With faith in public and private institutions at an all-time low, what kinds of speeches—and speakers—are likely to win trust, acquire authority, and mobilize audiences? Over the course of four months, Los Angeles–based curatorial endeavor Public Fiction and New York–based magazine Triple Canopy stage a series of experimental lectures on public speech at sites of assembly throughout Chicago. The lectures address the use of public speech to mold opinion, forge intimacy, marshal authority, and orchestrate movements. As part of the exhibition, an installation in the Commons, the museum’s space for art and civic engagement, responds to these lectures and conveys the overall structure and timeline of events.

The lecture series Parts of Speech considers the various components of public speech: language, speaker, location, distribution, and audience. Six participants including artists, filmmakers, comedians, novelists, and musicians freely interpret the form of a lecture at venues chosen based on the topic and delivery. The resulting monologues, stump speeches, startup manifestos, and musical performances test the vocabularies and tactics that entice and persuade—or provoke and alienate.

The exhibition culminates in the publication of videos composed from documentation of each lecture that reflect on the migration of public speech from radio to television to the internet and beyond.

Parts of Speech is by Public Fiction (Lauren Mackler) with Triple Canopy. The Commons Artist Project is organized by January Parkos Arnall, Curator of Public Programs, with Christy LeMaster, Assistant Curator of Public Programs.

Lectures are presented by Steffani Jemison, Hari Kunzru, Tomeka Reid, Astra Taylor, Christopher Kulendran Thomas, and Julio Torres.