Born Again Labor Project

By Adam Turl


Clockwise from top left (Born Again Labor Project in progress): Untitled Nazarene, Mudsill, Marks of Labor, Wounded Tribune, and Rev. Wolfe’s Protestant League Saves the Bones of Catholic Children for Stock. Acrylic, ink, Sharpie, collage, glitter, coffee, toilet seats, saw, cotton and ash on wood (2019).


The following is one version of a proposal that has been sent to various foundations and institutions seeking grant money for the Born Again Labor Museum. So far no bourgeois institutions have seen fit to support this project. You can support this project, however, at the Evicted Art patreon page. All subscribers will get, after a period of support, a unique art work, as well as be included in the ongoing portrait series, Paintings to Exhibit at the End of the World. If we are able to double our monthly patreon support we should be able to site The Born Again Labor Project by the fall of 2019.


I am working on an evolving memorial/installation to current and past generations of working-class lives – oriented
 to a participatory working-class audience. This installation, which will eventually become a semi-permanent sited “museum,” will also serve as a space for community and cultural collaboration.


My practice is shaped by what I see as crises of representation and subjectivity: viral imagery vs. the rarefied art space; the hope for universal emancipation vs. the unique identities of individual human beings; closing of space and time by technology vs. increasingly constrained working-class lives; returning utopian ideas vs. growing climate catastrophe. 

Based on concepts of excess, the carnivalesque and grotesque, critical irrealism, epic theater, and total installation [1], I aim to create in my work an evolving expressive differentiated totality. In this, for example, the “unique art object” in conflict with the digitally reproduced image mirrors the unique working-class subject in conflict with automation — contradictory, twice-over, as neither the unique nor digital is inherently progressive or reactionary [2]. 


In theology, apocatastasis refers to the reconstitution of the primordial; the salvation of past souls. Walter Benjamin transposed the concept to a cultural Marxist framework; arguing the messianic (revolutionary) generation enacted a materialist apocatastasis — the redemption of past generations of the exploited and oppressed. [3] The working-title of my proposed project, Born Again Labor, inspired by Benjamin, mixes the classical Marxist schematic of living and dead labor (people and machines, etc.) with evangelical language. 

Conceptually, this project will serve as an evolving memorial. In part, anthropomorphic art objects will be based on creative or found texts about famous, unknown, historic, contemporary and fictional working-class subjects (Heather Heyer, John Henry, Robert Prager, Carlo Guiliani, Lucy Parsons, and so on).

Aesthetically, these will conflate anachronistic populist and avant-garde gestures, borrowing tropes from folk/outsider art (paintings on tools, salvaged post-industrial materials), early zine/punk aesthetics, comics, Dada, surrealism, constructivism, arte povera, etc.

Socially, the eventual “museum” – and earlier iterations of the project – will be open to community groups and used in collaboration with other artists. Exhibits would include interactive elements in which materials are distributed to visitors, and where visitors are invited to alter and produce art works. This will include irrealist “Bible-tract” like comics based on Marxist politics.

Cybernetically, a “museum website” would be created along with memes that mix the analog and digital. This would also include manifestations of the “digital” in analog space. For example, crafting three-dimensional “pixels” in conflict with art objects.


The power of political art is not in changing the world; that power lies with the self-activism of the exploited and oppressed. Political art is at its best when it interacts with the dream-life of the exploited and oppressed; valorizing the struggles of everyday life within a progressive framework. This is what the Born Again Labor Project aims to do. 


  1. See Georges Bataille, Visions of Excess; Mikhail Bakhtin on Rabelais and His World; Michael Löwy’s essay, “The Current of Critical Irrealism: ‘A moonlit enchanted night’” in the anthology Adventures of Realism; Bertolt Brecht’s approach to theater; Ilya Kabkov’s theorization of “Total Installation.”

  2. For more on the contradiction of the digital and analog see Adam Turl, “The Total Art of Neoliberalism,” Red Wedge Magazine, (February 19, 2019)

  3. This concept appears explicitly or implicitly in Benjamin’s “Theses on the Philosophy of History” and his Passagenwerk. Michael Löwy generalizes from this in his book Fire Alarm.

Adam Turl is an artist and writer from southern Illinois (by way of upstate New York, Wisconsin, Chicago and St. Louis) living in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is the art and design editor at Red Wedge and an adjunct instructor at the University of Nevada - Las Vegas. Turl’s most recent exhibitions include Revolt of the Swivel Chairs at the Cube Gallery (Las Vegas 2018), The Barista Who Disappeared at Artspace 304 (Carbondale, IL 2018), and The Barista Who Could See the Future at Gallery 210 as part of Exposure 19 (St. Louis, MO 2017). His Instagram is adamturl_art.