The Silent Lecture Series is a global collaboration between activists and artists that connects and highlights struggles and movements around the world in a celebration of our shared humanity. Its overarching purpose is to unite, to nourish and to amplify. The initiative was originally conceived and developed by Nicodemus and is coordinated at the global level by the Democracy School.
The world is in the grip of multiple global crises: from climate change and the Corona pandemic, to economic nationalism and the growing threat of global recession. Whilst these crises do need our collective attention, there are countless concurrent local crises and longstanding unresolved local conflicts that also deserve international attention and need resolution. It is within this wider context of local versus global challenges that Nicodemus has conceived the Silent Lecture Series.
The Silent Lecture Series is a globally distributed, collaborative event. In principle anyone can do a Silent Lecture. All it takes is an issue (or complex of issues) and a place where that issue resonates so much that it can be summarised in a single word and still be understood by many, if not all (see also unruhe.eu/silent-lectures). Given the site-specificity of Silent Lectures, they need to be framed and developed locally.
Silent Lectures are acts of solidarity, of shared grief, joy or anger. Their poetic force lies in the simplicity and authenticity of the format used. When thinking about hosting a Silent Lecture, a number of elements need to be considered by the host. These are:
- Project participants & audiences: There are three groups involved, all three are important: local participants, local audiences and the host’s global audience. All participants and local audiences are drawn from local communities and affiliated movements. They are politically aligned, emotionally supportive and share the host’s concerns. The host’s global audience, which we reach through the internet and other media, is heterogeneous and not necessarily sympathetic to the host’s cause.
- A specific topic: A widely shared concern that deeply matters to local participants and local audiences, a loss, pain or injustice for instance, that can be expressed in a single word or phrase and still be understood by everyone.
- A particular place: A historic site that embodies/reflects the concern in question, a place where the chosen topic resonates. Silent Lectures are site-specific events.
- Documentation: A process that allows the host to document photographically the context (topic), development (process) and staging (site) of the Silent Lecture.
- Contextualisation: A mechanism for commissioning up to three papers or articles from local authors that contextualise the Silent Lecture and its topic.
Silent Lectures work only when the local participants and audience are fully invested emotionally in the development of ‘their’ Silent Lecture. In some cases, we achieve this by organising a series of workshops. Through these workshops we are able to reach deep into the local community (our local audience) and collaboratively frame and distil the topic for a given Silent Lecture. The workshop participants in that case are not only ‘the ears’ but also ‘the eyes’ of the initiative, documenting photographically the entire process, including the staging of the Silent Lecture itself. However, there are also less formalised ways of building consensus. It all depends on the budget, historical context and how well integrated the local host is into the target community.
Since Silent Lectures are essentially silent contemplations of locally shared concerns, and since an appreciation of the context within which these concerns are embedded is an important element of the work at the global level where a knowledge of these issues cannot be taken for granted, we recommend inviting up to three writers to engage with the proposed initiative from different (artistic/cultural, historic etc) perspectives. All writers involved need to be briefed on the particulars of the project and must have full access to the documentary material collected (photographs etc). If they are based locally, they should also observe some of the workshops/outreach conducted and be invited to attend the Silent Lecture they write about.
Papers/essays submitted by local hosts for inclusion in Silent Lecture publications should be approx. 1,200 words long, aimed at a global audience and submitted in English, so that they can be published alongside the documentation of the event they cover on both silentlectures.org and unruhe.eu. Local hosts that are participating in our Silent Lecture Series are of course welcome to publish any material (writing and documentation) generated in this process through their own channels as well.
Subject to funding, the Democracy School also hopes to produce a highly visual coffee table publication or catalogue, to be distributed internationally through its networks.
Anyone interested in hosting a Silent Lecture, please get in touch using the contact form provided here. Anyone interested in attending one, please consult our blog for a Silent Lecture near you. We are happy to assist in whatever way we can.
We look forward to hearing from you.
We look forward to hearing from you.