Posts Tagged ‘Realism’

I make no apologies, here is some more Zizek! 😈💤

Published on Nov 13, 2014

Speaker: Professor Slavoj Zizek
Chair: Dr Purna Sen

Recorded on 11 November 2014 in Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building.

Critique of ideology should not begin with the critique of reality, but with the critique of our dreams. As Herbert Marcuse put it back in the 1960s, freedom (from ideological constraints, from the predominant mode of dreaming) is the condition of liberation.

If we only change reality in order to realize our dreams, and do not change these dreams themselves, we sooner or later regress to old reality. The first act of liberation is therefore for us to become ruthless censors of our dreams.

Slavoj Zizek is a Hegelian philosopher, Lacanian psychoanalyst, and political activist. He is international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities and the author of numerous books on dialectical materialism, critique of ideology and art, including Less Than Nothing, Living in the End Times, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce and The Year of Dreaming Dangerously. This event marks the publication of his new book, Trouble in Paradise: From the End of History to the End of Capitalism.

Purna Sen (@Purna_Sen) is Deputy Director of the Institute of Public Affairs at the LSE.

The Institute of Public Affairs (@LSEPubAffairs) is one of the world’s leading centres of public policy. We aim to debate and address some of the major issues of our time, whether international or national, through our established teaching programmes, our research and our highly innovative public-engagement initiatives.

Heidegger and Realism.

some background reading.



“The forest clearing [or opening] is experienced in contrast to dense forest, called Dickung in our older language.

The substantive Lichtung goes back to the verb lichten. The adjective licht is the same word as “open.”

To open something means to make it light, free and open, e.g., to make the forest free of trees at one place. The free space thus originating is the clearing.

What is light in the sense of being free and open has nothing in common with the adjective “light” which means ‘bright,” neither linguistically nor factually.

This is to be observed for the difference between openness and light. Still, it is possible that a factual relation between the two exists.

Light can stream into the clearing, into its openness, and let brightness play with darkness in it. But light never first creates openness. Rather, light presupposes openness. However, the clearing, the open region, is not only free for brightness and darkness but also for resonance and echo, for sound and the diminishing of sound.

The clearing is the open region for everything that becomes present and absent.”
–Martin Heidegger, The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking







Proximal Abandonment and imagery sourced from this psychosocial phenomena

(my 2011 Foundation Dip Fine Art project)



Things That Should Happen But Do Not - I. Pritchard, 2011

Things That Should Happen But Do Not – I. Pritchard, 2011

"I Am Someone Too" - I. Pritchard, 2011

“I Am Someone Too” – I. Pritchard, 2011

"You've Fallen For The Monkey Trap" - I. Pritchard, 2011

“You’ve Fallen For The Monkey Trap” – I. Pritchard, 2011

My pathway stage focused mainly within areas of using art as social commentary, which I feel, reflects my strongest viewpoints.

I enjoyed producing a series of works based on the word ‘Aspiration’ which included my own slant on the word using various socio-political sources to inform the work.

