GENE RAY, "DEFENDING THE DEAD, DESECRATING MONSTERS: ICONOCLASTIC CLASS STRUGGLE IN SO-CALLED PUBLIC SPACE".
In public squares and spaces everywhere, we cross the shadows and stroll under the gazes of bronze conquerors and national heroes, sitting horseback or striding boldly, arms in hand. Anchors of ideology, these monuments honor the victors of history, as Walter Benjamin called them – those who step on and over the defeated, in an unbroken chain of domination stretching back into the mists of time. But the politics of remembrance are caught in the force field of violence, and the dead are called to both sides in the class war. The combat of cultures of the dead is integral to the struggles of the living, and therefore “not even the dead will be safe,” as Benjamin put it, “if the enemy wins.” Heroic memorials have become the flashpoints of contemporary struggles over the interpretation of history, all the more so as fascist mass movements establish themselves across Europe and much of the world. This talk looks at some recent episodes in a history of iconoclastic class struggle in so-called public space, from the interventions of the Situationist International following May 1968, to the 1998 dismemberment of the Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate by an anonymous indigenous collective in New Mexico, to the antifascist mobilization against the 2017 Unite the Right rally at the statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Gene Ray is a critical theorist and Associate Professor at Geneva School of Art and Design. He is the author of Terror and the Sublime in Art and Critical Theory, and is coeditor of Art and Contemporary Critical Practice: Reinventing Institutional Critique and Critique of Creativity: Precarity, Subjectivity and Resistance in the ‘Creative Industries’. His essays and co-authored texts have appeared in Third Text, South as a State of Mind, Historical Materialism, Radical Philosophy, Monthly Review, Left Curve, Brumaria, Nordic Journal of Aesthetics, and Yale Journal of Criticism, as well as in numerous edited volumes.