Art Journal The mission of Art Journal, founded in , is to provide a forum for In This Issue Vol. 68, no. 3 scholarship and visual exploration in the visual arts;. Art and Revolution: Transversal Activism in the Long Twentieth Century ( Semiotext(e) / Active Agents) [Gerald Raunig, Aileen Derieg] on * FREE*. In this study, author Gerald Raunig presents prolific material for the analysis of the diverse relations of exchange between art and activism based on a.
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What’s the difference between a commissar’s propaganda and a constructivist’s poetics of production? Marco Deseriis reviews Gerald Raunig’s Art and Revolution and ponders some of the gaps in his aesthetic-political theory. There are books which are imbued with an anachronistic aura from their very release. Books whose untimely publication makes you wonder whether their moment has irrevocably passed or is perhaps still yet to verald.
Such is the case with Gerald Raunig’s Art and Revolution: Transversal Activism in the Long Twentieth Centurya dense reflection on the concatenation of European artistic and revolutionary practices of the last two centuries.
A potential theoretical tool for the Seattle movement, the book hit ervolution bookstores when the movement was clearly ebbing, taunig resurgent fundamentalisms, nationalisms and widespread anti-immigration feelings were reshaping the political climate in a conservative fashion.
To be sure, what is left of the movement of movements continues to produce its own analytical tools.
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But what seems to be missing in the current phase is a political and imaginary space in which those movements can articulate theory and practice in their dialectical unity. The shrinking of this space is particularly conspicuous for a book such as Art and Revolutionwhich tries to make a bridge between historic revolutionary processes such as the Paris Commune and the October Revolution arh the radical interventionism of groups such as the Situationist International, Viennese Actionism, and the PublixTheatreCaravan.
But what is a revolutionary process?
Raunig’s answer is relatively simple: We must think of resistance, insurrection, and constituent power as an indivisible process, in which these three are melded into a full counter-power and ultimately a new, alternative, formation of society. In Art and Revolutionthe Paris Commune serves as a historic example that allows one to think of alternative paths to the Ajd revolutionary project as a rrvolution model that sets itself the primary goal of taking over the state apparatus to create a new society only after ascending to power.
In considering the function of art in this concatenation, Raunig first analyses the peculiar trajectory of Gustave Courbet in the days of the Commune. While notorious painters such as Pisarro, Cezanne, Monet and Manet fled Paris to the countryside, the author of L’Origine du Monde decided to remain in the city, join the uprising, and even geald a member of the Council of the Commune.
In the aftermath of the bloody repression of the revolt, Courbet was put on trial for participating in the toppling of the Column of Place Vendome, which had been commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate the battle of Austerlitz. In spite of the fact that Courbet had proposed to move the column to a different location and had joined the Council of the Commune gedald after this had opted for its destruction, the artist was first sentenced to six months in prison and then, in a second trial held infined an astronomicalFrancs, forcing him to flee the country and eventually die in exile.
According to Raunig, this episode — along with the mythic story of the artists’ spontaneous defense of Notre Dame from the fury of the Communards who wanted to set the cathedral on fire while the government troops were besieging the city — proves that art and revolution failed to concatenate transversally in the Paris Commune.
In Courbet’s linear progression from art to revolution and back to art, the prototype of the bourgeois artist that clings to gerapd abstract universalism and eternal value of art in order to save himself from prosecution is simply restored after a mad interlude.
And yet this missed concatenation does not mean that the transversalisation of art and politics is always unrealisable, but rather that its historic conditions of possibility were not mature at the time of the Commune. Even if Raunig hardly discusses the aesthetic sphere in its concrete historic development — and this is probably the major flaw of his analysis — in the last three decades of the 19th century, artistic activity in Europe is increasingly understood as an activity that differs from all others.
This means that art reclaimed now a pragmatic and even an revoultion function, that is, the right to directly intervene into politics. While in Germany and Italy the defeat of the Spartacist uprising and of anx socialist general strike marked a setback for the revolutionary movement, in Russia the October Revolution instigated artists to take on an active role in the context of collective appropriation of the means of production.
This collaboration resulted in the production of two shows, Do You Hear, Moscow? Even though the show was mostly designed for factory workers, it encountered various production problems, prompting Eisenstein to interrupt the collaboration with Tretyakov and abandon theatre for the burgeoning Soviet cinema. But if Tretyakov’s frenetic activity in the kholkoz is exemplary because of his ability to modify the production apparatus, the question that goes unanswered in Benjamin’s and Raunig’s texts is in what way Tretyakov’s work can still be considered literary, or, to put it bluntly, in what way does it differ from that of a regular political commissar sent from Moscow to supervise the propaganda effort in the countryside?
With its modernist emphasis on the properties of the materials and their formal organisation into a coherent whole, constructivism had downplayed issues of distribution rqunig audience. To be sure, in the leading group of constructivist artists that revolved around The Group for Objective Analysis had already embraced the principle that the kinetic life of materials and objects brought about by industrialisation undermined forever traditional, static notions of composition, and called for a new perceptual dynamic between artworks and audience based on interaction rather than contemplation.
From this perspective, Boris Groys’ assertion that productivism paved the way to the suppression of the avant-garde in and to the simultaneous elevation of socialist realism to the official aesthetic canon of the Soviet Union is hardly surprising. As a matter of fact, Groys’ paradoxical claim that. To be sure, socialist realism restored representation and was therefore at odds with the abstract avant-garde, at least from a formal point of view.
