The Baltic Notebooks of Anthony Blunt
Interview with Stewart Home
Page 3 of 3
And it was great that the biannual emphasized Alytus’ difference because most other biennials get into the same circuit of resembling the movement of today's capitalist culture. You see people you already know, artists you've already seen. The fun thing about the Art Strike Biannual was that there were different people, so you got to meet some really interesting people you hadn’t met before. And it was very important that everyone had a good time. Which is more important than someone making great art because surely the most important thing in life is having a good time.
Which reminds me of what you said once about being interested in an artist as a part of collective, art being a thing of collective...
Because that's what it is to be human. You must have read Marx, his theory of alienation. That's what's wrong with capitalism – when people become separated from each other, that's when things are shit. You don't enjoy yourself. In Alytus we had a great time.
It looks like Marx's theories are facing a comeback at the moment. Why do you think it is so?
Because after the complete failure of the banking system and the crisis people want to understand the system they are living in and Marx provided one of the theories for that. I'm not saying everything in Marx is correct. There have been some changes made to capitalism since the time he was living, but essentially he's got a very good understanding about how this society works. People have a very distorted view of Marx if they encounter him through Lenin and Bolshevism. But if you want to understand capitalist society, Marx is the best theorist to go to.
Going back to art – you mentioned your interest in Fluxus. But this movement was also incorporated into the capitalist economy, it was commodified, became a museum item...
That's recuperation. Things get recuperated and the struggle against the capitalist system has to change all the time. What is radical in one system becomes reactionary in another. What is revolutionary and radical, changes depending on every context. I don't have any problem with that, I just move on.
It just looks like most of the attempts to democratize the art world have failed...
Because the art world is an elite world. I always wanted to synthesize high and low culture, and create a middle. It's important to criticize the elitism of the art world and not just let it come and get on with it, although criticism is not necessarily always the most important thing. At the same time, you cannot just change everything and worry too much about everything, you have to get on and struggle where you can see a place to struggle. You have to let people live. But it's obviously useful to criticise the art world.
For me Anthony Blunt is an establishment figure, and I can see that for you there's a bizarreness to his support of the Soviet system and his work as a spy. There's a guy I know called John Barker. In the 60s when he was in Cambridge, he formed a student group called "The Kim Philby Dining Club", named after another member of the Cambridge Five. Cambridge was a very stuffy institution and the appearance of such a group was very shocking and shook things up. But what made sense in that context, wouldn't have made sense in another. We wouldn't be hanging out in London doing things and decide that we were going to meet once a month and have a Kim Philby Dining Club, just because Kim Philby was some dude who supported Bolshevism.
With the art world you criticize something, you get people together and you can do whatever. You can even sell things to some collectors, although that’s not my obsession. But you have to survive in the capitalist economy. And maybe you can get some money to do what you want to do from some kind of funding somewhere. But what also happens with a lot of arts funding is that people want to do something and they end up altering it a little to get the funding, and then altering it all. So what point is there in altering what you want to do, just in order to get into the art system? And of course if you're always aware of what you're trying to do and what compromises you have to make to get it into a certain situation then you can make a judgement as to whether that's worth while, whereas if you're obsessed about getting into that situation then you may end up doing something that you don't want to do.
Have you ever thought about moving out of London?
It's hard to explain. Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of my mother's death. I was able to go to the flat where she died. I can wander around the West End and go to the clubs I went to when I was a teenager. It's about the social environment– you grew up speaking Lithuanian and there's an understanding between people from the place you come from, all the reference points. There's a sense of community.
I have a certain identification with the place I was born in, which hasn't to do with the art world; it has to do with the culture of London. That is what happened to me – London is what I am and I cannot do anything about it. The only thing I hate about the place I live in is the monarchy and the buildings –the ecclesiastic ones as well as those associated with the Royal family. All these buildings should be knocked down. And the monarchy needs to be obliterated from the society we live in.
Thank you for your time!