No one could have greater regard for the value, and necessary autonomy of creative work, than me, but art doesn’t exist outside of political reality, and an artist, of whatever medium, who disregards how their work is employed, will be themselves complicit in the uses to which their work is put.
Yes, I’m thinking about the musicians in the Philadelphia Orchestra–who go to Israel to bath in the blood of murdered Palestinian children.
This is so terribly troubling for me, because I hold the music they serve, and all of the arts, in such high regard.
Because they have refused to accept their own agency, and allowed the machinery of economic “necessity” to determine what they will, and will not do, they defile the art they are devoted to, and themselves with it.
Better there be no Great Philharmonic. Better they ply their trade busking on the street. Better shut down the monstrous Kimmel Center–temple of money and poisoner of art and artists. The more money it takes the make a work of art, or performance, the greater the pollution.
In this world, the best artists will perform for the people, make their art from trash on the street.
Capitalism defiles everything
Nothing can remain Sacred in this world, until we cleanse it of the disease of Capitalism.
Why is it so hard to find committed, radical/anarchist artists–committed, both to making art, AND to working together to find ways to make art outside the capitalist, gatekeeper, gallery to investor system? Cause no one can do this alone.
One of the factors in what makes me so discouraged, and depressed in my efforts to make art.
It can’t be just talk. It has to be action–discovering, creating through action. It has to begin with saying: we can’t do this anymore! We can’t work within the system anymore! Enough!
And then–looking at what we CAN do–and doing it!
Though the material and social problems involved are unique to each medium and form–this is something that should be addressed by artists of all kinds–dancers, theater people, poets, musicians –together, as a collectivist work.
Fifteen years ago, we published the following text introducing anarchism to the general public as a total way of being, at once adventurous and accessible. We offered the paper free in any quantity, raising tens of thousands of dollars for printing and even offering to cover the postage to mail copies to anyone who could not afford them. In the first two weeks, we sent out 90,000 copies. It appeared just in time for the “People’s Strike” mobilization against the IMF and World Bank in Washington, DC; the pastor at the Presbyterian church that hosted anticapitalist activists in DC preached her Sunday sermon from the primer as she spoke to her congregation about the demonstrations. Over the following decade, Fighting for Our Lives figured in countless escapades and outreach efforts; read this story for an example. In the end, we distributed 650,000 print copies.
Fighting for Our Lives has been out of print for several years, as we’ve focused on other projects such as To Change Everything. We’ve now prepared a zine version for our downloads library. From this vantage point, we can appreciate both the text and the project itself as ambitious and exuberant attempts to break with the logic of the existing order and to stake everything on establishing new relations. We’ve learned a lot in the years since then—but we haven’t backed down one millimeter.
It’s difficult for a person to hear themselves when they’re depressed. That’s why listening is more effective than any advice you might give, and why telling them you love them, or how much they are valued–only makes things worse.
In being heard, in being listened too, it becomes possible to hear one’s own voice–to hear, as others hear, the deprecating voices… and recognize what they are saying as distortions of the truth. It’s how we find our own way back.
The deprecating voices are external images of self that we have assimilated. No external voice will lead us out of their traps, because it’s our susceptibility to them that caught us in those webs, and to find freedom again to breath on our own, resistance has to rise from the depths of our own being. No one can do it for us, and no one else can show us how.
Keep that in mind when you offer reassurance, and are refused. The refusal is not a symptom of the malady.
Listen! Listen with such depth of attention that the person you would help, hears in their refusal, their own assertion of a will-to-health, and the means to restoration of their freedom
I think there is an analogy here to what we have to do to free ourselves from oppressive social forces.
No one ‘out there’ can save us. No Moses can come to lead us out of Pharos’s Egypt. There are no ready-made maps or instruction books or revolutionary plans. The first step, always–the beginning we need to return to, endlessly–by turning to one another, in such intensity, with such attention, such listening, that we will hear, and summon together, the creative power that has always been there: the power to create a new world–a world worthy of the struggle it will take to build it.
