Radical media, politics and culture.

Chuck Morse submits "
Chasing the Tornado

Review by Uri Gordon

Review of: The Trajectory of Change by Michael Albert Cambridge, MA:
South End Press, May 2002

Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising by Starhawk Gabriola
Island, BC: New Society Publishers, August 2002

Change the World Without Taking Power by John Holloway London: Pluto
Press, March 2002

From the spring 2003 Issue of The
New Formulation: An Anti-Authoritarian Review of Books

In the ever-ticklish relationship between practice and theory, a significant
role has always existed for what we can call, for lack of a better name, “movement
literature.” Locke’s Two Treatises, Burke’s Reflections, Paine’s
response in Rights of Man, Marx and Engel’s Manifesto, Lenin’s What
Is To Be Done and Debray’s Critique of Arms—these are only the most
famous examples of works that were deeply rooted in their authors’ concrete
political activity and which reflected and influenced ongoing processes of social
transformation.(1) Not surprisingly, the current upsurge of anti-capitalist
struggle is also accompanied by a great bulk of such literature, with the three
books reviewed here being merely a selection from the most recent crop. Two
of the authors, Michael Albert and Starhawk, are veteran American activists
and the third, Holloway is an involved academic closely following the Zapatista
rebellion. These books all convey an ongoing process of self-assessment by today’s
emancipatory networks. However, each one also displays a completely different
variant of writing-as-activism. Michael Albert’s The Trajectory of Change
adopts a very didactic approach, attempting to identify “problems”
in an allegedly unitary “movement” and sort them out. Starhawk’s
Webs of Power, on the other hand, combines very personal writing with theoretical
reflections that are only gently presented as advice to activists. While Holloway’s
Change the World Without Taking Power could just as well be written without
a coexisting struggle to address—it is an entirely theoretical work in
critical Marxism—it nevertheless captures (and will inevitably impact)
the thinking of activists who read it. Each approach, as we shall shortly see,
has telling results.

salamander writes "

We could all have gone our whole lives without knowing about tactical shopping, good thing Walmart is spreading the word. They have issued an incredibly broad letter to the ISP hosting re-code.com, demanding that the ISP shut down the re-code site, reveal the name of the person behind the site and identify any other project maintained by that person/persons. Certainly worth reading (at Re-Code.com), and the site itself is very well done.

What is Re-Code.com?

Re-Code.com is designed to stimulate discussion about the prices of products and goods as they might relate to corporate and governmental agendas. Re-Code.com does not advocate relabeling items in stores. Re-Code.com servers do not store any barcode images only the data entered by our customers which is not verified by re-code.com to be accurate. Any image of a barcode you see on your screen is generated and visible only to you the user on your local machine. The video commercial on Re-Code.com's site is a dramatization and we have been assured by the anonymous videographers that no actual items were mislabeled or mispriced during the taping of the commercial. We have received several suggestions for conceptual options for tactical shopping and re-coding. The options are discussed below.

malatesta writes "Time for Revolution, by Antonio Negri has just been published by Continuum Books. It consists of two works 1) The Constitution of Time written in 1980-1981 and, 2) Kairos, Alma Venus, Multitudo written in 1999?
Slavoj Zizek's review says: "This book is a must: it provides the proper background for Negri's widely circulated analysis of the global capitalist Empire.""

Anonymous Comrade writes:

http://www.projectcensored.org/stories/2003/defaul t.htm

Censored 2003: Top 25 Censored Stories of 2001-2002

        #1: FCC Moves to Privatize Airwaves


        #2: New Trade Treaty Seeks to Privatize Global Social Services


        #3: United States' Policies in Colombia Support Mass Murder


        #4: Bush Administration Hampered FBI Investigation 46 into Bin Laden Family Before 9-11


        #5: U.S. Intentionally Destroyed Iraq's Water System

jim writes:

"On Robin Kelley's Freedom Dreams"

Franklin Rosemont

"The dream too, must have its Bastille Day!" -- Nicolas Calas
Robin D. G. Kelley, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination.

Boston: Beacon Press: 2002. 248 pages. Cloth, $24.00

Few writers have done more to stimulate new ways of looking at surrealism than Robin D. G. Kelley, and the reason is simple: He himself has dared, again and again, to look at surrealism in new ways. His important and exhilarating new book, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, fully confirms his central role in the current resurgence of the surrealist movement throughout the world.

dr.woooo writes:

Empire For the Multitude?

