Review of “Art Turning Left”

Click here to read an excellent review of “Art Turning Left at the Tate Liverpool: An ambitious but problematic collection of “left-wing” art”. Rather than the usual ahistorical and eclectic approach that pervades almost every aspect of what passes for art criticism today, this review brings to bear the necessary historical and political overview of how revolutionary art develops in conjunction with the revolutionary changes in society. I particularly agree with its conclusion:

Many of the more recent works on display appear to have lost all connection to “left-wing” values, including Belgian artist Francis Alÿs’s 2002 video “When Faith Moves Mountains”, involving several hundred people attempting to shovel a huge Peruvian sand dune a few metres, or British artists Alan Kane and Jeremy Deller’s quirky Folk Art display . These works, more than anything else, underscore the immense, objective crisis in social and historical perspective that dominates the art world.

The 2008 financial crisis and the outbreak of mass struggles since 2011, in Egypt and elsewhere, have shattered claims about the final triumph of “free market” capitalism, the end of the working class and the failure of revolution. A new era of upheavals has opened up, which will change the atmosphere in art and dramatically alter the conditions under which artists will operate. The continuity with the French and Russian Revolutions of the new work that emerges will establish itself without straining or false analogies.

Essential reading: The Sky Between the Leaves

A unique collection of of film reviews, essays on film and interviews with directors and film critics by WSWS Art and Culture Editor David Walsh spanning the 20 years from 1992-2012.Sky Between the Leaves

The film reviews contained in this volume cover a wide spectrum—from James Cameron’s Titanic and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ to the award-winning A Separation by Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi and films of emerging Chinese directors. Several essays discuss the work of talented and principled artists of the 1930s and 40s who sought to bring a sense of humanity to their work. Walsh details the fate of many who fell victim to the anti-communist McCarthyite witch-hunts of the 1950s.

A recurring theme in these writings is the profound effect this historical period has had on Hollywood filmmaking in the ensuing years. Walsh consistently returns to the crisis of contemporary filmmaking and the inability, or unwillingness, of so many of today’s directors to see the world as it is and feel compelled to grapple with social reality as millions experience it.

Available from Mehring Books