Pomona Art Museum Installs ‘The Bureau of Experimental Speech and Holy Theses’

For most, the act of public speaking is an occasional necessity, and often a nauseating prospect. In the eyes of Adam Overton and all those who collaborated on the Pomona College Museum of Art’s newest exhibit, it is a medium of art.

On Thursday night, the museum revealed the installation of The Bureau of Experimental Speech and Holy Theses (BESHT), a title that leaves much to the imagination. 

“The nature of the exhibit will be discovered by those who bear witness, in person in our Free Speech Auditorium, and online via our live broadcast, and will be cultivated by those dare to stand up and take part,” Overton wrote in an email to TSL, under the alias of Professor Pada Pagu, a “visiting professor of Embarassology.”

The Free Speech Auditorium is the centerpiece of the exhibit, a space that can be reserved by anybody in the Claremont Community. The artists hope that Claremont citizens will find the auditorium to be “a delightful respite where they can experiment, fiddle, tamper, misrepresent, bear witness, meddle, gossip, unearth, sponsor, espouse, defend, promote, preach, pray, pontificate, teach, sound off, prognosticate, forewarn, and so forth,” Overton wrote. However, spectators are equally welcome.

As an additional component, during the museum’s regular Thursday, there will be a Diction-for-Dollars Open Mic shortly before and after the evening’s official BESHT proceedings. During the open mic, participants can earn a dollar for every minute they are willing to stand up and speak.

“One can only feel that the stakes are quite high” in this day and age, Overton wrote. Thus, he created the Free Speech Auditorium, where a speaker may orate without fear of starting a chain of events that spirals out of their control. 

The idea of a space for free speech also stems from inspirations like composer John Cage, who is featured in the current exhibit. 

“Many of his lectures were cut-ups of several other previous lectures and writings of his, and they were assembled by flipping coins” Overton wrote. “He performed his lectures, and we think that is just fabulous.” 

BESHT artists collaborated with both the Pomona art department and the Pitzer College intercollegiate media studies department in the creation of this exhibition. It is clear that participants will exert a large influence on the nature of the exhibition. The unpredictability of what will happen in the Free Speech auditorium only heightens the sense of anticipation surrounding its unveiling. 

Overton wrote, “How one then uses The Bureau of Experimental Speech and Holy Theses is really up to them.” 

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