Skip navigation

Nato Thompson

Nato Thompson is Chief Curator at the New York–based public arts institution Creative Time. He edited The Interventionists: Users’ Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life and Becoming Animal (both published by the MIT Press) and curated the MASS MoCA exhibitions they accompanied.

Titles by This Editor

Socially Engaged Art from 1991-2011
Edited by Nato Thompson

Over the past twenty years, an abundance of art forms have emerged that use aesthetics to affect social dynamics. These works are often produced by collectives or come out of a community context; they emphasize participation, dialogue, and action, and appear in situations ranging from theater to activism to urban planning to visual art to health care. Engaged with the texture of living, these art works often blur the line between art and life. This book offers the first global portrait of a complex and exciting mode of cultural production—one that has virtually redefined contemporary art practice.

Living as Form grew out of a major exhibition at Creative Time in New York City. Like the exhibition, the book is a landmark survey of more than 100 projects selected by a thirty-person curatorial advisory team; each project is documented by a selection of color images. The artists include the Danish collective Superflex, who empower communities to challenge corporate interest; Turner Prize nominee Jeremy Deller, creator of socially and politically charged performance works; Women on Waves, who provide abortion services and information to women in regions where the procedure is illegal; and Santiágo Cirugeda, an architect who builds temporary structures to solve housing problems.

Living as Form contains commissioned essays from noted critics and theorists who look at this phenomenon from a global perspective and broaden the range of what constitutes this form.

Contributing authors
Claire Bishop, Carol Becker, Teddy Cruz, Brian Holmes, Shannon Jackson, Maria Lind, Anne Pasternak, Nato Thompson

 

Contemporary Art in the Animal Kingdom
Edited by Nato Thompson

In an age when scientists say they can no longer specify the exact difference between human and animal, living and dead, many contemporary artists have chosen to use animals in their work—as the ultimate "other," as metaphor, as reflection. The attempt to discover what is animal, not surprisingly, leads to a greater understanding of what it means to be human. In Becoming Animal, 12 internationally known artists investigate the shifting boundaries between animal and human. Their explorations may be a barometer of things to come.

The works included in Becoming Animal—which accompanies an exhibit at MASS MoCA—range from the aviary and cabinet of curiosities of Mark Dion to the gun-toting bird collages of Michael Oatman. Nicolas Lampert's machine-animal collages and Jane Alexander's corpse-like humanoids suggest a new landscape of alienation. Rachel Berwick's investigation of the last Galapagos tortoise from the island of Pinto and Brian Conley's humanized mating call of the Tungara frog question the divide between human and animal communication. Patricia Piccinini imagines a bodyguard for a bird on the edge of extinction and Ann-Sofi Siden recreates the bedroom—and paranoia—of psychologist Alice Fabian. Natalie Jeremijenko presents another installment in her ongoing Ooz, reverse-engineering the zoo, and Kathy High's installation of "trans-animals" remembers lab rats who have given their lives for science. Sam Easterson's videos allow us to see from the viewpoint of an aardvark, a tarantula, a tumbleweed; Motohiko Odani's films show a surrealistic genetically modified bestiary. Becoming Animal documents these works with eye-popping full-color images, taking us on a visual journey through an unknown world.

Users' Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life

Art made to attach to buildings or to be given away? Wearable art for street demonstrations or art that sets up a booth at a trade show? This is the art of the interventionists, who trespass into the everyday world to raise our awareness of injustice and other social problems. These artists don't preach or proselytize; they give us the tools to form our own opinions and create our own political actions. The Interventionists, which accompanies an exhibit at MASS MoCA, serves as a handbook to this new and varied work. It's a user's guide to art that is exciting, provocative, unexpected, inspiring (artistically and politically), and fun. From Michael Rakowitz's inflatable homeless shelter and William Pope.L's "Black Factory" truck with pulverizer, gift shop, and giant inflatable igloo to the Biotic Baking Brigade's political pie-throwing, the art of The Interventionists surveys a growing genre and offers a guide for radical social action.

The book classifies the artists according to their choice of tactics: the Nomads, who create mobile projects; Reclaim the Streets, artists who act in public places; Tools for Resistance: Ready to Wear, artists who produce fashion for political action; and the Experimental University, artists whose work engages pedagogy and theory. The accompanying text includes essays by noted scholars putting the work in a broader cultural and social context as well as texts by the artists themselves.