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archive: 1996 - current
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archive 1984 - 1994

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(Variant video: Workers City)
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Variant No. 1

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Editorial Group
editor/ administration:
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Gordon Asher
John Beagles
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Neil Gray
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Daniel Jewesbury
Owen Logan
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Monika Vykoukal
Simon Yuill
Kirsten Forkert
Kevin Hobbs

This issue supported by:

AK Press / RiB

Associated Events:

Radical Independent Book-fair project, Glasgow

creative scotland blog
Beyond Social Inclusion
Towards Cultural Democracy

The Cultural Policy Collective
pdf    print version

Glasgow Games Monitor 2014
Unmasking the myths of
Commonwealth Games 2014

The Strickland Distribution

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...the free arts and culture magazine.
In-depth coverage in the context of broader social, political & cultural issues


If you have read an article you like, please consider donating towards it.

It is unfortunate that we have to inform you that Variant has been 'unsuccessful' in our funding application to Creative Scotland.

As a result Variant for the first time since 1996, when Variant was relaunched as a free newsprint and online publication, is in the position of having to suspend publication.

We will continue to work towards Variant resuming publication as soon as possible, at which point we would hope to restart our current subscription commitments.

In the meantime we would like to thank you for your continuing support,
   the Variant editorial group, July 2012

Variant, issue 43, Spring 2012

Complete issue: text    pdf

Front Cover : pdf

Illustration from ‘The Housing Monster’, available at:

issue 42 cover

The Filth, and the Fury
Kat Gollock
A look to radical 1970s collective activities in the form of the Photography Workshop and community arts networks and what they might tell us about achieving a class-based history as part of oppositional engagement today.

text    pdf

Comic & Zine Reviews
Mark Pawson
December's delayed round-up includes a look at a look at zines: Teal Triggs' 'Fanzines', Toby Mott’s ‘100 Fanzines/10 Years Of British Punk: 1976–1985’, Gestalten's ‘Behind the Zines: Self-Publishing Culture’; and a look at book and food maps: 'The London Bookshop Map: 87 Independent Bookshops', 'Booksellers In Shoreditch & Hackney', 'You Are Hungry – An Edible Map of South Hackney & Environs', 'The Edinburgh Charity Shop And Reuse Map'.

text    pdf

Towards a New Documentalism
Jorge Ribalta
- reviews 'The Civil Contract of Photography', by Ariella Azoulay and 'The Disciplinary Frame: Photographic Truths and the Capture of Meaning', by John Tagg:
"Documentary is everywhere today, since it is structurally linked to democratic discourse and to the ideological conditions of the liberal public sphere in which we live, as Tagg himself has worked to illuminate. That said, we also need to recognise that documentary practices will continue to exist as long as liberal democracy does. What do we do with that? We can look for a possible and productive answer to that question in Ariella Azoulay’s 'The Civil Contract of Photography'."

text    pdf

If.... On Martial Values and Britishness
Emma Louise Briant
Consecutive Westminster governments have emphasised vigilance to threats', creating scapegoats to distract from domestic and foreign policy and drum up support. Amidst a state-of-emergency London Olympics bristling with securitisation and 'exceptional' democratic foreclosure, the inequity of royal pageant under public austerity draped in imperial re-imaginings, and public school assertions of class power presented as a return to old-fashioned discipline for civil society, Briant assesses this populist construction of 'British' militarism and 'martial values'.

text    pdf

Illustration Project - A selection of outcomes from an early-2014 project by third-year students at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, who were asked to research the main points made in Emma's article and produce accompanying designs. They can be accessed here:


"Organise your mourning"
Tom Coles
Setting out to assess Springtime, The Occupation Cookbook, Users Guide to Demanding the Impossible - publications produced as responses to a series of struggles since 2008, making use of assemblages of materials to try and simultaneously document, promote and develop new forms of resistance - Coles contrasts these with more recent texts belonging to an emerging, evolving critique, self-consciously outlining the underlying situation and political topography on which a coming intervention might act, of use to understanding the blasted landscape left by the receding froth of the earlier wave of publications.

text    pdf

Ethics and the political efficacy of citation in the work of Santiago Sierra
Ellen Feiss
Drawing on Derrida and looking to Judith Butler’s incarnation of 'iterability' in order to establish a new framework for understanding the consequences of Santiago Sierra’s work, Feiss seeks to reconsider the question of citation and political potency: is it possible to use the language of power in critique? How does one assess the political potential of a cultural strategy of resistance that utilises the hegemonic structures it seeks to dismantle?

text    pdf

The Poverty of Imagination
Tom Jennings
Accepting that current predicaments set-in during Thatcher’s yesteryears, not yesterday’s recession, this essay subjectively surveys two decades of austere growth in British poverty porn. Dissecting grim-up-north platitudes, perilous-down-south perambulations and sundry slumming-it social-realist serenades, an attempt is made to see if the national film oeuvre ought to have opened any eyes.

text    pdf

“Our country’s calling card
Culture as the Brand in Recessionary Ireland

Rosemary Meade
Mainstream media discussions of economic crisis display a moralising sensibility. Narratives of blame either so universalising they fail to interrogate issues of power, social reproduction, inequality and exclusion in the Irish context; or so narrowly targeted on charismatic miscreants they avoid analysis of the structural roots of this latest crisis in capitalism. In ‘Brand Ireland’ discourses, the uncertain status of Ireland’s reputation and the urgency of ‘brand’ consolidation manifest a consensus that culture be ‘functionalised’ in the interests of economic revival...

text    pdf

Generation Bailout
Art, Psycho-Geography, and ‘The Irish Mind’ debate

Joanne Laws
- examines the visual arts in Ireland at this post-bust juncture: An emerging ‘political turn’, visible across recent festival formats, is an institutional framing of an ‘emergence’ from crisis, supported by discourse on political exhibition making - notably, in cultivating a new fidelity to the ‘local’, contemporary Irish art is re-inhabiting familiar terrain; that of ‘land’, ‘place’ and the “native sensibilities of the local genius”. Laws concludes examining a revival of the ‘Irish mind debate’, querying whether there is a specifically Irish intellectual tradition counter to a ‘hegemonic rationalism’ of 'Anglo-Saxon/Ango-American logic’ which might enable “a reinvestment in the notion of what it means to be a republic”.

text    pdf

The Housing Monster
Friendofzanetti's 'The Housing Monster' sets out to de-fetishise housing as a commodity form by means of an illustrated book. That we have waited so long for such a clear and compelling introduction to this subject says much about the aporias of the productivist Left which has traditionally relegated reproductive issues, including housing, behind workplace issues. The book’s arrival provides an opportunity to discuss housing in a way that does not merely replicate the dull compulsions of social democracy, which assumes that distribution always follows behind production, and thereby implicitly accepts the capitalist relation in the wage-labour form. The book is notable for its attention to the individual forms of stress and estrangement that the vast majority of us experience on the capital-deficit side of property relations. This book is an attempt to lift the cap from over our eyes again – the monsters must be slain!

text    pdf

Back Cover : pdf
Occupy Poster by kennardphillipps, distributed with The Occupied Times

[Occupy Everything, new work by kennardphillipps, is at Hales Gallery, London, 19 April-26 May 2012]