A Communist Utopia?

23 Feb

A Beaubourg268 Workshop & Extensive Explorative

A Communist Utopia?
Sunday 1 – 3:10pm  

Instructor: Gina Clark                           

Office Hours: Wed 8am – 2pm,  San Francisco.
Email: sledovane_fotografie@hotmail.com


Course Summary

According to the filmmaker Jiri Menzel,  

This course will combine Marx’s fundamental mistake that a new, higher social order (Communism) is possible – and run with it, not by reading Marx, but by making an 8 foot paper mache Karl Marx bust, as shown in Dusan Makavejev’s Sweet Movie (Criterion Collection) (1974). Weekly screenings of para-Communist flicks such as Sweet Movie will hopefully underline the point that Marxian Communism destroyed and inspired so many different countrires; nevertheless, this bodily notion of a society of pure unleashed productivity outside the frame of Capital (a body without organs as Deleuzians would say) is still operative in maintaining Albert Meister’s utopian vision of the beaubourg – a place that acts as both the ideal art school and the perfect Commune (a Tarkovskyian zone where all of your authentic desires become actualized).

Virtually everyone today “knows that” Communism was the central catastrophe of the XXth century – but how many of us “knows how” to repeat Marx’s mistake – to sensually actualize unbridled productivity as something that is ultimately independent of the concrete capitalist social formation? We are all too aware that an 8 foot, gray, paper mache sculpture of the head of Marx will not resuscitate Marxian Communism – nor would we want to; nonetheless, we’d like to not only celebrate Marx – but underline the influence of a certain Marxian Communism in cinema and the utopian symbolic order.

Today it is

Tentative Film Screenings

Oblomov (KINO Video) (1979), Nikita Mikhalkov(Director), 142 mins (M. also directed Burnt by the Sun)
Capricious Summer (Facets Video) (1967), Jiri Menzel (Director), 74 mins,                                                           Closely Watched Trains (Criterion Collection) (1966), Jiri Menzel (Director), 93 mins.                                       Skrivánci na niti ( Larks on a String ) (1969), Jiri Menzel (Director).
The Flat (Kimstim Collection) (1968), Jan Svankmajer (Director), 13 mins.
Stalker (Russian Cinema Council) (1979), Andrei Tarkovsky (Director), 163 mins, color.
Sweet Movie (Criterion Collection) (1974), Dusan Makavejev (Director), 98 mins, color.
WR: Mysteries of the Organism (Criterion Collection) (1971), Dusan Makavejev (Director), 85 mins, color.
The Omega Man (1971), Boris Sagal (Director) Color
XXY (2007) , Lucía Puenzo (Director), 86 mins, color                                                                                                           The Firemen’s Ball, (1967), Milos Forman (Director), 73 mins.

Course Requirements
– Faithful attendance / meetings and office hours negotiable
– Regular weekly viewings

General Policies
1. Attendance: Absences may be offset with meetings and office hours
2. Office hours: Please feel free to contact me so we may arrange an alternate time to meet.

Provisional Schedule

3 Responses to “A Communist Utopia?”

  1. lettrist February 24, 2010 at 1:48 am #

    I appreciate your writing style, especially for a course syllabus. So did all your students accept the premise of your course — did they “know that” Marxism is dead, and did they eventually “know how” to repeat his mistakes?

    Not that you haven’t heard something like this before: But these mistakes you attributed to Marx (which ones, specifically, I hope you outlined in the course) are in fact the mistakes of the 2nd and 3rd Internationals. These were not “Marx’s mistakes”.

  2. lettrist February 26, 2010 at 12:25 am #

    I would gladly defend the “utopian” point of view from an anarchist perspective. You’re welcome to leave me comments on my blog utopiaorbust.wordpress.com

    For the record, however, Marx and Engels never saw what they were doing as “utopian”. Utopianism was actually their own derogatory term and used to describe many French thinkers (like Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier, and English ones like Robert Owen) at the time they wrote the Communist Manifesto. Engels made this distinction between “utopian socialism” and “scientific socialism” in the tract below.


    In my view this was one of their mistakes. To Marx/Engels “utopian socialism” was not systematic enough, and socialism needed to be to succeed. (This is so typically German, right?) Socialism needs more logic!

    But whereas the real development of scientific socialism led to enormous, planned state economies in the Eastern bloc, (even though the final stage “communism” is a stateless society in their view) utopian socialism by contrast led to the development of communes peppered throughout the world. Fourierists and Owenites built these communes – that’s what their project was. People call these “intentional communities” today. People start intentional artist communities, international farming communities, etc. It’s just a new spin on this older ideology of utopian socialism.

    Is it possible that cooperative, communal living is a better, more advanced way of organizing our everyday lives? I think so. If there is an inherent tendency of communes that they should fail, I have yet to hear it. There is no one size fits all solution. Each commune is autonomous, and each person autonomous. This is my point of view.

    “Utopian” ideas seem to be partly the inspiration for your beaubourg society, which is a commune and simultaneously the ideal art school, no?

  3. beaubourg268 July 14, 2010 at 3:33 am #

    Lettrist- Thank your informative response. I agree with you- Engels & Marx really had no idea what they were doing, or intentially stated that the ideal ‘Utopia’ was even a possibility. Yes, they were Socialist- but nonetheless, We are mostly poking fun with these ideas. The workshop is mainly an excersize in such concepts, perceptions, errors, and what have you. There is no way to build the perfect commune or utopia, of course. But it’s a lovely thought, nonetheless, no?
    Best Regards- and excited to hear more of your thoughts.

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