Small Talk by Alex Eisenberg

"Hello...I'm Alex"

Small Talk is a series of texts and images generated from my conversations with audience members in auditoriums or other seated spaces during SPILL Festival 2009.

‘Small talk’ (or phatic communion) is conversation for its own sake, or "…comments on what is perfectly obvious." It is an informal type of discourse that does not cover any functional topics of conversation or any transactions that need to be addressed.

I know we don’t have much time but I want to have a conversation, to have an encounter, to try to make a friend, to see where things might go. I don’t want us to be strangers. We are all in this together and you are close to me now.

During the course of the festival I will engage the person(s) sitting next to me in each performance in some ‘small talk’. I will record these conversations and a transcript of them will form a text in relation to and in proximity of each performance.

I am thinking about the seats now: about how roomy they are, about the fabric that covers them or whether I could put my feet up on the row in front or what it would be like if there were no arm rests. And, when there aren’t, how my body is touching yours.

Small Talk (or phatic communion) is a way of recognising that you might be sitting next to someone you may not know. It might be a way of finding out how this person feels about what is going to happen. It might lead to a new acquaintance or even the making of a new friend.

The ‘small talk’ conversations are determined in length by:

“Hi…how are you?”

START - when the person next to me has sat down and is comfortable.

END - when the house lights go down or when the audience goes quiet.

“It seems to have gone a bit more quite now…”

This time, (before and after) the performance, what happens here?

Prompts and Questions for Small Talk – or how to talk small (?):

“How are you?”

“Have you been here before?”

“These seats are (un)comfortable, aren’t they?”

“How long did it take for you to get here tonight?”

“Where have you come from?”

“Did you have a good day?”

“What do you think it will be like?”

“Its been nice weather today, hasn’t it?”

Then we all sit together for an hour or so.

At the end of the performance, I will ask the person with whom I have had a conversation if I can take their photo and be able to use it and an anonymous transcript of our conversation for this project.

Stages of (my) Small Talk:

Small Talk conversation [Recorded/Transcribed]

Performance [ - ]

Photograph of the person with whom I have had a conversation. [Digital Photograph]


Below are links to the conversations that I have had:

Small Talk 01 - Inferno

Small Talk 02 - That Night Follows Day

Small Talk 03 - Purgatorio

Small Talk 04 - Saving the World

Small Talk 05 - Void Story

Alex Eisenberg is an artist making performance. He is helping to coordinate SPILL: Overspill over the course of the festival.

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