Thursday 08 August 2013
Bonnie Camplin introduced us to the Bohm Dialogue when she was commissioned to make a work for the How to work together think tank. The Bohm Dialogue was invented by the physicist towards the end of his life, after many years of working on the subject of how to think together.
Many great recordings of Bohm discussing his ideas have been posted on YouTube. I watched this Friday Evening Seminar and this dialogue between Bohm, Krishnamurti and Dr. Maurice Wilkins on ‘The Difficulty of Thinking Together’. These are a great watch, for the ideas discussed, but also for the slowness with which the ideas are turned over. You can almost physically see the process of thinking things through — all from a point of view of not knowing the answer and trying to work it out together, rather than of expounding knowledge from a fixed position.
Bohm’s model for dialogue developed from a desire to address the problem of communication in a fractured society: divided geographically by borders and ideologically by religion. He talked about how, even within our fields of knowledge there’s so much specialisation and one-tracked thinking that, for example, the different sciences can’t talk or work together.
For Bohm, the root of the problem lies in the way we think and the thoughts that result. We look at our problems in isolation and try to solve them, but neglect to address the thought processes that brought the problems about in the first place — someone in the audience of the Friday Seminar used the analogy of polluting a river upstream and trying to remove the contamination downstream.
The Bohm dialogue is a form of open conversation, a process of thinking collectively that attempts to trace the movement of thought between the members of a group and thereby help the group gain a better understanding of itself, its preconceptions and prejudices. It distinguishes itself from a discussion or debate that might start from a fixed intellectual or ideological position or attempt to find a solution or outcome. Bohmian Dialogue attempts to converse with no presumptions or agenda – ‘meeting without a goal enables free space for something to happen’. The idea is to pay attention to the process of thinking, rather than the content of thoughts.
There are a number of rules for Bohm Dialogue which someone has handily summed up on Wikipedia (thank you):
1. The group agrees that no group-level decisions will be made in the conversation.
2. Each individual agrees to suspend judgement in the conversation.
3. As these individuals “suspend judgement” they also simultaneously are as honest and transparent as possible.
4. Individuals in the conversation try to build on other individuals’ ideas in the conversation.
The Bohm Dialogue is used in prisons and in organisational development. For example, Peter Senge’s management classic ‘The Fifth Discipline’ (1990) uses Bohmian principles to describe how collective aspiration and sytems thinking (the process of understanding how things, regarded as systems, influence one another within a whole) can turn companies into ‘learning organisations’.
Thanks Bonnie for introducing us to the Bohm Dialogue. Bonnie is hosting an event with Nervemeter magazine at Studio Voltaire on Saturday 31 August. See our Exhibitions and Events page for more details.
Cara Tolmie presented two Wrangling Exercises during her Chisenhale Gallery Neighbourhood Residency, working across the gallery’s offsite, education and exhibition programmes and producing a commissioned work for Victoria Park. The Wrangling Exercises are events for three participants: the Chair, the Interviewer and the Interviewee. These roles rotate throughout the course of the event, with each person taking a turn to direct the conversation, to ask questions and to answer them. For the first Wrangling Exercise, Cara invited Marcelo Novillo, Victoria Park Senior Community Ranger and Jon Lewell, Site Representative of Works for the Victoria Park Redevelopment, to discuss public art and recreational space. You can listen to it here.
Collective Conversation is the name of Ricardo Basbaum’s latest series of collaborative works, wherein people gather to explore ways of voicing their thoughts in concert, through dialogue, translation, quotation and writing. For Basbaum’s current show at The Showroom, a group met daily at The Showroom to compose a polyphonic script that was performed in the re-projecting (london) open working room on 27 July. Visit the project’s microsite for more information. Ricardo Basbaum’s project continues until 17 August.