British Social Realism in the Arts since 1940
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And even if, as it has been shown, they share a common analysis of the neoliberal context same themes , they are drastically different in their approach to it, both in their narrative and their visual style. Thus, I, Daniel Blake engages more directly with the context of neoliberalism than The Selfish Giant , but this is not necessarily a positive aspect. Regardless of personal preferences, I think the key question here is which of these two approaches is more able to reach and convince audiences of their critique, and therefore more effective in their fight against the current system.
Visual style, rather than content, plays the key role here: it is not as much what you show, but how you show it in terms of form , what determines the appeal to audiences. Heretofore, then, it has been proved both films engagement with a critical analysis of neoliberalism, their role beyond reinforcing capitalist realism by offering solidarity, and how their different approach in terms of content and style might make of The Selfish Giant a more effective approach than that of I, Daniel Blake.
The question still to be asked is which are, if any, the challenges that these two films and social realist cinema in general are failing to address in nowadays neoliberal reality. That is, how films as I, Daniel Blake or The Selfish Giant are mostly focused on white lower class characters, generally male, while they are turning their back on a British society which is much more diverse than that.
The lack of diversity being an undeniable fact, thought, might have an explanation in the context of class struggle in which these films are placed. Thus, even if some might argue that social realism should be more inclusive with certain minorities, this could imply a lack of attention to the real issue that it is supposed to fight for: neoliberal ideology deepening the differences of wealth and social status in terms of class.
While the lack of diversity of social realist films can be, at least, argued, there is a second problem in recent social realism that is very difficult to justify. The Selfish Giant is a clear example: the film is engaging with social issues, but there is no sense of the collective beyond the structure of the family or the friendship between Arbor and Swifty. In a way, paradoxically, these two films trying to fight the capitalist system are following a neoliberal tendency in this point: a weakening of the collective opposite to a rising of individualization.
That is, probably, the main gap in contemporary social realism: a focus on stories of individuals Daniel, Arbor rather than an insight on the collective aspects of society. Recibir nuevas entradas por email.
Lay, S. Comparte: Twitter Facebook. Such an independent, rebellious, and free stance appears to be the foundation of the contemporary legitimacy of art. At the same time, we have not engaged in adequate observation and discussion of its internal logic. The current ambiguity of articulation concerning contemporary issues in art criticism in China is largely due to the delay in carrying out deep research and analysis of this historical process. In this paper, we propose to address the subject of socialist realism as a fundamental issue, exploring the historic practice and complexity of its formation.
Engels predicted in that socialist literature would possess profound conceptual and predictive abilities, as well as a perfected artistic form. The intellectuals, writers, and artists who were entrusted with the duty of changing and educating the working class had to accept communist utopia as the ultimate truth as well as the inevitability of the revolution. Once both were accepted, then romanticization, with its embellishment and exaggeration of heroes and various beautiful imaginings, would not be fabrication but an actual reflection of a reality to come.
As a creative method, Socialist Realism was not just a Soviet invention promoted by the Communist Party. Early in the twentieth century, progressive intellectuals introduced realism into the field of literature, its sense of intimacy attracting many authors engaged in the fields of literature, drama, and art.
For some, realism in China allowed for an escape from Western invasion and appealed to Chinese national values, including its culture. Others saw Western modern art as reflecting the modernization of the nation and a way to help overcome its feudalist structure. These complex, intertwined sentiments of admiration and hatred for Western nations—as both industrialized states and colonialists—filled the Chinese intellectual realm.
For intellectuals, it had a sense of presence in reality, and this in itself already proved quite alluring. Meanwhile, it fit with their deep desire to integrate their own ideals with their pursuit of change in reality and progress for the nation. An early definition of Socialist Realism accounted for this precedence, stating that Socialist Realism emerged.
Though the Socialist Realist creative method was established in the s, its basic traits had already taken shape in the creative practices of some writers before it was theoretically defined. On this occasion, Maxim Gorky stated that Socialist Realist literature was directly connected to the proletariat, and its ascension in world history as an independent political force.
Hence, British Chartist poetry, German proletarian poetry, and the French literature of the Paris Commune were to be located as the beginnings of this new literary form, which had to wait until the first Russian revolution to be able to affirm itself as the mature phase of this proletarian revolution. The Communist Party of China was established in as a branch of the Communist International founded by Lenin in , with initial funding and guidance from the latter.
When war broke out between Germany and the Soviet Union in , the Soviet Union was too preoccupied to manage the affairs of the Chinese Communist Party and its Red Army, controlled by Mao Zedong and other local cadres. The Communist Party of China was transformed from a subsidiary organization of the Communist International into a tight-knit, autonomous party with a solidified role for art and literature in its political policies.
Over a hundred art and literary workers as well as officials from various departments of the party attended. The objective was to resolve the theoretical and practical issues that Chinese proletarian art and literature had encountered in its development, including the relation of the artwork to the overall work of the party, its public and its dissemination, as well as the unification of content and form, of praise and exposure.
The life of the people is always a mine of the raw materials for literature and art, materials in their natural form, materials that are crude, but most vital, rich and fundamental; they make all literature and art seem pallid by comparison; they provide literature and art with an inexhaustible source, their only source. They are the only source, for there can be no other. This exposition has determined our later narrowness as we view contemporary art. In the case of defining what is realist art for the Chinese art world, we often fall into the same logic of singularity, taking the biased view that content is the only testament to the continuation of the creative traditions of realism, while overlooking creations that engage in experiments with other aspects of a broader sense of realism.
