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Who thought up consumerism?

Cornelia Parker, Chomskian Abstract (still), 2007

I attended the first in a series of Arts & Ecology Exchanges at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) on Wednesday. Artist Cornelia Parker was the highlight of the evening, speaking with honesty and thoughtfulness and showing a clip of her recent work: a video interview with Noam Chomsky, in which he explains that it was a conscious decision, taken in the 1920s, to marginalise people by directing them to consumerism, diffusing the threat of a fully politically-engaged citizenship. Director of Kew Gardens, Stephen Hopper, really should have talked about the extraordinary and vitally important Millennium Seed Bank project at Kew; instead he talked about art, about which he is not an expert. Ed Vaizey MP (Con) was a last minute replacement for the recently promoted James Purnell. A slightly disappointing evening, though Parker’s film made it worthwhile. But I do recommend the RSA’s events, generally excellent (and free), and if the downside may seem to be the increasing number of politicians in the programme, it’s worth it for ‘s the RSA’s attempt to place art in direct conversation with the decision-making forces in society.

Cornelia Parker’s filmed interview with Chomsky is at the Whitechapel, London, 13 Feb – 30 March 2008

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