Florian Cramer on Tue, 22 Jul 2008 13:16:51 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Review of Raunig's Art and Revolution

On Monday, July 21 2008, 02:20 (-0500), Dan S. Wang wrote:

> activism.  Other reviewers have questioned Raunig's selection of the
> PublixTheatreCaravan as the one example from contemporary times. I have no
> quarrel with his choice; from his descriptions, the group is indeed a fair
> representative of a prevailing current on the leftist world stage, in
> strategy, method, and aesthetic.  

It's interesting that "Volxtheater" dubs itself "PublixTheatre" in
English which doesn't tell the whole story: "Volk", used as a prefix in
German, according to my German-English dictionary can be translated as
"people's; public; ethnic; folk; national" - one should also add
"popular". "Peoplez" or "folkz" would be a more literal translation of

In German language, "Volk" thus is a double-edged sword. The
spelling "Volx" comes from the squatter culture of the "Autonomen" left
where it most commonly refers to "Volxküchen", "peoplez kitchens"/"folkz
kitchen", inexpensive, non-profit (low-brow) weekly eateries in squats
or other alternative spaces of the radical left. It uses the unorthodox
"x" spelling in order to avoid associations with "völkisch",
"national-ethnic", a word introduced and used by the National

The role of "Volxtheater" as the culmination point of Raunig's narrative
is very comparable to the role of the British "Class War" group as the
culmination point of Stewart Home's "The Assault on Culture" from 1988.
While Class War at least was funny with its tabloid-style, over-the-top
black humorous propaganda - like in the headline "another fucking royal
PARASITE" under a photograph of Princess Diana holding her newborn baby
-, "Volxtheater" is a rather dull, run-of-the-mill agitprop street
theater telling of Raunig's geographically and culturally somewhat
limited horizon. (While Austria has been a hotbed for experimental and
subversive arts since the 1950s - often more so than Germany -
Volxtheater's relevance is easily overblown from an inner-Austrian
perspective because of the culture wars surrounding the right-wing
Schüssel/Haider government in the early 2000s, and the link to the Genua
demonstrations.) It is well explainable, again, from an
Austrian-Viennese perspective: Other Austrian artist collectives such as
ubermorgen.com and Monochrom, which are much more advanced in their
artistic means, media tactics, theoretical reflection and last not least
wittiness, don't lend themselves to Raunig's narrative because, despite
all their critical reflection of politics, they are not communists and
not politically revolutionary in his sense. 

Like in Home's book, it's the typical example of fitting certain
practices into one's history because it fits the preconceived theory
rather than adjusting one's theory to practices challenging it. In the
case of political-revolutionary art and in the continental European
context, it often happens that old-school political activism uses art as
simple a device for aestheticized agitation [and that is true for
practically the whole of squatter and "Autonomen" punk rock and
Volxküchen culture], and tactically appropriate the label "art" in order
to use its [limited, superficial] autonomy for politics - in other words,
that more people care when a theater group gets arrested in Genua than a
group of classical protesters. 

Imre Szeman wrote:

> Volxtheater Favoriten and nomadic movements of the PublixTheatreCaravan
> similarly open up worlds of political and art activism which are far
> too little known to English-language audiences, despite their resonance
> with activist activities elsewhere and the productive examples of
> contemporary revolutionary action they offer.  

I am having my doubts. [Check out:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=wW4ojGgQp1A ]



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