November 13, 2020

Exercising Discourse, An Afternoon in Conversation

by Tai Bickham


Sunday afternoons seem to be the perfect time to find yourself in a museum. My friend and I reserved our tickets to take in the current exhibition, Citizenship: A Practice of Society, and were excited to partake in the activated installation by artist Laura Shill titled Including Other in the Self.

Shill has a beautiful way of exploring themes of transformation as well as exploring the relationship of audience and subject and the emotional experience that can occur when presented with the different levels of texture and visuals with which she works. For Including Other in the Self, Shill fabricated two 8-foot tall metal sculptural bowl-shaped forms that allow for two people to engage in conversation, within a safe distance of each other, and participate in a Q&A guided by a series of thirty-six questions originally organized by a group of psychologists in the 90’s and popularized by the New York Times article in 2015, “The 36 Questions That Lead to Love.” 

[Image description: An image of an art installation in a white gallery space. The work consists of two chairs, each sitting in front of their own large discs, which are meant to replicate the effects of an acoustic mirror. The discs reflect and focus sound waves in a way that visitors can sit far apart but will hear each other as if they are standing right next to each other.]

Sitting in the middle of the metal forms inside of a spacious room on a fairly busy day was intriguing, but we could hear each other like soft whispers in the ear. We engaged in our discourse for almost an hour, actively listening to each other and answering thoughtfully and honestly to the questions that build in intensity. Questions like, When was the last time you thought of something that you were truly grateful for? Or what role does love and affection play in your life? It is a practice of discourse. 

In fact, as social media continues to dominate the majority of our attention and has simplified communication to acronyms and emojis,  it is easy to miss the opportunity, through conversation, to gain insight, love and appreciation of the other, whether other in the self or other in another. Shill’s work provides a stepping stone to starting that meaningful discussion. 

In the end, we walked away with a better understanding of each other, and indeed, throughout our “Sunday Funday”, we continued to discuss the experience and it inspired us to dive even further with forming our own questions to understanding each other and the individuals that we are.  

Tai Bickham is a photographer, writer, city explorer, and art and music lover. Originally from Colorado Springs, CO, learned independence in NYC, and has found herself back in her beloved Colorado. She currently works her magic as MCA Denver's Marketing and Community Partnership Specialist.