Telltale art

In July, I got lucky and went to TEDx Boston. My favorite talk was not the expert one by presentation superstar Larry Lessig, but the surprising one by artist Eric Mongeon, on his persistent obsession with what he calls the “dark and thrilling work” of Edgar Allen Poe and his struggle to illustrate and publish Poe’s stories.

What Mongeon says, in part one, about Poe’s work makes me want to return to the stories: “He was writing about fear in uniquely modern terms. All of Poe’s characters experience fear when their fundamental beliefs about their social, personal, or practical situation are somehow invalidated. The world becomes uncertain, because the picture of reality falls out of sync with the experience of reality. And at the root of fear is uncertainty.”

In part two, Mongeon describes a situation he found himself caught in. After years of generating material for his secret Poe project, he realized he was in The Vortex: “A viscious circle of research, rejection, and refinement. It is unrelenting, and it is self-perpetuating because you feel like you’re actually making something.” He soberly adds, “Doing isn’t the same thing as making.”

And finally he knits it all together — Poe’s stories, his own story, fear — deftly.

Original ideas, and a really original presentation. Everything fits: the script, the images, the timing, his clockwork pacing of the stage, and some strategic pauses. Simmering is how I’d characterize this, and worth studying.

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