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A Talk to Make Sense

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I give public talks on a regular basis. I've started to doubt the utility of 'public speaking' that is so often about a single storyline and even 'selling' something (idea, product, looser commodity). This investigation extends to the New York-style 'meeting'. I've begun to consider how knowledge is shared and transferred and the conditions under which corollary truths are obfuscated. I'm interested in blurring the line between public speaking and monologue ... and experimenting to understand if monologue can accommodate another participant without eroding or over-saturating its form. I’m looking at ‘interview’ as organic encounter with the primary goal of generating new ideas or furthering knowledge on a topic, and with the optional function to engage an audience through the use of visual and improvisational prompts. Depending on the setting and/or theme, interviewees can be intentional invitees or unassuming passers-by.
Approached from another angle, who or what licenses a speaker to introduce topics for which there is no specialization, e.g. hypocrisy, naïveté, failure, rationality, insanity, denial, sadness, philosophy, love story/hurt, betrayal, chivalry, serendipity, vulnerability, intrigue, racism, prejudice, bias, bliss? This inquiry has been catalyzed by re-reading Edward Said’s 1993 Reith Lecture, Representations of the Intellectual in which he details the mechanics by which society obstructs – or de-incentivizes –the public intellectual in favor of the ‘specialist’.
Following this concept, I will lead a series of talks with one other person each, which can vary in duration. I begin with a short treatise (on a theme from but not limited to the list above) that should get the other person talking. The talk is documented – photographically, graphically and/or through note-taking, and then shared publically somehow (e.g. Tumblr), and may result in a diagram/visual explanation or re-telling of a problem, solution, issue, or history. We (myself and the guest discussant) will decide if there is any follow-up action to be taken after our talk, e.g. staying in touch, writing a letter, exchanging something we know how to do in the service of a shared goal or desire... pre- existing or that which comes about from our talk. The process has the potential to create a set of artifacts be they ‘documents’ of the talk or those of follow-up actions taken by the talking duo.
In order to hone in on the topic of (or those related to) ‘utopia’, I’ll be able to use several of the aforementioned ‘starter topics’ – for example, philosophy – and then follow with an introductory line of thought/questioning: Is it necessary to know who had a thought before you in order to innovate in current terms ... what best serves social development? Do you feel that you share a lot in common with some of the authors of our accepted, ethical theories of justice? Do these theories reflect your story? And, so forth ...
Qualities of the space:
  • a desk near a wall with two or three chairs - near a window would be nice
  • the space will be arranged/lightly staged, drawing inspiration from Alfredo Jaar’s Marxist Reading Room, the library of Thomas Hirschorn’s Gramsci Monument; and the mise-en-scène of ‘The School of Death’ exhibition in the Family Business window gallery (e.g. chalkboard with some passing theme or question that can change according to the overall mood or new development of the Utopia School)
  • Guests and topics (if pre-determined) can be posted on the board for guests to the show and/or participating artists to know about and opt-into... while the idea is centered on two people talking, it is also porous and can accommodate a third person or an informal audience.
tps website
Interested (4)
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  • Utopia School
  • New York


Hey Todd,

I think we've been in touch about this, but we are having an open review session/potluck on May 6th at Flux Factory at 7pm and we'd love to review this proposal there. We consider these open potlucks an essential part of creating the school, so it would be great if you could join, either in person or by Skype.

More info here:


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