Listen here to the CPCP Annual Conference 2022: Revolutionary Arts, held at
The People’s Forum on May 5, 2022. 


PANEL 1 Consciousness on edge: Francisca Benítez and Andreas Petrossiants
PANEL 2 After authenticity: Jennifer Ponce de León and Michael Denning
KEYNOTE Picturing revolt: Sónia Vaz Borges and kara lynch


Wary of making politics an aesthetic in disguise, radical theory and practice have nevertheless embraced all kinds of artistic provocations and traditions in every form and genre. At the same time, the possibility for fundamental change demands a range of interpretive encounters that might elicit meanings for people whom Julius Scott, writing about a different time, described as “disenchanted people casting about for new options.” Such casting about combines both mobility and fixedness, and the multiple scales of experience generally breaching, but sometimes consolidating, existing institutional forms that register the ground or sea of social life. Intellectual and sensual sensibilities combine — whether on the common wind of Julius Scott’s magisterial treatise or in the reluctant nationalisms of for example Cabral’s Guinea Bissau.

The production of space – which is, in the end, the purpose of revolution – requires individual and community self-expressions not only to mediate revolutionary desire, but also to help think through how change is experienced and what it might mean. It is of course ongoing – as the provisional countertopographies of Katz’s global analysis makes apparent. From long-distance migrants who exploit laws designed to protect arts in order to remain, if liminally in place — as Sheikh and Marboeuf show, to the mirrored articulations of basic-needs provisions by bodies politic and spiritual during covid-19, that extends beyond nation (Navajo) state (Kerala) and faith (Sikh) boundaries, we might glimpse revolutionary arts in action even when unacknowledged.

How can a glimpse become a reliable view? In their manifesto for an independent revolutionary art, Breton and Trotsky offer a classic dialectic and/or aesthetic chiasmus, “The independence of art — for the revolution. The revolution — for the complete liberation of art!” If the slogan remains relevant it is because it points to a dynamic struggle in the ways social transformation is made and engaged, and how people revise their understanding of both limits and possibilities. How is this articulated across militant and interdisciplinary inquiry? What are the uprisings from below that help us understand how and to what extent art rejuvenates the idea of revolution. Are new methodologies and social and artistic expression in themselves revolutionary? What are the lessons of popular and collective art for radical activism? Is the topic of art and revolution a question for forms of agency? If we are used to thinking of imagination as a social practice how might revolutionary arts mediate processes of social transformation?