My response to "Revolution at 100: A Questionnaire"

The questionnaire was initiated by T.J. Demos, Amber Hickey, and Chessa Adsit-Morris


Published by the Center for Creative Ecologies, University of California Santa Cruz

1. What remains of a politico-cultural horizon beyond contemporary capitalism? Is the term “revolution” appropriate today? Why or why not?

We urgently need different ways to live on this planet. We are capable of establishing global trade agreements, building high-speed rails, detecting gravitational waves, and editing genomes, but we still don’t know how to live equally, among humans and with other beings. We need radical changes – whether they should come in the form of twentieth-century revolutions, I’m not sure – in the way we experience the planet and imagine our lives.

2. Where does the Revolution exist in contemporary cultural politics, if it exists at all?

Here in Hong Kong and China, more and more people are returning to earth, to rekindle intimacy with soil, with plants and animals. It is far from a revolution. We are only starting to relearn how to live.

3. What new meanings or manifestations might revolution take on in the post- or neo-colonial present, one threatened with ecological as well as politico-economic and military catastrophe?

Ever since the “Neolithic Revolution,” weeds have been staging protest non-stop. Who are revolutionary agents of the future? We’d better learn to conceive of revolutions not as human-only struggles. We’d better learn from other beings how they disrupt power, overturn colonial structures, and prevent lunatics from becoming dictators.

4. Is there hope for political transformation within the terms of actually existing representative democracy? Is it possible to address climate change adequately within the terms of capitalism?

I have not had the opportunity to participate in an actually existing representative democracy to answer the first part of the question. My answer to the second question is a clear no.

5. What do art, aesthetic action, and visual culture have to offer when it comes to the imperatives of political transformation? What role might they have, more broadly, in building and envisioning political transformation?

Art has given me time and space to see the world and the planet. In order for any political transformation to happen, we first have to see things differently. Art is one way to achieve this. In this part of the world, because we have so little space to experiment with new forms of politics, art has also become a refuge for people who want to look, want to think, and want to feel.

6. How might different subjects—whether differently abled, aged, or particularly vulnerable and precarious—be unevenly affected by the prospect of revolution/political transformation? What work is being done, or needs to be done, to ensure that radical transformation is radically inclusive?

We need to build an alliance of vulnerable humans and vulnerable nonhumans. We need to expand the Marxist idea of an international proletariat to include plants, animals, fungi, microbes, air, water, soil and so on, who are all exploited by the political-financial-military elite.

7. In our counter-factual, anti-regulatory, climate change denying era, how might the arts support scientific endeavors? How might the Sciences learn from art activism?

Much of science serves the political-financial-military elite. Many scientists do not realize this. Transforming science – redefining it not as objective knowledge but part of life processes – is a key component of the current political transformation.