How to: disturb the public

An eventful cookbook for cultural agitators by Lev Bratishenko, Laura Serejo Genes, Meneesha Kellay, Liu He, Sebastian Elias Kurth, Stephen Kwok, Mariana Pestana, Esteban Salcedo, Agustin Schang, and Gabriela Aquije Zegarra

When a normal day includes both mass protests and individual experiences of digital content on couches, it becomes harder to predict turnout and it is more significant when we do turn out (and where). Yet despite a proliferation of hosts—from palatial cultural institutions traditionally oriented toward education, to nomadic producers who just want to leave a good-looking digital corpse for others to consume—it is remarkable how standardized public program formats still are.

In an effort to defy this standardization, a group of cultural agitators from around the world gathered to reimagine what an institutional event can be, which publics it can serve, and how. Over eighty-four hours, we demystified the models of the conference, the panel, the talk, and the tour. We interviewed artists, architects, performers, curators, and academics whose work defies normalized relations between institutions and publics. We remixed existing typologies, invented new needs, and imagined future constraints. We mapped participatory practices and analyzed their structures. We listed tools and designed spaces, and then we came up with new formats. They are compiled here as a list of recipes. Some are very easy to cook, others take more commitment. The level of spiciness suggests their capacity to disturb.

In the year that follows, institutional friends including the M+ in Hong Kong, ArkDes in Stockholm, CCB Garagem Sul in Lisbon, and the Flemish Architecture Institute in Antwerp have agreed to read this cookbook and select formats for appropriation and re-enactment.

We welcome open use of this recipe book. If you decide to prepare one of these recipes, please email us a picture and a note about the result. If you share it on social media, please use #howtodisturb.

1. Bleep panel

Good for deprogramming an architect

Level of Spice: 🔥
Duration: 1 hour
Serves: 10-50

- One suffix or prefix that is overused in architecture (for example, “-ism,” but please adjust to the working language of the lecture. Optional: select a word, like “articulation,” instead of a suffix.)
- One topic for discussion
- Three or more panellists
- One moderator
- A bleep sound-effect machine

1. The moderator announces the discussion topic, and a suffix to be avoided for today.
2. The panellists discuss as normal.
3. If a panellist uses the suffix, the moderator uses the bleep sound.
4. The moderator then invites one audience member to rephrase what the panellist was saying.
5. At the end of the event, the panellist who got the most bleeps receives a coupon to speech therapy and must give a 3-minute final talk, to explain their behaviour or apologize.

2. Minimum cost stories, or ten books for ten bucks

Good for re-contextualizing architecture

Level of Spice: 🔥
Duration: 1 week for shopping, 1 hour for the event
Serves: 10-100

- One architectural expert
- Ten dollars or equivalent purchasing power in local currency

1. Give the expert the ten dollars and one week to assemble an architecture reader using only this budget to acquire books. The reader can represent a new history, or a contemporary argument, or something else (optional: they bind the reader into a new book).
2. The expert gives a talk explaining their reader.

3. Give me that corpse

Good for putting exhausted narratives to rest

Level of Spice: 🔥
Duration: 1 hour
Serves: 10-200

- One architectural expert
- One microphone and speaker (recommend wireless for mobility)
- Funeral attire
- Coffin (optional)

1. Invite an expert to select a common architectural idea (for example, marble) that is currently strongly associated with one country (for example, Italy) to the point of being a cliché.
2. Expert performs an exhumation of the selected concept, explaining why it never belonged there.
3. Expert performs a re-burial of the concept in another country, explaining why the new burial site is more appropriate.

