if I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution

Natalie Musteata

What is the relationship between anarchism (as a political movement and philosophy) and the visual arts? Is there a field of “anarchist art?” If so, what types of practices constitute this field? Is there, for instance, an aesthetic, or ontology, specific to anarchist art? Does an anarchist artwork consist of anarchist subject matter? Is it anarchist in form? Is the artist/producer a self-identified anarchist? 1 These are the questions I have continually returned to while curating if I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution, an exhibition that investigates the intersection of anarchism and counter-cultural artistic practices in Europe and North America from the 1960s to the present.

In the last decade there has been a special focus on activist, or political, art in scholarly, critical, and curatorial discourse; public exhibitions and conferences; and the art market. 2 “The Social Turn,” as art historian and critic Claire Bishop put it in her eponymously titled article of 2006, is an umbrella term used to describe the growing prevalence of such leftist-leaning, socially engaged, and community-driven work in the contemporary art world. 3 Less attention, however, has been directed to the particular connection between anarchism and art. 4 Although the advent of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and its cultural offspring, including Occupy Museums and Take Artists Space, have drawn a modicum of attention to anarchist-oriented artistic projects, such work has remained on the periphery. 5

To date only a handful of exhibitions have focused on either the contemporary or historical link between anarchist and artistic practices. 6 if I can’t dance to it addresses this lacuna. 7 As the history has so far been penned, the overlap between anarchism and art reaches back to 1863—the early days of anarchism as a social movement—when the French Realist painter Gustave Courbet co-wrote the book Art and its Social Significance with French theorist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the first self-acknowledged anarchist. 8 Although Proudhon died only two years later in 1865 and Courbet escaped to Switzerland following the defeat of the 1871 Paris Commune, the melding of anarchist theory and art practice in France continued to flourish throughout the latter half of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. The neo-Impressionists (e.g. Paul Signac, Maximilien Luce, and Camille Pissarro) were influenced by the writings of Russian anarcho-communist Peter Kropotkin, and they regularly contributed to the French anarchist newspapers Le Père Pinard,L’En-Dehors, and L’Assiette Au Beurre. 9 Meanwhile, in Russia, before the Bolsheviks suppressed the White Army and the last vestiges of the anarchist-led soviets at the closing of the Russian Revolution in 1921, artists Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlin, and Alexander Rodchenko notoriously debated art’s revolutionary function in the pages of Anarkhiia (Anarchy). 10

Most scholars agree that the interwar years saw the weakening, if not total collapse, of anarchism as a viable political movement in Europe and its concomitant ideological bankruptcy in the arts. 11 The next significant wave of anarchist art did not surface until the turbulent years of the mid-to-late 1960s. 12 In the United States, the volatile combination of the escalating Vietnam War and the growth of the civil rights and women’s liberation movements instigated revolutionary-minded artists to take action. In the course of roughly two years, between 1966 and 1968, several artists in downtown New York, including Julian Beck and Judith Malina, the founders of the de-hierarchized anarchist-pacifist theater group The Living Theater (f. 1947), as well as Ben Morea, Ron Hahn, and Aldo Tambellini of the more militant Black Mask (c. 1965-68), collaborated with a transnational array of cultural activists: the London-based Situationist offshoot King Mob (1967-69); the street theater collective San Francisco Diggers (1966-68); the revolutionary socialist Black Panther Party (1966-1982); and the Japanese anarchist league of students Zengakuren (f. 1948).

Black Mask, Black Mask Issue No. 9, January-February 1968, Offset print on paper, 13 x 10”, Courtesy Sean Stewart/Babylon Falling

Black Mask, Black Mask Issue No. 9, January-February 1968, Offset print on paper, 13 x 10”, Courtesy Sean Stewart/Babylon Falling

During these mercurial years, when the total upending of society seemed imminent, art’s objecthood went through a dramatic transformation. Radical practitioners in the 1960s no longer produced autonomous “auratic” objects. Forsaking the traditional mediums of painting and sculpture, they turned to ephemeral street actions and improvised performances; agitational flyers, posters, pamphlets and newspapers; and experimental emerging technology, including portable video and film cameras. 13 This charged, layered, and continually fluctuating context makes up the foundation of if I can’t dance to it.

