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The Utopian Globalists: Artists of Worldwide Revolution, 1919-2009

ISBN: 978-1-4051-9301-6
360 pages
February 2013, Wiley-Blackwell
The Utopian Globalists: Artists of Worldwide Revolution, 1919-2009 (1405193018) cover image


An innovative history and critical account mapping the ways artists and their works have engaged with, and offered commentary on, modern spectacle in both capitalist and socialist modernism over the past ninety years.

  • Focuses on artists whose work expresses the concept of revolutionary social transformation
  • Provides a strong historical narrative that adds structure and clarity
  • Features a cogent and innovative critique of contemporary art and institutions
  • Covers 100 years of art from Vladimir Tatlin’s constructivist ‘Monument to the Third International’, to Picasso’s late 1940s commitment to Communism, to the Unilever Series sponsored Large Artworks installed at London’s Tate Modern since 2000.
  • Includes the only substantial account in print of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1969 Montreal ‘Bed-in’
  • Offers an accessible description and interpretation of Debord’s ‘society of the spectacle’ theory
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgements xi

Introduction: The World in a Work of Art 1

Global Order, Social Order, Visual Order 2

‘Globalization’ and ‘Globalism’ in Th eory and Practice 10

Capitalism and Communism as (Failed) Utopian Totalities 16

Ideal and Real Collectivities 23

1 Spectacle, Social Transformation and Utopian Globalist Art 34

Spectacular Cold War Communisms and Capitalisms 35

Alienation/Separation and State Power 44

System, Totality, Representation and the ‘Utopian Imaginary’ 51

The ‘Conquest of Space’, Spectacular Art and Globalist Vision 57

2 The Line of Liberation: Tatlin’s Tower and the Communist Construction of Global Revolution 76

Revolutionary Rupture, Structure and Sense 77

Space and Symbolism 85

Beyond Order 95

Collectivity and Necessity 103

3 Picasso for the Proletariat: ‘The Most Famous Communist in the World ’118

Commitment to the Cause, Right or Wrong 119

Picasso as Screen 129

Image, Persona, Mediations 139

Picasso ’ s Use and Exchange Value 147

4 Some Kind of Druid Dude: Joseph Beuys’s Liturgies of Freedom 165

Tatlin for the Television Generation 166

The Beuysian Spectacular Persona 171

The Spirit of the Earth 179

Process, Performance, Metabolic Transformation 185

Political Actions 191

5 ‘Bed-in’ as Gesamtkunstwerk: A Typical Morning in the Quest for World Peace 211

Sugar, Sugar 212

A Sequestered Zone of Peace 217

Just My Imagination 225

A Man from Liverpool and a Woman from Tokyo 229

6 Mother Nature on the Run: Austerity Globalist Depletions in the 1970s 246

Transmission, Replacement, Negation, Deletion 247

West/East–North/South 253

Banality as Tactic 260

Austerity Globalism's Body-Politic 265

‘Development’ Exposed 272

7 Nomadic Globalism: Scenographica in Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Wrapped Reichstag 287

The Negation Negated 288

Art, Business, Diplomacy 292

The Materials of Spectacle 296

Form as Sedimented Content 299

Seductive Acts of Occlusion 306

Conclusion: From the Spiral to the Turbine: A Global Warning 316

Large Rooms Full of Wonderful Curiosities 317

The Void of Possibilities 320

Disappeared 323

Index 333

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Author Information

Jonathan Harris is Professor in Global Art and Design Studies at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, UK. Prof. Harris’s work has consistently explored questions of state power, culture, art, ideology and social order, particularly in Europe and America over the last century. His The New Art History: A Critical Introduction (2001) remains a classic text, and he has published 17 books as editor, author and co-author, including Globalization and Contemporary Art (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).
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“Though theoretically sophisticated, this volume is accessible and engaging.  Summing Up:  Recommended.  Upper-level undergraduates through professionals/practitioners.”  (Choice, 1 September 2013)

“Crossing continents, historical periods and cultural genres, Jonathan Harris skillfully traces the evolution of utopian ideals from early modernism to the spectacularised and biennialised (or banalised as some would say) contemporary art world of today.”
- Michael Asbury, University of the Arts, London

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