Resistance and art,1871 Paris Commune to today’s Iraq war. Part II


Black panther graphic, by Emory DouglasThis is the second part of my review of the exhibition Forms of Resistance in the Van Abbe museum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands; after my first part.

After the first hall of the exhibition, which, as we saw, was about the 1871 Paris Commune and its aftermaths in the labour movement and in art till about 1914, the second hall was about the 1917 Russian revolution.

There was much support for that revolution from Russian avant-garde artists then.

Architecture from the early years of the Soviet Union: see here.

In hall number two, there was work by Kasimir Malevich, El Lissitzky; Lyobuv Popova; Varvara Stenapova; and Alexander Rodchenko. In the 1930s, the situation for many avant-garde artists worsened; though some of the artists involved in movements like ‘constructivism‘ then worked for magazines like USSR in Construction.

Hall number three is about German artist John Heartfield, who became famous by his photo montages against Adolf Hitler. Also Heartfield’s colleagues from Germany, Frans Seiwert, Gerd Arntz, and Georg Grosz, are represented in this hall.

The main theme of hall number four was the German Bauhaus academy (1919-1933).

In this hall, not just Bauhaus: also Picasso‘s famous pair of etchings “Dream and Lie of Franco“, parts I and II, making a surrealistic mockery of the Spanish dictator (review of a new Picasso biography: here). And an anti Franco poster by Joan Miro. And material about a 1937 action by British surrealist artists against the pro Hitler policies of British Conservative prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

The 1950s are hardly represented at the exhibition. The Van Abbe museum might have done so from their own collection, with Karel Appel‘s “political” painting The condemned. Homage to Rosenberg; but did not do so.

Hall number five is mainly about France, especially the 1968 revolt. Though at least one poster referred to a later event, the 1974 occupation by workers of the LIP watches factory in Besançon. About French workers in 1968: here.

Also in this hall, the Brigadas Ramona Parra from Chile.

Hall number six is a partial reconstruction of the ‘Workers club’, by Alexander Rodchenko, at the 1925 international exhibition in Paris. One of the club’s possibilities for workers resting after work, was to play chess. In 1924-1925, the first international chess tournament was in the Soviet Union, with the host country beating France.

Hall number seven is about various artists or groups of artists, remote from art as usual, and strongly involved in political movements, or in hippy like communes. Some of the themes here: Bonnie Sherk’s Crossroads Community in San Francisco, USA. Emory Douglas, graphic artist for Black Panther magazine in the USA, sometimes printed in over 400,000 copies. African artists and the struggle to liberate Mozambique from Portuguese colonialism. Danish anti NATO theatre group Solvognen. And artists in Argentina supporting workers’ struggles in Tucumán province. The government banned an exhibition by them about this.

Hall number eight is about another banned exhibition. It is a partial reconstruction of an exhibition, supposed to have been in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1976; but which was banned by the government. The theme of that exhibition was to have been the ‘Berufsverbot’ in the Federal Republic of [West] Germany then, excluding people with ‘too Leftist’ views from government related jobs. This, the 1976 Stockholm organizers thought, was a danger to free speech. A bit unfortunately, in the reconstruction now in Eindhoven, the accent is on images depicting the Baader-Meinhof group; while the Berufsverbot was a much wider issue.

About the German SDS in the 1960s: here.

In hall number nine, various artists on late twentieth century social and political themes. Including calling cards by Adrian Piper from the USA. Hans Haacke protested with his work against the Philips corporation investing in South Africa under the apartheid government. It is good to see that work now in Eindhoven, the city of origin of Philips.

Hall number 10, as I have written before, is about Marco Scotini; and his work from the 1970s till the early 21st century, our times.

Tony Blair in Iraq, by Peter KennardScotini’s reference to the post Seattle 1999 ‘anti globalization’ movement is one of few references at this exhibition to the 21st century; which probably is a weak point in the exhibition.

However, there is at least one good reference, though one of few, to what organizers in the publicity for the exhibition call ‘our world after 9/11 2001‘. In the corridor of the museum, work by Peter Kennard is exhibited. Much of it, including work he did for the British peace movement CND, posters against nuclear weapons etc., is from the late twentieth century. However, there is also a powerful mural photo montage, which Kennard made jointly with Cat Picton-Phillips, on the Iraq war. A US soldier kicks down the door of an Iraqi home, while women try to hide in vain. See also here.

One of Kennard’s posters, against nuclear weapons, is the official poster for the Eindhoven exhibition. Though from the twentieth century, it is about a subject which makes very clear why social change, and artists’ contributions to that, are still very necessary in the twenty-first century.

Weapons of Mass Communication: propaganda for and against war: here.

Artists and gentrification in Los Angeles: here.

10 thoughts on “Resistance and art,1871 Paris Commune to today’s Iraq war. Part II

  1. U.S. troops stage raid in Sadr City; Iraqi officials say 13 people killed, 42 wounded

    Associated Press – October 21, 2007 5:23 AM ET

    BAGHDAD (AP) – U.S. forces have carried out a raid on the main Shiite district in Baghdad, targeting a militia leader accused in high-profile kidnappings.

    The military says six militants were killed. But Iraqi officials put the toll at 13, including women and children.

    Witnesses say the battle began before dawn and continued for about two hours.

    Associated Press Television News video showed the bodies of 2 toddlers, one with a gouged face, swaddled in blankets on the floor of a hospital morgue. 1 of the children was in diapers. Several houses and shops were damaged, including a bakery.

    The military says troops called in airstrikes after U.S. forces came under fire. A roadside bomb went off as they left the area.

    U.S. commanders also say their initial reports indicate no civilian or coalition casualties.

    Copyright 2007 The Associated Press

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