But since the latest avant-garde had managed to downplay formal exploration, the State apparatus had only to take it at its word, in a sense, by declaring socialist realism as the only definitive, aesthetic canon.
There is thus no reason to strive for formal innovation, since novelty is automatically guaranteed by the total novelty of superhistorical content and significance. But if the myth of the originality of the avant-garde was absorbed and superseded by the post-historical re-presentation of the Revolution as the ultimate Work of Art, this development was also partly rooted in the fact that avant-garde artists had longed to become engineers of the modern world well before the advent of productivism.
As a matter of fact, as Groys notes, the often overlooked will to power of the avant-garde can be traced to the modernist claim that the entire world and ensemble of human activities can and should be used as materials for artistic activity.
Obviously, one can object to Groys that the art domain cannot raunigg determined a prioriand that one of the very functions of avant-garde research has been precisely to expand the scope of this domain and our understanding of what art is.
In this respect, the emergence of productivism reflects the more or less conscious acknowledgement by various segments of the Russian avant-garde that since this transformation was now firmly in the hands of the Party, freedom of artistic gerqld was in fact limited by the Party’s agenda. All these considerations on the troubled liaisons between artists and political parties or movements go unaddressed in Art and Arfor at least two reasons.
In the first place, Raunig chooses to analyse the concatenation between art and revolution raynig by looking at those groups that engage in political theatre and street actions. In regard to the first point, these performances and interventions cannot be isolated from their ideological context, but they have to be evaluated together with the revolutionary programmes and statements that inspired them — statements that called for a thorough transformation of the entire aesthetic sphere.
This holistic tendency is epitomised by the avant-garde’s vocation to use multiple media as part of an aesthetic strategy which aimed at overcoming the advanced specialisation of functions brought about by industrialisation and the capitalist division of labour.
Second, the transformation of audiences into cultural producers does not occur only in periods of social upheaval but is part of a long term historic process whose effects become fully visible with the deployment of cognitive capitalism. To answer this question I believe it is necessary to address the emergence of art as an autonomous sphere — the major blind spot of Raunig’s book. Artworks begin to be identified only by their belonging to a specific sphere.
In his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man Schiller drew, after Kant, the political consequences of that de-hierarchisation.
Art and/or Revolution?
The latter had failed precisely because the revolutionary power had played the traditional part of the Understanding — meaning the state imposing its law on to the matter of sensations — meaning the masses. With its position of withdrawal, its search for the inconnu and for what cannot be fully rationalised, Aestheticism, as we have seen, embodied the artist’s revopution refusal of bourgeois rationality and of the division of labour between intellectual and bodily functions.
One may think of the tension between the desiring politics of utopian socialism and scientific Marxism in the 19th century, the European avant-gardes and the Third International in the s, annd hippies and the revolutionary groups, eevolution feminists, the punks and the traditional politics rsunig unions and labour parties in the s, and so forth. It is only by analysing the art machine’s own specific components — not as a mere reflection of the revolutionary machine — its will to power, its own organisational forms, and its peculiar ways of understanding what is equal and what is just, that the art machine and the political machine can be articulated in their reciprocal difference.
This is the best antidote to the risk, against which Raunig rightly warns us, that one of the two may incorporate the other. Pluto Press,p. Cited in Raunig, p. Rauniig self-determined project Negri calls self-valorization.
Lessons on the GrundrisseNew York: In actual fact, those theories had already been elaborated by Negri and other workerists throughout the s. On the distinction between orgiastic and organic representation cf. Anr University Press,pp. On the concept of transversality cf.
Gerald Raunig « SEMIOTEXT(E)
Essais d’analyse institutionelleParis: University of Minnesota Press, p. Shocken Books,p. Raunig lists Tretyakov’s extensive self-report of his own work in the kolkhoz on pp. Princeton University Press,p. Clark argues that UNOVIS, the group founded in at the Vitebsk Art School and led by Kazimir Malevich with the participation of El Lissitzky, integrated art and Bolshevik propaganda to build an independent sphere of action on top of revolutionary politics.
Clark, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of ModernismNew Haven: Yale University Press,pp.
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Marco Deseriis reviews Gerald Raunig’s Art and Revolution and ponders some of the gaps in his aesthetic-political theory There are books which are imbued with an anachronistic aura from their very release.
Book cover The shrinking of this space is particularly conspicuous for a book such as Art and Revolutionwhich tries to make a bridge between historic revolutionary processes such as the Paris Commune and the October Revolution with the radical interventionism of groups such as the Situationist International, Viennese Actionism, and the PublixTheatreCaravan.
Front cover of the magazine Novyi Lef New Leftno. As a matter of fact, Groys’ paradoxical claim that the Stalin era satisfied the fundamental avant-garde demand that art ceased representing life and begin transforming it by means of a total aesthetico-political project [ Poster for the short-film for No Border No Nation event, by PublixTheatreCaravan, Viena All these considerations on the troubled liaisons between artists and political parties or movements go unaddressed in Art and Revolutionfor at least two reasons.
Mute Magazine Print Archive books. The Mute magazine print archive has its first release for sale as an original, limited edition set of all fifty-one issues of the print versions of the magazine, covering twenty years of publishing from to Radical Art and the Regenerate City.