Conversation

Building Conversation is developed by a collective of artists, all in there own way fascinated by what happens when we talk with each other.

Inspired by conversation techniques from all over the world they execute and perform different conversations together with participants in cities all over Europe.

Conversation without words

Inspired by the practice of the Inuits

Thinking Together – an Experiment

Inspired by the theory of quantum physicist David Bohm

Agonistic Conversation

Inspired by the theory of Chantal Mouffe in the practice of the Maoris

Impossible Conversation

Inspired by the practice of the Jesuits

Parliament of Things

Inspired by the theory of Bruno Latour and the rituals of the Aboriginals

Time Loop

Inspired by the practice of Indians from the great Lake District in Canada

General Assembly

Inspired by the practice of the Occupy movement

(NL) Ik heb het nog nooit gedaan, dus ik wil het wel eens proberen.

(NL) Sheila Asefi about Conversation without words

Conversation without words

The Conversation without words is inspired by the annual gathering of the Inuits, where chieftains sit together for hours at a time, looking at each other without saying a word.

Another inspiration for this conversation is Maria Abramovich’s performance The Artist is Present, in which the visitors sit across from Abramovich, one by one, with the visitor and Abramovich looking at each other for a certain length of time. The intensity that arises when you look at each other without saying anything is enormous. This conversation lets us see and experience what human contact is based on and brings groups together in a very direct way.

(NL) Woorden hebben nog een tijdje aangevoeld als een masker waarachter ik me verschuilde.

(NL) Daan about Conversation without words

Thinking Together – an Experiment

Thinking Together – an Experiment is based on the theory and practice of the American quantum physicist David Bohm, who maintains that there is a self-regulating mechanism within a group of people that allows large groups of people to speak without a moderator.

David Bohm claims that you never think alone and that your thinking is always related to the thinking of others. According to him, conversation is the place where you can investigate and readjust the patterns of this collective thinking with each other. As a quantum physicist, he was interested in the chaos and underlying order exhibited by small moving particles. Later in life, he became interested in the chaos and underlying order in our thinking and speaking, and he called for carrying out conversations in which the chaos, frustration and irritations can be seen.

‘People tend to think of common consciousness as ‘shared bliss’. That may come; but if it does, I’m saying that the road to it goes through this. We have to share the consciousness that we actually have. We can’t just impose another one. But if people can share their frustration and share their different contradictory assumptions and share their mutual anger and stick with it – if everyone is angry together – then you have a common consciousness.’

From On Dialogue by David Bohm

(NL) If we can see what all of our opinions mean, then we are sharing a common content, even if we don’t agree entirely. And if we can see them all, we may then move more creatively in a different direction. We can just simply share the appreciation of the meanings; and out of this whole thing, truth emerges unannounced—not that we have chosen it.

(NL) David Bohm 

Array

Agonistic Conversation

This is a constructive conversation between adversaries, developed in response to the philosopher Chantal Mouffe, who speaks of the importance of conflict in the political arena and calls upon the arts to help develop what she calls the ‘agonistic space’, in which agonists are adversaries – not to be confused with antagonists, enemies.

Between consensus and war there lies a whole gamut of possibilities in which we can be each other’s adversaries, and we must use them, says Mouffe.

In the Agonistic Conversation we combine her theory with the practice of the Maoris, who have an impressive way of dealing with conflict in their own communities. First they acknowledge the conflict in an elaborate meeting between the two parties. Then conciliation takes place, in an awareness that both groups breathe the same air. And only then do they start talking with each other, while lying down. We treat these three steps as a simple choreography in which the participants keep assuming different physical positions with respect to each other: standing across from one another, standing close together, lying on their backs. The impact of people’s physical position on the conversation is tremendous.

This conversation starts with a conflict that actually exists in the group and/or with a socially urgent conflict. The participants themselves always decide what they want to discuss with each other.

