Who’s the Real Ideologue? On Jordan Peterson’s Communist Art Collection – 谁是真正的意识形态?论乔丹彼得森的共产主义艺术收藏

Opinion - 16 Aug 2018

Who’s the Real Ideologue? On Jordan Peterson’s Communist Art Collection

Why does the ‘men’s rights’ guru to the alt-right surround himself with Soviet-era memorabilia, which he doesn’t even class as art?

By Rachel Wetzler

In the forward to 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2018), the Canadian culture warrior and ‘men’s rights’ activist Jordan Peterson’s self-help manual for wayward white men set adrift in a destabilizing sea of ‘postmodern identity politics’, the psychiatrist Norman Doidge describes Peterson’s home as ‘a semi-haunted house “decorated” by a delusion that had practically destroyed mankind.’ The delusion in question is communism: virtually every room of Peterson’s house in Toronto is covered in Socialist Realist paintings, part of an extensive collection of Soviet-era art and memorabilia that he has been obsessively amassing over the past two decades.

Peterson began collecting Soviet art around the year 2000, inspired, he says, by the psychologist James Pennebaker’s hypothesis that events begin to be perceived as ‘historical’ after roughly 15 years; the Berlin Wall had fallen 11 years prior and that was close enough. He started trawling eBay for relics of Soviet culture, which now belonged to history, and began purchasing them in droves. ‘I thought it was deeply ironic that the most free-market of platforms ever devised … could be used now to scavenge communist-era artefacts,’ he said in a live Q&A with his Patreon subscribers. A Cold War kid at heart, he couldn’t resist the symbolic triumph of ‘buy[ing] things like heads of Lenin on eBay – it was just too comical to pass up.’

Today, his collection includes some 200 Socialist Realist artworks, mostly from Soviet Ukraine (by the time he started searching, the work of better-known Russian Socialist Realists had already been snapped up). The desk of his home office, visible in any number of videos he posts on YouTube, is flanked by patriotic paintings of a strapping worker in a steel foundry and, on the other side, a group of young revolutionaries fearlessly accepting their fate as they are lined up for execution by a White Army soldier. Another wall is given over entirely to a massive painting of Lenin’s 1917 speech in St. Petersburg proclaiming the transfer of power to the Soviets. There are portraits of national heroes like the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, and idyllic depictions of collective farms: bountiful fields ploughed by shiny new tractors, young women dressed in white smocks, smiling and chatting while they work. An article in The New York Times was accompanied by a photograph of Peterson posing in his living room in front of a massive floor-to-ceiling canvas depicting Soviet soldiers surveying the aftermath of battle; on the adjacent wall, a poster shows a Young Pioneer boy in uniform with a statue of a youthful Vladimir Lenin rising up behind him.


Who’s the Real Ideologue? On Jordan Peterson’s Communist Art Collection - 谁是真正的意识形态?论乔丹彼得森的共产主义艺术收藏

Jordan Peterson in his home. Photograph: © Daniel Ehrenworth

As has been extensively unpacked elsewhere – most compellingly by Kate Manne in the Times Literary Supplement and Pankaj Mishra in the New York Review of Books – Peterson, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Toronto, has managed to successfully pitch himself as a guru to a generation of mostly young, white, cisgendered men who, as Manne writes, ‘fear being surpassed by their historical subordinates … and losing their loyal service.’ He offers them fatherly wisdom and tells them that their resentments are justified, backed up by mystical invocations of archetypes and myths that illustrate the fundamental correctness of traditional social hierarchies. If the world has devolved into chaos, he argues, it’s because ‘postmodernist neo-Marxists’ have waged war on the forces of order and truth, attempting to covertly normalize their ‘murderous ideology’ by cloaking it in the rhetoric of human rights. First you let students dictate their own pronouns, next: the Gulag.

Peterson’s unlikely collection of Soviet art has become part of his own personal mythology, routinely proffered as evidence of his profound ethical commitment to understanding the forces of evil in the world. ‘I wanted to have these paintings around because I’ve been obsessed with totalitarianism and the human capacity for atrocity,’ he says. Living with them serves as a constant reminder ‘of the subjugation of art to ideology and the horrors of the USSR,’ as he put it in a tweet. Indeed, Peterson often invokes his collection when decrying perceived ideological abuses of art in the present. In a November 2017 tweet, he approvingly quoted the evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller’s characterization of Yale University’s MFA programme as ‘the latest art school to abandon virtuosity, creativity, [and] aesthetics in favour of far-left activism’ in response to the announcement of the university’s new art and social justice initiative. ‘Remember Soviet Socialist Realism?,’ Peterson added. ‘I do. I have about 200 pieces, just to remind me what happens when art is subordinated to social justice.’

