Josh MacPhee: Radical Posture

The U.S. anarchist newspaper Profane Existence used to carry the tagline “Making Punk a Threat Again.” While I’m not sure what is so threatening about spiky jackets and unlistenable crust-punk, it raises a perfectly legitimate question: What would it look like to make anarchist culture threatening?

Let me be clear, I’ve got nothing against youth subculture – it’s what birthed me – but that doesn’t mean that it has what it takes to truly transform the world in the ways anarchism promises: an end to exploitation; meaningful engagement with questions of justice; equity of access and opportunity to all – to just name a few highlights.

Just what is the relationship between anarchism and art? We can look at this question historically, and pull out a long list of successful artists that rallied around the black flag (for at least part of their lives): André Breton, Gustave Courbet, Robert Henri, Donald Judd, Rockwell Kent, Pablo Picasso, Camille Pissarro, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Georges Seurat, and Paul Signac. Beyond this being a one big sausage-party, it is fair to say that what binds most of these artists together – and what drew them to anarchism – was the promise of individual freedom. Artists love the idea of freedom, the thought that they can and should be unfettered in their pursuit of a pure self-expression.

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