The Cycle Of Resistance


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Lecture given to Second Year students at Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology, Bangalore in a course called The Aesthetics of Protest.

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The Cycle Of Resistance

  1. 1. Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste Brought Death into the World, and all our woe, With loss of EDEN, till one greater Man Restore us …
  2. 2. ANARCHY <ul><li>ANARCHISM (from the Gr. αν, and αρχο, contrary to authority), the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government - harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilized being. </li></ul>
  3. 3. ANARCHY AND ART <ul><li>In contrast to the Impressionists, Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Paul Signac (1863-1935) and other anarchist painters among the Postimpressionists sought to integrate artistic and political concerns in their works. For Signac in particular, it was radical techniques like pointillism through which artists “have contributed their witness to the great social process which pits the workers against Capital.” Signac inveighed against the reduction of radical art to its content (as advocated by political activists like Proudhon), arguing instead that the revolution “will be found much stronger and more eloquent in pure aesthetics…applied to subjects like working-class housing…or better still, by synthetically representing the pleasures of decadence.”7 </li></ul>
  4. 4. ANARCHY & ART <ul><li>Avant-garde art’s affinity for anarchists in this period is deeper than generally realized. Pablo Picasso emerged from the anarchist circles of Barcelona and lived in similar ones in Montmartre in the decade before World War 1. G.K. Chesterton, the British writer, observed in 1908 “an artist is identical with an anarchist.” Whether one considers the Fauves (‘the wild beasts’) who exhibited at the Salon of Autonomy in 1905 or the “anarchic threat to cultural values” posed by the ostensibly non-political work of Henri Matisse (whose Blue Nude was burned in effigy by students at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1913), the anarchist threat posed by avant-garde art was considered quite real at that time. Of utmost significance in this regard is Cubism, which radically deconstructed the one-point scientific perspective that had dominated European art for over 500 years. </li></ul>
  5. 5. ANARCHY AND ART <ul><li>With Dada we have the ultimate revolt against bourgeois orderliness. Play, random choice and spontaneity become enshrined as the avant-garde’s new core values. Instead of being confined to the canvas, Dada used all available media to express its repulsion with the “civilized barbarism” of European culture: collage, music, film, photography, sculpture -and these media were turned against themselves. </li></ul>
  6. 6. J’ACCUSE <ul><li>Zola’s protest: J’Accuse. </li></ul><ul><li>Dreyfus attended Zola's burial services at Paris's Montmartre Cemetery where Anatole France delivered a famous eulogy: </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;Given the obligation which befalls me to recall the struggle waged by Zola on behalf of truth and justice, is it possible for me to remain silent concerning those men so passionately bent on destroying an innocent man? ...  How might I remove them from your sight when it is mine to show you Zola rising up, weak and unarmed, before them? ... </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;Let us envy [Zola]: he has honored his country and the world with an immense body of work and a great deed ... [H]is destiny and his courage combined to endow him with the greatest of fates. He was a moment in the conscience of humanity.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>RESISTANCE IS A MOMENT IN THE CONSCIENCE OF HUMANITY </li></ul>
  7. 7. NON SERVIAM <ul><li>&quot;Non serviam! I will not serve.&quot; is a phrase generally attributed to Lucifer. This former angel is said to have spoken these words to express rejection to serve his God in the heavenly kingdom. </li></ul><ul><li>Today &quot;Non serviam&quot; is also used or referred to as motto by a number of political, cultural, and religious groups to express their wish not to conform; it may be used to express a radical view against established common beliefs and organisational structures accepted by the majority. </li></ul><ul><li>Stephen Daedalus echoes Lucifer in his decision to follow the life of the artist, telling Cranly, &quot;I will not serve that in which I no longer believe whether it call itself my home, my fatherland or my church. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Silence, exile, cunning <ul><li>Look here, Cranly, he said. You have asked me what I would do and what I would not do. I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it call itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using my defence the only arms I allow myself to use – silence, exile, and cunning .&quot; At the end Stephen resolves to leave Ireland for Paris to encounter &quot;the reality of experience&quot;. </li></ul>
  9. 9. THE REBEL <ul><li>The rebel undoubtedly demands a certain degree of freedom for himself; but in no case, if he is consistent, does he demand the right to destroy the existence and the freedom of others. He humiliates no one. The freedom he claims, he claims for all; the freedom he refuses, he forbids everyone to enjoy. He is not only the slave against the master, but also man against the world of master and slave. Therefore, thanks to rebellion, there is something more in history than the relation between mastery and servitude. Unlimited power is not the only law. It is in the name of another value that the rebel affirms the impossibility of total freedom while he claims for himself the relative freedom necessary to recognize this impossibility. </li></ul><ul><li>The Rebel Albert Camus </li></ul>
