Art against capitalism
Tim Dayton: Love and Arms and Song: Romantic Anticapitalism in the Poetry of Alan Seeger / Rob Heynen: ‘We are the eyes of our class!’: Class, gender and revolutionary politics in Weimar photography / Maria Elisa Cevasco: Art against Barbarism
Love and Arms and Song: Romantic Anticapitalism in the Poetry of Alan Seegerby Tim Dayton
Alan Seeger enjoyed a brief moment of posthumous glory when his collection, Poems, was a non-fiction bestseller for 1917 and 1918, favorably reviewed by his Harvard classmate T.S. Eliot. Seeger was an American volunteer serving in the French Foreign Legion during World War One when he died on July 4, 1916, an act that fulfilled the prophecy of his most popular poem, ‘I Have a Rendezvous with Death.’ Many of Seeger’s war poems affirm pre-modern values that Seeger imagined in medievalist terms. This imagined anti-capitalist past animates Seeger’s poetics and resonated with the pervasive medievalism in whose terms American involvement in the war would frequently be explained and, to some degree at least, understood following the commencement of direct American involvement in the war. Seeger thus provides a particularly poignant and influential case of ostensibly anti-capitalist ideology providing support for a project legible primarily in terms of the dynamics of global capitalism.
‘We are the eyes of our class!’: Class, gender and revolutionary politics in Weimar photographyby Rob Heynen
This paper will consider the development of photography in relation to working class movements and the politics of gender in Weimar Germany (1918-33). Photography, a key medium for capitalist culture industries and disciplinary and repressive state apparatuses, was claimed as well in this period for the revolutionary project. In the pages of Arbeiter-Fotograph (from which the title of this paper is taken), for example, an alternative photography from below was proposed in which photography would be turned by workers themselves against its hegemonic uses. At the same time, various left artists (Moholy-Nagy, Sander, Heartfield) developed new forms of photographic production that likewise, if in very different ways, sought to subvert dominant cultural and social practices. For such Weimar theorists as Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer, photography thus marked out a crucial contested terrain in the period, standing at the heart of their analyses of capitalist culture and politics. All of these different photographic engagements, I will argue, were fundamentally structured through a largely suppressed gendered politics. Only in the work of such feminist artists as Hannah Höch and Marianne Brandt were social relations of gender and class made more explicit. Building on the insights of Benjamin and Kracauer, this paper will offer a gendered critique of the cultural politics of class in Weimar Germany through the lens of photography
Art against Barbarismby Maria Elisa Cevasco
When we try to theorize the cultural manifestations of the present crisis there is a strong tendency to go over the many negative manifestations of its unfolding s , ranging from artistic projects stifled by thorough commodification to criticism losing relevance in a so-called post-ideological context. Contemporary depthlessness seems to be able to flatten out conflict and contradiction, transforming all forms of negativity into yet another grist for the indefatigable mill of the spectacle.
But we have learned, nor only from theory but also from History, that crisis cannot but produce its dialectical opposite. My paper aims at examining one such opposite in the form of a theater movement located in São Paulo, Brazil. ‘Art against Barbarism’, as they call themselves, gathers over 10 fringe theater groups and a number of artists. It came into existence in 1998, the year in which Brazil fully adopted neo-liberal policies. The movement started from the recognition that the space for serious theater in such political climate was as restricted as it was essential. They took strategic advantage of the possibilities opened up by a center-left city government and demonstrated to demand public funding for long-term research projects. Those projects involved close collaboration between artists, directors and intellectuals who organized workshops and critical readings with the groups. The result of this joint effort has been an extraordinary flowering of artistic manifestations firmly opposed to the cultural market where, of course, here is no space for their kind of production. I plan to present a reading of a recent play by one of those groups, Engenho Teatral, and try to show how their artistic practice defies the imperatives of the present culture of barbarism and open up a possible horizon for relevant art in the necessary world to come.