  • From having produced work in this area I now intend to go on to make a more in depth investigation to produce works based on the psychosocial phenomenon of abuse known as ‘Proximal Abandonment’.
  • Research shows that emotional unavailability towards our children or closest dependents equates to ‘Proximal Abandonment’.
    There is physical presence, but emotional abandonment from the parent figure,
    they are physically present but non-interactive with their dependents.
  • I would like to equate this phenomenon and apply this notion with substituting our politicians or those in a position of power or trust as my subject matter.
  • I use the language of Art to symbolically convey my ideas, views and feelings on these issues.
Influences, Research, Sources and Ideas
  • In order to begin my assignment I intend to gather research, produce mind maps and gather ideas from a variety of artists and designers, that I find influential such as;
    Andy Warhol, Terry Setch, Max Ernst, Jamie Reid and Banksy.
  • I particularly like the way in which these artists subvert imagery and use juxtaposition to convey a message, and how by using a mixed media approach pleasing unexpected results may be obtained.
  • I feel my work could be influenced further by researching;
    newspaper articles, museum and gallery visits, blogs, libraries,
    psychological experiments, case studies, Facebook forum discussions and internet sources.
  • Initially, Warhol’s ‘Mao, 1973’ is a work I feel I can utilize in particular, in addition to found objects, my responses to journalism, advertising and consumerism giving me potential ideas to develop, through photography, collage, mixed media and drawing.
  • Further reading: “Psychiatric Tales” a graphic artist’s battle against depression/anxiety and his work in mental health care. BBC R4 interview – All In The Mind, 25th May 2011. Excellent interview.
The Science bit
  • Pioneering child psychologist D.W Winnicott said that fundamentally two things can go wrong in early child development;
  1. a) when things happen that should not happen.
  2. b) when things that should happen do not.
  • The first category is the traumatic abusive and abandonment experience suffered for example, by children of addicts.
  • The second category is the lack of presence of the emotionally available parent or primary carer – just not being available due to societies stresses, short term priorities, and so on
    – affecting the parenting environment.
    Psychologist Allan N Schore called this “Proximal Abandonment” – when the parent is physically present but emotionally absent.
  • I have entitled the first of the three of my chosen final artworks based on Winnicott’s second fundamental principle.
Some influences

Fay Godwin – book “our forbidden land”

  • The British landscape is under threat moreso than ever before from government policies: industry,agri-business and powerful interests while our historic rights of access are increasingly denied.
  • Fay Godwin uses a combination of her photography and words and selected poems and quotes to reveal a deep rooted commitment and respect for the land.
  • She uses haunting, penetrating photographs and text to fuse aesthetic perception with realism, documentary and irony to form a rousing passionate appeal for the land us as citizens can no longer roam.
  • I want my FMP works to contain a similar appeal and substance to that of Fay Godwin’s.
  • I want to produce a passionate and thought provoking series of images on how I feel we as people are having our rights infringed and health endangered by those supposedly in charge but who put their status and careers in front of their duty of care and what should be their primary concern – us!

My intention initially was to take inspiration from what Andy Warhol did with the image of Chairman Mao in 1973.

It had background acrylic on canvas with an ink print of the portrait printed in the foreground.

I wanted to take a similar approach with a canvas painted with an everyday scene and print a contemporary figure or image I the foreground using the inkjet/acetone transfer/decalcomania technique.

I chose to satirise Ieuan Wyn Jones of the Welsh Assembly government in this recognisable way.

I saw him as someone who has jeopardised the health and environment of everyone in my local area due to his dealings with American corporation Covanta who plan to build the UK’s largest ever waste incinerator I an area already acknowledged has having a population with extremely poor health and the highest rate of pulmonary/heart disease in Wales.

I saw him as a figure guilty of political abandonment of those in need, in favour of short term gain.

Recently Lib-Dem MP John Hemming became a champion for free speech, this coming from a pot-bellied serial cheat and love rat who fathered a child with a mistress and who used taxpayers money to part-fund a private business.

I wonder if he’ll re-Tweet that?

  • My development piece is called “It takes one politician and a truckload of shite to begin a generation of misery” and was transferred using translucent silicone sealant onto green masonry sack.

For research and for the purpose of inspiration, museum visits and galleries I have attended were:

  • National Museum of Wales, Aberdare Museum, St David’s Hall Cardiff, Bay Arts Gallery and Cardiff Bay Crafts Gallery.

Some of the more relevant artists to the project I had in mind that I felt most inspired by included established artists such as:

  • John Piper, Terry Setch (especially Landfil 2010), Dave Brook’s plaster and pigment work (Tract11 & Tract 12)
  • newly qualified artists I viewed such as Nicole Thoss’ copy transfer ceramics (Scream No.1 & No.2 and Kidnapping), Dawn Dupree (It’s Never Black and White) and Vicky Shaw (various).
  • The Nicole Thoss copy transfer works were especially interesting to  me as this,prior to any gallery visits,is the technique I had been researching, along with investigating various materials to transfer onto.
Final Outcome

The three artworks I have chosen to represent my final works in this project are deliberately displayed in the following sequence;
a) “Things that should happen, but don’t”,
b) “I am someone too”,
c) “You’ve fallen for the monkey trap.

