingenious methods of escape: he mailed himself to freedom. A supporter placed him in a wooden box—that no one would suspect that a person could fit into—and then he was mailed by train from Richmond, Virginia to the home of an abolitionist in Philadelphia. Soon thereafter he hit the abolitionist tour circuit in the North, but he did so largely on his own terms. Instead of lecturing at abolitionist events, he had a moving panorama painted that narrated his story and the struggle against slavery. For those unaware: a moving panorama was a precursor to motion pictures. It was literally moving pictures. Not film spliced together, but paintings that each acted as a frame for a larger narrative. They were painted on a large roll of canvas that was attached to two giant spools and placed behind a structure that could sit on a stage. Box Brown would then narrate the story with words and songs.
He toured this production called “The Mirror of Slavery” around the Northeast and the Midwest until the Fugitive Slave Bill of 1850 made it too dangerous for him to be in the North. He then took a ship to England and brought with him the panorama—touring non-stop in the U.K. with a partner named James C.A. Smith.
Box Brown became controversial in England for many reasons. He blurred activism with entertainment upsetting many of the abolitionists who felt that he took things too far, especially when he re-enacted his escape, dress as an African prince and brandish a sword for his audiences. He also financially burned his partner, was accused of being a substance abuser, and drew sympathy from his audience by saying that profits from the show would help him buy his family that was still held in slavery (yet there is no evidence that he ever tried to reconnect with them). He also made a second panorama that championed England’s imperialist domination over India making him a dubious choice as a social justice crusader. In short, he is very complicated, but extremely interesting. I am actually surprised that a major film has not been made about his life.
AT: After the events of 1968 a mass radicalization swept U.S. campuses and urban areas. Artists were, of course, part and parcel of this process—forming organizations such as the Guerilla Art Action Group (GAAG) and the Art Workers Coalition (AWC)—protesting both the structure of art institutions and the art world's connections to the war in Vietnam. Can you elaborate on some of that history? Also, there has been some debate over the efficacy of the "art strikes" organized by the AWC. I was hoping you could touch on that question as well.
NL: First I would question 1968 as the launching point for a mass radicalism on U.S. campuses and urban areas. The entire decade is what stands out to me. But specifically in regards to the chapter that I wrote “Protesting the Museum Industrial Complex” I focused upon GAAG and AWC and their targeting of New York City museums. I quoted Robert Morris on the “museum of our campuses,” which embodied the spirit of the times: artists viewed the museum as a site of protest. Specifically, both GAAG and AWC were trying to democratize the Board of Trustees of major museums, specifically the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and were drawing connections between militarism, corporate power, and cultural power. GAAG famously staged a “Blood Bath” performance in the lobby of the MoMA demanding the immediate resignations of all the Rockefellers from the Board of Trustees due to their business ties to the machinery of warfare—investments in companies that manufactured napalm and so forth.
The AWC targeted the museum and called for a one-day Art Strike in NYC in response to the escalation of the war in Cambodia and the National Guard opening fire on student demonstrators at Kent State and Jackson State.
I, and others, argue that the Art Strike had mixed results and was indicative of the times: a fractured left that was not connected to organized labor as it had been in the 1930s and 1940s. This matters because the AWC had only a certain degree of collective strength. They were extremely well organized (over 300 artists were part of the group) but they were not organized in the way that a union is, and they could not shut down an industry the way that organized labor can.
I also question the validity of a one-day strike as it can create an easy way out for museums to show temporary solidarity with a cause. That said, there were still tremendous benefits to the action. It continued to radicalize artists and it inspired the workers inside the museums. The formation of the PASTA(Professional and Administrative Staff Association) union at MoMA drew their inspiration from the AWC, so my critique of any of their shortcomings is mixed with my admiration for their efforts.
AT: Emory Douglas is arguably one of the most important political artists of the late 1960s and 1970s. He was the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party (BPP) and produced countless works of art, many of which served as propaganda posters and covers for the Black Panther newspaper. His art, like the politics of the Panthers, was inspired by the art and struggle of national liberation movements around the globe. Recently Douglas's work has begun to attract some attention in the mainstream “art world.” Can you expand on the radical nature of his work, influences and legacy?
