Roopa Singh a k a Naxal
August 3, 2007
“It is said that an anarchist society is impossible. Artistic activity is the process of realizing the impossible.” –Max Blechman
Realizing the Impossible (AK Press), edited by Josh MacPhee and Eric Reuland, is a book on art and activism. The entire work deserves a top slot in your must-read list, but it was page 78 that got me hooked. The article, “Shadows in the Streets: The Stencil Art of the New Argentina,” opens with a blazing black and white stencil image by the crew, “Buenos Aires Stencil (BsAs).” The stencil depicts an inquisitive George W. Bush with Mickey Mouse ears on either side of his head, the caption reads: Disney War.
In “Shadows,” author Eric Lyle embodies what Realizing the Impossible does best: smartly, courageously and accessibly documents political graphic art.
These gorgeous expressions of rage by torchbearer creators are not taught in our schools.
Lyle goes to Argentina, honestly identifies as a white artist with limited Spanish skills and U.S. privilege, and rolls deep with the dopest crews in the country. Like most artists in the book, Frederico, of the crew Run Don’t Walk, takes us to school on why we need to engage in arts-based activism. “When you are in the streets all day, you see an invasion of the city by these ads,” he says. “When you paint in the streets you are taking the streets back, making the city yours.”
The book reads like a found-art installation piece, anthology style, stacked with interviews, essays and images. With 22 articles and as many authors, each commentary conjures a self-facilitated workshop, tied together into a coherent and appropriately riotous book. Diving headfirst into subjects like printmaking, film, interventions and anarchist art theory, Realizing the Impossible only loses footing in its failure to give any props to hip-hop and when authors rely too heavily on academic language and structure.
Josh MacPhee, co-editor of Realizing the Impossible (with Eric Reuland) explains the main goals of this book:
“First, little like [the book] exists, especially in English, so we felt like it was important to help put the intersection of art and anti-authoritarian politics on the map. Second, we wanted to reclaim art and art history as extremely political and completely steeped in the social context. And third, we wanted to explore and show some of the ways artists and activists are breaking down the wall between culture and politics.”