From the early 1970s, the Kipper Kids (Harry Kipper and Harry Kipper, aka Brian Routh and Martin von Haselberg) became notorious for the danger, excess, strangeness and baffled hilarity of their frequently drunken ‘ceremonies’. This chapter accounts for the former notoriety of the Kipper Kids to ask further questions about the performance of extremity as an aesthetic category in the 1970s. The theme of sabotage – or self-sabotage – emerges as a crucial element in the performance art of the Kipper Kids, in terms of their devising and presentation of specific ceremonies and works, and in their pursuit of careers as artists committed to art’s anti-aesthetic sensibility.
Chapter 2 provides an introduction to Food Not Bombs and gives a brief history of the group. This shows the group’s strong connection to a large range of movements, and contextualizes San Francisco Food Not Bombs and their role in the rapid expansion of Food Not Bombs, which now has around 1000 chapters worldwide. Finally, an analysis of Food Not Bombs’ political project is provided.
Frank Jordan, broken windows, and anti-homeless politics in San Francisco
Chapter 4 discusses Mayor Frank Jordan’s (1992–1995) revanchist Matrix Quality of Life Program, which sought to enforce a broken-windows policing system in San Francisco. The impact of the policy was felt largely by the visible homeless in downtown San Francisco, who were regularly harassed and arrested by the police and forced out of the city. Because quality-of-life policing desires to sanitize the public space of disruptive and asocial behaviour, the public meals of Food Not Bombs near City Hall resisted the city’s attempt to criminalize homelessness. This chapter argues that the city attempted to construct the homeless as anti-citizens and exclude them from the political and physical spaces of the city.
From sick talk to the politics of solidarity
Chapter 1 provides a brief introduction to the politics of homelessness by discussing the predominance of “sick talk” in addressing homelessness. In the literature review, I contend that the neoliberalizing of homelessness has shifted the “fault” of homelessness onto the individual, thus pathologizing homelessness and justifying increased criminalization and surveillance. Counter to this view, I present an alternative radical homelessness politics rooted in anarchist political theory and the praxis of Food Not Bombs and the Catholic Workers. This approach seeks to personalize the homeless, while maintaining a systemic critique of capitalism. The chapter ends with a road map for the coming chapters.
Chapter 7 puts the lessons from the anarchist urban activism and praxis of Food Not Bombs and Homes Not Jails into dialogue with the work on the Right to the City. While sympathetic to and inspired by these theorists’ work on radical urbanism, the author criticizes productionist predilections and highlights that centralized homelessness removes the focus on formal economic production. The chapter contends that by focusing on the homeless, a more robust and radical conception of urban space as commons can be developed, which allows for rights to opacity and survival in urban space.
Jonathan Richardson’s ekphrastic ‘Dissertation’ on Poussin’s Tancred and Erminia
This chapter considers Jonathan Richardson’s critical ‘Dissertation’ on Poussin’s painting Tancred and Erminia (c. 1633) as both analysis and ekphrastic representation. It focuses on Richardson’s keen interest in the artist’s visual interpretations of, and additions to, Tasso’s great Italian epic poem, Gerusalemme liberata (1581). It becomes clear that both the French painter and the English critic know the Italian poem well; it is far less certain, however, whether the intended English readership would have shared similar first-hand knowledge of either the picture or its literary source. Richardson’s paragone of the two forms is intended to emphasize Poussin’s ability ‘to make use of the Advantages This Art has over that of his Competitor’; problematically, however, the pre-eminence of the visual medium in this specific example can only be attested to by means of a sustained verbal comparison of the painting and its poetic source, which ultimately seems to imply a more complex, symbiotic relationship in the encounter between the visual and literary arts than Richardson initially admits.
Understanding the politics of public space occupations 1988–1991
Chapter 3 uses the struggle between Food Not Bombs and the Art Agnos Mayoral administration (1988–1991) as a backdrop to discuss the role of permits in regulating and controlling space. It argues that Food Not Bombs, through public feedings and organizing tent-cities, made specific claims regarding the nature of public space and claimed that the city had no legitimacy to regulate political activism and expression. The city, on the other hand, attempted to use permits as means of forcing the group into a negotiated management with city officials. When that negotiation broke down, the city turned toward an escalation of violence and harassment in an attempt to purge the group from public space. The chapter considers anarchist and autonomous conceptions of public space and expands on Margaret Kohn’s conception of populist space (2003, 2013) by exploring how autonomous politics complicates the topic. Conversely, it argues that a complex dialectical relationship exists between the autonomous populist politics of Food Not Bombs, the populist representational nature of public protest, and the regulatory desire of the City.
Ekphrasis, readers, ‘iconotexts’
This chapter defines ekphrasis concisely as ‘the verbal representation of real or fictive configurations composed in a non-kinetic visual medium’. It rejects narrower definitions that exclude texts on non-representational visual configurations, including architecture, or restrict the discourse to literary texts representing works of art. But with its emphasis on the text, the concise definition unduly reinforces the consideration of ekphrasis as a form of ‘intermedial transposition’ in contemporary discourse on intermedial relations. An ekphrastic text should be primarily approached as the record of a viewer’s interpretive encounter with a non-kinetic visual configuration, which may not actually contain anything that has been ‘transposed’ from the image. This viewer may be the persona of a poem, a figure in a prose narrative, or an art critic. It is the reader’s task to construct these viewers in the interpretation of any ekphrastic text. But the role of the reader has not received much attention. This includes the question of the immediate mental reception of ekphrastic texts. The critical construct of ‘iconotexts’, suggesting that such verbal texts spontaneously trigger a mental visual image for the informed reader, is problematic, and even in a more general sense the term may be of limited critical use.
A critical exchange between Émile Zola and Édouard Manet
Lauren S. Weingarden
This chapter explores how Émile Zola’s ekphrastic writings about Édouard Manet’s paintings functioned as a template on which the writer imposed his evolving theories of the naturalist novel. It argues that, while Zola championed Manet in his critical reviews of the artist’s works, he did so in the name of naturalism and the scientific objectivity and analysis naturalism promoted. Moreover, it seems likely that Manet would have read Zola’s 1868 preface to Thérèse Raquin, where the author first mandated his naturalist theories. The chapter asks what Manet would have thought about Zola’s subjugation of painting to writing and his refusal of meaningful content in his art. It proposes that Manet painted Zola’s portrait in 1868 as a response to the critic’s misinterpretation of the painter’s artistic method. Manet’s portrait of Zola also reveals how the artist, in turn, appropriated the writer and his writing to his own artistic agenda, the subsequent manifestations of which culminate in Manet’s final masterpiece, A Bar at the Folies Bergère (1882).
Ekphrasis and historical materiality in Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece
In his 1594 narrative poem The Rape of Lucrece, Shakespeare uses ekphrasis to explore a shift in the early modern understanding of history. Of the many changes he made to the Lucrece story, he added a 200-line ekphrasis of a picture depicting the fall of Troy. While appearing at first glance to celebrate the idea of an illusionistic experience that makes the past seem fully alive, Shakespeare’s ekphrasis draws our attention to the fragmented things that supposedly evoke this fantasy – the ‘thousand lamentable objects’. In so doing, Shakespeare explores a new notion of history that is built from material fragments. These fragments are silent, but in a manner that is paradoxically expressive. In Shakespeare’s ekphrasis, Lucrece relates to the image of Hecuba not despite its brokenness and objectness, but rather because of them. The poem in this way constructs an early modern encounter where broken subject meets broken object.