Despite the pronounced consideration and scrutiny the art of the 1960s and ’70s has received, a number of the artists and collectives on view in this show are still under-acknowledged. 14 For instance, the work of Gayle “Asali” Dickson, a member of the Black Panther Party who frequently contributed drawings on the plight of African-American women to the organization’s newspaper, has scarcely been exhibited. That of Kirsten Dufour, a co-founder of the Danish film collective Kanonklubben, which in 1970 realized 7 Damebilleder (7Images of Women), a storefront performative exhibition, consisting of a series of “portraits” or tableaux vivants of stereotypes inflicted on women (e.g. The Hooker, The Beauty, The Wedding Cake), is likewise relatively unknown. 15

Kanonklubben 7 Damebilleder (7 Ladies Images), 1970 Photo documentation slide show 58 digitized slides   Courtesy Kirsten Dufour

Kanonklubben, 7 Damebilleder (7 Ladies Images), 1970, Photo documentation slide show, 58 digitized slides, Courtesy Kirsten Dufour

Just as many of these creative producers of the 1960s looked to artists of the early 20th century for inspiration, those working in the 2000s, in the wake of the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization protests, the 2008 global financial crisis, the Arab Spring and OWS, have appropriated and reshaped the work of their 1960s forerunners. In her historically reflexive practice, Andrea Bowers reworks handbills, zines, and protest signs of second-wave feminists to recognize those who have otherwise fallen through the cracks. For if I can’t dance to it, Bowers and fellow activist artist Olga Koumoundouros continue their TRANSFORMer series, a community-bridging sculptural installation, by collaborating with the local anarchist Wooden Shoe collective to erect a temporary library of anarcha-feminist material. Meanwhile, the subversive neo-conceptual art of Claire Fontaine (an Italian-British duo who lifted their name from a popular brand of French notebooks) is influenced by the extra-parliamentary oppositions that spontaneously arose in Italy in 1977 to promote sexual liberation, direct action, and the re-appropriation of goods. In a seemingly minimal piece, La société du spectacle brickbat (2006), Claire Fontaine reifies French Marxist theorist Guy Debord’s 1967 magnum opus The Society of the Spectacle, a philosophical critique of capitalism and key instigator of the May ’68 revolts. Altering its cover, stretching its spine, replacing its contents with a brick, she transforms it into a clandestine weapon.

Claire Fontaine  La sociéte du spectacle brickbat, 2005 Brick, archival digital brick, elastic band and glue  7 ½ x 4 1/3 x 2 ½” Courtesy the artist

Claire Fontaine, La sociéte du spectacle brickbat, 2005, Brick, archival digital brick, elastic band and glue, 7 ½ x 4 1/3 x 2 ½”, Courtesy the artist

And yet, despite the formal and thematic parallels between these two periods, significant ideological inconsistencies persist in the works on view. With a movement that comes in many forms—anarcho-communism, anarcho-syndicalism, anarcha-feminism, pacifist anarchism, and individualist anarchism, to name a few varieties—if I can’t dance to it looks at the relationship between art and anarchism through a set of thematic platforms that interpret principal tenets of anarchist thought and practice. 16

The theme of horizontality, of a de-hierarchized mode of thinking and making, comprises the backbone of the exhibition. The term anarchy comes from the Greek word anarkhia, meaning “without a ruler.” At its core then, anarchism opposes “all forms of social domination.” 17 Such opposition has usually taken the form of a complete rejection of the State and government. Contemporary anarchists, moreover, not only protest hierarchy and authority on the macro level, but also in the everyday, the interpersonal. In lieu of a top-down model, anarchists advocate for decentralized, self-regulating, horizontal assemblies in which free and equal individuals work with one another to achieve collective goals.

The aleatory structure of works by poet Jackson Mac Low and composer John Cage are exemplary of such values. An avowed anarcho-pacifist, Mac Low strongly believed that “authenticity in anarchist aesthetics entailed sincerity not only of message, but of craft”—that is, of form. 18 In 1955, following Cage’s example, Mac Low started developing “simultaneous” poems. Compositionally determined by the throws of a die, such poems were frequently written for more than one voice and contained gaps encouraging readers to improvise or speak freely, and, as a result, become co-creators. By the early 1960s, Mac Low was experimenting with the making of “Gathas,” 19 Buddhist-sourced performance texts composed on graph paper using systematic chance processes.

