Gustav Landauer: Art and Revolution

“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!

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Thoughts on what we call “disabilities”

I’m at a loss how to communicate what this hearing aid means to me–how profoundly it has effected…changed, my life. It’s not the inability to hear–but the effect of losing a capacity one has come to depend on, and lacks the resources to replace. Hard of hearing is not a less severe form of deafness–it is different, as any truly deaf person would almost certainly agree.

I belong to the hearing world. At my age, I will never belong to the deaf world–which is a culture onto itself, for which, “Hearing” is not something that’s been lost, not a deficiency… it is simply, Other. If I were to learn ASL (something I would very much like to do–though learning a new language at my age is probably more of a challenge than I’m able to take on) –and even become proficient in it–I would still be a visitor in the culture. I would still belong to the Hearing world, the hearing culture.

When I say, I’m at a loss to communicate what this means to me–it’s in part, because of how profoundly this has impressed on me the degree to which our various capacities, define us–and what this means. How all of these, are less about our physical differences, or neurodiversity, than the social conditions imposed on us.

I do not have a ‘disability’ because I do not hear well, but because I do not hear well– I am, to the degree of that loss, excluded from full participation in the hearing world to which I belong–in ways more profound than I would have imagined… and more profoundly than I can adequately express.  Let me state this in different words: my disability does not consist of a hearing loss, but in how it excludes me from the social culture to which I belong–and there lies the more important meaning–for in different ways, this can be said of all the various ways humans diverge from the norm, from the privileged, power enforced mythologies of the Normal.

And in this, I can be thankful for this loss, in that it has given me insight into a range of human diversity, and the cruel tyranny of the Normal over all of us.. without which, I would not have understood with such clarity.

The neo-Nazi, eugenicists, who have risen to power–with representatives in the White House–are our ultimate enemies. Enemies of all of us. All of us. Because there is no such thing, as “Normal”… and there is no way to be rid of us… but extermination of the entire human species. Which is clearly, their unconscious goal.

Artists, Class, Revolution

Walking thoughts… ideas come to mind, walking here and there and back: to the el, the wine store, to the Fresh Grocer. Sometimes they kick off something that comes back to me. A couple days ago, I was thinking about artists—not ART, artists. About making a living (or at least, paying for art materials), in a capitalist system, when one is a confirmed, convicted, solidarity-convinced anti-capitalist. And it occurred to me, that one could look at the problems through the lens of class—that the structures and machinery of class reproduce themselves on particular strata, and this seemed particularly helpful to me in understanding what artists deal with.

The connecting point in these thoughts, was meritocracy—how, because class is not like castes, frozen across generations for all time, but somewhat permeable, it’s easy to ignore how class, in itself, is as unchanging as an South Asian caste system. That individuals are able to climb the ladder, does nothing to overthrow the range of beliefs that justify class inequalities for those who benefit from them, or to offer serious challenge to the ideologies that use those beliefs.

What beliefs? The ‘natural’ superiority of men… (white men), is way up there at the top: patriarchy and Euro-Anglo-American racism–used to excuse, what otherwise would make what capitalism, colonialism, slavery, have done, and continue to do, to the mass humanity, intolerable. What does that have to do with, meritocracy? With art? With the capitalist class system?

Everything.

Capitalism creates, maintains, and perpetuates inequality. All the way back to the Adam Smith, this has been acknowledged, and because it so flies in the face of the most minimally developed sense of justice, is addressed in all the ideological variants that would defend and promote capitalism. For Adam Smith—it was the Invisible Hand, which, (grossly misused since) would correct the worst abuses, and prevent capitalism from becoming what it has, in face, become. But nothing has been more useful, or done greater violence, the social Darwinism and eugenics. Here was the perfect foil, the perfect answer, to justify belief in the inferiority of the masses, and if an individual here and there, rose up and proved themselves superior to their birth—the genetic mythology perfectly accounted for it, and supported those who would protect the superior races and individuals, while justifying their suppression, and attempts to control, or better, if they proved less than useful and docile–eradicate the untermenchen.

