What is the relation of art to the practice of radical politics today? Strike Art explores this question through the historical lens of Occupy, an event that had artists at its core. Precarious, indebted, and radicalized, artists redirected their creativity from servicing the artworld into an expanded field of organizing in order to construct of a new—if internally fraught—political imaginary set off against the common enemy of the 1%. In the process, they called the bluff of a contemporary art system torn between ideals of radical critique, on the one hand, and an increasing proximity to Wall Street on the other—oftentimes directly targeting major art institutions themselves as sites of action.
Tracking the work of groups including MTL, Not an Alternative, the Illuminator, the Rolling Jubilee, and G.U.L.F, Strike Art shows how Occupy ushered in a new era of artistically-oriented direct action that continues to ramify far beyond the initial act of occupation itself into ongoing struggles surrounding labor, debt, and climate justice, concluding with a consideration of the overlaps between such work and the aesthetic practices of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Art after Occupy, McKee suggests, contains great potentials of imagination and action for a renewed left project that are still only beginning to ripen, at once shaking up and taking flight from the art system as we know it.
Alas, summer is ending and you need to know your Brecht from your Benjamin quicksharp. Luckily, Verso is here to help, All books on our undergraduate reading list are 50% off — we have your back arts students!
Mark Kingwell reflects on the space where art and politics meet. First published at Harpers.org
Ever since 1964, when Arthur Danto described the art world as a discursive space in which any object, however humble — a soup can, a garden tool, a urinal — might be aesthetically transfigured, philosophers of art have been painting themselves into an increasingly tiny conceptual corner. So-called analytic aesthetics now wallows in a deflationary phase, fighting shy of familiar questions about art and beauty. One recent exemplar of this literature, Dominic McIver Lopes’s Beyond Art (2014), cheerfully defends a “buck-passing” theory of art. That is, art is whatever different “arts-discourses” (i.e., painting, sculpture, performance) choose to talk about and to make. In the book’s terms, “X is a work of art if and only if x is a work of K, where K is an art.” A general theory of why there can be no general theory is a brainchild only an academic could love.