The day that I finished Empire by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri was also the day that I read Rob los Ricos' review, "Empire for Beginners" (Anarchy #53). Ricos' overall criticism of globalization is very relevant, but he does not see that he and the authors of Empire are often in agreement. He recounts the history contained in the book without working with the concepts, which are a very important part. Ricos claims to point out the precepts of Hardt and Negri: progressivism, Marxism, Euro-centrism, and an "enthusiasm for the arrival of this horribly dehumanizing Empire under which we live." However, none of these precepts are Hardt or Negri's.

Chuck Morse writes "

Review of Silencing Political Dissent: How Post-September 11th Anti-Terrorism Measures Threaten our Civil Liberties by Nancy Chang, The Terrorism Trap: September 11th and Beyond by Michael Parenti, and Terrorism and War by Howard Zinn. From the current issue of The New Formulation: An Anti-Authoritarian
Review of Books (February 2003, Vol. 2, No. 2). See



Paul Glavin

The State in Hyper-Drive: the Post-September 11th U.S.

Silencing Political Dissent: How Post-September 11th Anti-Terrorism Measures Threaten our Civil Liberties

By Nancy Chang

New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002

The Terrorism Trap: September 11th and Beyond

By Michael Parenti

San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2002

Terrorism and War

By Howard Zinn (edited by Anthony Arnove)

New York: Seven Stories Press, 2002


hydrarchist writes

Okay, so this is a fucking crap review, and I disown the very gesture of submitting it (?). However, the existence and beginning of this exhibition shoudl be publicised and this was the only article available. If anyone finds a better one, which should not be difficult, please submit it and a substitution will be effected. Please. Please......

Bruises, blobs and bug-eyed dogs

The Cobra artists wanted to change the world - but they just ended up making a horrible mess, says Adrian Searle

Tuesday March 4, 2003

The Guardian

There was a time when artists habitually wore berets, smoked and drank incessantly, lived the bohemian life and painted like there was no tomorrow - and no yesterday either. They rejected their immediate predecessors, invented movements, wrote splenetic manifestos and believed in such a thing as the avant-garde, a phrase that today sounds almost quaint. They thought art had a primary social function, even if they were not entirely sure what it was or how exactly their art would change the world.

Such a time, by and large, seems to have passed (though the beret has lately made of a bit of a comeback). It is, then, perhaps timely and surprising that the first proper British survey of the Cobra group, a movement founded in a Left Bank cafe in 1948 and disbanded in 1951, should take place now at the Baltic in Gateshead.

As a movement, Cobra fulfilled pretty much all the stereotypes of the 20th-century art movement - in fact, it could be the model for most of them. Cliche has it that, while postwar Paris was in the throes of existentialism, New York was roaring with abstract expressionism and British art was filling up the kitchen sink, examining the forms of the teasel and doing spiky, angular things for the Festival of Britain, the Cobra artists were colluding to overthrow Mondrian, churn up the landscape, embrace the Outsider and reject social realism. The movement was founded in Paris, but its name (properly CoBrA, though rendered otherwise in all the material relating to this exhibition) derives from three other European cities, Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam - cities of occupation in which the artists involved had lived throughout the war years.

Cobra was, in part, an amalgamation of artists disaffected from various national groupings, particularly the Surrealist-Revolutionary Centre in Belgium, the Danish Harvest Group and the Dutch Experimental Group. So many factions. It is hard to imagine such tight-knit, ideologically motivated artist groups today, when movements tend to be little more than journalistic labels (the School of London, the YBAs) or self-promotional packages (the Stuckists, heaven forbid). There was a time when such things mattered and were more than cabals of art-world career lobbyists.

The movement's founder and organiser, the Belgian poet Christian Dotremont, famously described Cobra as: "Like going on a train journey. You fall asleep, you wake up, you don't know whether you've just passed Copenhagen, Brussels or Amsterdam." If Cobra was an art in transit, it was also a transitional movement, its protagonists somehow moving between a self-conscious, individualist "primitivism" (if that is not a paradox) and a sense of a universal art that transcended language. In part, Cobra anticipated the truly revolutionary ideals of the Situationist International and the 1970s "return to painting" of the neo-expressionists. It was also an art in transit from the most appalling war to a world in which things, so the artists believed, had to be done differently.

Cobra celebrated the irrational (as had surrealism); it was wild, colourful and filled with imaginary symbols. It was an art that, as Roger Malpert says in the current catalogue, represented an antidote to melancholy. Cobra also attracted some terribly mediocre artists, whose toe-curling works hang alongside the more significant figures - Asger Jorn, Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille and Pierre Alechinsky - in the Baltic exhibition.

Visitor, brace yourself: prepare to see some utter dreck in the Cobra show. Malpert writes that Cobra works "are among the most popular and accessible of 20th-century works in the museums that house them, and reproductions serve to brighten up the corridors of hotels and office buildings". A dreadful apotheosis, this, for an art that aimed for a rather different kind of universality. I would also argue with the idea that Cobra art is "popular" in any meaningful way.

