Other Talk Performance

My talk performance practice has taken many forms, including informal exchanges, intimate performances for audiences of one or two, and new media collaboration. This is a representaive selection of talk performance possibilities over the course of nearly a decade.

  • What Remains of Personal Discussant is available as a downloadable PDF from Present Tense Pamphlets, Danny Snelson & Mashinka Firunts, editors, Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, 2016.


  • Q & A

    Ira S. Murfin is happy to take your questions. "Q & A" is a post-show discussion with no show preceding it. The exchange begins with a question from the audience, any question at all. How it continues is the responsibility of Murfin and his audience together. The theatre both limits and allows what is possible.

    "Q & A" was presented as part of Murfin's "3 Talk Experiments" during the 2013 Rhinoceros Theatre Festival at the Prop Thtr, Chicago, and twice as part of Borderbend Arts Collective's Chicago Calling Festival, for which questions were submitted by mail from people in places outside of Chicago.
  • Personal Discussant 2013/2015/2016

    "Personal Discussant" was originally part of the Performance Studies conference In Bodies We Trust: Performance, Affect, & Political Economy held at Northwestern in 2013. In that performance, I collected thoughts and quotes from the weekend's talks and panels on individual index cards and made myself (and the cards) available for one-on-one or one-on-few exchanges in a small, out of the way classroom during conference breaks to discuss the material I had gathered, inviting my interlocutors to contribute their own index cards to my collection.

    Then in 2015 I presented "Reconstructing Personal Discussant," In which I returned to the same small room and the same personal, subjective, and highly idiosyncratic archive from the In Bodies We Trust conference as part of an evening of performances again hosted by Northwestern's Department of Performance Studies. In this iteration, I offered the index cards I had collected two years earlier as the starting point for discrete conversations with individuals and small groups about the phrases and quotations that were by then temporally and contextually far removed from, though physically quite close to, their point of origin.

    Finally, the chapbook "What Remains of Personal Discussant," published in 2016 as part of the Present Tense Pamphlets series sponsored by the Block Museum of Art and edited by Danny Snelson and Mashinka Firunts, completed the triptych. Starting with the same materials, in this case I offered the cards as scanned images, now stripped not only of their context, but also of the orientation place and performance provided in the previous versions. Without my explanatory presence or a contextualizing event, the cards operate on their own, opening the project up to any number of combinatory or interpretive possibilities.
  • An Intentional Menu

    "An Intentional Menu" constituted a series of live, informal drafts of material being developed for a memoir project, "Intents: A Few Instances of Intention and Community." "An Intentional Menu" was performed across a small tabletop, with a single chair for myself and two chairs for the audience. Small audiences of one or two would join me at my table and select a title from a menu of instances that they might be interested in hearing about. I would begin to tell the story related to each as I had been developing it in my manuscript, but in this intimate format there was room for interruption and digression on both our parts, subject to the normal rules of conversation, and the exchange rarely stayed on the same topic with which it had started.

    "An Intentional Menu" was presented in 2009 as part of the Science of Obscurity, curated by AD Jameson at Jupiter Outpost, Chicago; and as part of I Just Go, curated by Aurora Tabar at Elastic Arts Foundation, Chicago.
  • How to Hear a Sentence

    "How to Hear a Sentence" is a collaboration with Marisa Plumb that combines performance, writing, and interactive computer programming. It uses spoken, written, and programming languages to literalize the process and types of "hearing" that allow us to receive and integrate the meaning of language. Reading separately authored works on utopia and community, key words trigger sentences Murfin and Plumb each wrote or found in response to those key terms in each other's writing. These new sentences -- the thought triggered by the sentence -- move across the screen in real time from either side to meet and merge in the middle, where they combine to form new linguistic possibilities as they float upwards and disappear, while the reading continues and continues to trigger new sentences on the screen. Approximating the digressive thought processes that both distract from and enable intellectual absorption of spoken language, "How to Hear a Sentence" also gestures to another kind of transformational "hearing" -- that done by the computer program in receiving natural language inputs, translating them to programming language, and then producing natural language outputs.

    "How to Hear a Sentence" was created with technical support from Yoni Ben-Meshulam. It was presented in 2008 as part of the Red Rover Reading Series, curated by Jennifer Karmin and Lisa Jansen in Chicago; in 2009 it was presented as part of the E-Poetry Conference in Barcelona. It was also adapted to an online version.