(click for a larger view)

with the reality of the catastrophic effects of climate change and other forms of ecological devastation looming down on humanity, i’m struck by the apocalyptic but also messianic themes in this mural by Diego Rivera.  i think he captures well how the possibilities behind humanity’s future depend on mass self-activity by the working class and oppressed.

Diego Rivera holds a special place in my heart as several of his murals make their home at the Detroit Institute of Arts.  Detroit — my hometown — has long been a center of working class resistance.  something i noticed about these murals the last time i was in Detroit, though, was the subtle play Rivera was seeking with nature in his art through the imagery of agriculture, vegetation and birth.  Rivera seems to be hinting that humanity’s interaction with nature can partly be explained through technology and the social organization of production.

there are i think, however, very narrow gender conceptions in the mural.  in addition to the title, i also think the mural suffers from workerist conceptions of anti-capitalist struggle.  part of this can be attributed to the Stalinist line on working class culture, but another part has to do with the relative strength of point of production revolt and workplace organizing of the era.  workerism aside, this resistance should be embraced.

workerism does, however, tend to leave out more gendered and racialized forms of working class resistance by using the white male skilled worker as the archetype of the working class.  it also limits the site of working class struggle to the workplace leaving out the home, the community, school and elsewhere where students, women and people of color struggle not only as workers.

however still, very appropriate for our times…

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