Faced with this stuff on the hotel wall or office partition, I have the feeling that people probably just feel stuck with it and soon stop noticing it at all. When you do notice it, you probably wish it were a Paul Klee or a Joan Miro, whose work Cobra often resembles in a low-rent way. Cobra's lack of class is, I suppose, meant to be democratic. Its feeble imagism - the bug-eyed dogs (Dogs? Sheep? Badly drawn bovines? It is often hard to tell), the festering suns, the blob people - are meant as utterances in a universal language that has its roots in the art of children, of the mentally unwell, in the "primitive", in tribal art or prehistoric artifacts. All of the above one now views with suspicion, whether or not one is sensitised by the more overt and occasionally ludicrous pieties of political correctness.

This is often the kind of art that leads to the invariable, but not always philistine, complaint that a child of six could do it. In fact, one spends much of one's time thrashing about in front of Cobra paintings searching for redeeming features and looking for parallels: this one is a bit like Arshile Gorky, that painting is like a Matta or a late-1940s De Kooning, there is a ghost of Dubuffet here, an early Alan Davie there, a presentiment of Georg Baselitz or AR Penke somewhere else.

What we are trying to do, perhaps, is dignify this art, when one of the good things about it is its lack of dignity, its crudeness, irreverence and rawness. Even the speed with which so much of this work was made can be seen as an antidote, if not to melancholy, then to good manners, as a way of bypassing the deliberations and niceties of style. Constant's bruise-faced woman, open-mouthed and flailing wildly, her face spookily lit, may well be a kind of revenge painting against a spurning lover.

But mostly the show is just horrible. The borrowings from Guernica-period Picasso, from Bernard Buffet or Miro (straight line, curved branch, blob - hey presto, there's a stick-man waving at you) show up the imaginative paucity of much of it.None of the Cobra artists seen here extended the language of the artists from whom they borrowed. Some of the artists shown - Corneille and Alechinsky, for example - are much milder, more careful designers than their Cobra affiliation might suggest.

Where Cobra's influence has always lingered is in the soppier, more naive regions of art-school painting (as has Wassily Kandinsky's work: both influences are equally pernicious). But it is worth reminding ourselves that the artists associated with Cobra were intelligent, often intellectual artists. Constant, for example, was a co-founder of the Situationist International (of which Jorn was also a member), and devoted much of his time, post-Cobra, to developing radical architectural ideas, before returning to painting in the 1970s.

We must be careful, too, about fashion, what it dismisses and rediscovers. What is strong and enduring in the Cobra show (apart from its idealism, which is always refreshing) are the drawings and prints. There are great drawings here - Constant's lithographs of La Guerre (Picasso-like though some of them are), Alechinsky's hilarious etchings, Jorn's scratchy, inked Burning Cities, and Pedersen's beautiful ink drawings of phantasmagorical heads and birds. Drawing always has a timeless aspect, an ability to go beyond style. It is, at best, intimate and direct. It is democratic (everyone does it, if only to doodle) and seems to tap something approaching the universal. The show is worth it, to be reminded of that alone.

· Cobra is at Baltic, Gateshead, until April 21. Details: 0191-478 1810."

Louis Proyect writes:

"Horns and Halos"

Reviewed by Louis Proyect

Co-directed by Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky and now showing at Cinema Village in NYC, "Horns and Halos" is the best documentary I have seen since "Startup.Com," with which it shares some important aspects. Both films revolve around doomed projects: in one instance, a typical dot.com that crashed and burned like so many others in the 1990's; in the other, a Quixotic mission by a small threadbare publishing house to get the troubled George W. Bush biography "Fortunate Son" to market.

hydrarchist writes

Since early 2001 theoretical debate has been dominated by Hardt and Negri's work "Empire". For many in the anglophone world this has been a first engagement with 'autonomist marxism', which nonetheless remains enigmatic when it comes to practice, represented in the imagination only by the White Overalls (now recycled as the Disobedients).

Some of the gaps in this picture are now remedied by the appearance online of the full text of George Katsiaficas's The Subversion of Politics: European Autonomous Social Movements and the Decolonization of Everyday Life. Originally published in 1997, and poorly known until after the Seattle demonstrations of 1999, the book provides a panoramic, although impressionistic, survey of European extraparliamentary politics since the 1970s. Italy's long '68, culminating in Autonomia and the movement of 1977, recieves a chapter to itself, although this influence of the theoretical practical innnovations of the Italian movement are never woven into the fabric of the book (1).