This is because there is a narrative quality that I wanted to convey to the observer.

  • The three parts come together to show the phenomenon of Proximal Abandonment beginning with the Authority figures and their rush for a quick fix to the problem of residual waste management and the promises of a profit hungry American incinerator corporation homing in on an already deprived ex-coal field community, a place wherein some areas have a male life expectancy of less than 59 years of age.
  • Secondly onto the sombre, yet defiant figure of a young child protesting.
    I convey that she has been abandoned and her rights discarded or ignored.
    She represents us and our future generations, I hope to evoke and convey ideas and release feelings about social and political abandonment using the sack cloth background.
  • Thirdly, the image of man’s closest cousin, the chimpanzee, in a contemplative, possibly mocking pose.
    This echoes an allegorical passage from “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” on short sightedness and it’s many fatal pitfalls and begs the question are they making monkeys of us all?

40 Of The Most Powerful Social Issue Ads That’ll Make You Stop And Think

40 Of The Most Powerful Social Issue Ads That’ll Make You Stop And Think

By Bored Panda

Many people complain about advertisements as an obnoxious way for companies to invade our everyday lives and cram their products down our throats, but that’s not all that advertisements are good for. The advertisements on this list are excellent examples of effective advertising strategies for social issue campaigns that let their voices be heard.

A well-made advertisement is designed to grab your attention and to remain in your memory long after you’ve left it behind, and that is exactly what many of these social causes need. Getting people to think and worry about various social and environmental issues (or even simply getting them to be aware of them) is important for raising public supporting and affecting meaningful changes. A few of these ads are, in fact, commercial ads, but it’s still nice that they champion socially or environmentally aware causes/products.

Just like with commercial advertisements, having just the facts is not enough. They are important, but the ad must also appeal to the observer’s emotions. Many studies have indicated that emotion can have a powerful effect on memory formation, ensuring that memories with emotion will last longer than those without.

According to “Father of Advertising” David Ogilvy, his contemporary, Howard Gossage, said that “advertising justifies its existence when used in the public interest—it is much too powerful a tool to use solely for commercial purposes.” We definitely agree, which is why we wanted to share this list of social cause advertisements with you!

Torture Victims Are People Just Like You And Me


Advertising Agency: Advico Y&R, Zurich, Switzerland

Stop The Violence: Don’t Drink And Drive


Advertising Agency: Terremoto Propaganda, Curitiba, Brazil

Premature Ending: “If you smoke, statistically your story will end 15% before it should.”


“THE END. If you smoke, statistically your story will end 15% before it should. For help with quiting call QUITTLINE on 0200 00 22 00″ (Advertising Agency: Iris, London, UK)

World Wide Fund For Nature: Frightening vs. More Frightening


Advertising Agency: DDB&CO., Istanbul, Turkey

Your Skin Color Shouldn’t Dictate Your Future



Advertising Agency: Publicis Conseil, Paris, France

Deforestation Continues With The Turn Of A Page


Advertising Agency: LINKSUS, Beijing, China




Advertising Agency: Fabrica, Italy

Elm Grove Police Department: Slower Is Better


Advertising Agency: Cramer-Krasselt, Milwaukee, USA

Save Paper – Save The Planet


Advertising Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Copenhagen, Denmark

Air Pollution Kills 60.000 People A Year


Advertising Agency: unknown

Liking Isn’t Helping. Be A Volunteer. Change A Life



Advertising Agency: Publicis, Singapore

Bird Conservation: If You Don’t Pick It Up They Will


Advertising Agency: TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris, Johannesburg, South Africa

What We See When You Smoke


Advertising Agency: JWT, Atlanta, USA

Animal Anti-Cruelty League: That’s Not A Football


Advertising Agency: Lowe Bull, Cape Town, South Africa

Bangalore Traffic Police: Don’t Talk While Driving



Advertising Agency: Mudra Group, India

Child Soldiers: It’s Not Happening Here, But It’s Happening Now


Creative/Art director Pius Walker, Amnesty International, Switzerland.

