Mystery Speech to Trick the Tricksters

In my previous posting about the Ideefiks seminar I wrote that ‘design does not exist’ (as if it is a common knowledge), and only then realized that I used this phrase in the presentation that I didn’t describe here – yet. In my own mind the sentence is almost a cliche by now, yet it’s not even present in this ‘blogging space’; a typical case of the ‘futures not evenly distributed’. Time to catch up with the mind’s futurescapes.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to speak at a mini-conference titled Blow Up the Cover Up, which itself was a ‘back cover’ of a week-long program Tricksters Tricked in the Vanabbe Museum in Eindhoven. Speaking broadly, the program was about different strategies of identity (de)construction, and included a range of art installations, performances and interventions.

For the last event of the program Hadas Zemer and Freek Lomme, its co-curators, invited Michel de Boer, identity designers from Rotterdam and Jonas Staal, a Dutch artist-activist (who also participated in the art program with his new project Art/Property of Politics). In some sense, they couldn’t select two more polar presenters: Michel represented a classical design approach to identity creation (he created a large number of designs for both businesses and governmental organizations alike; every person in the Netherlands knows at least one of his creations, identity design of the country’s police cars). Lately he’s been also involved in numerous design projects abroad, for example, he helps to design ‘identity’ for an entire country of South Korea.

Jonas makes his art to mix, re-mix, confuse and eventually blow up existing identity structures. In his presentation he told about his most recent project, Post Propaganda (pdf 1, pdf 2), where he explores art potential of political posters, and political power of art provocation.

The conference’s program also announced a third participant, described as a ‘mystery speaker’. Well, as I have suddenly discovered just a few days before the conference, it was me. I was supposed to present something that would “elevate the discussion to another dimension” (phew!) /me is always ready to elevate something to another dimension, as a matter of fact.

But the guys invited me (perhaps deliberately) so shortly before the talk that I hardly had any time to prepare anything thoughtful. Plus, I was actually very busy with preparing our own game about Cities of Happiness), so I was almost forced to be spontaneous and improvise full-steam. The slides were inevitably prepared in a rush, and the story is very raw, so I treat it as a stub, and plan to work it out further later.

I decided not to tell a grand story, with a predefined meaning and ‘morale’, but instead play a mini-game, to show a few (visual) pieces, out of which the audience could assemble their own ‘puzzle’. Since the theme of the conference was about identity and its (mis)(re)presentations, I also decided to make my story a bit auto-biographical and self-referential. In case of my readers’ interest, the slides can be now seen on SlideShare (click the picture below); I added a few notes to otherwise entirely pictorial presentation.


NB: I was later told that my story is way too complex to tell in 20 or so min I was given, and that it should be split into 6-7 different stories, each of 20-30 slides. But I tend to think that it was not so bad, especially for the stub executed in a mystery speech genre. Next time better (or rather more mysterious).

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