Readers may recall the Guardian’s Laura Barnett and her insights on the subject of arts funding, not least her belief that “the government makes no specific social provision for artists.” Except insofar it does exactly that via publicly funded regional arts councils to the tune of almost half a billion a year. Ms Barnett’s latest piece involves an exhibition titled Star City: The Future Under Communism, which gathers together artists inspired by the space race and Soviet visions of the future. The self-declared communist Daoud Hamdani is invited to share his responses to the artworks on display:
I’m no art critic, but I was fortunate enough to be able to look at this exhibition from an informed, leftwing perspective – and I was very impressed... In one room, Jane and Louise Wilson’s film Star City, shot on location, is shown on all four walls using four projectors. It’s an all-encompassing, smothering experience, symbolising the capitalist state’s suppression of the individual for the sake of profit.
Mr Hamdani’s grasp of reality is such that it is not in fact his beloved communism that was “all-encompassing,” “smothering” and intent on “suppression of the individual.” Instead, these characteristics are assigned – one might say projected – to the freewheeling West, to which so many reluctant communists tried to flee.
The exhibition’s main theme is escapism – both through the space race and science-fiction. I took this to be symbolic of the escape from capitalist barbarism that the Soviet system as a whole achieved.
Readers may be surprised to discover that barbarism was unknown in the Soviet Union and other communist nations, where altogether more civilised standards were adhered to and 100 million souls died of entirely natural causes.
Mr Hamdani continues,
I walked away from this exhibition with a sense of the artists’ overwhelming conviction that socialism and communism are still the future. We’ve had the Soviet experiment. We’ll get it right next time.
Whether for reasons of space or sheer critical acumen, Ms Barnett leaves these assertions unchallenged. Ms Barnett is a commissioning editor on the G2 arts desk and “writes across the arts, with a particular interest in theatre, dance and world music.” Though not, one might suppose, with an interest in history. Mr Hamdani is a member of the Midlands Young Communists League.