Following on from the discussion on the Brecht text that Andrew and I have been having here I thought I would put forward the following ideas about how to produce art politically;

‘literary works cannot be taken over like factories’ Brecht*

‘To make a political film is not the same as to make films politically’ Godard**

‘All art is subject to political manipulation except that which speaks the language of this same manipulation’ Zizek***

the Brecht and Zizek quotes have been stuck on my studio wall for some time now, I can across the Godard one today while waiting for a video to render. I have been wanting to put the Brecht quote into the mix since John touched on the co-option of the protest movement by galleries below. I suppose I am wondering about the two fronts of wider dissent (which is ‘allowed’ by the mechanisms of art) and of critique of art within art (which is frowned upon). I was hoping to unpick this a bit more but have become stuck, I thought therefore I would post something that others could engage with if they want.

*Popularity and Realism (1938)
**quoted in Harun Farocki Against What? Against Whom? (2009)
***quoted in Alexei Monroe The Interrogation Machine (2005)


2 responses to “Literature/Film/Art

  1. Andrew Cooper

    Three interesting quotes. Just taking the Brecht first-
    My feeling is in our time when there has been an unprecedented inoculation against ideas which could have a radical effect we need to snatch and claw them back and re-inhabit them to discover their use. Actually many people think its a joke, the way that radical theorist like Benjamin have been used by some hoop jumping artists and twittering ‘academics’ and it is…but then being confronted with a capitalist state hell bent on maintaining social hierarchy after the explosion of fictitious capital isn’t. We are indebted to people who struggled for emancipation and people like Benjamin who struggled to find new ways of thinking outside of the ‘common sense’- ‘I’ll do you over and exploit you at the slightest opportunity.’ Class antagonism is real, social relations of power and exploitation are real. People’s lives are being damaged now. Mr. Diamond head of Barclays says ‘bankers should stop saying sorry’. He has just given himself a 9 million-pond bonus. The grant budget in tower Hamlets is being cut by 9 million and the total budget will be cut by 15 million over the next three years. My colleague spoke to three parents he met last night who are soon to lose their jobs working in tower hamlets services, loads of people will loose their lively hoods. This is a disgusting injustice.
    ‘It’s quite straightforward, you’ll understand it. It’s not hard.
    Because you’re not an exploiter, you’ll easily grasp it.
    It’s for your own good, so find out all about it.
    They’re fools who describe it as foolish, and foul who describe it as
    It’s against all that’s foul and against all that’s foolish.
    The exploiters will tell you that it’s criminal,
    But we know better:
    It puts an end to all that’s criminal.
    It isn’t madness, but puts
    An end to all madness.
    It doesn’t mean chaos
    I just means order.
    It’s just the simple thing
    That’s hard, so hard to do.’

    (Bertolt Brecht, “In Praise of Communism,” from The Mother, London: Methuen 1978, p. 28)

  2. this might be the type of hoop jumping that andrew condemns above but one of the things that brecht’s statement highlights for me is the necessity within art to engage politically with the mode of production. there has been some discussion recently where artists have been wanting to engage with dissent but in some way inoculate their practice against it. a belief perhaps that art and politics cannot mix, or a refusal to think about their work in political terms.

    what i think brecht is saying is that, because the historical structures of cultural production are so tied into capital we need to think about how we produce (art)work in new terms. i think that this is not only still relevant today i think that its relevance can be spread. if we no longer work in factories then the mechanisms of protest and dissent that we deploy have to reflect this. and brecht does it supremely well as the quote from ‘the mother’ proves.

    i have never been able to understand how someone can use a deluezian critique of a schizo-capital to produce a painting that they then go on to sell to an investment banker and claim to be honest. at least with brecht the same investment banker can go and see ‘st joan of the stockyards’ but he will be insulted throughout…

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