Michael Paraskos

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Michael Paraskos
Born1969
Leeds, Yorkshire
OccupationNovelist, lecturer, art critic
NationalityCypriot, British
Alma materFrank Montgomery Secondary Modern School, Canterbury College of Technology, University of Leeds (B.A. and MRes.), and University of Nottingham (Phd.)
PeriodContemporary
GenreNonfiction, Metafiction, Satire

Michael Paraskos, FHEA, FRSA (born 1969) is a novelist, lecturer and writer on art. He has written several non-fiction and fiction books and essays, and articles on art, literature, culture and politics for various publications including Art Review, The Epoch Times and The Spectator magazine. In the past he has reviewed art exhibitions for BBC radio, curated exhibitions, and taught in universities and colleges in Britain and elsewhere. He has a particular focus on modern art, having published books on the art theorist Herbert Read, and he is also known for his theories connecting anarchism and modern art.[1] He lives in West Norwood in south London.

Education and employment[edit]

Paraskos was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, the youngest of five children, to his Cypriot father, Stass Paraskos, and English mother, Winifred Mary Pepper. As a child his family moved to Kent, where Paraskos attended a secondary modern school in Canterbury, designed for children considered to have a low level of intellectual ability. It was an experience he described as "unpleasant". In an interview in 2016 he claimed that in attending this kind of school: "You knew you were a failure from day one. Because they told you! So they weren't pleasant places to be."[2] Paraskos also claimed in The Guardian newspaper that those who attend secondary modern schools "are condemned to a lifetime of social exclusion and crippling self-doubt".[3]

After leaving school at the age of 16 Paraskos became an apprentice butcher at a Keymarkets supermarket.[4] After becoming a vegetarian, he left butchery and enrolled on evening classes at Canterbury College of Technology to study for university entrance examinations. After this he went on to attend the University of Leeds and University of Nottingham, studying at Leeds under the novelist Rebecca Stott, and at Nottingham with the art historian Fintan Cullen. At Nottingham University he gained his doctorate in 2015 on the aesthetic theories of the anarchist poet and art theorist Herbert Read.

After teaching as a visiting part-time lecturer at various colleges and universities, and for the WEA from 1992 onwards, Paraskos was made head of Art History for Fine Art at the University of Hull from 1994 to 2000.

In 2000 he went to work in Cyprus as Director of the Cornaro Art Institute in Larnaca, Cyprus, also teaching in Cyprus at the Cyprus College of Art.[5]

After returning to Britain 2014, he worked at SOAS, University of London until 2017, whilst also working as a lecturer at the City and Guilds of London Art School. As well as still teaching at the City and Guilds of London Art School, he is now head of adult education at Imperial College London.[6]

As a freelance reviewer of books and exhibitions, he has worked for The Spectator magazine, and the London edition of the Epoch Times newspaper. He has also reviewed art exhibitions for BBC Radio's Front Row programme, and SVT Television in Sweden, and appeared on Tariq Ali's political and cultural magazine programme, Rear Window, produced for TeleSur Television, as well as on various radio programmes for the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation.

As a writer he has published fiction and non-fiction extensively. His first fiction work, a novel entitled In Search of Sixpence, was published in 2016.[7] and his second, a satire on the Donald Trump presidency and Brexit, entitled Rabbitman, was published in 2017.[8]

Anarchist art theory[edit]

Although he has never formally declared himself to be an anarchist, preferring instead the term syndicalist or co-operator[9] Paraskos's work has intellectual connections to anarchist ideas, and he has personal connections with anarchist circles.

