Behind the Scenes with the Departures Team

By Kate Fulton

Last week, I was invited to sit in on an interview that Juan Devis conducted with the founders of the Telic Arts Exchange gallery, Fiona Whitton and Sean Dockray, for his upcoming series, Departures: Chinatown. I've attended classes at Telic's Public School — a kind of academic free-for-all where anyone can propose classes to have at the gallery. It's education in its most democratic form. It's affordable (most classes are free), open to all, and all-encompassing (with a class list that includes Walter Benjamin's Arcade Project, Pinata-Making, and Intro to the iPhone). I said yes to the invite, of course.

The interviews that make it onto the site are tight, well-composed, and contain clean, unfolding narratives. Sitting in on an actual interview reveals something far less eloquent. Before the interview came the logistics: choosing where to shoot; setting the frame; strategically placing the recording equipment; testing the mics.

And then, once the camera was ready to roll, Juan asked Fiona and Sean to ignore everything except the questions. It was a tall order. But as the interview proceeded, there were momentary flashes, unmistakable shifts when the imposing equipment fell away and all that remained were two people, talking. That seems to be the quiet talent of the interviewer: to make the most unnatural of circumstances seem natural. Sitting in on this interview clarified something for me: the best interviews take place in spite of the technological mumbo-jumbo, not because of it. The best interviews spring out of our need to tell stories and hear stories, out of a need to know.


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