nicholas zurko

Review of Hank Willis Thomas’s “What We Ask Is Simple”

Review of Hank Willis Thomas’s “What We Ask Is Simple”

An anxiety has steadily grown alongside the maturing of visual culture in late-capitalist societies over how an image can not only stand out from the countless others competing for attention across advertising, entertainment, and art but how it can also break loose of the cultural baggage that comes with its content. This second concern centers around what the French call signifiance, which describes the extratextual meaning that can attach itself to language that allows a repurposing to take place. What was once an early sign of winter (“snowflake”) can become a descriptor for an entire generation and these linguistic mutations can now take root faster than ever thanks to the multimedia onslaught provided by social media and smartphones.