"Power" is an archive of the concept, methods, and implementation of historical and contemporary forms of power. Based on the theories of Stephen Lukes in his writing “Power: A Radical View," the main points highlighted in this series are derived from his three-dimensional views on power.
For the full artist statement and explanation of the connections with Lukes' theories please click here
Created for Sociology 1010, Classical Sociological Theory, taught by Scott Frickel
Brown University + Rhode Island School of Design
Printed on: Neenah Antique Gray, Xerox Premium Gloss
Typefaces used: Akzidenz Grotesk BQ, Questra Sans, Questra
References: "Power: A Radical View", Second Edition, 2005 by Stephen Lukes
This guide, "5 Easy Steps to Success", condenses and abbreviates my personal observations and reactions to Lukes’ two-dimensional view of power, where he states that power has two faces, one of which is “when a person or group consciously or unconsciously creates or reinforces barriers to the public airing of policy conflicts.” This is manifested even today, in preventing certain issues from being presented and addressed, such as in the diminishment and rejection of the “#BlackLivesMatter” movements and the most recent race-related conflicts in Mizzou. Lukes’ mentions that “organization is the mobilization of bias” and that there are “rules of the game” in institutional procedures, in which there are “predominant values, beliefs, rituals, and institutional procedures that operate systematically and consistently to the benefit of certain persons or groups at the expense of others.” Half a century ago, this was evident in the systematic, government-approved racism that allowed for the segregation of public spaces based on skin color. Today, this is still evident in job positions, wage earnings, and even education. This satirical handbook emphasizes the five consistent aspects of people that put them into the ultimate group that holds the most power and benefits the most at the expense of others, drawing from contemporary and historical examples. These five characteristics (or, “steps”) are:
1) Be White
2) Be Christian
3) Be Cisgender
4) Be Heterosexual
5) Be Male
Recently, I’ve noticed that people tend to reject the possibilities of belonging to a group of “power” because it appears to undermine their own hard work and diligence. However, accepting ones privilege and being hardworking are not mutually exclusive. In the handbook, I hoped to highlight the five aspects in a brutally honest manner, because these tend to be sugar-coated in modern media and politics (to “unconsciously influence”, as Lukes described).
I Want You to Retweet is a documentation of the reactive tweets to #Trump2016. Donald Trump truly speaks his mind, regardless of the consequences. However, what is incredible is his number of supporters, despite his ignorant, racist, and seemingly fascist comments. It questioned my perception on power, and I am truly amazed by how many people are still willing to follow Trump, even when he called for the complete ban and persecution of a certain group, despite our knowledge of what happened during the Holocaust. Why is he so powerful? The book documents many tweets by his followers on Twitter, including many that read “if you’re a follower of Trump, I will follow you!”—this brings in a whole new level of “power in number" that Lukes had not anticipated. Lukes had mentioned that “collective action” and “mobilization of bias results from the form of organization…bias is maintained by the socially structured and patterned behavior of groups, and practices of institutions”, but since the onslaught of the internet, there has never been quite a space so vast, so large, so accommodating, so unifying, so free as online social media platforms. The new social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. offer spaces for solidarity and, in a sense, a new form of “power” that results from having a large community of people who do not need to be physically close to share the same sentiments.
This book reflects the manipulative quality of people who hold definitive positions of power, such as the President of the United States. “adjectives, fillers, political jargon, etc”, takes two weeks of the official Presidential statements that were released to the public on the government website and highlights (in blue) the text that summarized the true meaning of the statements. As all politicians do, President Obama’s statements are filled with excess language that serves to influence the audience. These include emotionally charged words, complex political content that the average American would not understand, or anecdotes that have nothing to do with the issue at hand, but serve to sway the public. Of course, Obama is by no means the only or first person to do this, but it shows how so much of maintaining a position of power requires winning the appeal and approval of the general population, especially in a democracy like the United States of America. The rest of the text that isn’t essential is set in red and included is a sheet of red acetate that, when the reader lays over the text, will block out all of the red text and leave only the blue text. This level of interaction of the reader proves even further the authoritative nature of “power”—to truly understand politics, we have to sift through all of the statements. It is much easier to simply “accept” what is going on in the White House and trust that the people in charge know what they are doing.
The final portion of this archive includes Like Button stickers, which is an interpretation of the “power in social media” phenomenon. “Strength in numbers” is by no means a new or revolutionary concept, but there has never been a more connected world than the one we live in today. We can instantly reach strangers across the globe. In addition, posts that are most popular, that garner the most “likes”, are often pushed to the top of Facebook timelines, or are often “trending.” These posts can influence people and change their opinions on certain issues, even political ones. With the stickers, I hoped that people could take them and stick them on items in their daily lives, as a way of “approving”, or giving power to certain items in the physical world, such as a poster for a concert, a new door on a building, the best item on the menu, etc. "Liking" things online has become so impersonal, but giving power has never been as simple as it is today, with the single click of a “like” button.