Lynne Tillman and Tony White speaking and reading at Toynbee Studios last night proved to be the best event so far in the “Existential Territories” series of talks organised by Book Works. Tony chose to present himself very much as a writer, which I found curious since he is art school trained and his textual practice originally emerged from story-telling elements in his performance work. Tony read an unpublished story woven around a set of words chosen by an artist collaborator. Lynne read from her novel American Genius, the first tme she’s performed from this book in London. The focus of the Q & A was very much on why artists were keen to have Lynne and Tony contribute fictional stories to their catalogues, and what this might signify.
After the show I spoke to a slew of curators and the main drift of these conversations seemed to be less than complimentary observations about Okwui Enwezor. I pretty much agreed with what other people had to say about his theoretical incoherence since I was less than impressed by his ridiculous observation in the Tate Altermodern catalogue that: “Looking for an equivalent of an Andy Warhol in Mao’s China is to be seriously blind to the fact that the China of the Pop art era had neither a consumer society nor a capitalist structure…” Really? And just who is gonna attempt looking for a Warhol-type figure in the midst of Mao’s ‘cultural revolution’ anyway? Likewise, this sentence – and Enwezor’s prose in general – is dreadfully inelegant. It is also willfully misleading because while 1960s China may not have boasted a consumer society, it clearly had a capitalist structure. You need only turn to something such as the Wikipedia entry on Amadeo Bordiga to learn this (that is if you didn’t already know it):
“Bordiga developed an understanding of the Soviet Union as a capitalist society… He wanted to show how capitalist social relations existed in the kolkhoz and in the sovkhoz, one a cooperative farm and the other the straight wage-labor state farm. He emphasized how much of agrarian production depended on the small privately owned plots (he was writing in 1950) and predicted quite accurately the rates at which the Soviet Union would start importing wheat after Russia had been such a large exporter from the 1880s to 1914. In Bordiga’s conception, Stalin, and later Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara etc. were “great romantic revolutionaries” in the 19th century sense, i.e. bourgeois revolutionaries. He felt that the Stalinist regimes that came into existence after 1945 were just extending the bourgeois revolution, i.e. the expropriation of the Prussian Junker class by the Red Army, through their agrarian policies and through the development of the productive forces. Bordiga’s idea that capitalism equals the agrarian revolution first is the key to the 20th century; it’s certainly the key to almost everything the left has called “revolutionary” in the 20th century, and it is the key to rethinking the history of Marxism and its entanglement with ideologies of industrializing backward regions of the world economy.”
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!