Jackson Mac Low Tara Gatha, 1968 Ink on Paper 11 x 8 ½” Courtesy Anne Tardos

Jackson Mac Low, Tara Gatha, 1968, Ink on Paper, 11 x 8 ½”, Courtesy Anne Tardos

One such rare piece, Tara Gatha (1968), is presented adjacent to three sections of Cage’s lecture-performance of 1988, Anarchy. Although Cage did not overtly participate in anarchist politics, he was interested in anarchy as a mode of “self-governance and social responsibility,” and as a creative process. 20Anarchy is a major piece consisting of twenty poems. 21 For it, Cage appropriated thirty quotations on anarchist subjects from fourteen authors, including Emma Goldman, Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, and Henry David Thoreau, which he ran through IC—a computer program by Andrew Culver simulating the coin oracle of the I Ching—to determine which and how many of the quotations should figure in each poem. 22 Like Mac Low, he wanted to create “anarchic harmony”—non-intentional works that reduce the “ego,” or authoritative voice, of the author to “one amongst many,” and free the mind from preconceived ideas. 23

The challenge to authorship and other types of hierarchies was also pivotal to the de-materialized output of Christopher D’Arcangelo, an early proponent of institutional critique, who in 1975 enacted a series of unannounced, disruptive interventions in museums across New York. At the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, D’Arcangelo lay prone and handcuffed on the floor of the rotunda with the following paradoxical statement stenciled across his bare back: “When I state that I am an anarchist, I must also state that I am not an anarchist, to be in keeping with the (. . .) idea of anarchism. Long live anarchism.” 24 The sentences, which accompanied nearly all of his actions and correspondences, reflect D’Arcangelo’s ambition to expose, and by extension abolish, the systems governing our existence. In September 1978, he contributed to a group exhibition at Artist’s Space by withdrawing his name from all promotional materials (invitation card, catalog, press release) circulating outside the gallery. This enigmatic act of self-negation served not only as a pointed critique of the space itself— which was established in 1972 with the intent of being run by artists for artists, only to be quickly transformed into a more conventional curator-driven space—but also to recuperate, or renew, “artistic sociability” and dialogue. 25

The text-based works of Mac Low, Cage, and D’Arcangelo are complemented by architect Adrian Blackwell’s Circles describing spheres(2014), a site-specific installation of mutable concentric bleachers for audience interaction, and Peruvian artist Luis Jacob’s Album I (2000), the first in a series of narrative “image banks” (each incorporating hundreds of found images) which subtly chronicles the toppling of vertical structures (e.g. skyscrapers, monuments) for horizontal ones (e.g. masses of people, fields of snow).

If the language of horizontal collaboration characterizes a critical mode of social formations, the color black speaks to one of anarchy’s most powerful visual cues. According to George Woodcock, author of Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements (1962), black was introduced into anarchist vocabulary in 1882 at a meeting commemorating the Paris Commune where Louise Michel, a French anarcho-communist militant, announced that the color red, an emblem of the socialist movement, was no longer appropriate for the anarchist cause. 26 Instead, she argued, they should “raise the black flag of misery.” 27 Within the course of a year, the black flag was spotted at a demonstration against unemployment in Paris and became the name of an anarchist newspaper, Le Drapeaux Noir, based in Lyon. A symbol negating all symbols, the black flag is the absence of a flag. It opposes the notion of the nation-state and calls for the abolishment of all borders.

Aldo Tambellini Black TV, 1968 10 min., b&w, sound Two-channel 16mm film on video Courtesy Anna M. Salamone

Aldo Tambellini, Black TV, 1968, 10 min., b&w, sound, Two-channel 16mm film on video, Courtesy Anna M. Salamone

This second section of the show touches on the relationship between such insurrectionary tactics as “black blocs”—a protest stratagem in which marchers wear black clothing to conceal their identities and render individuals indistinguishable from one another to law enforcement officials—and the struggles of African Americans to gain civil liberties. 28 Aldo Tambellini, a pioneer of electronic “intermedia” art, has dedicated his entire oeuvre to exploring the physical and conceptual properties of the color black. Greatly affected by the racial conflicts that swept the United States in the mid-to-late 1960s, as well as by the concurrent space explorations, Tambellini responded with the Black Film Series (1965-69), a suite of seven films that cross-pollinate such concrete subjects as black identity issues with abstract metaphysical inquiries. In his acclaimed two-channel projection, Black TV (1968), Tambellini collaged to striking effect out-of-focus experimental footage with filmed television news reports of race riots in New York, police brutality in Chicago, the Robert F. Kennedy assassination, and the war in Vietnam, producing a critical portrait of a tumultuous decade in revolt.

