Spooky Classroom for Experimental Ethics (Dark Before Dawn)

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Performed at Dark Before Dawn, a night of immersive installations and performances by Jonah Levy. Photographs by Walter Wlodarczyk.



Two Professors of Ethics introduce themselves (Dr. Alyssa Bergstrom and Dr. Alyssa Bindlzorts, lovers and colleagues) and welcome their audience to an officially-sponsored TELDtalk. One professor is vivacious and syrupy; the other is harsh and wild-eyed. They reveal the fruit of several years of research and experimentation: a Universal Ethical System which promises to revolutionize the field of ethics and the daily lives of the audience. Franz steps forward and introduces himself as a representative from the Ominous School for Lecture Oversight and Regulation. He will be awarding a passing or failing grade to the proposed ethical system. The Alyssas obviously fear Franz and his organization. The professors begin an illustrated presentation and they lead a questionnairre. They explain that the ethical system can only be passed along in the form of this quiz; it can only be taught subconsciously or passively. The questions start off agreeable and innocuous (“Is it necessary for a modern human to have an understanding of ethics?”) with well-known ethical scenarios interspersed (“A speeding autonomous vehical comes to a fork in the road…”) Soon however, the Alyssas’ self-serving bias and manipulative tendencies take over. Questions veer towards the subjects of scientist funding, manipulation of truth, and casual fascism.  Participants who select the wrong answer have their answer sheet shredded and are scolded by the effervescent professor. The other looms from behind the podium and moves on to the next question. Part-corporate-intellectuals and part-aspiring-tyrants, the two professors act as thuggish representatives of current cultural figureheads. As such, they thrive on the interchanging of fact and opinion. They achieve their self-serving goals through the popular impact of unrepentant “truthiness”. The performance is tongue-in-cheek and playful, but with an atmosphere of menace.

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