Public Programs And Events

Romancing True Power: D20

Romancing True Power: D20

Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
General Public 

The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC) presents the D20 – modeled after the G20 group of the most industrialized nations. It is a selective list of leaders from present and recent past, across continents and political systems, who, in some way, represent many people’s ideal of strong power – a true power. We call it Dickpower. What are the various aspects of history, culture or geography that have allowed, indeed in many cases cultivated, this dicktatorial leadership style? Why are so many of us enamored with power and the excesses that go with it? What is so attractive, even seductive, about this dicktatorial way of life? Why do we romance it?

Our exhibition Romancing True Power investigates the human reaction to an idea of power that is autocratic, authoritarian, dictatorial. This is a power undoubtedly present in dictatorships but can be equally be found in democracies. This exhibition is an invitation to re-imagine power by looking at dicktatorial constructs, their typology, and their trappings. These trappings including parades, salutes, group photographs, national currencies and stamps, formal and informal busts, and other memorabilia – official collectibles and pop-culture trinkets such as mugs and t-shirts, which are on exhibition. But the trappings also embrace intangibles such as perception, support, posturing, and self-promotion, all of which will be explored as well.

Through the exploration of video, photographs, text, architectural installation, and a selection of artworks from The New School Art Collection along with two other pieces – Brenda Bogart’s painting Dictators and other Dicks and a Russian news agency ITAR-Tass poster, we ask: Is dictatorship a product of geopolitics or of personalities? Of political economies or of psychologies? What are the shared traits that unite these leaders? How do they manifest their strength? What exactly is true power and why are we fascinated by it?

Each person’s Dick list is highly subjective; a thousand spectators may choose a thousand dicktators. According to Alan Axelrod and Charles Phillips’ Dictators & Tyrants (1994), a biographical dictionary of absolute rulers, there have been at least 600 autocratic, authoritarian, or dictatorial leaders and would-be leaders throughout world history. You must have your own favorite. As such, we also invite you to PYOD (Pick Your Own Dick). Who is on your D20 list?

Panel: Bobby Ghosh with curators Nina Khrushcheva and Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss
Wednesday, February 18, 6:00–7:00 p.m.; Followed by a reception 7:00–8:00 p.m.
New location: Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Auditorium, 66 Fifth Avenue, Room N101

GuestBobby Ghosh, Managing Editor of Quartz, CNN Global Affairs Analyst, formerly World Editor, TIME


Nina Khrushcheva, Associate Professor of International Affairs and Associate Dean at Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy, The New School 

Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss, Ph.D., Founding Principal of NAO, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia GSAPP and Lecturer at Penn Design

Exhibition Concept: Nina Khrushcheva / The New School

Exhibition Design: Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss / NAO

Exhibition Design Team NAO: Joachim Hackl with Joung taek Yi, Joshua Wai Hon Lam

D20 Research and Journal Production: Yiqing Wang-Holborn / The New School

D20 Journal Design: Madhav Tankha / The New School

D20 Journal Editor: Beth Pappas / The New School


The curators gratefully acknowledge the funding and intellectual support of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy, Milano’s Studley Faculty Research Fund, and the India China Institute of The New School; and would like to thank The New School Art Collection for the generous loan of the artworks, and the artist Brenda Bogart and Mr. and Mrs. David Rogers who lent the original painting, Dictators and Other Dicks. In addition, they would like to thank the Milano School faculty, students, alumni and other colleagues for lending their Dick kitsch.
The curators appreciate the internship support from CIEE / Internship USA & Professional Career Training USA and TISCHE-scholarship, granted by the Federal Chancellery of Austria, Arts and Culture Division.

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