The Windmills of Humanity

On Culture and Surrealism in the Manipulated World

Ivan Sviták     2014     550p     6 x 9

“The surrealists postulated that art should cease to be art, and they insisted that they were not artists and were not interested in art. According to their theory, the present phase of civilization (the phase of class societies) created the fundamental division between the human creator and the human user of art. Their great vision that ‘art will be made by all’ was not (and is not) only a romantic illusion inherited from Hegel and the utopians. It is still a magnificent challenge to the social conditions—both then and now—which led to the separation of art and life…”

—Ivan Sviták, “Surrealism and Art”

Philosopher and critic Ivan Sviták was among the leading Czech intellectuals during the lead-up to the “Prague Spring” of 1968, when tentative reforms by Communist Party leaders in Czechoslovakia sparked a mass movement for democratic socialism. By the time a Soviet-led invasion put an end to this movement and forced Sviták into exile, Sviták had influenced a generation of politicized youth with his works of Marxist humanist philosophy, social commentary, cultural critique, unconventional poetry, and satirical prose.

This book‘s editor, Joseph Grim Feinberg, is a social theorist at the Philosophy Institute of the Czech Republic‘s Academy of Sciences and—like Sviták—has collaborated closely with surrealist groups in Chicago and Prague. Taking up Sviták’s own, largely-unrealized proposals for publication, Grim Feinberg has collected Sviták’s most provocative writing on aesthetic theory, interspersing it with a selection of Sviták’s poetry and creative prose. In the resulting volume, Sviták explores the possibility of a world in which art will be “made by all,” and he defends humanity’s quixotic right to fight against old illusions so that new illusions might be born. Illustrations by Andy Lass.

$8-15

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