Everything is Connected: Art and Conspiracy

The Brooklyn Rail
By Hovey Brock
November 1, 2018

“In his essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” the historian Richard Hofstader labeled entire groups as pathological based on their inclinations to see events through the lens of conspiracy. While his essay has influenced political discourse ever since, Hofstader was wrong about conspiracy thinking as aberrant. To the contrary, it belongs to the quintessential human drive for pattern recognition. Think of it as the conceptual equivalent of pareidolia: the tendency to see patterns where none exist, such as the face of Jesus on a piece of toast. What’s more, actual conspiracies do happen, the Russian hackings of the 2016 election as a recent example. The eighty-three works in Everything is Connected, evidently the first museum show to tackle the topic, look at both sides of conspiracies, real and imagined, from the Vietnam era to the George W. Bush years. Most of the art functions as anti-entertainment, prodding us to wake up and see what’s actually around us. Some—particularly Jim Shaw’s—satirize conspiracy mainstays such as the Kennedy assassination. The most disturbing pieces address conspiracies by authorities who, to realize their agendas, brainwashed their charges.”

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