Mar 12th 2019

As part of the Commons Artist Project entitled Parts of Speech, a series of experimental lectures take place at sites of assembly throughout Chicago and address the use of public speech to mold opinion, forge intimacy, marshal authority, and orchestrate movements.

Journalist Hari Kunzru’s lecture considers truth and distortion in public address. With fascism on the rise in Europe in the mid-1930s, Bertolt Brecht published “Five Difficulties in Writing the Truth,” an essay on how readers could be turned into revolutionaries. Brecht asserted that writers must be able to recognize, proclaim, and weaponize the truth, disseminating it to those “in whose hands it will become effective.” Kunzru’s lecture will respond to Brecht’s essay by considering today’s greatest difficulties in writing the truth. In 2018, the main obstacle to shaping public opinion in the US isn’t the kind of censorship practiced by the Nazis, but the proliferation of distortions, misinformation, and harassment campaigns. The result is cynicism and the degradation of political and personal agency—for writers as well as readers. Kunzru’s lecture will employ two voices competing for attention: one communicating the truth, the other undermining that effort, challenging the very notion of a known, shared reality.

Parts of Speech is by Public Fiction (Lauren Mackler) with Triple Canopy. The Commons Artist Project is organized by January Parkos Arnall, Curator of Public Programs, with Christy LeMaster, Assistant Curator of Public Programs.

Lectures are presented by Steffani Jemison, Hari Kunzru, Tomeka Reid, Astra Taylor, Christopher Kulendran Thomas, and Julio Torres. The exhibition includes artwork by Rami George, Liz Magic Laser, David Levine, Nicole Miller, Rodney McMillian, and Videofreex.

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