Art and Revolution: Transversal Activism in the Long Twentieth Century

Art criticism


It seems as though the central premise here is to construct a link between art practice and the capacity for effective activism. I didn’t actually intend for so many of these texts to have a radical bent but it’s unavoidably present in the rhetoric of Grizedale and I do think it’s necessary to affirm the connection in order to steer oneself away from static practice. Which isn’t to say that it’s automatically effective, just that ideally the library should provide the capacity for provoking alternative lines of thought. Art and Revolution is described as an ‘alternative art history of the “long twentieth century”’, from the Paris Commune of 1871 to the turbulent counter-globalization protests in Genoa in 2001. Raunig moves from the Situationists to Viennese Actionism, through to the PublixTheatreCaravan, addressing the history of revolutionary transgressions and attempting to chart an emergence from its tales of tragic failure and unequivocal disaster. The text in some ways tackles the dangers of outmoded formulations of insurrection and resistance and the ways in which art might be the last vestige of utopian thinking. Raunig also takes on the historian Richard Wagner and his vision of the relationship between art and revolution as being singular and manageable. Following Wagner’s earlier essay of the same title, in which Wagner proposes, especially toward the end of his text (recognizing a sense of art production even in bad reality) that real art is revolutionary precisely because it “exists only in opposition to valid generality.” Instead of being anchored in the “public consciousness,” it exists specifically in opposition to this, only in the consciousness of the individual: “The real artist, who has even now taken the correct stance, is thus even now capable of working on this art work of the future, as this stance is indeed truly eternally present.” As Raunig argues, ‘The artist, indeed the “real artist,” thus seems for Wagner to represent the medium of the transition from the bad status quo to future aspirations.’