Red Utopia is a non-propagandistic search for what is left of communism, 100 years after the Russian Revolution. The photographs show interiors of party offices and their iconography, as well as environmental portraits of party officials and activists: people who, unlike their colleagues in communist dictatorships, chose for membership of such a party out of a sense of conviction and free choice against the prevailing neoliberal trend. Red Utopia focuses on five “non-communist” countries where this ideology still plays a role of some (and sometimes remarkable) importance: India, Italy, Nepal, Portugal, and Russia.
Long before the Russian Revolution of 1917, communism was a source of inspiration for idealists and revolutionaries who sought a fairer society. The struggle between communism and capitalism was one of the main themes in recent history, certainly between 1917 and 1989.
The gritty experiences of real socialism, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the triumph of neoliberalism seemed to deliver the final blow to the communist ideology. Many communist parties were disbanded after 1989 or slowly bled dry. While the gap between rich and poor widened in many countries from the 80s on, the Free Market seemed to have become the only remaining ideology.
In 2008, Dutch photographer Jan Banning gained worldwide recognition with his critically acclaimed book Bureaucratics (Nazraeli Press), edited by Martin Parr, that garnered rave reviews. Banning’s art work is in the collections of numerous museums, including High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; and the Centraal Museum in his home town Utrecht. His photo series have been published in print and online media such as National Geographic, TIME, Newsweek, The New Yorker, Days Japan, Sunday Times Magazine, and The Guardian Weekend, among many others.