4. Thirsty

Good for opening the floor to new speakers

Level of Spice: 🔥
Duration: 1.5 hours
Serves: 35

- One room with chairs, all facing one direction
- Invited panellists
- One large water bottle per panellist
- One staff member to guide the event

1. Panellists seat themselves randomly throughout the audience while the audience settles in their seats.
2. At seven minutes past the designated start time, staff member hands a large water bottle to an audience member with the instruction to “pass it along.”
3. The bottle makes its way through the audience until reaches a panellist. Wait as long as it takes (if necessary, the panellist can ask for water).
4. That panellist begins the conversation. The panellist can encourage the audience to rearrange their seats to face them.
5. The usher, after fifteen minutes, sends a second water bottle into the audience. This action warns the first panellist that their time is coming to an end.
6. Anyone holding the water bottle may speak. (If necessary, an usher can ask a question while holding the bottle.)
7. The second panellist begins to speak as soon as they receive their water bottle.
8. Event continues until all panellists have had a chance to speak, and the audience has exhausted their questions.

5. State of the Room

Good for measuring urban pressures

Level of Spice: 🔥🔥🔥
Duration: 7 hours
Serves: The maximum legal occupancy of the chosen room

- Any room in the institution (we recommend one with a window)
- One microphone on a stand
- Two speakers inside the room
- Food
- Partnership with a radio broadcaster

1. Announce the event and an open call for participants.
2. Pick a room.
3. Set up the room with a microphone, speakers, and catering table.
4. At 10am, welcome participants by announcing: “Thank you for joining us at [institution name] for our event, The State of the Room. At 4pm, a microphone will be turned on for one hour, after which the conference will conclude.”
5. Leave the room.
6. Provide food and beverages. throughout the day; the participants can only leave the room to go to the toilet or smoke.
7. At 4pm, turn the microphone on and begin the broadcast.
8. Event ends at 5pm.

6. Sorry, we lost your PowerPoint...

Good for disturbing architects

Level of Spice: 🔥🔥
Duration: 1 hour
Serves: 10-200

- One architect who wants to give a talk about a building they designed
- Potential photographers with different perspectives on the building (for example, the event organizers, a cleaner or maintenance worker who works in the building, the building client, a professional photographer instructed only to photograph building details smaller than 15cm, an animal wearing a camera, etc.)

1. Organizer selects a photographer from the list (optional: commission several photographers for a longer slideshow).
2. The photographer is commissioned to photograph the building and submit 40 images.
3. Upon arrival at the venue, the architect is informed that their PowerPoint is missing or corrupted. They must give the talk only using the images provided by the organizer.

7. How did you two meet?

Good for generating new narratives and reinvigorating sleepy archives

Level of Spice: 🔥
Duration: 1 hour
Serves: 2-100

- The oldest employee of the institution
- The youngest employee of the institution
- One table for displaying objects (or a projector, if objects are represented digitally)
- One microphone
- One architectural expert
- An architectural collection (if your institution does not have a collection please use ours

1. The expert selects two objects in the collection, one created in the year of the oldest employee’s birth and one created in the year of the youngest employee’s birth (this recipe can be adapted for alternative pairings, for example, the most newest acquisition and the oldest one, the biggest object and the smallest one, the most and the least valuable, etc.).
2. The expert narrates an architectural history from one object to the other.
3. The event begins with an introduction to the curatorial format before revealing the narrative between the objects (optional: include relevant information such as the biography of each of the oldest and youngest employees).

8. Slow fade

Good for holding the audience captive

Level of Spice: 🔥
Duration: 3-6 hours
Serves: 30

- At least three public events scheduled by the institution (for example, an exhibition tour, a panel discussion, and a concert)
- All the tools and materials needed to produce the selected events
- Technical support crew (A/V, events team, interns, etc)

1. Analyze the set-up and breakdown procedures of the chosen events.
2. Create a new production schedule that sequences the events back-to-back.
3. Work closely with support crew to choreograph transitions between events so that they flow seamlessly from one to the next. They should have no clear beginnings or ends (For example, the participants of an exhibition tour include the panellists of the panel discussion and a musician. The tour begins normally but ends at an event space set up for a panel discussion, upon which panellists emerge from the tour and take their seats. During the Q&A panel, the musician poses a question by playing a song on the guitar, beginning their set.)
4. Share the production schedule with all event participants.

