Join us at e-flux on Wednesday, April 19 at 7pm for an introduction to Nato Thompson's new book Culture as Weapon: The Art of Influence in Everyday Life (Melville House Books, 2017), followed by a dicussion with Laura Poitras.
In an era when real estate developers preach the power of art to change society, and when innovative capitalist design has come to be called art, one has to appreciate—and perhaps foster a healthy suspicion of—just how far art has come.
In Culture as Weapon, activist, curator, and critic Nato Thompson asks us to see the culture wars as more than just Reagan-era history, but as part of an evolving assault that uses art and affect to appeal to our emotional selves. In a sweeping account, he connects the innovative public relations strategies developed in the early 20th century by Edward Bernays, Ivy Lee, and others to modern-day phenomena as diverse as urban development, public art, charitable giving, and even the U.S. military's battle for hearts and minds in the Middle East.
The result is a spirited and insightful examination of how, over the past century, corporations, politicians, nonprofits, and activists alike have embraced the power of creativity to shape public opinion, for good and for ill. Thompson simultaneously investigates the way artists have reacted to this cultural transformation, from Andy Warhol's prescient Pop Art to Dread Scott Tyler's provocative installations to Suzanne Lacy's social interventions. As Thompson puts it, the world has witnessed the realization of the age-old avant-garde demand that art become part of the everyday.
Following an introduction, Thompson will discuss his research and practice at the intersection of power and culture with filmmaker Laura Poitras.
Nato Thompson is Artistic Director at Creative Time. He is the editor of Experimental Geography: Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism (2008), The Interventionists: A Users’ Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life (2004), Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991–2011 (2012), and Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the 21st Century (2015).
Laura Poitras is a filmmaker, journalist, and artist. Her films include Citizenfour, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2015, Risk which premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, and Project X a collaborative film with Henrik Moltke that premiered at this year’s Sundance Festival. Her recent projects include Astro Noise, her first solo museum exhibition shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2016.
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