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Rage against the machine: a symposium on artists as activists

‘Rage against the machine’ departs from the 40th anniversary of Charter 77 – an open letter from key signatories from the cultural sphere, which criticized the then communist government of Czechoslovakia for failing to recognise basic human rights. In 1977, dissident writer Václav Havel and several others were arrested, imprisoned or forced into exile for signing the letter. In 2017 the majority of Europe is free of such open repression, despite the rise of nationalism and xenophobia in European politics. ‘Rage against the machine’ explores how cultural producers respond to the more insidious demands of today’s political economy. Must artists as activists go beyond expressing the inequalities in today’s world or is this cry of anguish an end in itself?

‘Rage against the machine’ can only scratch the surface of one of the biggest questions for artists as citizens: what if any impact can we have on the political landscape, as individuals or as part of larger movements? The first half of the symposium will focus on a local example: activism around developer–led urban change and its impact on social housing and loss of public space. Specific examples come from Andrea Luka Zimmerman’s project on the Haggerston Estate ( and Clare Carolin’s ‘Spectres of Modernism’ on the exterior of Golden Lane Estate ( The second half will take a more global perspective, through discussion with Laima Kreivytė and Marysia Lewandowska, asking what activism as art practice can really mean and looking at the imperative to activism within the international art world itself.

Jeremiah Day will produce a new performance work for ‘Rage against the machine’ relating our contemporary situation to that of East European artists during the Soviet era, taking Czech writer Václav Havel as its starting point.

‘Rage against the machine’ is accompanied by a publication edited by Paul Clinton, expanding the themes of the symposium, including newly commissioned texts by Taf Hassam and Fred Dewey about the ‘parallel polis’, a theme developed out of Charter 77.

With the participation of Clare Carolin (UK); Jeremiah Day (US/DE); Laima Kreivytė (LT); Marysia Lewandowska (UK/PL); and Andrea Luka Zimmerman (UK).

Initiated by Czech Centre London, in partnership with Lithuanian Culture Institute and EUNIC London. Curated by Thomas Cuckle (Kunstraum, London). Supported by The European Commission Representation in the UK.

Commissioner: Tereza Porybná – Czech Centre London / Curator: Thomas Cuckle / Publication editor: Paul Clinton / Design: Kristin Metho / Assistant Curator: Cairo Clarke / Assistant Editor: Lucy Cowling. With thanks to ARCADE, London for supporting Jeremiah Day’s new work.

Free event. Please RSVP here.


Silk Street
London, ECY 8DS United Kingdom
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