Art

Disobedient Objects

Author: 

Rachael Barnes

The Disobedient Objects exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, emits a strange atmosphere. It is a curation of works, or “objects” which have contributed to social change, collected over the last three decades.

V&A exhibition of objects which have contributed to social change.

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Art and Anarchy

According to the curators Paul Gravett and John Harris Dunning and artistic director David McKean, the exhibition explores the British Library’s collection of comics and plumbs the depths of private collections, to show the history of British sequential art, as well as its writers and artists. It partially succeeds.

The curators wanted to show the political history of comics, the medium’s ability to subvert, and its role as a medium for analysing class, sexuality and ethnicity, not to mention the many occasions when it has become the subject of political battles.

A review of the Comics Unleashed: Art and Anarchy in the UK exhibition at the British Library.

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"Left-wing cartoons and comics offer unique view of mid-20th century"

In an article originally published by the Labor and Working-Class History Association in the USA, labour historian and expert on socialist and radical cartoons and comic art Paul Buhle reviews Workers' Liberty's new collection of socialist cartoons.

This review was originally published by the Labor and Working-Class History Association, and appears on their website here. To orders copies of the book, click here.

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All that is solid melts into air

Jeremy Deller is a populist artist in the best sense of the word.

His 2012 retrospective was entitled ‘Joy in People’ and his works are often concerned with everyday life and the things people do with their leisure.

A review of ‘All that is solid melts into air’, an exhibition by Jeremy Deller at Manchester Art Gallery and touring.

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Claiming our lives

Vicki Morris reviews a major exhibition of works by Nottingham-born artist Paul Waplington.


The Paul Waplington exhibition at Nottingham Castle showed works from what the exhibition notes call “a recent but by-gone age”, the 1970s and 80s.

A Central TV documentary about Waplington, broadcast in 1984, forms part of the exhibition. In it the artist comes across as the original “Grumpy Old Man”, mourning the passing of this by-gone, almost golden, past.

A review of a major exhibition of works by Nottingham-born artist Paul Waplington.

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New book portrays an era

Between the 1930s and the 1950s the revolutionary socialist press in the USA had talented cartoonists such as “Carlo” (Jesse Cohen).

A new collection of their work gives a snapshot history of the times — the rise of the mass trade union movement in the USA, the great strike wave of 1945-6, the fight against "Jim Crow" racism, World War Two, the imposition of Stalinism on Eastern Europe...

It puts socialist policy proposals — opening the books of the corporations, organising workers' defence guards... — in vivid form.

A new book showcasing the work of cartoonists in the American revolutionary socialist press from the 1930's to the 1950's.

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Paul Klee: the quiet revolutionary

This exhibition is expansive, comprehensive, chronological, and as well-ordered as the work on display. All that is good.

However, I felt less inspired than I thought I would be. Klee should be my thing. Early 20th century, modernist, hated by the Nazis — what’s not to like?

In truth nothing here is not to like. Klee’s vast collection of work, in slightly different styles at different points in his life, shows him to be an artist who was constantly experimenting and pushing at boundaries.

A review of Paul Klee, an exhibition at the Tate Modern, London (until 9 March 2014).

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Why art fairs are thriving

“Frieze Art Fair” was held in Regent’s Park, London, from 17 to 20 October. Solidarity asked Lisa Le Feuvre, an art curator, about it. The interview started with Lisa putting a question to Solidarity.


Lisa Le Feuvre: My first response would be to ask Solidarity why you are choosing Frieze Art Fair as the impetus to talk about art, given that this is the most commercial side of art?

An interview with art curator Lisa Le Feuvre about the “Frieze Art Fair” held in Regent’s Park, London.

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The spirit of utopia and the art of healing

“Sanatorium” is one of ten installations that make up the Whitechapel Gallery’s summer exhibition, “The Spirit of Utopia”. The title alludes to Ernst Bloch’s three volumes, written in 1917. The exhibition is described as “a remarkable series of installations and events [which] engage us in playful, provocative and creatively pragmatic models for social change”. Here, Isobel Urquhart reviews “Sanatorium”.

A review of “Sanatorium”, one of ten installations that make up the Whitechapel Gallery’s summer exhibition “The Spirit of Utopia”.

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Illuminating Marx

Robert Ford is a visual artist based in London. He is currently working producing an illustrated edition of Karl Marx’s Capital. He spoke to Daniel Randall from Solidarity about the project.


Around eighteen months ago, I was attending some Capital reading groups, including one run by Workers’ Liberty. I was also watching David Harvey’s lectures.

An illustrated edition of Karl Marx’s Capital.

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Marxism and art

This is the text of a speech given by hip-hop artist and spoken-word poet The Ruby Kid at a Workers' Liberty meeting at Goldsmiths University in November 2012. He was speaking alongside the screenwriter Clive Bradley.

