Afterlives of October 1917. Three short presentations look at some cultural afterlives of Russia’s October 1917 Revolution. Warren Carter presents ‘Somewhere between Moscow and Mexico City: The Avant-Garde and Social Realism on the Tenth Anniversary of the Russian Revolution’. Gail Day presents ‘Eve
20 Oct 2017, 17:30 to 20 Oct 2017, 19:30
Marxism in Culture
IHR Wolfson Room NB01, Basement, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Warren Carter, Open University
Somewhere between Moscow and Mexico City: The Avant-Garde and Social Realism on the Tenth Anniversary of the Russian Revolution.
Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros were prominent members of the Mexican Communist Party and they were both invited to Moscow in 1927 to participate in the celebrations to mark the first decade of the Soviet Union. Together with José Clemente Orozco, they were famously known as los tres grandes, mural painters who had cemented their artistic reputations in the period immediately following the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 – what one historian has described as ‘the first Third World uprising against American economic penetration and control’. Yet their respective aesthetic approaches to muralism were as distinct as their ideological differences in relation to the internal political shifts within the Soviet Union. Here I want to look at how they negotiated these differences in Moscow in 1927 when aesthetic debates were becoming increasingly polarised between the avant-garde and those artists committed to what would soon become a state-sanctioned form of realism. Warren Carter is a Staff Tutor and Lecturer in the History of Art Department at the Open University and is currently chair of the brand new third level course A344: Art and its Global Histories.
Gail Day , University of Leeds
Every day, something happens to us: revolutionary time and anticipation
This presentation sets out from Manifestations (2001/2), a video work by the Radek Community, comprised of a series of simple and repeated art actions with post-production voice-over, in which everyday activity is transformed into revolutionary symbols. As the group claimed, Manifestations demonstrates ‘Marx’s thesis about the genesis of the self-awareness of the revolutionary class, in action’. Manifestations also captures a moment of transition between the ironic attitude typifying international art of the late 20th C (which found itself extended in the immediate post-Soviet context) and the turn towards those models of critical realism that have characterised much ambitious practice in recent years. An artistic gesture, I suggest, begins to acquire more interesting registers – ones which precisely reflect on their own ‘mere-ness’ and ‘gesturality’, posing the problem of revolutionary time social-historically, art-historically and politically. Gail Day’s Dialectical Passions: Negation in Postwar Art Theory (Columbia University Press) was shortlisted for the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize. She is Senior Lecturer and Director of Research in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds, where she is co-founder of the centre for Critical Materialist Studies.
David Mabb , Goldsmiths, University of London
Protest and Survive: revolutionary abstraction and the William Morris tea towel
William Morris and Varvara Stepanova were both, among other things, textile designers and both would have called themselves Communists. Morris thought that design had a fundamental role to play in the transformation of everyday life in Britain in the second half of the nineteenth century and Stepanova was one of a group of Constructivist artists working for the revolution in Russia during the 1920s. David Mabb’s new work has elements of Stepanova’s textile designs for sports clothing painted onto contemporary commercial William Morris tea towels. These tea towels are then mounted on placards to be carried at rallies and protests or hung on the wall. David Mabb is an artist who is currently exhibiting as part of Perpetual Uncertainty at Z33 Haslett, Belgium. He is Reader in Art and MFA Fine Art co-leader Goldsmiths, University of London.
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