2019 was a milestone year for the Summit, as we marked 10 years of the convening by returning to New York City, where it first began. Gathering at The Great Hall, Cooper Union where the second ever Summit was held in 2010, acknowledged the Summit’s history and the hall’s legacy as a locus for debate, political action, and truth-telling. As fierce debates about the nature of truth raged on globally, Speaking Truth | Summit X explored radical truth-telling and its implications, manifestations, potentialities, and challenges across disparate yet interconnected fields.
Truth and its nature have long been foundational to the pursuit of artistic expression and understanding. Legendary science fiction author Octavia E. Butler held truth central to her work, “Clarity and truth will be plenty, if I can only achieve them.” Prominent poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou believed that “There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure truth.”
Our relation to truth is complex, intersectional, and urgent. Public intellectuals have argued that the society of the 2010s was one in which it was no longer possible to distinguish between the factual and the imagined, reality, and simulacra. What is the nature of truth as we now see it presented as a subjective rather than objective condition? How has the growing distrust of the media, institutions, and authorities affected our ability to distinguish between the real and the fake? And how have artists responded in turn?
These questions were addressed throughout the Summit by those working within proliferating technology and the dark side of automatization and surveillance, global health through the lens of gender and class inequality, self-determination of those serving invisible economies, Indigenous populations asserting sovereignty in the face of erasure, as well as the media at the nexus of fictions, facts and deceptions. The Summit was aimed to be a mirror reflecting and magnifying the peculiarities of the post-truth condition, as well as a forum of debate that could offer audiences an unparalleled opportunity to better understand the cultural and political situation, while convening to envision the future.