How perfectly the Art World recapitulates this! With its gallery to investor pipeline, a gatekeeper system, meant to identify the Elite, and (hopefully) erase from memory, if not from life itself all the outsiders! Women! Blacks! Colonials! A Patriarchal system (where are the women from how many generations past?) Where are non-Euro artists and their work, but as appropriated by the (even if late-acknowledged) Masters? There is such thing, as ART, let alone, an “Art WORLD!” … if it is not as varied and multiple as there are worlds and peoples! If it doesn’t crash through and DESTROY the gatekeepers and their system!

Those were my walking thoughts… how, I asked myself. .how is it possible, for anyone who calls THEMSELVES an artist—to accept this system? To define their idea of ‘success’ by it’s terms? To not throw themselves into the struggle to create—to IMAGINE… as artists do.. a new and better world?

Goby’s Journal: January 24, 2017

As I walked to the super market, I wondered what would happen if I were arrested, sentence to years or life (which wouldn’t be that long for me) in prison? I kept thinking about Murphy Cat and Merlin. Who would take care of them? And if I were to be released in a few years… would they know me? Would they be angry with me? Would they think that I’d abandoned them?

Of such thoughts are daydreams made in a Fascist State.

I think… these are going to be terrible times. Many of us won’t survive. If we are serious about resistance–about what it is we’re fighting, we have to accept that, as any soldier who goes into battle has to accept what may come. As the soldier finds courage and strength in mutual care of their comrades, so too, we need to draw strength from our comrades–by caring and supporting them, by being willing to lay our lives on the line that some us, at least, will survive. That some of us may live through these day or years to take up the never finished task, of making a humanly habitable world for all.

Black Block!

proxyBreaking windows and burning limos isn’t in itself, revolution, but those humans out there on the street, those multi-pronouned humans all in black, with their AntiFA flags, were doing important work for the revolution to come. That kind of action doesn’t build alternative structures, but they demonstrate what courage looks like, and their actions FUCK the taboo around property. How do we destroy capitalism if we are horrified at breaking a fucking window!?!

We can’t build a new world, the world we want, with the old rules and laws and taboos. Those are all there to protect the wealthy, to suck wealth from the masses, to oppress and destroy marginalized people and all who oppose them.

Fuck their rules! Fuck their taboos, their laws–all of which must be be judged by their consequences, and by nothing else! The rules and laws were made by humans; humans can accept or discard or make them new, as is fitting and just for all!

The Black Block today were out there breaking, not just windows, but the cordons of our thinking, of how we perceive our present world, burning the effigies of Property! I tip my hat to them–and thank them. I call them, Comrades!

Solidarity! Love! Imagination! RESISTANCE!

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Theatre Resistance Plan, 2017 – 2020

Bitter Gertrude

There is no more powerful tool for changing ideas, shifting cultural zeitgeist, and resisting authoritarianism than art. While theatre is not the biggest bat artists wield, our impact on the culture is not nil, especially if you include community theatre and school plays, and we must. Resistance to the Trump regime is the most crucial political battle of our lifetimes because this regime– and the zeitgesit behind it– stands to undo progress in every area of our society. Trump, Pence, McConnell, Ryan et al are actively seeking to impoverish you to enrich themselves, roll back every civil rights and workers’ rights gain of the past 100 years,  eliminate every consumer protection, eliminate the social safety net, and pretend you begged them to do it. It’s telling that the very first appointee of the incoming administration was an amoral white nationalist, and the very first act of the new Congress was…

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Titles

I’ve started adding titles to my work.

No, these titles weren’t on my mind while I was making these pieces. They’re partly tongue in cheek… but only partly so. While I don’t think metaphorically when I work–don’t think in words much at all, beyond… “where did I leave the cap to the cadmium yellow?” … I feel, deeply so, the conflict between what it means to make art in this time, feel deeply the impossibility of escaping the grinding jaws of capitalism that inevitably turn whatever an artist does into a commodity, reduced to exchange value. There’s no escape — the most explicit anti-capitalist, revolutionary call to arms–can expect no better fate, its message reduced to a decoration on some wealthy collectors wall. Better oblivion. Better to burn them all.

…better still… to do what I’m compelled to do.

