Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Tao of Steve

Or: Utopia as a direction, not a destination.

This is a video of a talk about utopian activism by United Statesian artist, activist, and friend-of-this-show Steve Lambert, whose work has previously featured at The Sceptical Futuryst. (Remember the New York Times Special Edition? That's the stuff.)

There's a lot that I like about this talk, about the approach and sensibility it describes, and most of all about the practice it's based on.

I like the idea of eliciting and making vivid representations of urban experts' images of the future, digging past their reflexive responses -- "more trees, more transit" -- to engage deeper and more unexpected notions.

I like the use of absurdity and humour inviting audiences to rationalise or problematise for themselves proposals offered up playfully, so as to have them "participate in dreaming these different solutions".

But above all, I like the approach which says that activist efforts should engage people "where they are, and in language they understand" -- "spanning out" of galleries and art culture into pop culture. This is a pragmatic creativity in communication which sees all media, and any ingenious way to highjack the semiotic stream with an infusion of goodwill and imagination, as fair game.

Why do I like it? Because I agree with the rationale behind it.

We need to do this because marching and saying 'no', and 'don't', and 'stop' aren't working any more. We live in a culture, and we need to participate in that culture. We need to work with other groups, work together, in order to use culture tactically.

The tactical recruitment of cultural and psychological affordances to "recalibrate our sense of reality" around the potential realisation of the futures we prefer is powerful, necessary and overdue.

It is also more fun, as well as more ethical, than putting up with the crappy way things are.

Related posts:
> Dreampolitik
> Guerrilla futurists combat war on terror
> San Francisco's awesome future
> Sponsors of Utopia
> Sometimes it doesn't belong in a museum
> An experiential scenario for post-revolution Tunisia