Art and Revolution: Transversal Activism in the Long Twentieth Century (Semiotext(e) / Active Agents)
Gerald Raunig has written 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. Meticulously moving from the Situationists and Sergei Eisenstein to Viennese Actionism and the PublixTheatreCaravan, Art and Revolution takes on the history of revolutionary transgressions and optimistically charts an emergence from its tales of tragic failure and unequivocal disaster. By eloquently applying Deleuze and Guattari's idea of the "machine," Raunig extends the poststructuralist theory of revolution through to the explosive nexus of art and activism. As hopeful as it is incisive, Art and Revolution encourages a new generation of artists and thinkers to refuse to participate in the tired prescriptions of marketplace and authority and instead create radical new methods of engagement. Raunig develops an indispensable, contemporary conception of political change--a conception that transcends the outmoded formulations of insurrection and resistance. Too much blood and ink has been shed for the art machines and the revolutionary machines to remain separate. Gerald Raunig is a philosopher and art theorist who lives in Vienna, Austria.
the Commune. From Bakunin’s enthusiastic report of the 1848 February Revolution in Paris as a celebration with no beginning and no end to Hardt/Negri’s interpretation of the counter-globalization protests as carnivalesque street festivals,33 the more or less poetic attempts to evoke the movement of the revolutionary event mimetically in the representation tend more to indicate a lacuna—if not in reference to 78 / Art and Revolution Raunig-Final2-MIT 7/11/07 3:54 PM Page 79 the lack of
barricades. In the specific case of the Commune these two aspects of constituent power do not necessarily need to be understood as an antagonism (of radical democracy and something which lies beyond), as a break between communism and anarchism or as a dialectic of spontaneity and organization. Instead, specifically in the maximum extension of both poles, they have the impact of radically opening the state apparatus and organizing the war machine. Out of Sync / 79 Raunig-Final2-MIT 7/11/07
art genres and the distinction between art and crafts, high art and reportage, etc.)4 would be an over-interpretation after the fact, however, constructed from the shifted perspective of art practices and art policies of the 20th century. When Clark describes the “artist as opponent” as Courbet’s intention with regard to his profession,5 Courbet’s biographical reality at the time of the Commune does not correspond to this aim as an overlapping of the aesthetic and the political, but rather
3:54 PM Page 101 striking workers in the munitions factory of Creuzot, and refused to accept the Cross of the Legion of Honor from Napoleon III, even though he had accepted Belgian and Bavarian medals shortly before that. He justified his refusal with the words: “I do not recognize the right of the state to interfere in art, and I will not ally myself with this state in any way. I am a free artist.”12 Courbet’s reservations about the function of the state in deciding on the visibility of new
highlight the practices of Bertold Brecht and Sergei Tretyakov as positive counter-examples of attempts at also changing the production apparatus. Let’s stay with this negative juxtaposition for a little longer and examine the question that was central for Benjamin: the position of the “author as producer” or, more broadly, the position of intellectuals and artists. In the distinction between “universal” and “specific intellectuals” developed by Foucault, Hiller’s position would be that of