Censorship Tells The Wrong Story


Advertising Agency: Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai, UAE

Distracted Driving: Think Of Both Sides


Advertising Agency: Red Pepper, Ekaterinburg, Russia

Every 60 Seconds a Species Dies Out. Each Minute Counts


Advertising Agency: Scholz & Friends, Berlin, Germany

Innocence In Danger: Where’s The Pedophile?



Art Director: Michael Arguello, Copywriter: Bassam Tariq, Additional credits: Jason Musante

Sexual Predators Can Hide In Your Child’s Smartphone


Advertising Agency: Herezie, Paris, France

Smoking Causes Premature Aging


Advertising Agency: Euro RSCG Australia

You’re Not A Sketch. Say No To Anorexia


Advertising Agency: Revolution Brasil

Neglected Children Are Made To Feel Invisible. Stop Child Abuse Now


“To dramatize the issue of neglect, we placed mannequins dressed as children behind billposters. When the inevitable happened, we revealed a second message.” (Australian Childhood Foundation, JWT Melbourne)

Global Action In The Interest of Animals: Plastic Bags Kill


Advertising Agency: BBDO Malaysia, MALAYSIA, Kuala Lumpur / Advertising Agency: Duval Guillaume, Belgium

What Goes Around Comes Around. Keep The Sea Clean



Advertising Agency: JWT, Dubai, UAE

Tailgating Isn’t Worth It. Give Trucks Room


Advertising Agency: Amélie Company, Denver, Colorado, USA

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society: When You See A Tuna, Think Panda


Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Singapore

Sleepiness Is Stronger Than You. Don’t Drive Sleepy


Advertising Agency: BBDO Bangkok, Thailand

See how easy feeding the hungry can be?


Advertising Agency: TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris, Johannesburg, South Africa

Causing Cancer By Yourself


Advertising Agency: Dentsu, Beijing, China

Deforestation And The Air We Breathe: Before It’s Too Late


Advertising Agency: TBWA\PARIS, France

For The Homeless, Every Day Is A Struggle


Advertising Agency: Clemenger BBDO, Melbourne, Australia

The Prvention Beer Mug: Please Don’t Lose Control Over Your Drinking


Advertising Agency: EURORSCG Prague, Czech Republic

One Child Is Holding Something That’s Been Banned In America To Protect Them. Guess Which One?



Advertising Agency: Grey, Toronto, Canada

Breast Cancer Awareness Bra


Advertising Agency: Bolero, Fortaleza, Brazil

What Goes Around Comes Around: Stop The Iraq War



Advertising Agency: Big Ant International, New York, USA

UN Women: Auto-Complete Shows Perceptions Of Women



Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Dubai, UAE

Don’t Buy Exotic Animal Souvenirs


Advertising Agency: LOWE GGK, Warsaw, Poland

Animal Abuse And Shelters: Same Pet, Different Owner



Advertising Agency: TBWA-Santiago Mangada Puno, Philippines

Buckle up. Stay alive


Advertising Agency: Lg2, Quebec, Canada

From Ebbw Vale to the Muslim Veil a review of David garner’s work by John Molyneux: Senior Lecturer in Historical and Theoretical Studies in the School of Art, Design and Media, Portsmouth University.

I found this essay rang so many chimes when compared to what I am trying to achieve with the works I’ve produced so far as an emerging artist.
I can take a lot from this essay myself.

Over the years much ink has been spilled, and wasted, on the issue of the compatibility of art and politics. I say wasted because the merest glance at the history of art reveals an abundance of work of the highest quality either directly occasioned by political events, or with an explicit political message: Michelangelo’s David for a start, commissioned by the city fathers of Florence to celebrate their liberation from the tyranny of the Medicis; or David’s The Death of Marat, or Goya’s Third of May, 1808, or Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, or El Lissitsky’s Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge or Grosz’s satires on Wiemar or Heartfield’s anti- Fascist montages, or Rivera’s murals, or Zadkine’s Rotterdam War Memorial or Whiteread’s Closed Library holocaust memorial .