In 2006 Paraskos wrote an article for the Cypriot art newspaper ArtCyprus entitled 'Portrait of the Artist as a Terrorist' in which he used the theories of Francesco de Sanctis to argue that art creates new realities by destroying old ones.[10] Although de Sanctis was not an anarchist, in Paraskos this statement, equating the creation of a new reality through the artistic destruction of an old one, seems to have sparked a particular interest in the relationship between anarchism and art. This was further developed in 2007 when Paraskos published an essay on his father, the artist Stass Paraskos and the painter Stelios Votsis, in which he argued that their series of collaborative paintings, begun when both artists had reached their 70s, represented a kind of "anarchist commune" on the canvas. Notably Paraskos ended this essay, written in Greek and English, with the slogan "Ζήτω η αναρχική επανάσταση!", or "Long live the anarchist revolution!"[11]

This theme was developed further in a 2015 valedictory essay for his father, who had died a year earlier, in the journal The Cyprus Dossier, in which Paraskos declared again that the purpose of art is to create alternative forms of reality to which society can strive. As this suggests Paraskos's form of anarchist thinking has its roots in the anarchism of nineteenth-century artists such as Paul Signac and Henri-Edmond Cross[12] However, in Paraskos's writings the capacity of art to create new realities has a more aggressive edge, with Paraskos claiming that it is the ability of art to create alternative ways of living that makes it so potentially dangerous to those who benefit from the existing social systems. Consequently, in the act of creating an alternative future, the artist has to destroy current reality, with Paraskos describing the artist as a kind of "psychopath whose mission in life is to slit the collective throat of the bourgeoisie".[13]

In 2008 Paraskos also edited a book of essays on the British anarchist art theorist Herbert Read for the anarchist publishing house the Freedom Press, and he has spoken at anarchist studies conferences in the UK. As this suggests, Paraskos's route into anarchism might have its origins in his earlier academic studies into Herbert Read, but in Paraskos's own work this interest has evolved into a theory of art in which a direct parallel is made between the anarchist desire to free the individual from society and what Paraskos claims is the artists' desire to be free from existing culture.

In effect Paraskos argues that a key strand of anarchist theory is that it is differentiated from other radical political doctrines in the way it rejects all forms of social or cultural conditioning. According to Paraskos, in the same way political anarchism tries to liberate the individual from the state, so art seeks to liberate the individual from culture. In this theory, culture is seen as something imposed on people, undermining their individuality, whereas art is an expression of that individuality emerging from a direct engagement by a particular person at a particular time with the world as a physical and material entity.

Consequently for Paraskos the notion of artistic transcendence which seems to underpin his earlier understanding of art is also a transcendence of culture, in the same way that a political anarchist seeks to transcend imposed society, or the state. Indeed, speaking at the Anarchist Studies Conference at the University of Loughborough in September 2012 Paraskos described culture as a form of the state. Using an analogy of society and culture being like a bus he argued that whilst most political doctrines, including Marxism, only want to change the driver of the bus, only anarchism wants to help the passengers to get off the bus.[14] This new development in what has been called the New Aesthetics movement, is also evident in the writings of Paraskos's long term collaborator, the artist Clive Head, who has begun to write of art's ability to "terrorise culture".[15]

Fiction and non-fiction books[edit]

Michael Paraskos is the author of a number of non-fiction books on art. These include Herbert Read: Art and Idealism (2014) in which he explores the ideas of the British anarchist art theorist Herbert Read and Four Essays on Art and Anarchism (2015), a collection of four lectures turned into essays. He has also written monographs on the British artists Steve Whitehead (2007) and Clive Head (2010). He has edited books by and on Herbert Read and other subjects, and is the author of one work of fiction, In Search of Sixpence (2016). This book is a semi-fictionlised account of the life and death of Paraskos's father, Stass Paraskos, who died in 2014, but it is combined with a Chandleresque detective story and other elements. Real life figures are also woven into the book, including Ezra Pound and Mariella Frostrup. These elements, which undermine the division between fiction and non-fiction writing, form what Paraskos has described as a kind of disruptive anarchist literature, although the subject matter of the book is not overtly concerned with political anarchism.

