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Danae Theodoridou : An Imaginary Symposium

An Imaginary Symposium is a live experiment on common thinking. Bringing together ancient Greek modes of sociability and artificial intelligence, it attempts to reactivate how we reflect and imagine in common.

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An algorithm projects absurd sentences on stage, randomly combining words out of books about social imaginaries. Inspired by these sentences, the participants of the symposium decide, each time anew, on the topic of their discussion. During the conversations that follow, they deconstruct the discourses on social, political and personal realities this topic entails in a playful manner.

Starting point of An Imaginary Symposium is the ancient Greek symposium as the archetypal form of sharing knowledge and creating discourses in the Western world. The symposium used to be a party of some kind, a social gathering where people met to drink, eat and discuss issues of shared concern. Today, the term relates more to an authorization or even commercialization of knowledge. An Imaginary Symposium comments on current uses of the symposium by focusing on the performativity of thought. Shifting the attention from 'innovative' content to commons and the live practice of thinking, it seeks to create the conditions for conceiving visions of our present and future collectively. In this sense, it is also an exercise on democracy, acting as a playful recasting of 'who has the ability to see and the talent to speak', in dialogue with Rancière's understanding of the political value of art through a '[re]distribution of the sensible'.

An Imaginary Symposium meets its audience in two distinct but nevertheless related forms: a theatre piece (stage version) and an interactive piece performed by all audience members (participatory version). In the stage version, seven female performers (instead of only men, as used to be the case in ancient Greece) experiment with narratives and aesthetics present in order to voice issues of shared concern. In the participatory version, using similar means and attempting complementary goals, ten audience members and two performers/assistants are guided step-by-step by Kate (an algorithmic voice), creating their own Symposium on the spot.

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