And, in a different way, were not Rembrandt’s Beggars political and Hals’ Alms House Regents and Blake’s Angels and Courbet’s Stone Breakers and Manet’s Olympia and Seurat’s Bathers and Van Gogh’s Peasants and Leger’s Cyclists and Builders and Warhol’s Electric Chairs and even (for those who actually got the point) Carl Andre’s Bricks? Indeed it is worth pointing out that Raphael’s Madonnas and Holbein’s Henry VIIIs and Rubens’ Baroque swirls and Van Dyke’s swagger portraits and Gainsborough’s gentry and Constable’s rural idylls and Bouguereau’s 19th century academic nudes and Dali’s post Spanish Civil War works and the Chapman Brothers’ Goya pastiches and paedophiliac mannequins, are also bearers of political values, albeit values more or less diametrically opposed to those of my first two lists. Indeed the problem with all these lists is not how continue them but where to stop for, in the last analysis, all art – even Cezanne’s apples and Hirst’s dots – is political in that it gives visual expression (at least partially) to the outlook on life and ideology of one or other social group; even where the art appears to be profoundly individual, as in Blake or Giacommetti or Emin, it is in reality an individually mediated condensation of a collective social experience, as Paul Klee explained in his beautiful metaphor of the artist as tree trunk transmitting experience from its roots in the soil to its crown above.

However, David Garner’s art does not really need this historical – theoretical justification. Both highly politicised and extremely visually powerful, it is its own argument. Indeed I would say that it is among the most powerful, most vital, most necessary, i.e. best, art being produced in Britain. And the reason is simple: it is because David Garner has something important to say and knows how to say it.

Of course it doesn’t have to be political in the narrow sense of the word, it doesn’t even have to be something that can be put fully into words (that’s why it is visual art) but, despite all the formalists and the postmodernists, having something significant to say, about human relations, about the human condition at a particular point in time, is a precondition of serious art. Piero della Francesca had something to say about his God and his God’s relation to mankind when he painted The Baptism of Christ and The Resurrection. Jackson Pollock had something to say about his times, ‘the age of the airplane and the atom bomb’, when he painted No 1, 1948 and Lavender Mist. Garner is a socialist artist and his art is deeply imbued with socialist values and the socialist critique of society.

Here the obvious point of comparison and contrast is with the YBAs (the Young Brit Artists collected and promoted by Charles Saatchi). Not surprisingly the YBAs are hardly Garner’s cup of tea: the media hype, the frivolity, the Saatchi wealth, and how it was made, the London parties, the artists’ embrace of PR and entrepreneurship, the mock laddishness – all these are anathema to him, and rightly so. But it is a general rule that modern art develops dialectically with each new wave or generation, each rebel artist reacting against the previous one, while at the same time incorporating and building on some of its achievements. Seurat reacted against the impressionists’ sacrifice of form for colour and light, but he could not have painted the Seine as it appears in The Bathers without Monet and Pissarro. Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon declares war on the whole European art tradition but also, palpably, rests directly on Cezanne and Gauguin.
In this process the artist, necessarily, will tend to emphasise the element of negation, while it falls more to the critic or historian to see also the continuity.

So it is with Garner and the YBAs. On the one hand both as a person and in his art he constitutes a polar opposite to YBA cynicism, froth and commercialism. But the YBAs were not all ‘high art lite’ as Julian Stallabrass called them. At their best – some of Hirst (Mother and Child Divided not the dot or spin paintings), Whiteread, Emin, some of Lucas – they produced some serious, powerful and quite radical work, and, much to Garner’s surprise I suspect, I see a definite continuity with Hirst. Ten years ago, seeking to explain Hirst’s work to a very sceptical audience, I made use of T.S. Eliot’s concept of the ‘objective correlative’. For Eliot the way to express emotion in art was to find an objective correlative, ‘a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion’.(1) and this, I argued, was what Hirst did in works like The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (The Shark), Mother and Child Divided and A Thousand Years (the mini-ecosystem with cow’s head, maggots and flies). Garner does it too.

