Reading Monica Szewczyk’s “Art of Conversation, Part II:”

I want to write off-the-record.

Szewczyk asks, “Have we become more cautious, even paranoid, about how we break a silence, less able to test our radical ideas in the open–all because there is a greater chance of the record of such conversations coming back to haunt us, even once we have changed our minds?” and I would have to say YES. It is not always easy to be here, to commit my wild ramblings to the ether, and I know enough friends who contemplate publicness in this way to be sure that I am not alone. And yet, this is how I make sense of the world, by way of written words revealing truth and lies and fakery and surprise beauty. This sense is a process, not a march of declarative sentences. And yet, the written word is shrouded with a de facto authority.

Szewczyk believes that “in the realm of contemporary art, we do not seem to be watching what we say in terms of holding back” and she points to a foundational relationship between discourse and informal educational systems that allow ideas to develop as the impetus for this type of conversational activity. How can the spirit of talking together be imparted to public text?

The particular advantage of the written word is the meditation it enables. Szewczyk points to the possibility of recording technologies to reveal “what we cannot perceive when we are in the middle of such a discursive event.” Similarly, writing allows different perspectives (reflection, description, imagination) to be folded into the formation of knowledge.

But if the currency of the written word is a weighty posterity, maybe it is impossible for it to be fearless.


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