Meanwhile, we narrowly define reality as that reality which exists before the eyes and in the lives of the masses. Despite the fact that the reality depicted by Socialist Realism actually includes subjective ideas and faces the so-called reality of communist ideals, Socialist Realism as a creative approach is far less definite than we have estimated and previously understood.
Bureaucracy and censorship, as well as the resulting artistic views that arose in the s around the principle that art should serve politics, have proven much more stable.
The art and discussions of art cultivated within this system have come to occupy more widely disseminated fields such as textbooks, mass media, and museums. All our literature and art is for the masses of the people, and in the first place for the workers, peasants and soldiers; it is created for the workers, peasants and soldiers … Once we have solved the problems of fundamental policy, of serving the workers, peasants and soldiers and of how to serve them, such other problems as whether to write about the bright or the dark side of life and the problem of unity will also be solved.
If everyone agrees on the fundamental policy, it should be adhered to by all our workers, all our schools, publications and organizations in the field of literature and art and in all our literary and artistic activities. It is wrong to depart from this policy and anything at variance with it must be duly corrected. This talk was established as the sole source for artistic and literary creation.
British Social Realism in the Arts since - D Tucker - Bok () | Bokus
It resulted in top-down orders that colluded to limit artistic creation to a narrow framework at the service of ideology, and determined that the ensuing artworks should, in content and form, be easy to disseminate. Its artistic properties held a strong appeal for the intellectuals, writers, and artists of the day. As the revolution progressed and the Communist Party further defined Socialist Realism, it gradually evolved from an artistic style into an ideology with clear viewpoints.
It was the clothing of ideology, as well as ideology itself. This transformation of its role was total, because it began expressing powerful exclusivity and producing confusion.
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In order to fit with the political mode it represented, it not only expressed the ideology it represented, but also became that ideology itself, consolidating the mechanisms of that ideology. It put on its poker face, equating itself with correctness and singularity, through which it gained absolute authority. This is why the question of right and wrong began to emerge in these creations, with political views, goals, and functions coming to occupy the leading position in these creations.
Creation itself began to follow political guidance. Today, most accounts of people like Wu Yinxian and Dong Xiwen go only as far as the political foundations of their creations, treating their work the same as that which purely served ideological ends. Even today, most photography services are run by photojournalists or even sports photographers. To summarily relegate the work of such artists as Wu Yinxian and Dong Xiwen to the category of ideological tools is to fall into the same absolutist and simplified approach to understanding as is applied in Socialist Realism. The artists steeped in early Western modernism found political momentum for turning what they learned abroad into something Chinese.
Placed on important platforms, they were, on the one hand, considered within the ideological framework.
On the other, they were also able to refine and ponder artistic practice itself. Although he did not study abroad in Europe, Dong spent time in French-ruled Vietnam, where he studied at a French art academy. Through his research of the murals, Dong Xiwen deepened his understanding of the traditional art of his people, laying the foundation for his reverence for ethnic culture.
It was this reverence that led him, when studying foreign oil painting, to consciously infuse oil painting with the forms and spirit of Chinese art, giving oil painting a Chinese style and artistic spirit. He wrote,.
Though I criticize recent European painting schools such as Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, when I saw the original works, I was full of uncontrollable excitement. In the relationship between conceptuality and form, and on the question of political standards and artistic standards, I used the emphasis on formal appeal to dilute the primacy of the former.
From that perspective, the left occupied moral high ground in two places: anti-imperialist patriotism and egalitarianism. Before , leftist culture occupied a large space in Chinese intellectual consciousness precisely for these two reasons. In , he was accepted into the Shanghai Professional Academy for Fine Arts, a school founded by Liu Haisu, where he received standard training in the fundamentals of painting. During his studies, he bought an old American Brownie camera at a secondhand market, and began to use photography and film to document the suppression of the poor by the rich, the warlords, and the Japanese invaders.
They began contacting progressives in hopes of producing an anti-imperialist and anti-feudalist film for the masses and making use of realist expressive methods. During these eight years, Wu Yinxian merged with his subjects, facing the tests of battle alongside those he photographed. When the Cultural Revolution began, Wu Yinxian and his fellow cultural workers were no longer able to openly engage in education and photography.
He was required to take part in labor activities and write reports on his thinking.
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In , Wu Yinxian wrote a letter to Jiang Qing, hoping to gain the right to continue working:. Comrade Jiang Qing: I would also like to report a personal matter.
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Though I am old, and unable to carry heavy cameras myself, I am free of disease, have good blood pressure and an overall healthy body. I very much hope to contribute my personal abilities to your filming of the revolutionary model operas, for instance helping the photography comrades, and exploring such aspects as composition, camera movement and lighting.
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I also hope that through my participation in the filming of the model operas, I can raise my own political awareness, becoming someone who can do more beneficial work for the party in the future. In the later years of the Cultural Revolution, Wu Yinxian became one of the first academy administrative cadre members to be released from manual labor and suspension from work. Because of this experience, Wu Yinxian was not immediately rehabilitated at the end of the Cultural Revolution, unlike many of his peers who had been mistreated during that period, and his position was not restored until he wrote a letter to Hu Yaobang explaining his situation.
In the recent era, Chinese political change has always begun in a violent fashion.