A still from Ed Atkins’ video “Even Pricks,” 2013. Atkins’ work was featured last night at the Serpentine Extinction Marathon
The Serpentine Extinction Marathon has gone smoothly so far–perhaps even too smoothly, as these succinct 15-minute presentations haven’t allowed much space for any audience response or provocative discourse. Within the marathon thus far, we’ve seen many panelists from non-profits, universities and think tanks that are obviously experienced speakers who haven’t “rocked the boat,” so to speak. Design critic Alice Rawsthorn and graphic designer Irma Boom, for example, just spoke together for 20 minutes about the merits of designing and printing paper rather than digital books, which seems rather out of place for a lecture series largely about dwindling world resources. While most of these speakers are here to present an idea or to share knowledge, which can be a noble in activity in itself, few are here to incite action or change people’s minds. Jack Halberstam, who spoke about the biopolitics, and perhaps enviornmentalist lawyer James Thornton, who called the audience to action, are notable exceptions.
This brings up a pertinent question: What is the function of the institutional lecture? Are we just preaching to the indoctrinated, or can such lectures precipitate change? How do we make space for interdisciplinary discourse, bringing together scientists, artists, philosophers, etc., when we all have such different rhetorics and methodologies for understanding the world?