A couple of weeks ago, I went to The Story. It seems like an age ago. I'm trying to get back into the habit of writing things down because I've always found it a helpful discipline in a) collecting my thoughts, and b) commiting things to memory. So, 9 things I found interesting:
I'm a little young (and Southern) to remember the miners strike in much detail, but Jeremy Deller's reenactment of the "English civil war" was fascinating. He's currently got an exhibtion on at the Hayward, which looks aces and is definitely on my list to visit. But what I think I loved most is the fact that reenactment societies even exist. In Deller's words, "powerful, manly, amateur dramatics". I love the idea of getting people together to reenact something as a social experiment and way of understanding huge, dramatic events (in their case, mainly wars), and wonder whether it could ever be the next flashmob.
"All of my qualities make me suspect that I don't exist". One of my favourite talks of the day was Liz Henry's rollercoaster of hidden identities and internet sleuthing. She basically followed the story of Amina, a Syrian lesbian blogger, her 'kidnapping' and consequent outing as a Middle East activist studying at Edinburgh University following suspicion by the concerned people who were following her story online (more here).
Vaguely related tangent: In one of the breaks, I had an interesting discussion with Mark about the role of journalism in society, and that losing print media, etc is not the issue, but rather working out who takes up the mantle of uncovering corruption for the good of the people - TV journalism doesn't currently seem to do this in the same way as press. We wondered whether a self-organised internet vigilante-style operation could ever hold governments to task?
Back to The Story, and Anthony Owen, whose job desciption includes inventing magic tricks. His opening gambit - a trick where 6 random people in the crowd thought of a number from 1-49, which then magically appeared on a lottery ticket in his pocket - had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand from the get-go.
He talked about magic tricks being comprised of 'plot' and 'method', i.e. how it's done. "You should be able to sum up [the plot of] magic tricks in one sentence", because explaining the method can be too complex and ruin the magic. Sounds a bit like strategy.
Some other quotes:
"The best magicians are storytellers, they tell impossible stories"
"The core of a successful magic trick is that it taps into something that you want to happen"
And to finish, a fun trick that you can play on your friends (although freakily, I guessed the same shapes as she did. Maybe I'm pyschic):
Matthew Herbert. Without wanting to trivialise what he does, he turns ambient sounds into music (that tells stories).
- I liked the idea that Mozart had the same instrument as Duke Ellington, but it took 300 years to get to jazz.
- I also liked the idea that our history is almost entirely visual: "there's nowhere to listen to 1982"
- He talked about the negative reactions to him using the sound from the Twin Towers collapsing in music.
- I think he's currently creating a Museum of Sound, which would be interesting to visit.
Tom Watson and Emily Bell were in conversation about how the story of the News International phone-hacking scandal unfolded. I could have listened to them for hours, but I think it's one where you had to be there. Although one thing that I really enjoyed was Tom Watson saying that when faced with the first whiff of the story as part of the select committee, a situation that previous experience couldn't really help him with, he asked himself 'what would Lester Freamon do?' (the answer to which was, 'follow the money').
Loved Scott Burnham's examples of 'urban play'. In his world design should encourage intervention with the city rather than prevent it, and create small moments that mean something to people. In my job I'm generally thinking about ideas with scale, but it's nice to think about ambient things that make only a few people happy.
These human dependent 'flying fishes' were great: plastic windsocks that became fish when people turned them into the wind - reminded me a bit of Tweenbots.
Stefan Sagmeister's amazing design of 350,000 euro cent coins, which was cleared up by local police in the end. PS. A sentiment that rings true.
Recovering data-addict and artist Ellie Harrison talked through how her obsession with recording the things she did and consumed led her to the 'guilt of production' and 'to take responsibility for the things we consume', as that is the only thing we have control over as individuals. As such, her projects are not just art for arts sake, but use play to engage people to question the status quo, in terms of the economic, political, etc.
I particularly loved the vending machine hooked up to the BBC news site, that dispenses packets of crisps whenever the recession is mentioned (I think it's currently looking for a home).
Phil Stuart and Tom Chatfield described their game The End. It's another Channel 4 education project, using philosophy to explain death. It was nearing the end of the day and I didn't make any notes apart from 'if a story is open-ended then people can come back'. I desperately want to have a play, but it looks amazing:
My favourite thing about Danny O'Brien's talk was learning about sea-steading, a game for idealistic billionaires,where you create an island and try and implement world-changing ideas on it. Also amazing was the idea of an Anarchist Yacht Club, a bunch of anarchists who can sail (trustas?) and basically squat unoccupied yachts.
I think The Story is now my favourite Conway Hall event, not least because the running order came printed on a bar of Paul A. Young chocolate. A very thorough write-up here by Ellen de Vries and a storify from the day here.