NL: Emory Douglas was a revolutionary artist in the 1960s and 1970s and he continues to be. I had the great fortune to be on a panel with him this past March in Oakland where he described all the work that he has been doing over the past decade—largely solidarity work with the autonomous EZLN communities in Chiapas. He has been painting murals and drawing historical connections between the armed uprisings of the Panthers and the armed uprisings of the indigenous communities in Chiapas.
I argued in my chapter that he should be viewed as a “party artist” – that his work served the goals of the Black Panther Party. His work followed the platform that he helped created. When the Panthers shifted their policies to the community survival programs, his images also changed.
His work is so significant because he spread the ideas of the BPP, through culture, during a period when the U.S. government was doing everything possible to eradicate the Panthers. They could jail, kill, and force Panthers into exile, but they couldn’t stop the Panthers’ culture from spreading around the U.S. and the world.
Today we look at Douglas’ images through the comfort of time. They loose a sense of urgency but they act as windows into the past to learn more about the Panthers and the issues that they were addressing. To answer the second part of your question, I am not surprised that the “art world” has taken interest in his work. He is an outstanding designer and the subject matter still resonates. In the museum setting his images from the 60s and 70s act as a teaching tool and still communicate a radical message.
AT: In the 1960s the official art world was (as it still is) disproportionately white and male. In the 1970s the Feminist Art Program (FAP) at Fresno State University (FSU) began to challenge all that. The FAP influenced dozens of artists—including figures like Mike Kelley who came to prominence later. Can you talk about the early days of the FAP and the role of artists like Judy Chicago?
NL: In 1970 Judy Chicago took a one-year teaching position at Fresno State University (now California State University-Fresno) and started the Feminist Art Program (FAP). Her and twenty-plus students – all women – held classes off campus (in former military barracks) and basically set up their own curriculum. Their focus was on developing a visual language to talk about their experiences as women and how gender had conditioned their lives.
It was an extremely innovative program and led to a similar program being launched at Cal Arts and then the establishment of the Feminist Studio Workshop at the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles—an independent art school dedicated to feminist art.
I should note that Chicago was a visionary in this work, but she was not the only one involved. Faith Wilding, Suzanne Lacy, Miriam Schapiro, Shelia de Brettville, Arlene Raven, Cheri Gaulke, among others, all played key leadership roles. More over the Woman’s Building existed from 1973 to 1991 making it an epicenter for feminist art and activism for nearly two decades. To me it symbolizes the power of collective action and the role that alternative spaces play in fostering radical culture.
AT: It has become axiomatic that art can be anything. In some ways this notion is liberating. In also appears to mean that anything can be commodifed as art—as long as the art institution gives its stamp of approval. What directions do you imagine political and radical art going in the context of contemporary culture in the early 21st century? How do you think artists can break out the confines of the (sometimes narrow) audience for (so-called) "serious art" and connect their work to the concerns, experiences and expectations of wider layers of people?
NL: I think first and foremost artists need to psychologically distance themselves from the “art world”—be it the New York art world or the gallery districts found in their own cities. They are not that interesting to begin with and its audience is limited. And economically it provides a viable income for probably 3% or less of all working artists so I question why we give it so much importance. In the WPA-FAP chapter I quoted the painter Louis Guglielmi who stated during the height of the Great Depression, “The private gallery is an obsolete and withered institution. It not only encouraged private ownership of public property, but it destroyed a potential popular audience and forced the artist into a sterile tower of isolation divorced from society.” When one looks at the glossy art magazines I think that quotes still holds true today.
Personally I champion activist art, community art and environmental art. I advocate for artists to focus their efforts and their talent to working in their immediate community and to working within activist movements.
Art and design is so vital that we need more effort placed on building movements. You do that by collaborating with those outside your discipline. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than working with activist groups and collaborating with them as an artist.