A feature of both Paraskos's fiction and non-fiction writing is the place of the author in the writing. This is clear in the personal elements of his novel, In Search of Sixpence, where Paraskos is a character in his own novel, but in his non-fiction writings on Herbert Read, Steve Whitehead and Clive Head Paraskos also frequently refers to himself and uses personal anecdotes that have the effect of personalising the texts and rooting them in Paraskos's own experiences. His second novel, a satirical fiction based on an imagined Donald Trump-like president, who also happens to be a rabbit, entitled Rabbitman, was published in 2017. This was described by the anarchist novelist Paul Cudenec as "a pleasurable read, with a lightness of touch to the surreal satire which even includes a few Dad's Army gags, for those of certain generation. But there is deadly serious anarchic message lurking in there as well. And even a positive ending to help the breeze of eternal hope set our inner black flags aflutter."[16] From the right of the political spectrum, Rabbitman was reviewed in the American Thinker, where Paul Austin Murphy latched on to its depiction of a post-Brexit Britain, claiming it "chimes in with Remainer end-times' prophesy because shortly after the UK leaves the EU, society collapses and – wait for it! – the British people then become dependent on EU food aid!"[17]

Cocktails[edit]

In 2015, responding to a call by the government-run Cyprus Tourism Organisation for ideas to promote Cypriot food and drinks to foreign visitors to Cyprus, Paraskos suggested a new cocktail using only Cypriot ingredients, called the ouzini. This was picked up by local media,[18][19] and promoted by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation.[20] Following a suggestion by the Cypriot journalist Lucy Robson that the problem for the ouzini was that it lacked a compelling story,[21] Paraskos included the ouzini in his 2016 novel In Search of Sixpence.[22]

Lists of publications[edit]

Books by Michael Paraskos[edit]

  • The Anarchists/Οι Αναρχικοί (Nicosia: Εν Τύποις, Βουλα Κοκκινου Λτδ, 2007)
  • Steve Whitehead (London: Orage Press, 2007)
  • Re-Reading Read: New Views on Herbert Read [editor] (London: Freedom Press, 2007)
  • The Aphorisms of Irsee [with Clive Head]) (London: Orage Press, 2008)
  • The Table Top Schools of Art (London: Orage Press, 2008)
  • Is Your Artwork Really Necessary? (London: Orage Press, 2008)
  • Clive Head (London: Lund Humphries, 2010)
  • Regeneration (London: Orage Press, 2010)
  • Herbert Read: Art and Idealism (London: Orage Press, 2014)
  • Four Essays on Art and Anarchism (London: Orage Press, 2015)
  • In Search of Sixpence (London: Friction Fiction, 2016)
  • Rabbitman (London: Friction Fiction, 2017)

Books including chapters by Michael Paraskos[edit]

  • New introduction to Herbert Read, To Hell with Culture (London, Routledge 2002)
  • 'Herbert Read' in Chris Murray (ed.), Key Thinkers on Art (London, Routledge, 2002)
  • New introduction to Herbert Read, Naked Warriors (London, Imperial War Museum Publications, 2003)
  • Various entries for Antonia Bostrom (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Sculpture (London, Routledge, 2003)
  • "The Prick of Conscience Leatherette Sofa", in Pippa Hale (ed.), Pipa Hale at the Patrick Studios, Leeds (Leeds: ESA, 2005)
  • "The Curse of King Bomba: Or How Marxism Stole Modernism", in Hana Babayradova and Jiri Havilcek (eds.), Spiritualita (Brno: Masaryk University Press, 2006)
  • "Herbert Read and Ford Madox Ford", in Paul Skinner (ed.) International Ford Madox Ford Studies vol. 6 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007)
  • "ME THN EYKAIPIA", in Ludmila Fidlerova and Barbora Svatkova (eds.), Mimochodem (By the Way), (Brno: Masaryk University Press, 2009)
  • Various entries for Ingrid Roscoe (ed.), The Biographical Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660–1851 (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2009)
  • "Bringing into being: vivifying sculpture through touch", in Peter Dent (ed.) Sculpture and Touch (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014)