9. Acronyms Anonymous

Good for making new friends

Level of Spice: 🔥🔥🔥
Duration: 1 day
Serves: Conference attendees; public audience

- Institution(s) sharing the same acronym as the host institution, preferably from the same country (for example, the CCA shares its acronym with Canadian Construction Association, Canadian Chiropractic Association, Canadian Celiac Association, Canadian Cartographic Association)
- Conference room including everything for standard conference (tables, chairs, projectors, microphones, etc)
- Auditorium or other public presentation space including everything for a standard talk (tables, chairs, projectors, microphones, etc)

1. Establish partnerships with at least two institutions sharing the same acronym as the host.
2. Solicit representatives from each institution to attend a day-long conference.
3. Establish the aim of the conference: to better understand each field through the lens of the other. Use the methodologies and expertise of one as a revealing metaphor for the other (for example, how can a chiropractor diagnose a building? How can an architect draft a plan for a Celiac’s diet? How can a Celiac teach a chiropractor about illness visibility?)
4. At the end of the conference, an event is held to reveal the day’s findings to the public.

10. Institutional Performance Festival

Good for institutional exhibitionism

Level of Spice: 🔥🔥🔥
Duration: 1 month
Serves: 10-100

- Internal institutional calendar
- Staff
- Hosts (chosen from staff)
- Spaces within the institution
- Elevator music
- Up to 100 wireless headphones with two channels
- One table microphone and mobile speaker system with two channels
- One curator
- Optional: video camera on a tripod, and website for video streaming

1. Invite curator to select events from the institutional calendar. These events are open to the public and become performances. The events should be varied (such as departmental meetings of different departments, conservation discussions, research in the archives, building maintenance tasks, deliveries, etc.).
2. All events take place where they usually do.
3. Set a maximum audience for each event.
4. Set up ticketing or sign-up system.
5. Advertise the Festival.
6. Prepare each performance by setting the stage with chairs and microphones for the meeting participants (optional: if the room is very small, video camera and web streaming may be used).
7. Hosts welcome the audience to the event and explain the rules, and take them to their seats.
8. Staff have their meeting.
9. When confidential information is being discussed, staff can switch the microphone channel to elevator music.
10. At the end of the performance, the hosts collect the headphones and encourage the audience to come to the next meeting.

11. Cancel culture

Good for resurrecting a troubled past

Level of Spice: 🔥🔥🔥
Duration: 2-3 hours
Serves: Many

- An event previously cancelled by an institution (ideally due to some controversy)
- All the ingredients needed to produce the original event
- Contemporary substitutions are acceptable (for example, if the original speaker has died) and encouraged (for example, a historical conversation is reenacted with the addition/substitution of contemporary terms)

1. Restage the event

Notes on method, and thanks

These recipes were produced over eighty-four hours, including twelve hours of interviews, two walls of ideas and reactions, fifty-six pages of notes with over twenty-thousand words. It was only possible through the exhaustion and dedication of the participants and the generosity of the interviewees: Pilvi Takala, John Spelman and Christopher Heuer, Matylda Krzykowski, Morgan Green, Liza Fior, Rosa Ferré, Eric Ellingsen, Miranda July, Keil Troisi and The Yes Men, Joanna Warsza, Michael Portnoy, Tuomas Toivonen and Nene Tsuboi.

We also thank advisors, critics, and friends whose conversations shaped this project and made it possible: Julia Albani, Giovanna Borasi, Francesco Garutti, Jesse Jackson, Will Jennings, Matthew Miguel Robles-Durán, Jane Taylor, Martien de Vletter, and Mirko Zardini.

Special thanks for research assistance to: Melania Grozdanoska, Carla Rangel, Hannah Strothmann, and Keren Kuenberg.

How to: disturb the public was directed by Lev Bratishenko, Curator, Public, CCA and Mariana Pestana, architect, independent curator, and co-director of The Decorators.

How to is a series of accelerated annual residencies that bring small teams together at the CCA to produce a new tool—physical, digital, or somewhere in between—and rapidly begin to address a specific opportunity or need.


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