Steve Lambert

is working on the opioid crisis in Seattle.

Yearly Archives: 2014

School for Creative Activism Barcelona

At the School for Creative Activism in Barcelona, we created a carnival outside a hospital to demonstrate the arbitrary pricing of treatments by pharmaceutical companies. Specifically we targeted Gilead’s pricing of Sovaldi, a treatment for Hepatitis C.

The story was covered in Spain’s El Diario.

More photos on the Center for Artistic Activism site

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Video: Lecture at Grand Valley State University

This is the talk I gave at Grand Valley State University. During the Q&A I was first told I was a finalist for Art Prize, so that’s why none of the issues around the funding and giving away the prize are mentioned.

This is what I was thinking about and talking about in September 2014. Topics covered include:

  • Growing up in San Mateo, CA
  • Liberal Education
  • What art is for
  • Jesus of Nazareth vs. Jesus the King
  • Monet’s Haystacks
  • Futurist Theory
  • Some work I made
  • The problem with awe and wonder
  • The problem with explicit persuasion
  • Power

And there are jokes.

Watch it here:

404 Video: QualStream Will Get You Back Online

In 2011 I had an idea in the middle of the night. Instead of a 404 Not Found Error page on my website, I would make a 404 Not Found video that would become “The Most Awkward 404 Not Found Page on the Internet.”

That went around.

A couple months ago I was invited to create another video for the 404th Wall Project. The 404th Wall Project – I’ll say intentionally – I never understood. It had to do with streaming a video signal to Dubai from, I think, Scotland. While assurances were made, everyone involved seemed to expect problems with the signal. So much so, they commissioned videos for when it all went South. That’s where I came in.

I asked my old friend Scott Vermeire to join. He and I recorded a 30 minute in-character tech support/sales video for a company called QualStream Solutions, LLC. As Josh and B.B., we were going to stay on the line until everything was up and running again.

I’ll warn you, it’s about 30 minutes long. I think it’s worth it, but if you don’t agree that’s fine. It’s not for everyone. However, word from the audiences there was that they either enjoyed it immensely, or found it eerily similar to real-life experiences.

(Note: originally it was over an hour, but there was a problem with the sound so we re-did it.)

About the 404th Wall Project

Hosted by The NewBridge Project and spearheaded by artists Alexia Mellor, Anthony Schrag and Dominic Smith, The 404-th Wall is a satellite project of the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA), taking place in Dubai, 30 October-8 November, 2014.

No Thanks ArtPrize (UPDATED)

I’m not keeping the money.

Last week I learned I was a jury pick for ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. Shortly after I found out I was on the short list for the public vote as well. At that point I had a shot at the $200,000 public vote prize, the $200,000 juried prize, and a 1 in 4 chance of winning a $20,000 jury prize for my category.

It’s a lot of money.

I didn’t enter ArtPrize with the hope of winning. I was curated into a show during ArtPrize. I had heard a bit about the contest and decided to give it a chance and have the piece reach an audience it may not otherwise. I was certain I had no shot at winning. I liked that my piece was understood and appreciated by critics and the public alike.

ArtPrize is hard to explain. It’s a project of Rick DeVos, who comes from a very wealthy family. How did they make that money? Founding Amway – Multi-Level Marketing, which is a polite term for a pyramid scheme. They’re married into the family behind Blackwater, the private military outfit. They’re against unions and advocate for school voucher programs. They’ve been major donors to Focus on the Family, Acton Institute, Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich’s campaigns. You may have read that article I sent last week, or about their unionbusting and plan to defund the Left in Mother Jones. (I encourage you to read them. It made my choice much easier.)

What bothers me the most is the DeVos family has, for generations, been on the wrong side of the fight for civil rights for LGBT people. And they back their opinions with millions in political money against civil rights. It’s a long story, but the end is: they haven’t changed.

Tomorrow night, I may win tens of thousands of dollars of their money. (more…)

On Utopia for Keri Smith’s The Imaginary World Of…

First, Keri Smith is great. I’ve known her and her husband for about 10 years. We used to be neighbors. She’s on the advisory board of the Center for Artistic Activism. And she makes great books.

On Utopia in Keri Smith's Book

This is her latest, The Imaginary World Of…, and I wrote one page of it. Keri asked me to write a few words on Utopia, so I did. I thought she was asking lots of artists to write a little something she would include. In fact it was just me.

I got the book in the mail, re-read what I wrote, and I still liked it.

My page is licensed under a Creative Commons license, so I’m sharing it here. However, you should check out Keri’s books, because they are good.


On Utopia

by Steve Lambert

download a PDF

The problem with reality is it’s so easy to see.

Look around. There it is.

Go outside. There’s some more.

You can’t leave reality’s presence. It’s always there to remind you and it all seems so tangible and permanent. So real.

In fact, it’s not permanent at all. Things are always changing and in the long term, everything is temporary. Also, our idea of what reality is is never complete – after all, we can’t know everything. On top of that, our idea of reality is usually inaccurate – some of the great moments in life are when we learn things and change our minds. That’s how we grow.

When we think about the future, this reality can get in the way. Our incomplete and incorrect ideas of reality, and reality’s persistence, end up tainting our imagination of what is probable in the world. The resulting visions of the future are tainted as well, and usually not very different than our current sense of reality.

It takes extra effort and imagination to set those tainted visions aside and dream up a reality we’d prefer, not to mention explore the innumerable futures that are possible.

But why do this? It is certainly more difficult.

Well, it’s definitely more fun. The world as it is could be a lot better. If you’re going to imagine the future, it’s a lot more joyful when you can escape from mistakes we’ve already made and envision something radically new. But there is another reason.

Utopia is a combination of three greek words; Eu (good), Ou (not), and Topos (place). Utopia translated is “good not place”. It is important to remember, as a “not place,” it is impossible to arrive at utopia. The reason we imagine utopias is to provide a point on the compass that orients us on our travels. Without utopia, we’re lost – we are traveling without direction, guessing and hoping that we are moving forward. The purpose of utopia is not a destination, it is to give us direction so we can progress.

Unrest: Art, Activism, & Revolution at the Helen Day Art Center

Through Nov 23rd, the New York Times Special Edition is part of  Unrest: Art, Activism, & Revolution at the Helen Day Art Center

About the show:

Artists have been at the forefront of revolutions for centuries, producing work that has an immediate political impact, or is responding to civil unrest. This exhibition takes its inspiration from the Arab Spring, and looks at the impact that artists have on political and social reform in countries like Egypt, Yemen, Israel, Palestine, Iran, and the United States. Unrest looks at artists as activists, revolutionaries and visionaries.

Participating Artists:

  • Lara Baladi
  • Because We Want It (Steve Lambert, The Yes Men, and many others)
  • Murad Subay
  • Public Studio
  • Packard Jennings
  • Shirin Neshat
  • Michael Rakowitz
  • Claire Fontaine
  • Pedro Reyes