Cluttered airwaves breed emptiness - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Cluttered airwaves breed emptiness

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Posted: Sunday, February 8, 2004 6:37 am | Updated: 5:06 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Janet Jackson’s infamous Super Bowl stunt was an artist’s cry for help.

Baring her breast on a live telecast was a "tawdry and empty" strategy to get attention in a culture cluttered with 30-second sound bites, video games, action movies and 24-hour entertainment television, said Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University.

Gitlin, the author of "Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives," will discuss what happens to art in such a culture at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Arizona State University.

"It’s an unprecedented issue in human history," Gitlin said. "The impression we have of art comes through this (media) filter."

Artists must find better strategies in order to stand out. Jackson’s flamboyant and sensational stunt is an example of what not to do, Gitlin said.

There’s an audience craving something deeper and complex, he said.

"People should patronize work they’re not familiar with and get out of their tunnels," Gitlin said.

"It’s a great time to be alive for culture because we have access, and it’s very easy to find."

From 1964 to 1965, Gitlin was president of the Students for a Democratic Society, a radical organization. He helped organize the first national protest against the Vietnam War.

Gitlin’s latest book, "Letters to a Young Activist," offers advice based on his 40 years of experience as an agitator.

Speaking out

What: Scholar and activist Todd Gitlin speaks about "Art Making in an Age of Uncertainty"

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday

Where: Katzin Concert Hall, Arizona State University main campus, Mill Avenue and Gammage Parkway

Cost: Free

Information: (480) 965-2787 or

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