A and O: We were talking, a year or so back. We were talking about work, life and love….
A: You were describing how you’ve focused so much energy in life on a belief in the power of dialogue. And you spoke indirectly of a deep fear. You feared the failure of dialogue.
O: That’s when you said, “What if dialogue is fucked?” And I laughed with sudden clarity.
The Pope tells leaders of Israel and Palestine to respond to their people’s yearning for ‘undaunted dialogue’. Another fund is established in New York to support art and social dialogue. In Australia there is an ever increasing plethora of professionals who consult and develop our communities. Freelance creatives, the world over, have become dependent on social networks to build dialogue with potential business partners whom they have come to call ‘friends’. A year or so back a couple from South Delhi began weekly sessions with a marriage counsellor so they could ‘remember’ how to be in dialogue with one another after 11 years of marriage; they separated two months ago.
It seems everyone appears to want to be in ‘dialogue’.
But the Israelis are still displacing Palestinians from their homes. Art was in greater social dialogue before we had terminology for it. Our communities are no longer shaped by their inhabitants but by professionals. As more and more of us become lonely yet creative-entrepreneurs-of-the-self, the dominant logic of the market seeps incessantly deeper into our social lives. And people who once loved each other part separate ways, everyday.
So what if dialogue is failing?
Giorgia Aiello took this photograph during Seattle's peace march of February 15 2003. ‘It was an unintended, unexpected shot of the "other side" of that event. Those guys sitting in a bar during the march drew my attention; because of the way they were performing for me (flipping me off or mimicking the peace sign), stemming from their assumptions on my role (a pacifist photographer) in that situation. This made me think that, whenever people go into the streets to protest, it would be just as important to document what is happening on the "margins" (on the other side) of that event. To me, people who are "almost" outside the event are the missing link between civic engagement and broader society. As a matter of fact, it looks like protesting has become a luxury, in which people who are left to the margins do not wish to partake. I want to represent and to see more representations of this space in between.’
Four short excursions on Dialogue give us ideas on how dialogue manifests through labour, care, attention and the idea of ‘the social’.
In the Affectivist Manifesto Brian Holmes offers some valuable insights: 'It would seem that intimacy is irretrievably weighted down
in our time, burdened with data and surveillance and seduction […] But intimacy
is still an unpredictable force, a space of gestation and therefore a
wellspring of gesture, the biological spring from which affect drinks. Only we
can traverse all the scales, becoming other along the way. From the lovers’ bed
to the wild embrace of the crowd to the alien touch of networks, it may be that
intimacy and its artistic expressions are what will astonish the twenty-first
So what if dialogue is failing?
One option is to try to understand deeply why and how it fails, and to rethink it. Radically. But there is always more than one possibility…
Memefest invites works, words and ideas that thoughtfully confront the many difficulties and failures of dialogue, while also bravely exploring the boundless and hopeful potentialities that feed our society’s desperate need for dialogue.
We are interested in critical writing work that responds to these provocations from the honest and uneasy depths of your gut. Now, respond to this position from personal observations, from research, or from a mixture of all three with your critical writing.