Alibi V.23 No.47 • Nov 20-26, 2014 

Art Scenester

Changing the World in Two Minutes

Artist Alexis Elton has 140 seconds to tell you about her seed exchange project.
Artist Alexis Elton has 140 seconds to tell you about her seed exchange project.
Santa Fe Art Institute/Nicole Davis

Just a few words can make all the difference. In the 2010 British comedy The Trip, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon riff on the nature of inspirational speeches. Rather than summoning troops to “rise at daybreak,” Coogan stoically quips, “Gentleman to bed, for we rise at 8:30!” Apart from parodying Braveheart, the message here is that bold words and timing are of the essence when inspiring major historical happenings.

Take, for example, the power of the tweet. In the same year that Coogan and Brydon were riffing on grandiose oratory, a far more serious use of timely messages was creating a stir in Egypt. Twitter and Facebook were being used to create gatherings and post up-to-the-minute knowledge on the massive social uprising that became the Arab Spring.

Here in New Mexico, the idea that vitally impactful information can be disseminated to large groups in a limited amount of time is manifesting in a more artistic form. On Nov. 20 The Santa Fe Art Institute (1600 St. Michaels Dr., Santa Fe) will host its fourth incarnation of the speaker series SFAI 140: One Evening, 20 Stimulating Talks, 140 Seconds Each and You. In explaining the project’s origins, SFAI Residency Program Manager Nina Elder says, “We were really inspired by the role that social media had within the Arab Spring, and [the] 140 characters of the tweet, and how that actually had incredible potency within a limited time—a limited amount of characters to make positive social impact.”

Community speakers include an immigration lawyer, an interior designer and the program director of a free, in-home care support service for mothers with newborns. Essentially, anything goes—as long as it can be said in less than 140 seconds.

Elder works with a rotating annual shift of 60 to 80 SFAI artists in residence from all parts of the globe, eight of whom will be among the 20 short-talk presenters at SFAI 140. One of these is New Mexico-based sculptor, installation artist and organic farmer Alexis Elton. Her talk will revolve around a seed exchange project she’s used to communicate methods of traditional farming and responsible land use. Several other talks will also touch on the current theme for SFAI artists in residence of “food justice.”

Elder wants to make it clear, however, that a very diverse array of subjects and voices will be on display at what she refers to as SFAI’s hallmark event. “With SFAI 140, we really just try to tap the pulse of the community of northern New Mexico,” she says. Community speakers include an immigration lawyer, an interior designer and the program director of a free, in-home care support service for mothers with newborns. Essentially, anything goes—as long as it can be said in less than 140 seconds.

Attendees are encouraged to arrive early to the no-cost event, as capacity is limited. There’s also added incentive in the form of free farm-to-table fare prepared by Chef Brian Lenius of Canyon Vista Cooking.

SFAI 140: One Evening, 20 Stimulating Talks, 140 Seconds Each and You

Thursday, Nov. 20, 7pm

Santa Fe Art Institute
1600 St. Michaels Dr., Santa Fe
505-424-5050, sfai.org
FREE
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