Too Many Red Flags? Contemporary Left and its Visual Culture

A public discussion examining the visual culture of the contemporary left organised and moderated by Niina Ulfsak 15 April via Zoom. I was happy to be one of the speakers among Alexander Astrov, Joshua Citarella, Susan Kelly, Agata Pyzik and Nastya Soroka.

How can the imagery of the left acknowledge the difficult histories of Soviet pasts?

This conversation brings together scholars, artists, activists and designers to speak about the difficult and traumatic pasts that are resurrected in the repeated use of imagery signifying various Communist regimes by the cotemporary left and right – the hammer and sickle, the red flag, the woman labourer. How do we find a way towards a visual culture that is full of an urgency that meets the needs of our current political situation, that ignites and unifies both former communist countries and the West? Avoiding simplistic dismissals of this history, on the one hand, and unquestioning nostalgia on the other, we will use key images circulating in contemporary visual culture to discuss possible paths forward.

It is time for a new left wing visual culture – what should it be like?

All are welcome.


Alexander Astrov

Alexander Astrov received his PhD from the department of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His research is situated at the intersection of International Relations Theory and Political Theory, focusing mainly on the ideas of order and politics. He is particularly interested in the history and changing practices of the "great powers" and their role in global political order.

Joshua Citarella

Joshua Citarella is an artist researching online political subcultures. In 2018 he published Politigram & the Post-left PDF and currently hosts Memes as Politics on Montez Press Radio, looking into how political identity is formed and communicated in online communities. He earned his BFA from School of Visual Arts, NY in 2010. He is an adjunct professor at the Rhode Island School of Design and the School of Visual Arts and has served as an outside advisor at Carnegie Mellon University and Tufts University.

Susan Kelly

Susan Kelly is a writer, artist, organiser and educator researching the relationships between art and micropolitics: the production of subjectivity as a site for analysing and intervening in the reproduction of capitalism, imperialism, art and culture. She holds a BA in Fine Art and Art History, NCAD Dublin, an MA in Cultural Studies, Leeds University. In the late 1990s, she completed the Whitney Independent Study Studio Programme in New York. She is a lecturer at Goldsmiths University, where she also earned her PhD in Visual Cultures.

Andy Pressman

Andy Pressman is a creative director based in Portland, Oregon, known for his design of leftist publications and years spent as the Art Director of Verso Books. In 2003 he graduated with a BFA from the Cooper Union in New York, and has taught, lectured, and given workshops on design internationally.

Agata Pyzik

Agata Pyzik is a Polish journalist writing on art, politics, music and culture. She holds a degree in philosophy, art history, and American studies from the University of Warsaw. Her debut book, Poor but Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West, exploring the cultural dynamics between the two in late 20th and early 21st century, was published in 2014 by Zero Books.

Nastya Soroka

Anastasia Soroka is a Ukrainian journalist based in London, UK. Her personal interest lies within the studies of the political theology of the orthodox world, psychoanalysis, and linguistics. Currently working for Russian-language BBC News service in a senior role, Anastasia covers a wide variety of topics from prison cultures to reproductive rights to conspiracy theories.

Gregor Taul

Gregor Taul a critic and curator based in Tallinn. His main academic research topic is art in public space. Besides monuments and murals of the Soviet era he is also interested in contemporary public art commissions. He is currently working on his PhD thesis on late Soviet monumental decorative art at the Catholic University of Portugal. He earned his BA in semiotics from University of Tartu in 2009 and holds an art history MA from the Estonian Academy of Arts from 2012, with exchange studies in St Petersburg's Institute of Technology of Design in 2011.

Moderated by Niina Ulfsak

This event is happening as part of the Quilting the Commons, Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London.

This event would not be possible without the support of Estonian Ministry of Culture, Goldsmiths Visual Cultures Department, Mariann Metsis, Mischa Lustin & Joshua Lieberman.

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