I wrote the People’s Art History book because I wanted more artists to see movement culture and working in activist groups as a viable home for their practice. And I wrote the book because I wanted more activist groups to understand why visual art and creative resistance is so to their tactics.
Nicolas Lampert is a Milwaukee-based interdisciplinary artist and author whose work focuses on themes of social justice and ecology. His first book A People’s Art History of the United States: 250 Years of Activist Art and Artists Working in Social Justice Movements was published by The New Press in 2013. Adam Turl is a writer and artist based in St. Louis. He is also an editor at Red Wedge.
A couple years ago there was a debate on Red Wedge about romanticism. I am reposting here my contributions to that debate. Unfortunately, I don't have access to the other contributions. In addition I think it is important to note the likelihood that all of us might now disagree with what we wrote a few years ago in the early days of Red Wedge.
There is undoubtedly a major element of nihilism in contemporary culture—not just in horror movies but also in science fiction, the visual arts, literature and even prime time television.
The twin factors of imperial decline and the mushrooming crisis facing the working-class majority has produced a population—across the political spectrum—that is more than eager to unwind after a hard day and watch people trudge through an apocalyptic wasteland populated by hostile militias, aliens or zombies.
Things have gone so far awry that dystopian futures are no longer just cautionary tales but can actually be seen as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. Now, with the end of all the old crap, a progressive or reactionary “New Jerusalem”—to borrow from William Blake—might built on top of the ruins of our failing civilization.
One of the most important iteration of expressionism in 21st century European art has probably been the eponymous documentary—by Sophie Fiennes—of the work of Anselm Kiefer, Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow.
Brit Schulte and J. Matthew Camp have rightly identified this nihilistic streak—bound up in dialectic with contemporary capitalism and its brutal history.
In the recent Red Wedge article, “Bloodlines II: The Rise of Modern Horror,” they rightfully argue:
“How horror is organized via the popular imagination leads to an examination of alienation and exploitation, both hallmarks of capitalist production, and how these fixtures translate into the fictive realm of horror. This leads us to the zombification of wage slaves: labor and the undead. Just as the rapid proleterianization and industrialization of the European economy fueled Mary Shelley’s drafting of her creature, so too does the loss of autonomy and dead time as universally experienced themes under capitalism provide a tractive force driving contemporary horror. In capturing these themes in the capitalist world, zombies and vampires reign supreme.”
Schulte and Camp are right to connect the current cultural nihilism—and preferred monsters—to the attenuation of capitalism. They are also correct to connect the birth of horror to the Romantic cultural tradition in Mary Shelley’s Frankestein.
At the same time Schulte and Camp’s examination of the evolution of Romanticism is too narrow. By reducing this examination to the two figures of Mary Shelley and H.P. Lovecraft—although their reading of these two figures is excellent—a central dynamic of capitalist culture is flattened. In this reading nihilism—which is one of many possible features of Romanticism—becomes a central feature of Romanticism. Historically, and not just at its inception, Romanticism has been an exceptionally diverse phenomenon.
Romanticism as phenomenon
While Romanticism was a late 18th and 19th century artistic and literary movement—centered around figures as diverse as Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Blake, Mary Shelley, the Romantic landscape painters, as well as reactionaries like Edmund Burke, etc.—Romanticism was (and is) more phenomenon than movement.
Romanticism is characterized most of all by a rejection of the quantification of life—a quantification that came hand in hand with the rise of capitalism. It is also identified with the longing for more meaningful, often “spiritual,” interactions between human beings and between human beings and their environment (both natural and cultural). This longing is often expressed in nostalgia (either total or partial) for (real or imagined) pre-capitalist or pre-class social and cultural forms.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, who borrowed much from early Romantic social critics, carried this aspect of Romanticism into scientific socialism with their analysis (and popularization) of the concept and phenomenon of primitive communism.
Romanticism continues to this day.
It was expressed in 20th century art movements such as expressionism, Dada, surrealism, aspects of abstract expressionism, Fluxus, Arte Povera, the work of Joseph Beuys, the films of Luis Buñuel, and the sculptures of Eva Hesse and Doris Salcedo.