“In our times, an artist is defined as someone who has a vision: someone with visions and rhythms that form a separate inner world: someone who can manifest this world on the outside; someone who can create a new, an exemplary, their own world through imagination and creative force; someone whose ideas leave their inner being like Pallas Athena left Jupiter’s head; someone who then, like an Italian trader of plaster figures, packs the result in a basket and hawks it in the “the other world,” ordinary reality, where they sell the figures of their dreams and sacred desires to the goblins and caricatures of their artistic mind, all the while advertising, calculating, haggling, arguing, cheating. This is the contemporary artist’s mixture of detachment and participation.
But mine is another: I want to use reality to create; I want art to be the process of imaginative and communal social transformation, rather than the expression of individual yearning.”
Gustav Landauer, REVOLUTION and Other Writings: A Political Reader. Edited and translated by Gabriel Kuhn. PM Press.
I changed the masculine, personal pronouns.
I was probably 22 or 23 when I read the essay on Landauer, in Martin Buber’s Paths in Utopia; it would be hard to imagine how any, indirect meeting with any thinker, could have a more powerful, influence, than the ideas in that essay had for me—over the course of whole life. Three years later, I was living in a commune—where expenses were covered, each according our means. Though it would be 45 years before, my involvement with Occupy Philly, led to the next experiment in communal living, I never gave up my search for a means to realize my ideas on communal living, and this time—I’m sure there was something of Landaur’s ideas of art and revolution, what freed me, to return to what I had been doing when I read that essay: making art.
I only last week bought a copy of this book, and in reading it, began to discover how much—from such minimal acquaintance–the seeds Landauer had planted, have meant to me over the years. The perplexity I feel, and have expressed in posts on this blog and elsewhere, on how survive as an artist in this capitalist wilderness–and as a revolutionary–without losing one’s freedom to create, or submitting to slavery of the market–I didn’t learn from Landauer, but, as in the above quote, I find, this too, I share with him—if from another side, as an artist.
Revolution is an act of imagination
Revolution is action.
Revolution takes place in the present. Now, and now, and now, or never. There can be no waiting
for the “right conditions.”
Revolution is an ever present necessity.
Revolution is every act of the imagination, made real in every present moment.
Solidarity, Love, Imagination, RESISTANCE!
I keep reading comments about protests, where peeps blame everything they don’t like, everything they think excessive, violent… on ‘anarchists.’
When they know nothing about actual anarchists, but what the enemies of actual anarchists have always said about them.
There is a rich history of a very diverse stream of anarchist ideologies.
It can be complicated. For me, it’s complicated only in the doing… which is always actions and decisions made with others.
No gods, no leaders… no representatives” … Nehil de nobis sin nobis… nothing about US… without us. We are capable of taking care of ourselves, and one another, without hierarchy, without institutionally mandated leaders.
I am an anarchist.
That is my manifesto. Read it well, read it with care, turn it and turn it, cause everything is in it.
As for how we get there?
Solidarity, Love, Imagination, RESISTANCE!
I have this dream… of a collective of artists, who don’t “sell” their work, but … sort of… ‘rent’ it. That is, Someone who makes a contribution (sliding scale) has right to the work in perpetuity… but not ‘ownership.’ the collective, legally, retains ownership. What that means, is the one who takes the work, agrees never to sell for profit. They can exchange for another work, or accept an exchange at current value, if they want to offer it to someone else–ok…but wherever the work goes, the collective retains “ownership” rights.
The idea being, to prevent a work from becoming a commodity, an item of exchange value taken in expectation of profit by future increase in monetary value.
A network of such exchanges–drawing in more artists, removes more and more art from the fucked up , utterly corrupt gallery to investor gatekeeper system we have now.
The idea–however this might actually work out, is that artists take control of the distribution of our work, withdrawing our work from the market system, but creating together ( I envision networks of these collectives), a system outside the capitalist system.
No artist has any hope of bucking the system alone. This can only happen if enough artists come together, and work out a system of distribution, and sustainability–by consensus. By USING OUR CREATIVE IMAGINATION for how we LIVE IN THE WORLD, and not exclusively in devotion to our work.