The PopCult Bookshelf

cover75407-mediumStrike Art!
Contemporary Art and the Post-Occupy Condition
by Yates McKee
Verso Books
ISBN     9781784781880

Strike Art! is a comprehensive academic study of politics in modern art, framing the history of this interaction and focusing on post-Reagan and Clinton-era developments and especially on the extremely recent post-Occupy movement. The publisher’s blurb promises an examination of “The collision of activism and contemporary art, from the Seattle protests to Occupy and beyond.”

Yates does a terrific job chronicling these movements with wonderful balance between academic dissection and top-flight journalism. You can tell that he not only fully understands his topic, but he also knows how best to explain it.

We return to the publisher’s blurb:

Activist art experienced a new beginning in the Seattle anti-globalization protests of 1999, reaching a zenith over a decade later with Occupy Wall Street, a movement initiated in part by artist-activists, and structured around creative direct actions and iconic imagery for the social media age. In parts of the mainstream art world, radical ideas were gaining traction over the same period, but remained confined within its institutional apparatus.

Art critic Yates McKee recounts these parallel histories and their collisions, highlighting the limitations and complicities of the art world, and reviving the notion of art as an emancipatory practice woven into political struggle, whether around issues of debt, climate justice or police violence. Strike Art!’s claim is that Occupy fundamentally changed the horizon of contemporary art, whether or not the art world knows it yet.

McKee presents his report and conclusions in a very readable, yet intelligent, book. His style is clean and objective, while his conclusions are a very cogent explanation of how we came to realize a newly-energized activist left-wing in the art community.

Thought-provoking and well-organized, Strike Art! is a great read for people who are passionate about art and politics. Due to be published January 26.