  10. 10. VIOLENT RESISTANCE-MORAL <ul><li>In October, 1943, Camus joined a clandestine resistance cell known as &quot;Combat&quot; -- also the name of the organization's newspaper. &quot;Combat&quot; had been founded in 1942 as an intelligence and sabotage organization. Considered crude leftists and terrorists by General de Gaulle, Combat proved itself dedicated to France during the occupation. As with most operatives, Camus adopted a false identity, &quot;Beauchard,&quot; and carried false papers to travel within occupied cities. Camus helped smuggle copies of the paper Combat to the public. Combat was printed in Lyon and distributed in Paris, carrying news of the war. </li></ul><ul><li>Camus became editor of Combat in 1943, editing the newspaper for four years. His columns and reports often called upon people to act in accordance with strict moral principals. It was during this period that Camus formalized his philosophy that human life was sacred, no matter how inexplicable existence of life might be. </li></ul>
  11. 11. THE PRANK – THE PRANKSTER <ul><li>The prank’s re-emergence on the stage of popular media promises renewed opportunities to hijack the spectacle, possibly for the sake of inserting alternate meanings, possibly just for the hijack itself.  Most activist writing on the prank-as-tactic has been adulatory: pranks are accessible, funny, light-hearted, and photogenic– not dense, argumentative, pedantic, and visually bland.  Some has been critical: pranks are snappy one-liners that run the risk of offending many of those who might be persuaded to agree.  While prankster tactics have long proliferated at the grassroots, they have recently achieved far broader visibility than they had back when Abbie Hoffman quipped, “It’s embarrassing when you try to overthrow the government and you wind up on the bestseller’s list.”  Popular pranksters are now less likely to express such embarrassment.  </li></ul>
  12. 12. THE YES MEN <ul><li>Arun Gupta: What are the Yes Men? Mike Bonanno: We all are the Yes Men. Yes Men are people who had enough and can’t take it anymore. We’ve been Yes Men for too long. We’ve been letting the world be sold off. The Yes Men are people who are standing up against that. Andy Bichlbaum: We get ourselves invited into business conferences and give presentations as enormous evil corporations and we agree with our enemies excessively, hoping that our audiences are appalled. </li></ul><ul><li>AG: What do you do? AB: We impersonate people in power and infiltrate their business meetings and surprise them, publicly humiliate them. We are kind of like vigilantes. It’s not just comedy. We have a flexible identity and we mean different things to different people AG: How did you get started? MB: We got started by accident when Andy put up a fake website for the World Trade Organization in 1999 and people started writing for advice and questions. </li></ul>AG: Tell me about a favorite prank? AB: The real New York Times that comes out every day is a prank. But the fake New York Times we put out after Obama’s election got thousands of people to look at things a little different, briefly. It was physical; there were people in the street doing something, rallying people to a specific goal. It was populist. It felt closer to organizing that other stuff that we have done. The paper should have said more clearly we have to take to the streets to force Obama to be who we are electing him to be. MB: The New York Times stunt was great in the way that it engaged the power shift. For a long time we have all been engaged in tactics of resistance. This put people in the position where they were thinking about creating and not just resisting.
  13. 13. MARCUSE ON ART - ALIENATION <ul><li>Art can express its radical potential only as art , in its own language and image…. The liberating ‘message’ of art…is likely to persist until the millennium which will never be, art must remain alienation …Art cannot represent the revolution, it can only invoke it in another medium, in an aesthetic form in which the political content becomes meta- political, governed by the internal necessity of art. </li></ul>OUTSIDE OF SOCIETY, THAT’S WHERE I WANNA BE.
  14. 14. AVANT GARDE AS PROTEST <ul><li>Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) is credited with the first use of “avant-garde” in his book, Literary, Philosophical and Industrial Opinions. </li></ul><ul><li>The artist makes a proposal: </li></ul><ul><li>Let us unite. To achieve our one single goal, a separate task will fall to each of us. We, the artists, will serve as the avant-garde: for amongst all the arms at our disposal, the power of the Arts is the swiftest and most expeditious. When we wish to spread new ideas amongst men, we use in turn the lyre, ode or song, story or novel; we inscribe those ideas on marble or canvas…We aim for the heart and imagination, and hence our effect is the most vivid and the most decisive. </li></ul><ul><li>This notion of an avant-garde emerged in France from the intersection of the milieu of revolutionary politics and cultural opposition to art’s domination by the Academy. </li></ul>
  16. 16. GOOD AS PROTEST AGAINST EVIL <ul><li>Stability </li></ul><ul><li>Disruption </li></ul><ul><li>A new stability </li></ul><ul><li>End of disruption? </li></ul><ul><li>Eden to Zion? </li></ul><ul><li>Garden to City? </li></ul><ul><li>Cyclical or Linear? </li></ul>