Attempting the Impossible (Visual Sociology #008)

Artwork: Alice Santoro (

VS-AlyceSantoro-NORMAL_lg VS-AlyceSantoro-utopia

Artwork: Alice Santoro (

Attempting the impossible

by Alyce Santoro, “a delicate empiricist”

Shifts in society reflect shifts in the social imaginary: excerpt of the Manifesto for the Obvious International (the full text can be read here):

“In philosophy, the collectively agreed upon definitions, symbols, styles, behaviors, ways of using language, and other factors that are held in common throughout a culture – assumptions about how things are “supposed to be” – are called the social imaginary. Whether it is “normal” to compete or cooperate, own property, go into debt, go to war, or go shopping is determined by a wide range of constantly shifting factors, including the influence of our political, legal, and educational systems; corporate advertising; the media; and various amalgams thereof. The social imaginary is like a program that runs surreptitiously in the background; until we become consciously aware of it, we don’t notice that our attitudes are being influenced by entities that may have a vested interest in them. When we fear our neighbors instead of loving them, industries that produce guns, fences, and alarms profit – we willingly give them our dollars in exchange for a strange kind of security indeed. The same happens when we buy into the illogical premise that it is “normal” to pursue endless economic growth based on finite resources that, if consumed, destroy planetary conditions that support life.”

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Alyce Santoro is an internationally noted conceptual artist. A former scientist, she creates multimedia “philosoprops” to draw parallels between seemingly disparate fields and to spark dialog about holistic approaches to challenges facing the environment and society. More at and @alyceobvious.
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[This week’s “visual sociology” post is on the cusp of philosophy, social activism, and art. Alyce Santoro plays with material objects, images and text to create artwork loaded with social and philosophical messages. Perhaps we ought to rename the column “Visual social science”? But even that wouldn’t be precise enough. Since launching this column, SI has come across a wonderfully wide and varied application of visual approaches and methods than a narrow definition of “sociology” would accommodate –  from empirical sociology to philosophy, anthropology, ethnography, education, politically charged art…] 

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Categories: Visual Sociology


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