Nato Thompson: Culture as Weapon

Monday January 23: 7:00PM 8:00PM

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: The Art of Influence in Everyday Life, 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 he puts it, “the world has witnessed the realization of the age-old avant-garde demand that art become part of the everyday.”

Join Nato as he discusses his research and practice at the intersection of power and culture with critic/curator Christian Viveros-Fauné.


Buy a copy of Culture as Weapon or a $15 gift card in-store at the Strand's main floor registers or at the door to attend. This event will take place in the Rare Book Room on the Strand's 3rd floor, accessible via the store elevator or at 826 Broadway.

Nato Thompson is Artistic Director at the New York City public arts organization Creative Time. He is the editor of Experimental Geography: Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism (Melville House); The Interventionists: Users' Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life; and Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991–2011. His most recent book is Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the 21st Century (Melville House). (Photo: Derek Schultz)


Christian Viveros-Fauné is a New York-based writer and curator, and a former art dealer and art fair director (VOLTA and NEXT). Currently Art and Culture Critic at artnet News, he has written for Art in America, Artnews, The Baffler, Departures, and Frieze, among other publications. He is editor of Darío Escobar: The Life of the Object (Lucia | Marquand, January 2017). (Photo: Ari Espay)

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