He brings it up again in a discussion of the Disney animated film Frozen (2013), apparently a work of radical feminist propaganda. ‘I’ve thought a lot about the difference between propaganda and art,’ he says. ‘My house is full of ideological propaganda from the Soviet Union.’ According to Peterson, a ‘true artist doesn’t have a political message’ and instead approaches art-making as a free-floating journey of creative discovery. By contrast, Peterson’s propagandist – whether a Soviet painter in the 1950s creating heroic pictures of collective labour or a contemporary film studio telling little girls that they can do just fine without a prince to save them – is a liar who distorts art’s purpose by using it as a vehicle to convey a preconceived political stance. (Hilariously, the example Peterson gives of a ‘true artist’ is Pablo Picasso, a card-carrying member of the French Communist Party.) However self-evidently stupid it may seem to surround yourself with things you profess to hate as a statement about how much you hate them, as Peterson has apparently done, it also conveniently serves as a rhetorical trump card: he knows nefarious leftist propaganda when he sees it, because he sees it every day.

In statements like these, Peterson relies on a Cold War caricature of Socialist Realism, casting it as uncreative hackwork forced upon artists who served as little more than cogs in a machine. Yet Socialist Realism was never the monolith that the Cold War view would have us believe. From the mid-1930s on, Soviet cultural policy dictated that art must be committed to the ‘true, historically precise representation of reality in its revolutionary development,’ but how to interpret this contradictory brief was the subject of ongoing debate and contestation throughout the entire Soviet era. No doubt Soviet artists faced extraordinary censorship, and there could be harsh consequences for falling on the wrong side of official tastes at a given moment. But contrary to the typical reading of Socialist Realism as a single totalitarian aesthetic imposed from above, Soviet artists played an active, and in many cases fully willing, role in determining how officially-mandated concepts like partiinost (party-mindedness) and narodnost (the spirit of the people) should be formally and materially expressed.


Who’s the Real Ideologue? On Jordan Peterson’s Communist Art Collection - 谁是真正的意识形态?论乔丹彼得森的共产主义艺术收藏

Jordan Peterson in his home. Photograph: © Daniel Ehrenworth

Then again, Peterson doesn’t actually hate his Soviet paintings at all: he frequently praises their classical compositions and display of skilled painterly technique. In the introduction to a 2011 exhibition of works from his collection at a Toronto gallery, he admiringly described Soviet painters as keeping ‘the traditions of European impressionism and realism alive throughout the 20th century, when formal artistic training in the West was deteriorating.’ Socialist Realism is held up as an example of the horror of art’s subordination to politics – ‘one of the worst of spiritual crimes’ – yet it also represents the preservation of an authentic artistic tradition, one abandoned by the ‘ideology-addled vipers’ who have infected contemporary art schools and institutions since the 1960s with their socially and aesthetically corrosive political agenda.

Peterson attempts to resolve this inconsistency by framing Socialist Realist works as the site of a mythical battle between the forces of art and ideology: if the best paintings in his collection manage to overcome the status of soulless propaganda, it is because the sheer power of individual artistic creativity has inevitably emerged triumphant to vanquish the bad spectre of communism. Of course, that power is only at work when it conforms with his worldview: contemporary artists who make use of their creative freedom to explore ideas around race, class, gender, and sexuality are condemned as propagandists and ideologues, corrupted by the ‘SJW PC invasion of art.’

For all Peterson’s insistence on art as an ineffable, transcendent force, he inevitably falls back on economics when asked to define art’s social value in positive terms. He knows art is important because ‘the most expensive artefacts in our society are artistic productions.’ Real artists are temperamentally just like entrepreneurs: unlike managers and administrators, the necessary grunts who keep the trains running on time, entrepreneurs are the creative engines of capitalist progress, ‘necessary to continue to generate new ideas.’ It’s a shame, he says, that conservatives tend not to appreciate art, because, in the end, artists are on their side; one only needs to look at their effect on cities to see it. Artists see a decaying urban landscape and recognize the possibility of beauty restored. When they arrive in a poor and ugly neighbourhood, they ‘civilize it so that other people can move in.’ In Peterson’s dismal view, artists’ complicity in the violence of gentrification’s displacement of marginalized people is elevated to a calling: artists find chaos and give it order, no matter who or what they have to erase in order to do it. Who is the real ideologue here?

