Realizing the Impossible: Art Against Authority

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Josh MacPhee, Erik Reuland
AK Press, Jan 1, 2007 - Education - 319 pages
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Protestors, rows of riot cops, tear gas lobbed into crowds--these are the images that easily flood into the mind when one thinks about a gathering to protest the IMF, the WTO, a meeting of the G8, or the war on Iraq. The movement against corporate globalization has brought anti-authoritarian politics into the forefront of world consciousness, but what do we know--and what have we seen, really--of the cultural and aesthetic sides of these and other rebellions against the status quo? To date, precious little has been written by anarchists and anti-authoritarians about the role of art and culture in society, and in revolutionary movements like these.

Realizing the Impossible is an inclusive and sprawling collection of art and writings that addresses this gap in our understanding of revolutionary movements. Do-it--yourself printmaking, Zapatista video, street art in Argentina's popular uprisings, radical puppetry, the monuments to Haymarket martyrs, turn-of-the-century Australian Industrial Workers of the World printmakers, illustrator Clifford Harper, and wobbly poet Carlos Cortez are just a few themes in this collection that bridges time and geographical and cultural boundaries.


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Part of the book covering a mosaic that was created by myself, Evan Glassman, and "Grifter", and installed by a concrete crew contracted by the City of Chicago that I persuaded to install within the context of the City's new median program was completely inaccurate. The design and fabrication of the mosaic was a collaboration between myself and "Grifter", and I alone, with the unknowing City contractors willing support, installed the piece.
The article in the Chicago Tribune was accurate, however at least this part of the book was not.
For a fairer and more accurate portrayal of this guerrilla art mosaic, more than one perspective on the course of events should have been addressed.
I think I learned this in High School journalism class.
Blair Kamin, a well respected architectural writer, and Pulitzer prize winner, contacted the City of Chicago, and they corroborated my description of what actually happened, for his piece in the Chicago Tribune.
I was certainly available for an interview and readily accessible in Chicago to these writers. I have not read the entire book, but I question its historical accuracy as a whole, based on the complete inaccuracy of this particular event.
Post script: I lived a block from the installation in the West Loop, for 5 years, and I was there walking my dog the day when a city manager was losing it on his phone about how this mosaic ended up in the city median, and i was also there on the sad day that city crews jack hammered it out.
thanks and Go Blackhawks!

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About the author (2007)

Josh MacPhee is an artist, curator, and activist. His work often revolves around themes of radical politics, privitazation, and public space. Josh organizes the Celebrate People's History Poster Series and runs a political art distribution website. He is also the author of Stencil Pirates: A Global Survey of Street Stenciling, published in July 2004. Erik Reuland is a Minneapolis-based print-maker and puppeteer. He explores the intersections of art, radical politics and everyday life in his zine, Trouble in Mind. In collaboration with incarcerated illustrators, Erik creates political storytelling posters for the Prison Poster Project.

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