In partnership with the Broadway Media Centre we traced the legacy of 1968, the year when the underground went overground, and mass protests erupted across Europe and the United States, many directed against the war in Vietnam. By May, the streets of Paris had been taken over by a million people. Their demands were nebulous and far-reaching – they called for a ‘Revolution of Everyday Life’. Slogans appeared on the streets - poetic, militant, jubilant and absurd: ‘Under the paving stones, the beach’, ‘commodities are the opium of the people’, ‘no forbidding allowed’, ‘never work’.
The influence of ’68 is inestimable: it reshaped the Left, radicalised French philosophy and inspired English Punk. Its spirit is evident in the G8 protests this century.
In May 2008, we remembered revolution by examining the relationship between filmmaking, recent art and political revolt. The films at Broadway were complemented by Disobedience, an ambitious and engrossing exhibition-cum-archive of films, graphic art and other ephemera curated by Marco Scotini and designed by artist Luca Frei. It drew a global picture of four decades of resistance, beginning with the tumultuous events of Italy in the 70s – the ‘Laboratory’ of what has been called the ‘Movement of Movements’ today.
If, in the 19th century, philosophy was German and revolution French, in the 20th century philosophy was French, and revolution Italian, as Hardt observed. There, 1968 lasted for the next ten years. Italy in the 1970s is also where our exhibition starts. It ends at the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany in June 2007 — though Disobedience is intended as a work in progress, reflecting histories in the making, its contents and form changing with each manifestation.
This remarkable archive charts the relationship between recent art, film, critical media practices and political activism. Curated by Marco Scotini, Disobedience is an atlas of political resistance played out around the world. In Nottingham, Disobedience offered close-up encounters with six movements, ‘1977: the Italian Exit’, ‘Reclaim the Streets’, ‘Disobedience East’, ‘Argentina Fabrica Social’, ‘Protesting Capitalist Globalisation’ and ‘Disobedience and the Society of Control’.
Negri compares the selforganisation of political resistance today to the swarming of bees. Disobedience is testimony to how art and ideas inform and reflect the flux of political activism in the present. In resisting Empire, ‘can we retain a clear separation between intellectual production, political action and culture?’ asks Scotini. Increasingly, the answer is no.
Swiss artist Luca Frei created Untitled (Interferences), a striking sculpture/ design for Disobedience in Nottingham that exploited the space’s large street front windows. For Frei, making art is part of public life. He explores the potential of social change by inviting involvement and creating conditions for active and cooperative learning. The transformation of knowledge into action is central to his work. It can be viewed, read, shared, manipulated and inhabited, and takes the form of books, posters, furniture and display systems. Its allusions often stem from radical, counter-cultural ideas from the 1960s and 1970s. For instance, last year he had Albert Meister’s ‘The So-Called Utopia of the Centre Beaubourg’, 1976, published in English for the first time. The novel is a satiric science fiction that envisages a subterranean 76 floor free cultural facility beneath Paris’ Pompidou Centre.
Curated by Marco Scotini
Venue: Beatties, Mount Street and Broadway Media Centre