Building Conversation Agonistisch gesprek Wij = Zij Building Conversation Agonistisch gesprek Wij = Zij

Impossible Conversation

The Impossible Conversation is inspired by a practice that the Jesuits follow, after having come to the conclusion that it is very complicated to speak with God from a personal point of view. They developed a form of conversation in which you first write your thoughts down and then read them out loud before speaking further.

In this conversation we discuss themes such as God, money or power – abstract themes that quickly lead to a very detached way of speaking. Because people are asked to write about a personal experience that is related to the theme, they feel a personal connection with it, and this personal connection also plays a leading role in the conversation. Reading what you have written out loud is a performance in itself.

(NL) Het (On)mogelijke gesprek in Amsterdam Noord

Parliament of Things

We are used to hearing people speak not only on behalf of themselves but also on behalf of other entities: heaven, the rain forest, animals, the city, and so forth.

The Parliament of Things is a theory developed by Bruno Latour that makes a case for the rights of objects. According to Latour, modern man refuses to recognise the rights, autonomy and agency of objects. He argues for a vision of the world in which the value (not the worth) of objects and other entities plays an active role. In developing this form of conversation, we want to distance ourselves from anthropocentric thinking, which places man in the centre of the universe, and investigate the relation between ourselves and things. Can we speak on behalf of things?

Another source of inspiration for this conversation is the Council of All Beings, a worldwide practice that investigates our relation to nonhuman entities, and nature in particular. Among other things, this council refers to a ritual of the Aboriginals, who relate to plants, clouds or a mountain as if they were their ancestors. During the Parliament of Things we investigate what it means for us Westerners to speak on behalf of things, on behalf of nature. Will this remain a dualistic relation between people and things, or is it conceivable that a different relation will unfold, that we will give ourselves a different place in the universe?

We are developing the Parliament of Things together with Partizan Publik, a campaign bureau in Amsterdam. They are planning to set up an actual Parliament of Things in the Netherlands in the spring of 2018. We share our findings with them. Read more about Partizan Publik here.

Parlement van de dingen. Hoe spreken de dingen?

Time Loop

In the West, it seems like short-term thinking is more important than looking ahead or reflecting on the past. Can we extend our sense of time, enlarge the time-space in which we live and think?

Called Time Loop, we developed a way of conversing looks at current dilemmas from various perspectives in time. For instance, what did people think about keeping borders open or shut two hundred years ago, and what will they think in 2216?

Time Loop is inspired by the practice of the Indians of the Great Lake District in Canada. Before making important decisions, they first consult their ancestors from seven generations ago, and then they consult their descendants from seven generations ahead. Only after that do they investigate the impact that a possible decision will have on the present. For us, short-term thinking often seems more important than looking ahead or reflecting on the past. As a result, the future is distant and abstract, unrelated to the world in which we live. Can relating to the remote past help us to also relate to the distant future?

Time Loop makes the issues of the day disappear into the background for a while.

Stijn van Kreij about Time Loop

General Assembly

The General Assembly takes place on the street with a large group of people. In addition to the people who have signed up for this conversation, interested bystanders can also participate.

In this form of conversation/performance, we investigate our relation to the city and the ways in which we can make ourselves seen and heard in public space, now and in the future. We use the methods of the Occupy movement (hand signals, the ‘human microphone’, open space technology) but also take inspiration from the so-called idle chattering of oldsters sitting beneath the shade of a tree in the centre of the village, such as they do in Congo and elsewhere.

We want to work toward a form of speaking in public that is concentrated, focused and open. The conversation focuses on the group, on what is being discussed and at the same time is open to the surroundings, the city and the people who walk by. We form three concentric circles, with the inner circle being the most concentrated, the middle one being the place where people can take a position, and the outer circle being the place where people do not really participate, if at all. During the gathering, the participants frequently move from one circle to another in order to get different perspectives on the group and test their own position. What is being discussed also takes place in reality, turns into action. As we speak, we relate to each other in the city. This ‘Droste effect’ in the conversation allows the participants to continually test, enrich and confirm what is being said by what they are doing. The General Assembly ties in with the investigation into new democratic forms currently being carried out in many European cities.