The Romantic was initially a byproduct of the pressures put on the pre-capitalist (or early capitalist) intelligentsia by the industrial revolution.
Artists, writers, actors, theologians, monks, priests and poets who were conditioned to see the aesthetic and moral world in qualitative terms chaffed at the transition to quantitative (exchange) value and capitalism’s utilitarian view of people and the natural world.
Some looked back to an idealized medieval life. Some looked with hope on the revolutionary waves that swept Europe beginning with the French Revolution. Some looked to an idealized nature (as was the case with many of the Romantic painters). Many looked to all the above.
At the same time Romanticism can’t be reduced to a particular moment in social history. It is not merely a product of a crisis in agency—when capitalism’s ills had become clear but the modern working-class was not yet coherently formed.
Because capitalism continued to need an intelligentsia—and an artificially created “art world” that serves in part as a lab of signification, in part as business—the social basis for Romanticism continued. This intelligentsia, much like the family, is both maintained and constantly attacked by capital. The initial conditions that gave rise to Romanticism are therefore recreated on a continual basis.
All art movements are—by definition—petit-bourgeois. Most artists (within capitalism) occupy a space in between capital and labor. Working-class artists who are successful become, by virtue of their success, petit-bourgeois. The proletarianized culture workers (to borrow from Adorno and Benjamin) have little control over content and meaning. Filmmakers quite clearly—except in the rarest of circumstances—exist squeezed between capital and labor.
rt is largely a product of the petit-bourgeois. This explains its tendency toward rebellion (both far right and far left rebellion) as well as its inability to offer a solution to its own crises.
At the same time art is not a product of the middle-class as a class but of a particular segment with particular characteristics. The most important of these is the continued structural fidelity (of some kind) to qualitative value.
Likewise, Romanticism is not an expression of the petit-bourgeois generally but of a particular layer of the middle-class—artists and certain elements of the threatened intelligentsia.
It can be reactionary or progressive, nihilistic or revolutionary.
It is not a coherent ideology or movement. It is a phenomenon of capitalist culture.
Romanticism Left and Right
At each moment of its existence Romanticism has produced left and right wings. The domination of one wing or the other often has more to do with the general political trajectory, balance of class forces and consciousness.
Therefore early Romanticism produces progressives like Mary Shelley and William Blake as well as arch-reactionary Edmund Burke. The early 20th century gives us the racist reactionary H.P. Lovecraft and the revolutionary surrealist André Breton.
Lovecraft is not the reactionary cap on the history of the Romantic. Both progressive and reactionary Romanticisms continue throughout the 19th and 20th century—in both popular and “avant-garde” culture.
Romanticism takes on left-wing political colors most of all at certain moments of mass struggles—often just before an explosion of struggle, during periods of liberal or social-democratic “class peace.”
The influence of Romantic conceptual artist and sculptor—and founder of the Green Party—Joseph Beuys grew throughout the economic boom of 1960s Germany. His critique of both West German capitalism and East German “socialism” resonated with artists who chaffed under the de facto and de jour censorship on either side of the “iron curtain.” Beuys argued that the problem with both sides was their ruthless rationality. Obviously this differs from a clear Marxist analysis of state capitalism. Nevertheless Beuys’ Romantic framework—which can’t be discussed fully here—were central to the artistic breakthroughs he made elaborating on the contributions of Marcel Duchamp.
Many of the artists of the 1960s Italian movement Arte Povera—Poor Art—combined a thoroughly Romantic approach to art with radical support for striking Fiat workers during the Hot Autumn of 1969. Some supported the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War and even protested the occupation of Palestine after the 1968 war.
Following the disaster of left-wing terrorism in Italy in the 1970s these artists retreated to a more apolitical Romanticism—albeit one that was far from nihilistic. The key factor here, however, was not simply the characteristics of Romanticism, but the dynamics of class struggle.
Similarly, the politics of horror movies can differ wildly even as they might formally resemble one another. The zombie movies of George Romero—initially forged in the crucible of the 1960s rebellions—are quite different than a Friday the 13th slasher film. Everyone might die—but how the horror unfolds says a great deal about the political and social orientation of the directors, writers or producers.
