Freedom, Individualism, Revolution
Courbet, Zola, Proudhon and Artistic Anarchism
Artistic anarchism has a long and complex history. Certainly one of its most interesting chapters in France is the development of two competing anarchist discourses about art’s libertarian possibilities during the years leading up to the ill-fated Paris Commune of 1871. Then the paintings of the anarchist artist Gustave Courbet served as a foil for a debate in which Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s praise for Courbet’s “Realist” aesthetic was pitted against the young novelist Emile Zola’s enthusiasm for the stylistic qualities of Courbet’s art. Proudhon encapsulated his views in his last book, Du principe de l’art et de sa destination social (The principle of art and its social goal), published in 1865.  Here he situated art production socially so as to affirm the artist’s freedom to transform history. Proudhon argued art was inescapably social, and that the artist was free only to the degree to which he or she sought to transform society. He admired Courbet’s Realism because it pushed history forward through critique, extending the dialectical interplay between anarchist criticism and social transformation into the artistic realm.
Feb 16, 2016
Anarchy, Neo-Impressionism and Utopia
The wandering of Humanity
“The tramps refused to obey; they abandoned time, possessions, labor, slavery. They walked and slept in counter-rhythm to the world.”
—Anais Nin, The Tramps, 1946
Anais Nin’s encounter-with the homeless wanderers of her day—the tramps of Paris, “in counter-rhythm to the world” reminds me of an enduring duality in anarchism. We stand at one remove from capitalism, attempting in our own way to live in a degraded world in spite of it. In the quest to realize our ideals many of us have joined the ranks of such rebels, who subsist on capital’s margins.
Feb 4, 2016
Punching Holes in Russian Capitalism
Seeds of the 1917 Revolution are Sprouting Again
During the 1917 Russian revolution, anarchists urged workers to take control of their lives by turning the capitalists out and seizing control of the means of production, the better to reconstruct society along anarchistic lines.
In some instances, property was communalized and a post-capitalist social order began to emerge. One such experiment was initiated by Boris Yelensky, an anarchist who returned to Russia in February 1917 after a lengthy exile in Chicago: Yelensky made his way to his home town of Novorossiysk in August where he formed an anarchist propaganda group.
Nov 24, 2019
Richard Mock’s Sculptures Hang in the Halls of Capital’s Temples
I have long admired Brooklyn-based Richard Mock for his outspoken commitment to anarchism and clear-sighted attacks on contemporary injustices.
Consequently, I was delighted to learn he has been exhibiting his most recent sculptures in bank lobbies, no less. But then, Mock has a way of getting what he wants: this show has graced several banks in Canada, the United States and Germany (hesitating bank managers get a free lure, Mock tells me).
Nov 24, 2019