Main image: Jordan Peterson in his home. Photograph: © Daniel Ehrenworth

Rachel Wetzler

Rachel Wetzler is a New York-based writer and a PhD candidate in Art History at CUNY Graduate Center.

Jordan Peterson
Socialist Realism
Rachel Rachel Wetzler
Art & Politics

意见- 16八月2018谁是真正的意识形态?在乔丹彼得森的共产主义艺术收藏中,为什么“男性权利”大师奥尔特右派围绕着苏联时代的纪念品,而他甚至不把它当作艺术?Rachel Wetzler在《前进到12条生命规则》中:对混乱的解毒剂(2018),加拿大文化斗士和“男子权利”活动家Jordan Peterson的《自助白人手册》在“后现代身份政治”的不稳定海中漂流。精神病医生Norman Doidge把彼得森的家描述为“一个半鬼屋”,“被一个几乎毁灭了人类的妄想”所装饰。“妄想是共产主义的事实:多伦多彼得森的房子几乎每个房间都被社会主义现实主义绘画所覆盖,这是苏联时代艺术和纪念品的一部分,他在过去的二十年里一直在积累。彼得森在2000年开始收集苏联艺术,他说,灵感来自于心理学家James Pennebaker的假设,即大约15年后,事件开始被视为“历史”;柏林墙已经下降了11年,而且已经足够接近。他开始在易趣网上搜寻苏联文化的遗物,这些文物现在属于历史,并开始大量购买。“我认为这是一个具有讽刺意味的是,曾经设计过的最自由的平台……现在可以用来清除共产主义时代的文物,”他在他的一个直播用户Qua&a中说。一个冷战的孩子在内心深处,他无法抗拒象征性的胜利,比如“买列宁的头像”在易趣网上——这实在太滑稽了以至于无法通过。“今天,他的收藏包括200个社会主义现实主义作品,大部分来自苏维埃乌克兰。更著名的俄国社会主义现实主义者已经被抢购一空。在他的办公室里,他在YouTube上张贴的任何视频中都有一张桌子,旁边是一个钢铁铸造厂里一个魁梧的工人的爱国画像,另一边是一群年轻的革命者,他们勇敢地接受他们的命运,因为他们被白军排成了一队。勒迪尔另一堵墙被完全赠送给列宁在圣彼得堡发表的1917次演讲的大量画作,宣称将权力移交给苏联。有像Yuri Gagarin这样的民族英雄肖像,以及田园诗般的集体农场描写:富丽堂皇的田野由闪闪发亮的新拖拉机耕耘,年轻妇女穿着白色的罩衫,一边微笑一边聊天。《纽约时报》上的一篇文章附有彼得森的照片,他在客厅里摆着一幅巨大的地上画布,描绘苏联士兵对战争后果的看法;在邻近的墙上,一张海报上展示了一位身着Y形雕像的少先队员制服。Vladimir Lenin站在他身后。托勒彼得森046207.JPG Who’s the Real Ideologue? On Jordan Peterson’s Communist Art Collection - 谁是真正的意识形态?论乔丹彼得森的共产主义艺术收藏 Jordan Peterson在他的家里。照片:Daniel Ehrenworth被广泛散布在别处——最受Kate Manne在《泰晤士报文学增刊》和《纽约书评》中的Pankaj Mishra的强迫,彼得森是多伦多大学临床心理学教授。作为一个古鲁,他成功地把自己变成了一代年轻、白人、顺从的人,正如Manne所写的:“害怕被他们的历史下属超越……失去忠诚的服务。”他向他们提供父亲般的智慧,告诉他们他们的怨恨是正当的。ED,由神秘的原型和神话的支持,说明了传统社会等级的基本正确性。他认为,如果世界已经陷入混乱,那是因为“后现代主义新马克思主义者”在秩序和真理的力量上发动了战争,试图通过将其掩盖在人权的修辞中,使他们的“邪恶意识形态”秘密地正常化。首先,你让学生支配他们自己的代词,下一步:古拉格。彼得森不太可能收集苏联艺术,已成为他个人神话的一部分,经常被证明是他深刻理解世界邪恶势力的伦理承诺。他说:“我想让这些画四处流传,因为我一直痴迷于极权主义和人类的暴行能力。”“和他们一起生活是一种不断提醒人们的艺术征服意识形态和USSR的恐怖,”他把它推在推特上。