Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Realizing the Impossible

As part of the Friends of AK Press program I received a copy of Realizing the Impossible: Art Against Authority, a book whose time had come.

Editors Josh MacPhee and Erik Reuland have compiled interviews and essays with artists of all kinds involved in anti-authoritarian movements throughout the globe.  What follows is an in-depth and interesting look at the history of this type of art and where it is at today.  Printmaking, video, graffiti, puppet theatre and more is covered in its pages, along with plenty of great photographs.

It is easy for a book of this type to become nothing but a cheerleader for anti-authoritarian and anarchist art.  It's not.  In fact, one of the best pieces takes the activist films to task for be substandard pieces of work that fail to hold an audience simply because they don't do what is proven to work.  It is a critical and insightful piece that needs to be read by anyone involved in activist film.  This isn't the only piece that challenges the norm, either.  Throughout the book are people questioning the form, meaning and effect of the art they and others do.  That's what makes this a book well worth checking out for anyone interested in the arts, subversive or otherwise.

The end of the book is a series of essays examining one subject or another in dept.  Of note, there are two great pieces dealing with Haymarket and culture jamming.  Those two works alone make this worth its cover price.  Any serious student of culture will want to read these.  There will be plenty to argue about, but also plenty with which you will agree.

If the book has one fault it is that it is too short.  You know this has merely scratched the surface of what is out there.  It could've been twice its size and still run into the same problem, however.  What is needed is new volumes, and while I don't know if that is something AK Press is planning, I do hope someone does it as this type of art is important in its own right and needs to examined by those involved and those who are witnesses.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I received this book as part of the Friends of AK Press program.  It was not sent to me to review, but I did it anyway.  If you don't know what that is, go to the link.  Take that, FTC.  Also, clicking on a link may earn me a small commission.

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