May 26


Subverting the walls at TEDxCalgary

On June 4th, I will have the pleasure of giving a presentation at TEDxCalgary, a local ‘franchise’ of the inspiring TED talks that originated in California in the 1980s and have since become a sensation online. (Those of you who’ve never heard of TED should stop reading my blog and visit the TED site immediately.)

The theme of the TEDxCalgary event is Breaking Through: Exploring the Frontiers of Ideas and Action. Fittingly, my TED lecture will focus on my ‘walls’ project. I will retell the stories of people who have, through both “ideas and action,” subverted the walls and fences I’ve spent the last few years visiting. It is a human instinct, after all, to resist barriers. To run up and push on the doors marked ‘Do Not Enter.’

A wall is, by nature, a failure of creativity. There is nothing original or artful about erecting a wall. However, the act of defeating a wall can be a creative action. My presentation will examine two methods for subverting barriers. The first, most obviously, is to go over it (or under it, or around it). I will tell the stories of the migrants, refugees and activists I met during my travels that, through creativity, bravery and pluck, managed to get from Here to There. Secondly, and more esoterically, I will speak about those who’ve subverted the walls by transforming the barriers into art. When the wall becomes a canvas – or, in one case, a musical instrument – it ceases to be a barrier at all.

Details about the TEDxCalgary event, the other speakers I will share the stage with, and how to get tickets, can be found on the website here. For those who cannot attend, all presentations will eventually be posted online.