Jan Banning: Red Utopia
Red Utopia is a beautifully executed art photo book documenting communist parties and their iconography in India, Italy, Nepal, Portugal and Russia.
“I think it is terrific and even better than Bureaucratics — so diverse.” Elisabeth Biondi, independent curator and former Visuals Editor of the New Yorker about the Red Utopia photo series.
For Jan Banning – a non-party progressive – Red Utopia is a non-propagandistic search for what is left of communism, 100 years after the Russian Revolution. The book contains photos of interiors of communist party offices: “museums of a future from the past,” as one young Italian communist said. It also presents environmental portraits of officials and activists in five countries: India, Italy, Nepal, Portugal and Russia.
In its practice of Real Socialism, the communist ideology turned out to be surely less than ideal; the Moscow trials in the late 1930s already shocked many believers; and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 seems to have delivered it a final blow. Neoliberalism, with its worshipping of the Free Market, now appears to be the only remaining ideology. Even most of the five remaining dictatorships of the proletariat are communist in name only. With the demise of this competing ideology, the need for capitalism with a human face has disappeared and the gap between rich and poor has widened in many countries. Since the crisis, which started in 2008, there has been a reappreciation of Karl Marx as a political economist and one may wonder: how dead is communism really?