“Protest & Survive”

Whitechapel Gallery

Originally a slogan of the fight for nuclear disarmament, the phrase “protest and survive” was hijacked by the curatorial team of Matthew Higgs and Paul Noble for an energetically eclectic exhibition featuring work from some forty American and European artists, spanning several generations, with a core of local Londoners. The rallying cry—coined by socialist historian and activist E.P. Thompson for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1980—conjures an idealistic image of organized resistance against the common and clearly identified threat of nuclear power and its champions. But the show presented no such united front, offering instead a wild array of various forms of disorder and disaffection. Despite the curatorial invocation of radical politics, the exhibition’s emblematic figure was that of the oddball rather than the anarchist, the misfit rather than the revolutionary.

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