Romanticism is a large contradictory cultural phenomenon. It can’t be easily reduced either conceptually or historically. It is produced by the tensions within capital itself. Of course, the general argument in universities is that the Romantic was a counter-Enlightenment philosophy and was usually nationalistic.
Michel Lowy and Robert Sayre refute this extensively in their book Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity. As Schulte and Camp argue, many of the initial Romantics were Enlightenment figures. Many of the earliest German Romantics were even internationalists.
Romanticism and the French Revolution
The relationship of the Romantics to revolution was also complicated.
Romantics (running the gamut from Blake to Beethoven) often embraced the early French Revolution (reactionaries like Edmund Burke aside).
Most of these Romantics—William Blake most notably—grew disillusioned following Thermidor—the internal counter-revolution known by its month in the revolutionary French calendar.
Some embraced Napoleon turning in horror from the mass executions.
Many, however, (especially outside of England and France) came to hate Napoleon due to the Napoleonic wars that decimated pats of Europe.
Beethoven initially supported Napoleon and dedicated his Third Symphony to him. After Napoleon declared himself Emperor he angrily withdrew that dedication.
The painter Goya made some of his best paintings—many of them in a Romantic mode—as a protest against the memory of Napoleon’s invasion of Spain.
Regardless, the Romantic reaction to Napoleon was complex and its contradictoriness was bound up with the blood of Thermidor—not merely a philosophically idealist dedication to the realization of the “unbound cosmic-self.”
here is a tension in the Romantic between action and utopianism. The Romantic aims to see the realization of paradise but tends to recoil at the blood that might need to be shed to achieve it. This is because Romanticism is not a political movement. It is the expression of artistic temperament in conflict with capital.
Blake wrote many poems celebrating the irrational—or more accurately condemning the rational—out of his disillusionment with the French Revolution. Illya Kabakov—the expat Russian artist—made amazing installation pieces using the remnants of official Soviet culture that he shaped into magical realist environments.
Both proletarian success and failure feeds the different wings of the Romantic.
“The unbound cosmic-self”
My largest point of clarification with Schulte and Camp’s otherwise excellent article is on the question of the “spiritual” aspect of Romanticism. Schulte and Camp seem to mistake a common Romantic idea—that there is a “spiritual” cosmology of some kind—for its particular iteration in Goethe’s Faust.
Goethe’s Faust is an examination of the realization of the “unbound self.” Faust’s pursuit of mystical knowledge (in his “Faustian bargain with the devil”) fails to lead to his damnation (as it did in the classical versions of the story).
The Romantic poetry of William Blake, however, presents a very different cosmological view. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell human beings can’t master the mysteries of the universe. Angels can’t even master them.
A central Romantic idea in 19th century landscape painting—taken from Immanuel Kant and the otherwise worthless Edmund Burke—was the idea of the sublime: the attempt in art to depict the fantastic and profound moments or images that could not be depicted and understood. In this case the self is actually prostrated before the cosmos instead of the cosmos being mastered by the unbound self.
his act was connected—in German and American Romantic painting—to opposition to the industrial revolution’s impact on the natural world. This was a project in aesthetic and cosmic humility—the opposite of a Faustian “will to power.”
Most Romantics believed there was a spiritual cosmology—but only some Romantics believed this cosmology could be mastered.
It is interesting to note that this, too, is contradictory. H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmology, as noted in “Bloodlines” was entirely nihilistic whereas Goethe’s was not—although it was largely reactionary.
Andre Breton did not believe the “spiritual” could be mastered, but he believed it could be more fully experienced, through the interactions between the conscious and sub-conscious mind. He believed this realization of the spiritual self was undermined by capitalism.
Art of the Future
If we flatten the differences within Romanticism we fail to recognize the differences within its children—like the modern horror genre—the substantial political and social differences between Friday the 13th and Night of the Living Dead, between Saw and 28 Days Later or between Zombie Honeymoon and The Exorcist.
