September 2019

Sarah Rifky: The Institution, Characters, and Plots

Mercurial States

In this informal lecture, delivered over Skype for the 2015 symposium “Thinking Through Institutions,” writer and curator Sarah Rifky proposes that the best way to address institutions is as plots with characters. She poses a list of questions (“Is art an institution? Is language an institution? Is the law an institution?”), through which she moves toward the pivotal question of whether institutions are fictional or real. In doing so, she reveals the fluidity of apparently fixed structures, exposing their malleability and intertwinement with language. Drawing on strategies from speculative fiction—evident also in some of Rifky’s writings—the lecture takes on an artistic form without becoming a lecture performance per se. “Thinking Through Institutions” was curated by Megs Morley for Para Institution, Galway, Ireland.

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