Text of a speech given by hip-hop artist and spoken-word poet The Ruby Kid at "Can art change the world?", a Workers' Liberty meeting at Goldsmiths University in November 2012.

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Robert Hughes, 1938-2012

Robert Hughes, one of the world's foremost art critics and also author of the best book on Australia's convict-settlement history, died on 6 August.

Robert Hughes, one of the world's foremost art critics and also author of the best book on Australia's convict-settlement history, died on 6 August.

Review by Belinda Weaver of The Fatal Shore, Hughes's history.

Review by Belinda Weaver of Nothing if not critical, one of Hughes's books of art criticism.

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National Gallery workers strike

A lively picket line of striking gallery assistants on Friday 27 July was bolstered by Unison and Unite reps from nearby workplaces, as well as activists from the nearby National Portrait Gallery and both Tate Galleries.

Bemused Olympic tourists, armed police, and soldiers looked on as workers leafleted and chatted with the public, explaining the reasons for the dispute.

Workers at London's National Gallery struck on Friday 27 July as part of a dispute around pay and conditions.

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Building the revolution

I bought tickets back in November for the “Building the revolution” show at the Royal Academy and was given a 10 am admission time. When I phoned to ask if it would be possible to come later, they told me not to worry — the show was not very popular and it wouldn’t be crowded at any time.

So the good news is, they were wrong.

When I finally did get to see this exhibition, subtitled “Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935”, it was absolutely packed with people. Clearly many are interested in the subject.

A review of Building the revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935, an exhibition at the Royal Academy.

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Another side of the Tyne

Lawrie Coombs applauds the work of Newcastle’s Side Gallery

Operating in the shadow of Tyneside’s burgeoning official cultural quarter, Side Gallery operates as a radical space bereft of the level of financial support available to the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art or the Sage Gateshead music venue.

As part of the Amber Collective it promotes independent, radical and quirky expositions of cinema and photography. Side Gallery has consistently sought to chronicle unheard voices and perspectives, highlighting working class struggles and experience.

Operating in the shadow of Tyneside’s burgeoning official cultural quarter, Side Gallery operates as a radical space bereft of the level of financial support available to the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art or the Sage Gateshead music venue.

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John Berger: art and politics

Whatever the vagaries of his political positions and assessments since the early 50s (including a softness on the Stalinist regimes, a huge silence about the Nazi death camps, and a disposition to support essentially feudal resistance movements to capital) John Berger remains an important resource in thinking about the nature of oppression and its relationship to art.

A review of Bento’s Sketchbook by John Berger, Verso.

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Reviews: John Palmer; SWP; Foley; Wates and Knevvit; Pauline Kael; Davis and Huttenback; Liebman; Marquand

Download pdf.

Martin Thomas reviews "Europe without America", by John Palmer.

Clive Bradley reviews "Revolutionary Rehearsals", published by the SWP's Bookmarks.

Stan Crooke reviews "Ireland, the case for British disengagement", by Conor Foley.

Neil Stonelake reviews "Community Architecture", by Nick Wates and Charles Knevvit.

Belinda Weaver reviews "State of the Art", by Pauline Kael.

Rhodri Evans reviews "Mammon and the Pursuit of Empire: the Political Economy of British Imperialism, 1860-1912", by Lance Davis, Robert Huttenback, and Susan Gray Davis.

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Chronicler of Russian life

Alexander Rodchenko, having achieved international acclaim as an avant-garde painter, sculptor and graphic designer, took up the cause of photography in 1924 with novel and thrilling results.

Alexander Rodchenko was an avant-garde painter, sculptor and graphic designer who took up photography in 1924 with novel and thrilling results.

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Arts against cuts

The Arts Against Cuts collective is a group of students, lecturers, artists, cultural workers and those interested in creative resistance, organising in a non-hierarchical structure against both the cuts and the ever increasing use of the arts and culture as a tool of ideological and political control.

Since being set up around three months ago a number of actions have been facilitated by the group, and we will continue to do that indefinitely.

The Arts Against Cuts collective is a group of students, lecturers and artists organising against the cuts and the use of the arts as a tool of ideological and political control.

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Arts Against Cuts: "There is a long standing relationship between the aesthetic and emancipatory politics"

Louis Hartnoll, President of the University of the Arts London SU and an activist in Arts Against Cuts, spoke to Daniel Randall of Solidarity.

What are the origins of the campaign?

Louis Hartnoll, President of the University of the Arts London SU and an activist in Arts Against Cuts spoke to Daniel Randall of Solidarity.

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Forum: Poll tax; Trotsky on Zionism; Hitler, Stalin, and art; and symposium on the nature of the Stalinist states

How not to fight the poll tax; Trotsky on Zionism; Hitler, Stalin, and art. and a symposium on the nature of the Stalinist states.

