Thursday, December 6, 2012

Art and Activism in the Age of Cultural Production

Artists try to make sense of it and grasp the world around them, and that is very tough today owing to an extremely coercive social landscape, he avers. A write-up to ‘‘Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the Age of Cultural Production’ by Nato Thompson emphasizes: “How can really anyone find a distinct voice and make change when the world around is flooded with so much of information and images?

And what is one to make of the endless machine of consumer capitalism, which has appropriated much from the history of art and, in recent years, the methods of grassroots political organizing and social networking? Highlighting the work of some of today’s most innovative and interesting artists and activists, he reads and praises sites and institutions that empower their communities to see power and re-imagine it. From cooperative housing to anarchist infoshops to alternative art venues, the author shows that many of today’s most innovative spaces operate as sites of dramatic personal transformation.”

A mystifying fog of images and information seems to have engulfed the creative, media and advertising world - from television, radio, documentary and film to the glut of data generated by the new economy. With the fast rise of social networks, even most of our contemporaries, friends and peers have all suddenly started to sell to each one of us the ultimate end product: themselves. In this context, renowned curator-critic Nato Thompson looks to interrogate the irreversible implications of these important developments for those committed to socially engaged art practices and conscious activism.

At a broader level, his experience of closely dealing with the complex intersection of politics and art is something that has acted as a lead for him to write ‘Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the Age of Cultural Production’ (‘Pages: 176. December, 2012; Melville Publishing); it’s to do with he himself as an author, and also many artists he knows, grappling with these critical issues of representation and also how to make specific meaning stick, especially the holistic experience of not only complete co-optation, since that appears a rather simplistic term, but also the manner in which visual representation gets fast sucked into a machine of rampant power and sort of spits back. It has created a situation with vast distrust.

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