Yesterday some of the ideas from my 2006 lecture series came together in a way that makes sense for the What To Do talk I’m going to give on my own. Now, all of a sudden, this talk seems to make more sense than the Conversation Piece talk, even though that’s where all our hard work and thought has been so far.

So I want to work out what interests me about What To Do, and see how that relates to the work we’re doing together.

At the moment I’m expecting What To Do to be a series of six short ten-minute researched talks about six topics. The talks will be related not by the themes of each topic but rather the structure of the talks themselves. So they would all begin, say, with a question posed around an assumed binary opposition, then would move on to an exploration that goes in an outwards direction, then would pose three short questions with immediate answers, then would close in on an explanation that goes downwards before creeping slightly up for the finale: the question answered. Something like that. There’d be visual parallels too, with analogically linked slides perhaps, and certainly six near-identical hasty sketches that turn out to be the same each time, slowly, as they reveal themselves, with all the marks produced in different orders and with different explanations. It’d be ominous and funny at the same time – unheimlich – to watch it happening again and again and again, inevitably, impossible but apparently true.

There’s something about a gap between real and unreal that I like here. This relates to my 2004 Highgate Maps project in which I displayed maps originally scribbled down to accompany street directions. The maps were shown without the gestures and explanations that originally accompanied them, and so they lose their intended meaning and become relics. With these six sketches for the talks, the intended meaning will be generated at the same time as the images, only the images will already be relics. So what does that make what I’m saying? It throws the actual “matter” of each talk out the window and shifts attention to the patterns underneath them, or the format, or the form. And it does it in a very playful way, because it’ll be obvious the stories are tweaked to suit one another, though subtly and minimally so, I hope.

In this way we have a kind of blank talk.


It’s ridiculous continuing to hyperlink every phrase that comes up which I’ve used before. It makes everything a bit obvious. And what do I want to do, ultimately hyperlink every single word, every paragraph with an idea, every tone, everything? Silly.


So, what I like about the What To Do talk is that it invites some suspension of disbelief. Perhaps it’s no more a suspension of disbelief than you’d need to look at, say, a very tall pile of matchsticks balanced end to end into a tall tower, with no glue but still not collapsing. You can believe it’s possible, but if it’s really happening then it’s very strange, and unnerving, and thrilling to see. It’s this word unheimlich again. I want it to be thrilling to see the same image come out again the second time.

And also it’s a very simple premise, although it’ll be complex to plan and deliver.

The Conversation Piece talk is more sprawling at present. It consists mainly of its matter, which risks taking over the form. I think What To Do will stay tight and simple however complex the matter because I’ve got this shape that I’m going to stick to. My job needs to be clipping the form down to keep it clear, then the matter can be the placeholder for the shape. The matter is relatively under control for now. The original intention for the form was to hold two talks simultaneously, so that they create a combined effect rather than one single one, or two separate ones. Like each of the six What To Do talks, both Conversation Piece talks ought be self-sufficient and also dependent on cross-referencing. The relationship could be much the same, only concurrent rather than consecutive.