Click here to download pdf.

Workers' Liberty 14 Forum section

How not to fight the poll tax; Trotsky on Zionism; Hitler, Stalin, and art.

A symposium on the nature of the Stalinist states: Martin Thomas; Stan Crooke; Duncan Chapple, Pete Keenlyside, and others; Sean Matgamna.


The contributions on the nature of the Stalinist states from Martin Thomas and Sean Matgamna are below. The other items from this Forum are currently available only on pdf.
"Deformed capitalist states"

Martin Thomas

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Art and the Russian revolution

Author: 

Rachel Lever

Most interested Westerners hold the idea that art is 'free', a metter for the artist expressing him or herself without restrictions. The notion that art should be 'used' for ideological purposes is presented in the media as a perversion practised mainly by Stalinists.

A five part article, written in 1966/7(and republished in 1989) focuses on the role of art in the Russian revolution and working-class culture.

Click here to download the pdf

Most interested Westerners hold the idea that art is 'free', a metter for the artist expressing him or herself without restrictions. The notion that art should be 'used' for ideological purposes is presented in the media as a perversion practised mainly by Stalinists. A five part article, written in 1966/7 (and republished in 1989) focuses on the role of art in the Russian revolution and working-class culture

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Build for battle in January

Student activists report from occupations and protests across the country.

We were discussing taking some kind of radical direct action for a long time before we went into occupation.

We had a democratic meeting on a Saturday, which involved a lot of different groups and forces. We discussed what kind of action we wanted to take and decided to go for an occupation. We thought about some demands we’d like to raise and used the Sunday to make flyers, make banners and build support amongst activists for the idea. On Monday we want into occupation.

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A memoir for a generation

Author: 

Jordan Savage

This book is neither biography nor autobiography. It is not a book about Robert Mapplethorpe, it is not a book about Patti Smith.

Unlike Suze Rotollo’s A Freewheelin’ Time: a memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties, it is not the chronicle of a specific time in a specific place. Instead, this is the transformation of Smith’s emotional experience of her relationship with visual artist Mapplethorpe into an object that communicates those emotions directly to the reader.

A review of 'Just Kids' by singer Patti Smith about her relationship with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe.

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Sex worker exhibition: what's shocking about this?

Author: 

Sofie Buckland

Created between 1983 and 1988, The Hoerengracht is a reproduction of Amsterdam’s red light district, a series of small buildings housing models of sex workers, framed by the familiar red neon lights. The viewer is invited to peer in through windows, taking on the role of voyeur. It’s a small installation, which takes maybe 15 minutes to get a reasonably detailed view of, and for an exhibition in a major gallery on the topic of sex work, it’s disappointing and devoid of content.

A review of the The Hoerengracht, a reproduction of Amsterdam’s red light district at the National Gallery.

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A permanent revolution for Ireland: a Provo-IRA socialist revolution? Part 2

Author: 

Sean Matgamna

...Continued...
Mick:
It's a central part of the ideology - in Karl Marx's sense of 'false consciousness' - of nationalist populism in Ireland that you conflate or collapse into each other the distinct questions of imperialism and anti-imperialism on the one side, and the intra-lrish conflict on the other. Most leftists in Britain, for example, talk and try to act as if only the question of British Imperialism exists in the Northern Ireland situation.

A Socratic dialogue on Irish Republican and Irish Trotskyist politics. [1986]

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Art and revolution

Author: 

Sacha Ismail

Sacha Ismail reviews the Tate Modern’s exhibition of paintings and sculpture by Liubov Popova and Aleksandr Rodchenko.

“We must be consciously proud that we live in this great new epoch, the epoch of grand undertaking... We must break from the past because we do not believe in it any more, because its premises are not acceptable, and we will create the new ones.” Liubov Popova

Sacha Ismail reviews the Tate Modern’s exhibition of paintings and sculpture by Liubov Popova and Aleksandr Rodchenko.

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Bread and roses for the rich

Author: 

Reuben Green

The battle over arts funding is still raging, with the latest fall-out this week being a £3.5 million cut to the arts in Wales.

Urgent working-class community and trade union action needs to be taken to fight both the encroachments of the Olympics and the cuts to local arts projects.

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Dreaming of human liberation

By David Broder

A recent exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, Undercover Surrealism, conveyed the redundancy of surrealist art — why would we be “shocked” by works which have been ripped off and imitated by a million ad campaigns? In the wake of World War One, surrealists tried to attack the destructive logic of bourgeois rule, and instead idealised what lay within the human imagination. Nowadays, Surrealism might seem less of a cutting response to bourgeois culture than a rather quaint throwback to an age of pretentious artist-theorists.

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