Such powerful critiques of police and the state are also resonant in Emory Douglas’s radical caricatures of racist police officers as barbarous hogs, Larry Fink’s photographs documenting Black Mask’s infamous “Wall Street is War Street” demonstration of 1967, Raymond Pettibon’s disturbing, comic-like illustrations for punk rock band Black Flag, and Sam Durant’s blueprints for a satirical monument based on news photographs of the 2011 uprisings in Santiago, Chile, in which a lone, anarchist protester waving the black flag is hit with a jet of water from an armored cannon.

The third and final thematic grouping of the show—free love—explores a social movement and philosophy that seeks freedom from any social institution (such as marriage), state regulation, or creed impinging on relational or sexual matters. 29 As a manifestation with strong anti-authoritarian roots, free love has long been espoused by anarchist thinkers advocating women’s emancipation. Such is the case with Mikhail Bakunin, a prominent Russian agitator and founder of “collectivist anarchism,” who in his Revolutionary Catechism (1866) urged that women be accorded the same political and economic rights as men; Margaret Sanger, a sex educator and nurse, who, in 1916, opened the first birth control clinic in the United States; and Emma Goldman, the Russian-American anarchist activist and vigorous advocate for women’s personal and sexual independence, who was repeatedly branded “the most dangerous woman in America” because of her exceptional skills as an orator. 30 Although “anarcha-feminists” did not organize themselves as a distinct faction until the early 1970s, 31 promoters of free love were clearly their forebears, already combating in the mid-19th century what historian Margaret Marsh termed the “ideology of domesticity,” that is, the subjugation of women to household chores and child rearing by the patriarchy. 32

Elena Bajo When we can't dream any longer, we die -Emma Goldman (Portrait) From La Femme Radicale or The Point of No Return, 2013 Screen-print on wood  3 x 2’ Courtesy the artist and D+T Project Gallery

Elena Bajo, When we can’t dream any longer, we die -Emma Goldman (Portrait), From La Femme Radicale or The Point of No Return, 2013, Screen-print on wood, 3 x 2’, Courtesy the artist and D+T Project Gallery

Spanish artist Elena Bajo’s When we can’t dream any longer, we die -Emma Goldman (Portrait) (2013), a sculptural installation consisting of three abstract black-and-white raster images, reflects on the significant yet unfamiliar history of anarchist women. 33 For the work, Bajo culled photographs of women associated with anarchist politics from digital public-domain archives; in order to “get closer” to the women, she zoomed into the low-resolution pictures and captured screenshots of the pixelated vestiges. “They remained disobedient, slippery,” the faces blurred into indistinguishable geometric patterns, says Bajo. In an attempt to relinquish authorial control of the work’s aesthetic outcome, she had workers build silkscreen frames of the portraits measuring the size of a standard flag. Despite the central role women have played in anarchist circles, When we can’t dream any longer, we die -Emma Goldman (Portrait) points to women’s relative obscurity while also paying tribute to their revolutionary struggles.

Bajo’s multimedia work is in dialogue with a number of time-based pieces featured in this section: performance artist Carolee Schneemann’s intensely controversial Meat Joy (1964), a 16mm film documenting an erotic Dionysian rite in which men and women dressed in tiny fur-lined undergarments enact orgiastic gestures with paint, raw fish, and chicken in an exuberant “celebration of flesh;” 34 a sequence of shorts by experimental anarchist filmmakers Sherry Millner and Ernest Larsen, including Disaster (1976), a double-screen Super-8 film juxtaposing the routines of an ordinary couple with scenes of mass destruction taken from popular movies of the 1970s (known as “the major era of disaster films”); and anarcha-feminist Lizzie Borden’s feature-length Born in Flames (1983), a documentary-style film in which feminist militants fight against racism, sexism, and heterosexism in a futuristic scenario set ten years after a peaceful social-democratic revolution fails to usher in an egalitarian society.

Emma Goldman speaking to a crowd of garment workers about birth control in Union Square, New York City, May 1916.

