The responses below are the opinions of the authors and not necessarily endorsed by the Block Museum.
Revolution and Art
To discover what Revolutionary Art is, one must ask what the point of a work is and what it’s consequences are. Does the art not only promote dramatic change, but also induce it? Revolutionary Art’s purpose must not primarily be a reflection of the time, it must be in answer to it. Art which does not have powerfully felt consequences cannot be Revolutionary. Revolutionary Art makes people stand up and shout, affirming the message of the work to the rest of the world, and forces people not only to think, but to act, in non-traditional ways.
Especially in our time, there’s the idea that artist’s must go to extraordinary lengths to be ‘Revolutionary’. I think this is dangerous and wrong. Culture always forces a ‘norm’ upon it’s people, and one of the jobs of artists is to break that norm. This fact is no different now than it was decades, even centuries, ago. However, the avenues of that change are different now, and when asking what Revolutionary Art is, one of the most important questions that must be asked is, In what ways is Revolution most clearly achieved? Our effort should focus as much on what Revolutionary Art is as to how it should be conveyed.
I don’t know if there is such a thing…
I don’t know if there is such a thing (there might be) and if so I don’t know what it is. It might be a well fitted Brooks Brothers suit.
Maureen Walrath, Kite Collective
Kites make for distinct universal connecting devices - we can connect through a kite. To revolutionize connection is to innovate how we connect. We conjure kites as universal catalysts for familiarity and storytelling. Kites- as-catalyst faces the artist/maker with external and internal challenges, steeping the self in the ever-present pull between transience and permanence. We move through and play with the kite as experiential and elemental art. We practice patience in construction and flight, drawing out and adjusting the inclination of the self towards impatience. We connect with spools, twine, spine, and spar. We enter the kite experience through the physical plane comprised of body, mind, and surroundings. In testing flight we remain tethered to the ground and free the imagination. We breathe process - aspire to centeredness of purpose, heighten awareness and remain in the moment. We draw attention to the moment.
Revolutionary art is not edited and distributed through bourgeois institutions like museums,
Revolutionary art is not edited and distributed through bourgeois institutions like museums, that’s for sure. “Revolutionary” art? Or art trying to score political points? There isn’t any “revolutionary” art around now because there isn’t any revolution. If you’re going to talk about the “Occupy” movement, which I think is cute, and hurray, and all that, please, please, let’s at least use language a little discretely, a little sharply. A wan, ineffective protest movement that forgets how power is wielded. Why would anyone even bother asking about contemporary revolutionary art? It doesn’t exist. Here is a link to the socialist party’s website. Ask them which artists are working for the party. http://www.sp-usa.org
Thanks very much for your compliments on my…
Hannah Higgins, Professor at University of Illinois Chicago
"Thanks very much for your compliments on my writing [writing, illustration, whatever thing you do]. I am flattered by your invitation to [do whatever they want you to do for nothing]. But [thing you do] is work, and it takes time, its how I make my living, and in this economy I can’t afford to do it for free. I’m sorry to decline, but thanks again, sincerely, for your kind words about my work." Tim Kreider, "Slaves of the Internet, Unite!", NYTimes, Sunday, October 27, 2013
"In the present period of the death agony of capitalism, democratic as well as fascist, the artist sees himself threatened with the loss of his right to live and continue working. He sees all avenues of communication choked with the debris of capitalist collapse. It is only natural that he should turn to the Stalinist organisations which hold out the possibility of escaping from his isolation. But if he is to avoid complete demoralisation he cannot remain there, because of the impossibility of delivering his own message and the degrading servility which these organisations exact from him in exchange for certain material advantages. He must understand that his place is elsewhere, not among those who betray the cause of the revolution, and of mankind, but among those who with unshaken fidelity bear witness to the revolution; among those who, for this reason, are alone able to bring it to fruition, and along with it the ultimate free expression of all forms of human genius."
—Diego Rivera and André Breton / Manifesto for an Independent Revolutionary Art / 1938
What is revolutionary art today?
By Whitney Richardson, with the Collective Cleaners
Art lives in nuances, social practice and lifestyle—in the way we appreciate the world around us. This goes against the popular concept of art as commercialized commodity, which asserts a hierarchy of skill, value and class. Small gestures make art approachable and erase distinction. As a Collective Cleaner, I experience the revolutionary nature of art through making small gestures, contrasting an overtly “big” society.
Today cleaning is no longer a task performed by women alone. While CC began (unintentionally) as an all-female group, we are now comprised of roughly the same number of women as men. Our work reflects a shared responsibility toward place and community. It generates a sense of mutual respect and reciprocity. As the task of ‘cleaning’ is never completely finished, so goes the work of the revolutionary artist. At its heart, revolution breathes in the deep, continuous work required of us all to care for all that makes us fundamentally human.