Video: Art and revolutionary politics with Iskra Books

While Indianapolis’ cultural institutions are run by rich bankers who limit our conceptions of art and artistry, the Fonseca-Du Bois Gallery powered by Arte Mexicano en Indiana at the Indianapolis Liberation Center does just the opposite. The Liberation Center’s First Friday series, “Unleashing the creativity of the masses,” exhibits the immense imaginative capacity that lies latent in the world’s oppressed, exploited, dispossessed, and marginalized. By feeling that incredible potential, we can harness art and culture as a powerful force for social, cultural, and political change and produce a culture of resistance in this city. What we’re doing at the local level, our comrades behind this month’s exhibit are doing at a national and global level.

Watch the opening of our March 2024 exhibition, “Art for peace, land, and bread,” featuring curated artworks by the Iskra Books collective that they generously gifted to the Center (special thanks to artist and photographer Sarah Pfohl for printing them for the show).

Video: Exhibition opening of “Art for peace, land, and bread”

The works on display this month emerge from, speak to, connect us with, and advance a variety of movements for liberation across the globe—from Ireland and Korea to Haiti and China. The panel and exhibition also served as the first preview of a forthcoming artist book, The Art of Peace, Land, and Bread 2022-2024.

Collective members Ben Stahnke, Talia Lú, and Ruehl Maximillian Muller (bios below) graciously participated virtually in the opening. Liberation Center organizer Zach Patterson facilitated the dynamic discussion after providing an update on the shifting political landscape of the local art scene.

About Iskra Books

Iskra Books—a radical, independent scholarly publisher of new, out-of-print, previously untranslated, and edited volumes—exists “to move intellectual production outside of the academy and into the hands of the organizers, activists, and theorists most actively engaged in real-world liberation struggles.” Their affordable books are immediately available as free high-quality PDFs, including their most recent publications, Leon Benson’s monograph Letters of gratitude: I am because we are and the edited book, Internationalism in practice: Claudia Jones, Black Liberation, and the “bestial war” in Korea, featuring contributions by Gerald Horne, Betsy Yoon, and others.

About the panelists

Talia Lú holds a Master’s Degree in library and information science and a Bachelor’s Degree in art history. She studies Jewish history, with an emphasis on anti-zionism, editorial cartoons, and their impact on the working class, Irish Republican history, and international communist history more generally. She firmly believes in Fred Hampton’s statement that, “theory with no practice ain’t shit.”

Ruehl Maximillian Muller is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Creativity and Innovation at Xiamen University, China. His research focuses on the contemporary African and Asian domestication of socialist realism in the plastic arts.

Ben Stahnke is an artist, educator, and organizer working at the intersection of print media and political action. Ben is a co-founding editor of Iskra Books and the print journal, Peace, Land, and Bread. Ben holds PhD and MS degrees in environmental studies, an MA in political philosophy, and is currently pursuing a second doctorate in organizational studies.

Zachary Patterson is a scholar-activist, cultural worker, organizer with the Indianapolis Liberation Center, and a contributor to the Review of African Political Economy. Patterson’s research interests center around Kenya, NGOs, and socialist politics and movements in Africa. He writes on and works in the space of art and revolutionary politics. His recent scholarly works include a review of “Climate imperialism in Africa: Critical commentary on the political economy of global climate change regime” and “Breaking the silence on NGOs in Africa – A review.”