I will not give anyone else the power of judgement over my work. If you think my art merely decorative, serving no revolutionary purpose… these titles express something of why I think you are wrong. To explore the pleasures of the eye–with a clear conscience, does mean having that eye turned to the future–to a world on the other side of capitalist domination and all the evils sheltered within it–a world whose form we cannot yet imagine, let alone see.
This is a conflict rooted deep in my heart and thoughts, it fills my perception of everything in this present world. I do hope… whether I’m successful or not… that the visual pleasures of my art, however slight, may in some way keep alive the faith… that there exists more than what we see now, keep alive the hope of revolution, faith in what we will build when we are free from these Empires of Money and Death.
So yes, the titles are a kind of joke… but serious joke, nonetheless.

I am I was I will be

i-am-i-will-be

I find that can only read John Berger’s essay in Landscapes, Revolutionary Undoing: on Max Raphael’s The Demands of Art, a page, or paragraph at a time, without being brought to full stop. Here is one of those passages, where I have to close the book to take it in.

“There is not a significant artist in the world who is not asking himself whether his art is justified — not on account of the quality of his talent, but on account of the relevance of art to the demands of the time in which he is living.”

I have to stop because these thoughts have been troubling me, and the more assured I am–the more confident I become in my creative powers, the more troubling they become, trouble me to the point, that I’ve come to believe that that to make art for our times is impossible, or rather–that there can be no validation here in the making of art–not in this world, for us as artists. Justification, if it’s to come, will have to wait for the new age.

To go on making art, then, is–must be–an act of faith–that against all evidence–or in its absence, which comes to the same thing, what we do will have to find it’s meaning elsewhere, in the world we must create if we are to survive for long on this planet. A world that does not now exist, except as a dream and a necessity.

It isn’t enough to be ‘topical,’ to be what others would call, relevant–that is, to make art that serves the revolution–an impossibility, because the revolution, whatever form it will take, is still invisible, and the best we can do to directly serve the cause–is make propaganda–pieces to encourage and embolden our would-be revolutionaries. There is nothing wrong with that. Such efforts are needed. But whatever is of use now, will not have the power to resist being usurped, and put to uses antithetical to the revolution, and to the world we are called upon to build.

This is different than the old hope in posterity, a posterity that would be like us, but with greater understanding. This is a faith in a new reality. What we make now, we see only with the eyes and mind of this reality. That which will exist in the new reality, is present now, present in the art we are making–and yet, but beyond our ability to in the eye of our imagining. That’s the nature of our faith, the faith we must have. That if we are true to the promptings of our own vision, we will bring forth work that exists now, both in and beyond our time, visible in the present only as a work of the the present–but pregnant with a future no eye as yet can see.

#622 – with page from Goby’s Journal: Stasi Trump Jesus and the Subjunctive Voice

18″ x 24″ Acrylic on wood.
Layering. Interested in giving an impression of depth, without resorting to geometric perspective. Pollock, of course… but also, the illusion that one is looking at something… both real, and mysterious, like Hubble photos, or electron microscopy… in color. right click on photo for more detail.

622
View GALLERY HERE.

… I’m thinking of using this piece of a packing crate for a frame. Paint it black.
packing-crate-622

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Goby’s Journal: December 23, 2016

Stasi, Trump, Jesus and the Subjunctive Voice

In an age when anyone who hears us speak, in person, or through social media, students in our classrooms, our patients or customers–when anyone might feel empowered by the Trumpocracy, to report you, to troll you, to try to get you fired, blacklisted, kicked off a plane…
It would be well, were we to revive the long neglected subjunctive voice.
To polish our skills at not quite saying what we mean.

If one were to imagine oneself, say, in 1956 East Berlin, one would find ways, even in front of a class, of speaking to those who “had ears to hear,” without giving cause to those who would take you down, were they so inclined. Which brings to mind–that phrase, “those who have ears to hear” — the language used by Jesus in the Gospels: speaking in parables. Jesus, too, lived under a hostile power. How much of that language was made to pass safely through the Roman occupation?

We aren’t at that level, yet… of Stasi, say… where no one, not even our most radical friends, can be trusted, because anyone can be made to be an informant. Let them only describe what will happen to your children, your aging parents, should you refuse. But this is where we are headed.

I have heard stories. Some reported in news, some seen on social media. Would that it were true that nothing of the kind had happened to anyone I know.

Be careful. Don’t say anything in private you wouldn’t say in public, cause… nothing is private. Learn from poets how to say more and less and other than what you mean.