To create an objective correlative for the terrible tragedy of the Aberfan disaster – a daunting task – he took thirty primary school chairs and placed on each a wedge of bitumen mixed with coal dust which, over time, moulded itself to the shape of the chair.
To represent what happened to the miners Garner takes miners’ jackets, boots and helmets and jams them on to a huge metal spike.

Another way in which he is heir to Hirst, among many others, is in the deployment of ‘actual ‘ or ‘real’ objects instead of representations of them. Rembrandt painted his Slaughtered Ox and Picasso drew his doves; Hirst gives us real cut up cows, an actual dead shark and living fluttering butterflies.

Likewise Garner, to comment on the fate of the miners and their communities, uses authentic materials salvaged from the pits as they closed down. For Poppycock, his witty and acerbic comment on the War, the helmet has to be a real soldier’s helmet and the poppies real middle eastern poppies. I reproduce this (wonderful) email to make the point and show how Garner works.

Hi John, Almost finished a new piece that will
definitely be in the first show. Recently purchased on eBay a British Army helmet that has been used in
Afghanistan and Iraq complete with desert camouflage cover. The entire helmet is to be covered with poppies (actual dried poppy pods with stems) they are being shipped from Turkey via Canada and are due to arrive any day unless customs take a dislike to the package. The piece is titled ‘Poppycock’.
All the best, Dave


The practice of inserting the ‘real’ into the representation can, with hindsight, be traced back – at least – to Degas’ use of a real tutu on one of his little ballerina statues. It continues through Picasso and Braque’s synthetic cubism, Picasso’s sculpture, Duchamp’s ready-mades, Rauschenberg and Johns, Andre and minimalism, Beuys and Kiefer (evident and acknowledged influences on Garner), (Mary) Kelly, down to Hirst, Sarah Lucas, (sometimes), Emin, and, most recently and dramatically, Mark Wallinger in State Britain.

In the process all sorts of problems have been caused for aesthetic theory: for the ‘definition’ of art and for the concepts of ‘naturalism’ and ‘realism’. Why is Lucian Freud with his paintings and portraits of people considered a ‘realist’, while Hirst with his actual shark, cows, pigs etc, is not?

Do Hopper’s paintings give a more realistic (or naturalistic) image of the inner city than Rauschenberg’s combines?

In Garner’s case, however, he uses his authentic materials for what Mike Wayne, in his important Theses on Realism and Film, has identified as core Realist purposes:

