The international exhibition ‘Revolution is not a Garden Party’ considers the resonances of social and political revolution in contemporary art against the backdrop of the 50 th anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising.

The exhibition consists of new and recent works that examine the global economic and political context against which revolutions take place, as well as the intersection between personal and artistic heritages of revolution. It expresses the sorrow of failed political struggles in the past and the future, and considers the shared experience of a communist past and the post-communist reality. Other concerns include the experience of revolutionary literature, the gendered images of resistance fighters in contemporary media, and the legacy of 1956 for the relationship of art and revolution.

As the first major popular rebellion against Soviet domination and the communist system in Eastern Europe, 1956 was a vital precursor of later revolutionary struggles. At the same time, it was part of wider geo-political shifts, such as the movement for decolonisation, and had cultural as well as political ramifications across Europe.

In the history of art, the demolition of the Budapest Stalin Statue was the ultimate symbol of the decline of Socialist Realism. The truth about revolution is part of a contested history, a living process of rewriting and interpretation in which art takes a decisive part.

The exhibition catalogue brings together the artistic response to contemporary revolution represented by the exhibition and new reflections on the relationship between art and revolution by theorists and art historians. It includes illustrations and interviews with the artists, and new essays by Gerald Raunig, Benda Hofmeyr, Simon Sheikh, Chus Martinez and Maja and Reuben Fowkes that engage with issues such as art and revolution, aesthetics and politics, and ecology and anarchism. Additionally, responses to individual works in the exhibition highlight the variety of experiences and understandings of revolution in the context of contemporary art.

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