This paper has two starting points. The first is the experience of seeing Gerhard Richter’s well-known painting cycle October 18, 1977 (worked from images related to the deaths of members of the Red Army Faction) at Tate Modern in late 2011. The second is the reading of various texts by Jacques Rancière, Alain Badiou, and Jodi Dean that address consensual political forms within contemporary society. Richter’s paintings appear to be concerned with a past of political extremism and fit with a broader ‘reversal of the flow of time’ that Rancière identifies in contemporary rejections of utopianism. Instead of looking to the future of a new world we are encouraged to look to the traumatic past of political violence and in so doing see the legitimacy of the consensual present. Richter’s written rejections of ‘extreme’ political ideology seem to affirm such a framing of his paintings, yet other statements suggest that these works can be read via a more utopian outlook. Can these artworks be re-read in terms of a counter-reversal of the reversal of the flow of time? And in this way can they be linked to Rancière’s concern to re-affirm litigious politics in a context of consensus; or Badiou’s commitment to ‘the idea of communism’; or Dean’s identification of the ‘communist horizon’? As such can these paintings function as the focal point for ruminations on relationships to particular disturbing pasts? Some images, sounds or other media used in the following presentation are subject to copyright restrictions that prevent them being shown. In order to provide a complete record of the conference, these items have been blurred or silenced. Should we obtain permission to use these images, sounds and other media in the future the films will be updated.