11 Theses on Realism
Realism is the exploration of aspects of the conflict-ridden
and contradictory nature of social relationships.
The contribution which realism makes to the development of our thinking and feeling (identification/empathy) is also a contribution to the development of our consciousness of the social conditions that shape our thinking and feeling.
Realism interrogates the dogmas of the day as they are propagated, honed and defended by dominant social interests in every sphere of life. Realism expands the critical faculties of the public sphere and any instance of it is ultimately part of a broader collective praxis.12)
Even more, he uses them, in a way that is reminiscent of Brecht and Heartfield, to drive home, intensify and render inescapable the connection between what is happening in his art, in his studio, in the gallery, and actual political and social struggles occurring in the outside world. Here is the crucial link between content and form in Garner’s art, with content – as usual- driving the form and here is what really distinguishes him as an artist in Britain today, namely his socialist politics.
Many artists have been or are socialists in one sense or another but there are few if any in Britain today who are socialist and produce socialist art in the defined and organic way that David Garner does. It is not easy to be a socialist artist. First there are the whole range of external and material difficulties deriving from the fact that both the society as a whole and, within it, the art world are controlled by capital. That the art world is ‘controlled by capital’ is a general truth which applies as much to the National Gallery and the Tate as it does to Sotheby’s and Cork St. but it is worth noting the specific and direct role played in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by capitalist billionaires and millionaires: the Rockefellers, the Guggenheims, the Gettys, Saatchi, and now Hirst himself. To this must be added the markedly bourgeois character of all the art world’s key institutions and those who staff them. These are the people who decide whose work gets bought at what price, and influence who gets hyped and who becomes a name, but also, at a much more basic level, control access to most public and private space for the display of work, most space for the storage of work (a largely neglected but crucial practical question, especially for any artist who, like Garner, works on a large scale) and a good deal of the space for the making of work. To succeed, even to show their work and establish a serious practice, the artist has to make her/his way in this world, ‘networking’, making friends and influencing people. The socialist artist enters this rat race in alien territory with an almost physical handicap, and even if s/he does win through runs a huge risk of damage, destruction or co-option.
Then there are the internal, psychic and artistic difficulties. In the main art grows out of lived experience not theoretical abstractions. But we live in a capitalist not a socialist society, and in that sense our lived experience is capitalist and socialism remains an abstraction, an intellectual ideal. Certainly the artist responds critically to that experience and, as Trotsky insisted, there is an element of revolt and critique in all serious art. But critical art is not the same as socialist art. Manet and Cezanne, Picasso and Bacon produced great critical art but it was not socialist art. Of course, from a Marxist standpoint we know that the source and bearer of socialist politics and values within capitalism is the struggle of the working class, but the working class is highly problematic as a base for, and bearer of, art and culture. Trotsky made the case against the possibility of an independent and developed working class culture with great force and eloquence in the debates over Proletcult and the struggle against rising Stalinism in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, but it was also summed up neatly by the theorist of Surrealism, Andre Breton:
I do not believe in the present possibility of an art or literature which expresses the aspirations of the working class. If I refuse to believe in such a possibility, it is because, in any pre-Revolutionary period the writer or artist, who of necessity is a product of the bourgeoisie, is by definition incapable of translating these aspirations.23)
So how does David Garner and his art defy the odds and the theories and come to exist? Part of the answer lies in the way his personal biography contradicts the assumptions of Breton. Breton assumed that the artist ‘of necessity is a product of the bourgeoisie’. Not so Garner. He was born, the son of a miner who died of pneumoconiosis, in 1958 in Ebbw Vale in the very heartland of the Welsh and British trade union and socialist movement. He was 14 and 16 respectively for the victorious miners’ strikes of 1972 and 1974, which brought down the Heath Tory Government and saw Arthur Scargill in his pomp. He was 26/27 for the epic struggle and terrible defeat of 1984-85, and 34/35 for the destruction of the mining industry with the Heseltine pit closure of 1992-93. This is an artist for whom the values of working class struggle, community and socialism were bred in the bone and refined, tested and tempered in bitter battles.
Moreover, and this is important, he still lives and works in the area, in the valleys, as a member of a working class community. I do not mean by this that he is any way the untutored naïf or ‘primitive’ or in the least provincial or limited in outlook: he is a graduate from the Royal College and knows about Rodchenko and Duchamp and Beuys and Kiefer as well as Hirst and Emin, and also about Marx and Lenin and Trotsky – and this knowledge is crucial for his art too. But neither his education, nor his work, nor his artistic career have separated him from his class roots in the way they could easily have done. His work as a lecturer at Coleg Gwent (which many people would call middle class) means that in fact he lives by the sale of his labour power, is not part of management, serves mainly working class youth in his area and has a standard of living not that different from other skilled workers. I referred earlier to the intense connection between Garner’s art and political struggles in the outside world as one of its key distinguishing characteristics. This political connection is rooted, at least in part, in the fact that the physical, economic and social distance between Garner’s studio and those struggles is small indeed. In short, objectively and subjectively, Garner remains part of the working class while also being in the advanced guard of contemporary art practice. – a combination both Breton and Trotsky would have found hard to imagine.
Garner’s personal story here is, of course, part of, and testimony to, wider processes of social change: the rising living standards and educational opportunities of at least a section of the working class; the decline, in Britain and Europe, of heavy industry and old style manual labour: the proletarianisation of much white collar and professional work (nursing, teaching, lecturing, social work etc); the increased acceptance of, and participation in modern art, by wider numbers (still far from a majority) of ‘ordinary’ people.34) The work and the rise of Tracey Emin, though clearly very different from David Garner, are products of the same social developments.
But whatever the validity of this analysis, the evidence in Garner’s case – his powerful socialist art – is here for us to see, both in his body of work as a whole and in this exhibition in particular. The subject matter of Garner’s art can broadly be divided into three main tranches or waves: first, the assault on the miners and South Wales; second, the persecution and scapegoating of refugees and asylum seekers; third, the so-called ‘war on terror’ and the demonisation of Muslims. To some in the art world this might seem a surprising trajectory- from Ebbw Vale to the Muslim veil – and one which might move Garner away from the roots I described above. In fact there is a powerful logic and dynamic here. The miners were Thatcher’s ‘enemy within’, to be crushed and discarded. Asylum seekers (bogus, of course) and those dreadful ‘economic migrants’ were the foreign enemy seeking to get ‘within’ and ‘take our jobs’ or ‘swamp our culture’. The terrorists/ Islamic fundamentalists are the enemy without – in Afghanistan, Iraq…Iran? – and within – on the London Underground , perhaps in the Mosque down the road. And in each case these ‘threats’ are invoked not by, or on behalf of, the British people or the British working class, but by, and on behalf of, the British ruling class precisely as a means of strengthening its hold on the minds of its white working class subjects and as part of its centuries old imperial strategy of divide and rule.
This is the logic of expanding working class consciousness: from the immediate and personal experience of exploitation and oppression, through an identification with your oppressors’ other victims and enemies to global solidarity. It was the logic of the miners’ strike beginning, as all socialists who worked in solidarity with the strike will remember, with arguments with miners about womens’ right to work and Page 3, and ended with women on the picket lines, lesbians and gays leading miners’ marches, and solidarity with Broadwater Farm.
It is a logic which David Garner’s art embodies and expresses with compelling intensity. In this exhibition he confronts us with the terrible sign from the gates of Auschwitz and its awful motto ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’, to situate imperialist war and Islamophobia historically, to remind us of the trajectory and essence of racism and to insist always on the possibility of resistance. He invokes Jim Crow to remind us of the still menacing racism against black people which forms a kind of platform on which current Islamophobia rests and builds. He shows, literally, how the Muslim identity has been besieged and hemmed in by hostile nails and how the ‘war on terror’ has undermined the civil rights and basic liberties of all of us. Above all his art demonstrates, by means of telling visual objective correlatives, that defending the right of a Muslim woman in Baghdad or Birmingham to wear or not wear the hijab is not only defending her human rights and potential liberation, but goes hand in hand with supporting the Palestinian resistance, opposing Bush and Blair’s ‘poppycock’ wars and fighting for the future of working people in South Wales and everywhere. Truly art for our times.
John Molyneux

