After hearing his talk at the ovoid Einstein Auditorium in the East Village on 2/23, Nato Thompson has left me feeling at least 48% more excited about the latent possibilities within our country’s contemporary Arts and Activist movements.
There to launch his new book, Seeing Power (Melville House, 2015), Thompson discussed the cultural mechanisms hiding behind our industrial trends: a spectrum of dynamics within didactic and ambiguous information relationships, affecting organizational modes of resistance to the poetics of progress, and everything in between. Speaking with notable artist, activist, author, and facilitator Gregory Sholette, he deftly revealed how those dynamics obstruct or generate tactical and strategic action in both artistic and activist forums of engagement. Thompson ranged across experiences from the diverse curatorial projects and events he’s organized for Creative Time, while noting outrageous instances of co-opted revolutionary semiotics in advertising campaigns, the void of identity underlying the marketing and politics of Hipsterdom, and a contextualization of Reverend Billy’s theatrics in relation to artists who choose to infiltrate the infrastructure of local institutions.
The talk featured Thompson doling out sparks of insight and levity, while firmly advocating a clean shift out of the constraints of a lingering Humanist narrative in favor of movement into a Biocentric paradigm. Though he feels the language of the emerging narrative has to go far beyond resolving the grotesque compulsions of social network trolls, he has observed a trend in some circles of public discourse “training towards the positive.” Such a shift in the emerging creative sector, Thompson argues, may yet reveal many resonances — a veritable “horizon of possibilities” — he sees as just beginning to open its eyes toward the real power of an organized, populist, interdependent, and open culture.
Can’t wait to read the book. Here’s the link.