事实上,彼得森经常引用自己的收藏来贬低当下的意识形态对艺术的滥用。在2017年11月的推特上,他赞同地引用了进化心理学家Geoffrey Miller对耶鲁大学MFA项目的描述:“最新的艺术学校,放弃了精湛的技艺、创造力和美学,而支持极左的行动主义”。F大学新的艺术和社会正义倡议。还记得苏联社会主义现实主义吗?,彼得森补充说。“是的。我有大约200件作品,只是为了提醒我当艺术服从社会公正时会发生什么。他在迪士尼动画电影《冻结》(2013)的讨论中再次提到了这一点,显然是一部激进的女权主义宣传作品。他说,我对宣传和艺术的区别有很多想法。“我的房子充满了来自苏联的意识形态宣传。”彼得森说,“真正的艺术家没有政治信息”,而是把艺术创作当作自由探索的创造性探索之旅。相比之下,彼得森的宣传者——无论是20世纪50年代的苏联画家创造了集体劳动的英雄图画,还是一个当代的电影制片厂,告诉小女孩,如果没有王子来拯救他们,他们可以做得很好——是一个骗子,他把艺术的目的扭曲成一辆车。Cle传达一种先入为主的政治立场。(滑稽地,彼得森给出的一个真正艺术家的例子是巴勃罗·鲁伊斯·毕加索,一个法国共产党员的持卡人。)然而,显然,愚蠢的是,你似乎用你所憎恨的事物来包围你自己,作为一个声明你有多恨他们,正如彼得森所说的那样。做得很好,它也很方便地用作修辞王牌:当他看到它时,他知道邪恶的左派宣传,因为他每天都能看到。在这样的陈述中,彼得森依赖于一种冷战主义的社会主义现实主义漫画,把它描绘成一种没有创造性的束缚,强迫那些在机器中充当齿轮的艺术家。然而,社会主义现实主义从来不是冷战观点让我们相信的庞然大物。从20世纪30年代中期开始,苏联的文化政策规定,艺术必须致力于“真实的、历史上精确地反映现实的革命发展”,但是如何解释这个矛盾的简短是整个争论和争论的主题。苏联时代。毫无疑问,苏联艺术家面临着非常严格的审查制度,在某一时刻落入政府官员的口味,可能会造成严重后果。但与社会主义现实主义的典型解读相反,作为一种单一的极权主义美学,从上面开始,苏联艺术家在积极地,而且在许多情况下完全愿意,在确定官方的概念如党的思想(党的思想)和纳多诺斯特(精神)方面起到了积极的作用。人们应该正式地和物质地表达。托勒彼得森046306JPG Who’s the Real Ideologue? On Jordan Peterson’s Communist Art Collection - 谁是真正的意识形态?论乔丹彼得森的共产主义艺术收藏 Jordan Peterson在他的家里。照片:Daniel Ehrenworth又一次,彼得森实际上并不讨厌他的苏联画:他经常称赞他们的古典作品和显示熟练的绘画技巧。在从多伦多美术馆收藏的2011件作品展览中,他赞赏地描述了苏联画家在整个二十世纪保持着欧洲印象派和现实主义传统,当时西方的正式艺术训练正在恶化。唯利是图的现实主义被认为是艺术对政治服从的一个例子——“精神犯罪最严重的一个”——然而它也代表了一种真实的艺术传统的保存,一种被意识形态感染的毒蛇所抛弃,后者被同时代的人所感染。20世纪60年代以来的艺术学校和机构,他们的社会和美学腐蚀性的政治议程。彼得森试图通过把社会主义现实主义作品作为艺术与意识形态之间的神话之争来解决这个矛盾:如果他的收藏中最好的绘画能够克服无灵魂的宣传的地位,那是因为个人艺术的纯粹力量。抽搐的创造力不可避免地战胜了共产主义的坏名声。当然,这种力量只有在与他的世界观相符合时才起作用:当代艺术家利用他们的创作自由来探索种族、阶级、性别和性观念,被宣扬为宣传者和思想家,被“SJW PC艺术入侵”所破坏。埃尔森坚持艺术是一种不可言喻的、超然的力量,当被要求以积极的方式定义艺术的社会价值时,他不可避免地退缩于经济学。他知道艺术是重要的,因为“我们社会中最昂贵的艺术品是艺术作品。”真正的艺术家气质就像企业家一样:不同于经理和管理者,那些保持火车准时运行的必要的抱怨者,企业家是创造性的引擎。他说,资本主义进步的必要性是“需要不断地创造新的想法”,这是一种耻辱,保守派倾向于不欣赏艺术,因为最终,艺术家们站在他们一边;人们只需要看看他们对城市的影响来看待它。艺术家看到一个衰败的城市景观,意识到美的可能


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