(1) T.S Eliot, Selected Prose, Harmondsworth 1965, p.102
(2) Wayne, M ‘Theses on realism and film’ International Socialism 116, pp.173-4
(3) Andre Breton, The Second Manifesto of Surrealism, cited in C.Harrison & P.Wood ed. Art in Theory, 1900-1990, Blackwell, Oxford 1993 p.448.
(4)See John Molyneux, ‘Art for All?’, Art Monthly, September 2000

John Molyneux: Senior Lecturer in Historical and Theoretical Studies in the School of Art, Design and Media, Portsmouth University. Long-standing socialist activist and writer on politics and art. Author of Marxism and the Party, What is the Real Marxist Tradition?, Rembrandt and Revolution , Emin Matters, A Revolution in Paint- 100 Years of Picasso’s Desmoiselles. Co- curator of the ‘Left in Vision’ exhibition, London.



Realism is the exploration of aspects of the conflict-ridden and contradictory nature of social relationships.

The contribution which realism makes to the development of our thinking and feeling (identification/empathy) is also a contribution to the development of our consciousness of the social conditions that shape our thinking and feeling.

Realism interrogates the dogmas of the day as they are propagated, honed and defended by dominant social interests in every sphere of life.

Realism expands the critical faculties of the public sphere and any instance of it is ultimately part of a broader collective praxis.

Mike Wayne, in his important Theses on Realism and Film,  International Socialism 116, pp.173-4