Slogans from a violent central London demonstration on December 9th, 2010 plus a note on a wall slogan by Patrick Cheval
The violent, inspiring ‘student’ demo in central London on December 9th 2010 was the most imaginative demonstration we have ever been on including the annus mirabalis of 1968. The Trotskyist left were very much pushed aside, even the clued-in but all too reductive ultra-left hardly made a mark, as what was blatantly uppermost everywhere both in a genial, friendly but vandalistically spirited atmosphere and in many a homemade, stuck together, often gloriously-penned, cardboard placard was a kind of open-ended situationist influenced communality; an individual collectivity you knew was just right because it felt right. There was also a fair amount of spray-canned slogans on the base of the statues in Parliament Square: Things like: ‘Demand the Impossible ‘ (very 1968) and ‘First Greecethen Paris now London in Insurrection’ followed by ‘ I wish I could say beautiful things but I can’t’ - when theyjust had and hauntingly!
As for the placards consider the following: ‘Employed and Appalled’,‘You can have my brain when you take it from my cold dead hands’,‘The University is a Factory: Strike, Occupation’,‘I wish my boyfriend was as dirty as the police’, ‘An arts for arts sake strike’, ‘Let them eat credit’, ‘Save money eat the poor’, ‘Apathy is Dead’, ‘I am Julian Assange’, ‘Smile you are now on a database’, ‘Don’t make us pay for what theW(B)ankers did’, ‘Fees rise/ Class divide’ etc. Some too were obviously quite sophisticated extensions around and about the fall out of modern art: ‘This is not a placard’ (surely a running commentary on surrealist Rene Magritte’s, ‘This is not a pipe’ painting of a pipe?) and ‘This is not a good SIGN’ (surely a Duchampian commentary – and better than the old geezer himself - on the aridity of post modernism?). And then there was something very topical: a BBC ‘current affairs’ intellectual had just got caught out on with a spoonerism calling Tory minister, Jeremy Hunt “Jeremy Cunt” thus putting every born again early 1970s feminist’s back-up. What a windfall with placards saying ‘Fuck Fees. Stop the Cu*ts’, ‘Tories put the ‘n’ in cuts’, ‘Clegg/Cameron Cu*ts’ etc. And not forgetting the splendid posse of Muslim 15 year old gals (Brick Lane Pakistanis?) wearing hijabs holding up a placard saying ‘Class War, Clegg is a Wanker’.
Also there were a series of large, hefty placards saying: ‘Negative Dialectics: Adorno’ (while on the back) ‘Sentimental Education: Flaubert’. Others were, ‘One Dimensional Man: Marcuse’, ‘Down and Out in London in Paris: George Orwell’, ‘Life against Death. N. O. Brown’. ‘Society of the Spectacle’ Debord’ etc. For us one of these created the best incident of all. Not retiring intellectual egg-heads some of this lot carrying them went right up front to the battle lines and a cop was knocked off his horse by the ‘Negative Dialectics: Adorno’ placard (other protestors though were helping in derailing the arsehole) to be whisked off to cop-hospital on the critically injured list. Some distance away the placard on which was spelt out ‘The Society of the Spectacle : Debord’ was then furiously mangled by another cop the remnants thrown on a protected grass verge fronting Westminster Abbey! (This is all true and was witnessed by one of us).
Truth is the last few weeks has seen the biggest and most autonomous (well, on the way to getting there) uprising of students (masked welfare proles in reality) the UK has ever seen and the art students it seems are to the fore. Though most of the action (hardly critique) is about cuts in the art and culture generally there’s a growing contingent beginning to point in the direction where the transcendence of art lies. It’s shaping up to look like what bro’ and I did in 1968 WRIT LARGE;admittedly more proletarianised today as there’sreally no jobs / careers to be had at the end of the line except for grovelling crawlers!
