With Astra Taylor, Laura Hanna, and Maya Binyam
In this audio recording, Triple Canopy senior editor Maya Binyam speaks with Astra Taylor and Laura Hanna about how creditors contribute to (and profit from) inequality, the role of listening in democracy, and their efforts to turn indebtedness into a powerful source of solidarity.
This conversation elaborates on Taylor and Hanna’s contribution to Parts of Speech, a series of speeches that ask how to win trust, mold opinion, and orchestrate movements. Navigate to the series to read an edited and expanded version and to watch video documentation from the debtors’ assembly that Taylor and Hanna organized, as well as contributions by Steffani Jemison, Hari Kunzru, Tomeka Reid, Christopher Kulendran Thomas, and Julio Torres.
This recording was published as part of Two Ears and One Mouth, Triple Canopy’s twenty-sixth issue, which is made possible through the generous support of the Stolbun Collection, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
“On What We Owe” is a contribution to “Parts of Speech,” an exhibition organized by Triple Canopy and Public Fiction with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
Money counts as speech. Money enables the speech of some to dominate the airwaves and the speech of others to be suppressed. How, then, do we make space for those of us who have been shamed for owing money, pressured to toil at low-wage jobs in order to keep up with payments? How do we ensure that the speech of those who have been exploited by creditors and ignored by politicians is heard? Astra Taylor, in collaboration with Laura Hanna, will organize an assembly of the indebted: a forum for people to share experiences about indebtedness and understand how creditors contribute to (and profit from) inequality. Taylor and Hanna, cofounders of the Debt Collective, will discuss their efforts to turn indebtedness into a powerful source of solidarity. (The group recently built a digital platform that automates the confounding process of contesting and disputing debts, and has canceled $1 billion in debt to date.) Taylor will introduce the assembly by speaking about the role of listening in democracy, the balance of speaking, and paying attention to the speech of others.
On What We Owe is hosted by the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, which serves as a memorial to Addams, the pioneering social worker, organizer, and feminist, and her colleagues. In 1889, Addams established a settlement house on the site in order to “provide a center for a higher civic and social life; to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises and to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago.” Today, the museum occupies and maintains the home is devoted to “redefining American democracy in the modern age.”
On What We Owe is a component of “Parts of Speech,” an exhibition on public speech organized by Triple Canopy and Public Fiction with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The exhibition hinges on six experimental lectures, which will be live-streamed only at the museum; edited documentation will be available on Triple Canopy’s website at a later date. [Since the publication of this page, the online work adapted from the event has been published.] “Parts of Speech” is being published by Triple Canopy as a series in Two Ears and One Mouth, a forthcoming issue that examines how we speak and listen and who has the right and capacity to be heard.
The front entrance of the Hull Home requires the use of stairs. The rear entrance is accessible to all users. To access the rear entrance, do not pass beyond the iron fence at the front of the museum. Instead, turn right (north) toward the large, brick-paved sidewalk to Chicago Circle Center, then left, then left again, to reach the rear door of the Mansion. There is a buzzer at the front door but not the rear door; knock at the rear door. You may wish to call ahead (312-413-5353) and alert the tour guides to expect someone in a wheelchair. Please note that the second floor of the Hull Home is only accessible via a steep staircase.
The Residents’ Dining Hall is fully accessible on both floors. Wheelchair access to the Residents’ Dining Hall is in the rear of the building. From the rear of the Mansion, proceed along the covered walkway to the glass doors.
Parts of Speech is made possible in part through the generous support of the Stolbun Collection and Karyn Kohl and Silas Dilworth. Triple Canopy has received additional support for Two Ears One Mouth from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; the Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the New York State Council on the Arts; and the Opaline Fund of the Jewish Community Endowment Federation and Endowment Fund.
- Astra Taylor is a filmmaker, writer, and organizer living in New York. Her films include What Is Democracy? (2018), an exploration of the meaning and work of democracy; Examined Life (2008), a series of excursions with contemporary thinkers; and Zizek! (2005), a documentary about the philosopher Slavoj Žižek. Taylor is the author of the forthcoming book Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone (2019), The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age (2014), and Examined Life: Excursions with Contemporary Thinkers (2009). Her writing has appeared in the Nation, the London Review of Books, n+1, and the Baffler, among other publications.
- Laura Hanna is an organizer and filmmaker. She is co-founder and co-director of the Debt Collective, a membership-based economic justice organization. She serves as board president of Rolling Jubilee, a fund that has facilitated $33 million dollars of debt relief to people struggling with predatory debts, including medical debts and student loans. Hanna's background is in filmmaking. Prior to political organizing, she developed film and media strategies on behalf of those facing the death penalty. She has produced and directed films that have been screened and installed in museums in the U.S. and abroad.