These films differ in their conception of horror itself. Some stand in a reactionary tradition that sees human nature—or supernatural evil—as the enemy. Others see social constructions as the primary problem. It is not all one homogenous bloodbath.
The propensity for imagination and creating entire worlds—of horror or wonder—is a central aspect of the Romantic. It is an aspect of the Romantic that can be traced to the beginning of what we know can art—a phenomenon that began tens of thousands of years before social classes even existed.
It began with an impulse—a spiritual impulse—before there was a “political”—to connect the material world with that which was (and often still is) beyond our full understanding (love, death, birth, etc.).
Human beings painted on rocks and carved from stone and molded with clay the fetishes and familiars and totems that connected them and their material concerns to the vast and mysterious unknown.
Today that unknown is more often than not full of monsters. The reason it is full of monsters is because real life is full of monsters. Only struggle—and eventually revolution—will rebalance the magical worlds created by art.
The goal of revolution (in terms of art) is be to return art to the state of its origins: A democratic-cosmological state in which art belongs to all—a state in which art is able once again to explore the “magic” of existence itself.
The desire for “magic” and enchantment in art and life is at the core of Romanticism—not Lovecraftian cosmology per se, which is simply the reactionary wing of a diverse phenomenon. Romanticism is a wildly contradictory worldview that runs the gamut from far right to far left.
Romanticism often expresses a desire for magic and poetry in a world in which capital has destroyed the sense of poetry and magic we felt as children (see Breton) or imagine once existed on the Earth (see Blake).
The day the revolution is complete will be the day these aspects of the Romantic will be vindicated and redeemed.
"Tariq Ali talks to Stephen Parker, author of Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life, about the life and work of one of the most important and controversial poet/dramatists of the 20th century. Parker’s Bertolt Brecht: A Literary Life will be published in German next year on the 60th anniversary of Brecht’s death."Read More
Bertolt Brecht was the most important German Marxist playwright and poet of the interwar period. He was a longstanding friend of the Marxist cultural critic Walter Benjamin. The following exchanges with (and quotes from) Bertolt Brecht were recorded in Walter Benjamin's diary in 1938 (while they were both in exile from Nazi Germany):Read More
A new video short produced and directed by Dress Code, Emory Douglas: The Art of the Black Panthers; produced by Tara Rose Stromberg; cinematography by Andre Andreev; editing and color by Mike Cook. Emory Douglas was the Revolutionary Artist and Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party. Through archival footage and conversations with Emory we share his story, alongside the rise and fall of the Panthers. He used his art as a weapon in the Black Panther Party’s struggle for civil rights and today Emory continues to give a voice to the voiceless.Read More
In 2028 two art school drop-outs and baristas formed the “13 Baristas Art Collective.” The goal of our collective was always to elevate the complex narratives of other “proletarians”—not reduced to some abstraction, nor seen in isolation from social class. We believed that our work should serve two purposes: 1) To assert the pathos of proletarian morality in the present. 2) And if we failed to abolish the current order, serve as cultural building blocks for those remaining, those who would rebuild in the ruins.Read More
The November Anti-Capitalist Art Show (in July) will feature artwork by Adam Turl, Kelly Gallagher, Ian Matchett, Sarah Levy, Danica Radoshevich, Anna Maria Tucker and Craig E. Ross, and music by Thee Mistakes and Marathon, and will host a fundraiser for the re-election of Seattle socialist city council member Kshama Sawant on July 18 (Black Bear Bakery, St. Louis, MO).Read More
This article was posted on the old Red Wedge in early summer/late spring 2014. The original was lost when Red Wedge updated its site. It is being reposted on the "Evicted Art Blog" as it relate to recent articles, particularly about the atemporal bourgeois vs. the constrained proletarian subject. In other words, the individual bourgeois subject has never been more free, while the rest of us remained imprisoned by material limits. The working-class subject, therefore, has a gothic relationship to history. The ruling-class subject approaches history as if it were a buffet to sample (however superficially).Read More
Her suspicions became anger. Her anger reshaped her. She resolved to become an avenging angel. And all the joys and hatred of the world flowed from that.Read More