In 1789 proletarians were necessary because work had to be done
In 1989 there is work but only because there are proletarians
After all critiques of work made by workers what is now important is the suppression of work
Seeing Britain never played much of a part in the rebellion of modern art during its hey day a half to three quarters of a century ago a now heavily financialised UK plc has today become the world capital of performance / installation; a wretched, meaningless, anodyne fall out pulling in celebrity culture plus vast amounts of fame and cash. Safely cocooned from real action this death of art art nonetheless flirts with life outside giving scope for re-interpretation or, more essentially a “recovery through transfer” (Marx). Thus that flanker and snake-oil salesman, Anish Kapoor for a considerable sum of money via enormous publicity and acclaim displayed his ‘art cannon’ which shoots out balls of different coloured paints that splattered a selected Royal Academy gallery wall not so long ago. It was also an act for the public to get safely involved as selected participants pressed the cannon’s trigger without Kapoor ever realising that this event might one day be diverted and placed in the real time of confrontation. Thus on the evening and night of the 9th of December 2010 something like happened:
After the events in Parliament Square (FE) Further Education student/apprentices steamed into Top Shop (part of the Arcadia Group of retailing companies) on Oxford Street and succeeded in closing it down, probably after some of them had pelted the future King, ruffled Lady Camilla’s feathers and turned their limo into a tachiste, abstract expressionist ‘artwork’ that might easily have figured in a Sony ad for Bravia TV sets itself based on Alan Kaprow’s happenings in New York in the mid to late 1960s. Exploding pots of paint (a la Kapoor?) and paint filled Xmas baubles are taking the place of molotov’s in the ‘capital of installation art’ (London) now quite unintentionally become a subversive tool the art market can only contemplate with horror wondering how can it turn these now free spirits back into artists, back into the poetry made by one and not by all. Let’s happily face it: A riot cop covered in delicate pastel shades is far more likely to provoke rich laughter and undermine the cop’s masculinity, than a cop on fire from head to foot with a wife and kids back home. Imagine how the tabloids would work on people’s sympathies if this were to happen soon? (Remember, we’re not talking about the farther-off future when the moment of insurrection is on the cards as that is another story) Today though, it is paint bomb creativity and the like that tends to catch fire, explode and spread, genuine intervention and not mere street theatre, mere performance - though the dividing line between the two can be very thin and can depend on things getting out of hand and turning real.
Moreover you don’t have to be an art student or anything remotely like to get in on this. The revolt travels down over and is again after an absence of a couple of decades again hitting the big council estates. When darkness fell the Treasury was attacked, the rioters smashing windows in the building and breaking down the door. A detachment of riot police was quickly dispatched to stop them entering the building but not before someone had sprayed up “This is the Treasury – N19”. This was the post code of the particular posse from north London that ‘done it’. Who sprayed up “This is the Treasury” on one side of the bulky door - Students? And did the posse spray up “N19” on the other? How many kids previously have fallen victim to lamentably fuckhead post code gang violence as they strayed from one post code territory into another? But here it was sloughing off its nasty past and becoming a beacon of light. The attack upon the treasuryreally unsettled David Starkey (TV historian ofBritain’s monarchy) who said nothing like this had been seen since the days of Chartism when, according to him, there had been a similar attack upon a Treasury building. The pompous prat then pointed out that during the Poll Tax riot of 1990 the Treasury building had been left unharmed.
As for the hefty, inches thick placards imitating huge book covers likediverted forms of sculptural gigantism that were used so effectively as shields and instruments of combat in London, maybe too they had their origins in recent Italian events?In Bologna a march recently was called against Berlusconi’s austerity budget under the slogan “We are Saving our University” (“Salviamo l’Universita”) which was a far cry from“I Fatti Nostri” of 1977 and the scenes of devastation everywhere.Moreover the students had made huge book covers mimicking riot shields. These read “La Costutuzione Italiana, La Republicca”, “Cent Anni di Solitudine” etc – completely lame in comparison to 1977 - the only interesting cover, though hardly immediately relevant, “Moby Dick by Melville”. In other words they weren’t half - not even half - as pertinent as were the book covers that were produced in London. For those who can remember as far back as the 1960s, British students were never in advance of the Italians, and were always the country cousins theory wise. But clearly they are no longer so, which comes as a thrilling delight to us who have seen so much, everhoping for that high level encounter of theory and practice, a contemporary revolutionary praxis of the most profound and total of subversive insights.
As dusk fell on the 9th of December in London some hundred students or so occupied the Impressionist rooms in the nearby National Gallery. Having commendably done so they unfortunately had no idea what to do with the space or how to divert it and behaving very politely all they could do was read out their lame manifestoes. But did thoughts among a clued-in minority turn to a paint sprayed theoretical vandalism required to explain these once subversive paintings in the raw way necessary e.g.“Culture, ugh the one commodity that helps sell all the others” etc splashed across one ofMonet’s Water lily’s?Instead a little later the occupation was ended by a posse of Constables.
The occupation of the National Gallery had been preceded by another occupation – that of Tate Modern on the occasion of yet another boringly predictable Turner Prize, which this year had been awarded to some yawn of a soundscape artist. The occupying students mainly from the Slade School of Art showed not a scrap of insight and not one of them dared stand up and say the emperor has no clothes, for to them, the winner, Ms Susan Phillipsz was fully clothed. In fact Labour MP John McDonnell showed more insight when he tweeted, “Solidarity to the art students who participated in the demo at the Tate. Demonstration as an art form. They should have won the Turner Prize”. Indeed, yet John McDonnell MP, is a recently reoriented vanguardist Labour party opportunist, an MP for ‘the people’ who has, as we well know, more than scrutinized our thoughts on the RAP web, upending insights and taking the ruthless sting out of our ideas, knowing well how we’d once suggested some kind of worked out intervention against the Turner Prize whereby a radical declaration could have been declaimed in front of prime time TV cameras.
( Police-type hackers - those on the side of reaction - took out the original quick and spontaneous account. Still haven't sorted out how to put it right. It is now happening all the time on the RAP web)