POPc – Philosophers’ Ontological Party club

5 April – 21 April 2019


Opening reception Friday, 5 April from 6 – 10 pm

Marginal Utility is pleased to present an exhibition by POPc – Philosophers’ Ontological Party club. POPc is a non-profit that is organized around the practice of one-to-one conversations between a philosopher and a participant, it was begun in 2012 by Dena Shottenkirk. POPc is an examination of – as well as re-creation of – the process of thought-building. Shottenkirk’s project begins with her thoughts on a specific topic and then extends that examination to the thoughts of others. This exhibition, curated by Veronica Cianfrano, centers on POPc’s third project: Art as Cognition.

The exhibition re-invents the notion of performance and multi-disciplinary events. Re-calling the potent critical tool of the personal encounters of Dadaist happenings, the exhibition is visual, performative, and interactive, employing the written word as well. The space divides into a first section that is called “A First Voice” and is Shottenkirk’s voice on the topic, which is seen in both the visual component of her paintings and in the written component of her recently published articles. The rest of the gallery is designated as “All Voices”: the collated conversations of others. There are two curtained off sections: a small area for one-to-one conversations to be held during the gallery exhibition itself, in which various philosophers serve as POPc’s Resident Philosopher (drawing from the American Society for Aesthetics’ annual meeting as well as nearby universities) and invite gallery participants to come behind the curtain and have a conversation. The other larger curtained area has seating where gallery visitors can relax and listen to audio of the past year’s conversations in both Philadelphia and New York. The Philadelphia conversations were held inside the POPc tent on the sidewalk in front of City Hall; the New York ones were held both in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and in a series of POPc events that were held in bodegas around Brooklyn. They are the philosophical ruminations of ordinary, everyday people. The remaining section of the “All Voices” section is a video of the POPc puppet (replete with the signature gold POPc hat worn by all the philosophers participating in the project!) explaining the project.

The exhibition is a delving into the general idea of conversation. And, importantly, conversation’s role in thought. We each have ideas, individually held, that are the result of hearing and listening to others. In turn, when we each express our viewpoints, we are adding to and building that process of thought-construction that is held by the group. What POPc is doing with conversation is stoking the dormant philosophical queries that lurk inside each one of us. While we might go to the gym to exercise our muscles, most of us in the modern world rarely deliberately attend to exercising our minds. POPc is a way of doing that. In that, it is shows how conversation is the at the core of both public philosophy and of art.