Reviews and discussion of work by Michael Paraskos[edit]

  • James Ker-Lindsay, Hubert Faustmann, The Government and Politics of Cyprus (New York: Peter Lang, 2008) p. 40, n.19
  • Carissa Honeywell, A British Anarchist Tradition: Herbert Read, Alex Comfort and Colin Ward (London: Continuum Publishing, 2011) p. 49f
  • David Goodway, Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow (London: PM Press, 2012) p. 350f
  • Pierluigi Sacco, review of Is Your Artwork Really Necessary? in Flash Art (Italian art magazine), no. 303, June 2012
  • Paul Cudenec, review of In Search of Sixpence (London: Friction Fiction, 2017) [1]
  • Jordi Costa, "La ficción en tiempos de inmediatez", in El Pais (Spanish newspaper), 28 August 2017 [2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Anarchist Studies Network Conference 2.0 'Making Connections'" (PDF). Anarchist-studies-network.org.uk. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
  2. ^ Panayides, Theo (8 April 2016). "Sensitive, creative, heart on sleeve". The Cyprus Mail. Nicosia.
  3. ^ "Letters". The Guardian. London. 20 October 2015.
  4. ^ Michael Paraskos, In Search of Sixpence (London: Friction Press, 2016) p. 220
  5. ^ Michael Paraskos (ed.), Re-reading Read: New Views on Herbert Read (London: Freedom Press, 2007), p. 219.
  6. ^ "'Notes on Contributors'". Journal of Women's Studies. 44. 2015. ISSN 0049-7878.
  7. ^ Michael Paraskos. In Search of Sixpence. Amazon.co.uk. ISBN 9780992924782. ASIN 0992924782.
  8. ^ Michael Paraskos. Rabbitman. Amazon.co.uk. ISBN 9780995713000. ASIN 0995713006.
  9. ^ Michael Paraskos, Four Essays on Art and Anarchism (London: Orage Press, 2015) p.8
  10. ^ Michael Paraskos, 'Portrait of the Artist as a Terrorist', in ArtCyprus, No. 1, Spring 2006, p.3
  11. ^ Michael Paraskos, The Anarchists/Οι Αναρχικοί (Nicosia: Βουλα Κοκκινου Λτδ, 2007)
  12. ^ See letter from Henri-Edmond Cross to Signac, quoted in Marina Bocquillon-Ferretti (ed.) Signac (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001) p.196
  13. ^ Paraskos, Michael (2015). "A Voice in the Wilderness: Stass Paraskos and the Cyprus College of Art". The Cyprus Dossier. 8: 26.
  14. ^ Michael Paraskos, 'What would an anarchist Rembrandt look like', paper delivered to the Anarchist Studies Network Conference, University of Loughborough, September 2012, reproduced in English and Turkish translation in Sanat Dunyamiz (Turkish art magazine) no. 131, 2012, p.22f
  15. ^ Clive Head, From Victoria to Arcadia (London: Marlborough Fine Art, 2012)
  16. ^ Cudenec, Paul (3 July 2017). "Rabbitman [review]". Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  17. ^ Murphy, Paul Austin (9 December 2017). "British Fantasy Novelists for the European Union". American Thinker. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  18. ^ Michael Paraskos (19 April 2015). "A perfect sundowner to replace the tired old brandy sour". The Cyprus Mail.
  19. ^ Masha Salko, "Ouzini", 30 April, 2015, Moi Ostrov,
  20. ^ "Meet Ouzini, the all Cypriot cocktail!". Cyprus Tourism Organisation. 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  21. ^ Lucie Robson, "A good story will be the Ouzini's strongest ingredient", in The Cyprus Weekly (Cyprus newspaper), 1 May 2015
  22. ^ Michael Paraskos, In Search of Sixpence, (London: Friction Fiction, 2016), p. 384.

External links[edit]

Interviews with Michael Paraskos[edit]