Emma Goldman speaking to a crowd of garment workers about birth control in Union Square, New York City, May 1916.

if I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution is inspired by the defiant attitude of anarchist women, their inflammatory advocacy, creative acts of resistance, and legacy. The title of the exhibition itself comes from a now legendary episode in one of these women’s lives. In her autobiography Living My Life (1931), Goldman recounts how she was reprimanded for her “frivolity” while dancing at a party in New York. She was told, “it did not behoove an agitator to dance. Certainly not with such reckless abandon, anyway. It was undignified for one who was on the way to become a force in the anarchist movement.” Goldman pointedly responded, “I did not believe that a Cause which stood for a beautiful ideal, for anarchism, for release and freedom from convention and prejudice, should demand the denial of life and joy. I insisted that our Cause could not expect me to become a nun and that the movement would not be turned into a cloister. If it meant that, I did not want it.” 35

Anarchism at its best remains as much a creative force as a release from political constrictions. Bringing together artists and free thinkers who work at the intersection of art and anti-authoritarian social movements, this exhibition and the essays comprised in its catalog explore the in-between space of art and activism, the tensions that bind as well as divorce aesthetics and political praxis, and the principles of decentralization, collective authorship, and continual experimentation.


  1. Although arrived at independently, a few of these questions overlap with those of my colleague, Josh MacPhee, who in his article “New Questions for Anarchist Art,” likewise reflects on the nature of anarchist cultural production. For his thoughts, please see his text, which is included in this anthology.
  2. Recent publications on politically oriented work include Grant Kester’s Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004);Gregory Sholette’s Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture (New York: Pluto Press, 2011); Nato Thompson’s Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991–2011 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012); and Claire Bishop’s Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship (New York: Verso Books, 2012), among many others. Meanwhile, contemporary exhibitions that broadly take stock of the overlap of art and politics include the 7th Berlin Biennale (Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2012); dOCUMENTA (13) (Kassel, 2012); Ruptures: Forms of Public Address (41 Cooper Gallery, New York, 2012); and Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789–2013 (Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, 2013).
  3. Claire Bishop, “The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents,” Artforum International 44.6 (February 2006): 178.
  4. This is not to say, however, that there has been no scholarly work on this subject, only that it has remained the provenance of a select few, without entering a more widespread discourse. One scholar exceptionally noteworthy for his undiminished dedication to unearthing the history of anarchist art is Allan Antliff, the Canada Research Chair in Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Victoria. His publications on this subject include Anarchist Modernism: Art, Politics, and the First American Avant-Garde (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001); Only a Beginning: An Anarchist Anthology (Vancouver: Arsenal Press, 2004); and Anarchy and Art: From the Paris Commune to the Fall of the Berlin Wall (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2007). Josh MacPhee and Erik Reuland’s jointly edited anthology Realizing the Impossible: Art Against Authority (Oakland: PM Press, 2009) is also an important work on this topic. Other scholars who have written about anarchist art include Mark Antliff, Patricia Leighten, Robyn Roslak, David Weir, Gavin Grindon, Richard Porton, Nadja Millner-Larsen, and Anna Komar.
  5. OWS’s horizontal, nonhierarchical structure has led some, including anthropologist David Graeber, to characterize it as rooted in anarchist principles. For an analysis of OWS’s radical politics see Graeber’s The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, A Movement (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2013).
  6. The only exhibition I came across in the course of my research that approached this subject in a comprehensive manner is Art Is Activism (2002), an exhibition on anarchist art in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom from 1970 to 2000 curated by Allan Antliff for the Fine Arts Gallery at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. More common are exhibitions that focus on an individual or a couple of artists with anarchist leanings, such as Anarchism Without Adjectives: On the Work of Christopher D’Arcangelo, 1975–1979 (Artists Space, New York, 2011); Mladen Stilinović: Insulting Anarchy (Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna, 2011); and Aesthetic Anarchy (Scaramouche Gallery, New York, 2011).
  7. In part, this exhibition is the result of a course, Art into Action: Socially Engaged Practices in the 20th Century, which I conceptualized and taught at Parsons, The New School, New York, in 2013. It is organized in conjunction with The Anarchist Tradition, Revisited, a yearlong faculty seminar spearheaded by Craig Borowiak, Associate Professor of Political Science at Haverford College. The seminar examines the multiple forms anarchism has taken as a political and philosophical tradition, as well as its influence on other disciplines, including art, music, drama, and literature. I am very thankful to Craig, Laura McGrane, and Matthew Callinan for their invitation to curate this exhibition, and their steadfast support.
  8. In his last major work, Du principe de l’art et de sa destination sociale (1865), Proudhon defends Courbet against attacks aimed at his work by the Second French Empire and esteemed jurors of the Paris Salon. What’s especially interesting about this early moment in the history of anarchist art is that Proudhon’s text—in which he praised the painter for his moral critique of society and argued that art’s purpose is to guide and teach through “intelligent representations,” not “obscure hieroglyphics,” or “useless images of spirituality”— incited an impassioned discussion on the importance of subject matter versus form in anarchist art. French journalist Émile Zola responded to Proudhon with a derisive review of Du principe de l’art, which maintained that the content of an artwork is, in fact, secondary to form. Zola not only asserted that stylistic originality is the true manifestation of an anarchist act, but also went so far as to ridicule Proudhon for underscoring the opposite. For a more in-depth account of these events, see Allan Antliff’s “A Beautiful Dream: Courbet’s Realism and the Paris Commune of 1871” in Anarchy and Art.
  9. Robyn Roslak’s Neo-Impressionism and Anarchism in Fin-de-Siècle France (Burlington: Ashgate Publishing, 2007) is a great resource for a thorough examination of the ways in which the anarchist sympathies of the movement’s artists are reflected in their depiction of landscapes and cityscapes.
  10. In “True Creators: Russian Artists of the Anarchist Revolution,” in Anarchy and Art, Allan Antliff brings to light the Russian avant-garde’s engaged, but short-lived, relationship to anarchist principles—a history obscured by the group’s capitulation to Marxist doctrine in 1921.
  11. Spain is perhaps the sole country that presented a strong holdout in this respect. The anarcho-syndicalists of Catalonia, in particular, posed a serious threat to the state until Francisco Franco’s victory in the Spanish Revolution of 1936–38.
  12. It is worth noting that many of the radical groups that came to greater prominence or visibility in the late 1960s, including The Living Theatre and the Situationist International, were formed in the late 1940s and ’50s. The recent work of Andrew Cornell, the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Haverford College’s John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities, has focused on exhuming the hitherto under-acknowledged role of anarchism in the immediate postwar decades.
  13. It is important to highlight that several of the artists in question were influenced by the historical avant-garde. It follows that the experimentation of Black Mask and The Living Theatre with unorthodox materials and methods is not, in fact, unique to the 1960s, but rather originates in the early 20th century with the Futurists, Dadaists, and Constructivists, among others. By way of illustration, in the Soviet Union, Rodchenko announced the death of painting in 1921, distilling the medium to what he believed was its logical end: three monochrome canvases of the primary colors, red, yellow, and blue. Around this same time, circa 1919, artists started exploring the newly invented medium of photomontage, a mass reproducible collage aesthetic. But perhaps the most interesting precedent is found in the Proletkult (an abbreviation of “proletarian cultural-educational organizations”), which, beginning in 1917, formed de-professionalized grassroots theater collectives throughout the country. However, such experimentation was not only short-lived, but also done in the name of communist, rather than anarchist, ideologies. Already in 1921, Lenin’s New Economic Policy required the return to traditional values in art and laid the foundation for the rise of Socialist Realism. Although Lenin’s plan allowed for some nonconformity in the 1920s, by 1932 Stalin enforced a strict adherence to Socialist Realist dogma.
  14. If the exhibition had begun in the late 19th or early 20th century, it would have concerned itself more with revision than recognition. In other words, because so many anarchist-inclined artists of the prewar period are widely known and celebrated, putting their work on exhibit would entail casting already familiar, or at least canonized, pieces in a new light. Although such an endeavor could prove very interesting and fruitful (an avenue I considered at length), for the purposes of this exhibition, I felt it was more important to expose the student body, and wider public, to lesser known works.
  15. In the United States, in particular, 7 Damebilleder (1970) has been overshadowed by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro’s analogous 17-room installation Womanhouse (1972), which is often, incorrectly, extolled as the first feminist group show.
  16. It bears mentioning that the layout of the works in the exhibition space does not strictly adhere to these thematic categories.
  17. I have borrowed this wording from Andrew Cornell.
  18. Allan Antliff, “Situating Freedom: Jackson Mac Low, John Cage, and Donald Judd,” Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies 2 (2011): 50.
  19. Gatha is the Sanskrit term for “verse” or “hymn.”
  20. Laura Kuhn, “How to Improve the World: An Interview with Laura Kuhn,” Every Day Is a Good Day: The Visual Art of John Cage (London: Hayward Publishing, 2010).
  21. Each poem is a “fifty-percent mesostic.” A mesostic is a type of poem in which a capitalized vertical line, also known as a “string,” intersects lines of lowercase horizontal text. It resembles an acrostic, but with the vertical line embedded in the horizontal text, rather than beginning each new line. The key word, or text, therefore looks like a spine down the middle of the page, with lines of different lengths arranged on either side, giving the entire poem an irregular shape. Mesostics come in two forms: a “fifty-percent mesostic” and a “one-hundred-percent mesostic,” and were Cage’s preferred literary form beginning in the 1970s. In this case, all the poems are “fifty-percent mesostics,” meaning that between two capitalized letters, the second letter cannot appear in the intervening lowercase text. In a one-hundred-percent mesostic, neither letter can appear.
  22. The I Ching is an ancient Chinese book of divination that Cage used as a compositional tool beginning in 1951.
  23. Antliff, “Situating Freedom: Jackson Mac Low, John Cage, and Donald Judd,” 51.
  24. These sentences accompanied all of D’Arcangelo’s actions and the majority of his correspondences until his premature death by suicide in 1979.
  25. George Woodcock, Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements (New York: New American Library, 1962): 284.
  26. Even though anarchism and socialism share common ideological origins, by the early 1880s the two were becoming more distinct from each other and thus required imagery specific to their philosophies.
  27. Edith Thomas, Louise Michel (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1980): 191.
  28. In his article “‘White Skin, Black Masks’: Marxist and Anti-racist Roots of Contemporary US Anarchism,” anarchist historian Andrew Cornell contends that “the practice of challenging police authority and trashing commercial centres, often in anonymous “black blocs’, owes inspiration to the example of black urban insurrections which broke out across the USA between 1964 and 1967.” Cornell’s article is published in the jointly edited anthology Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red (Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
  29. Although the legacy of Emma Goldman and anarcha-feminism were always at the forefront of this exhibition’s conceptualization, it was at the suggestion of Andrew Cornell that I started considering “free love” as a thematic platform. I am deeply grateful to him for his excellent recommendation.
  30. A striking photograph of a 1916 demonstration staged in Union Square, New York, pictures Goldman lecturing passionately about women’s right to contraception in front of a sea of hat-adorned men—one of several speeches that would lead to her temporary imprisonment in 1917 and deportation from the States two years later.
  31. The term “anarcho-feminism” came into more widespread use with the publication of a 1971 manifesto “Who We Are: An Anorcho-Feminist Manifesto,” which you can find in the Dark Star Collective’s Quiet Rumors: An Anarcha-Feminist Reader (London: Aldgate Press, 1982).
  32. Margaret S. Marsh, Anarchist Women: 1870–1920 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981): 65.
  33. When we can’t dream any longer, we die -Emma Goldman (Portrait)(2013) is but one section of Bajo’s ongoing project La Femme Radicale or The Point of No Return (2013).
  34. Carolee Schneemann, “Meat Joy,” Electronic Arts Intermix, 20 Oct. 2013 http://eai.org/title.htm?id=14751. This work was so polemical upon its initial staging that one audience member got up from his seat and tried to strangle Schneemann during the performance.
  35. Emma Goldman, Living My Life (New York: Knopf, 1934): 56. Goldman’s biographer, feminist writer Alix Shulman, is partially responsible for the abridgement and transformation of the quote into its now popularized form. In early 1973 Shulman was asked by anarchist Jack Frager if she had a phrase or slogan by Goldman that could be printed on T-shirts to help raise funds for the cause. Shulman gave him the above quoted passage, which Frager then revised into a more catchy, condensed form. According to Shulman, “History (and fashion) exploded so quickly in those hungrily feminist days that the slogan on the original shirt-run was soon dispersed and copied and broadcast nationwide and abroad, underground and above, sometimes, absent a text to be checked against, changing along the way like a child’s game of Telephone, until Jack’s initial lighthearted liberties had taken wing as quotable lore and soared up into the realms of myth.” For the full account, see Alix Shulman, “Dances with Feminists,” Women’s Review of Books 9, no. 3 (Dec. 1991).