Q&A

Q&A with TED2010 Fellows

We dropped by the TED Fellows speaker rehearsals yesterday and chatted with two extraordinary TED 2010 Fellows: Anita Doron and Mitchell Joachim. They told us about their projects, their first two days at TED and their hopes for the rest of the week.

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Tell us who you are.

I am Anita Doron and I am a filmmaker from, more or less, Canada.

What sort of films do you do?

I do magic realism, dramas and minimalist political films that are set in Hungary with the background of the Hungarian extreme right wing and their discrimination against the Romani. And I do happier music videos and documentaries about women making plays and music.

How has your experience been at Long Beach so far?

It feels like when I’m awake, it’s a dream. And then I go to sleep and I’m familiar with my dreamscapes, and I feel like it’s real and I get it. And then I wake up and it’s a dream. I love this flipped experience of dreaming and awake-ness.

Who did you have dinner with last night?

All of the Fellows. It’s Day 2 and I feel like, ok, so far all that’s happened technically is we met the other Fellows and I already feel like this is unbelievable. The people surrounding me are the most incredible, beautiful, engaged human beings I’ve met in a long time — and I meet a lot of lovely people — but the level of engagement with the world and curiosity and the sparkle in everybody’s eyes, and the things they’re doing and planning, and the confidence in what they do is world-class. I’m already inspired, amazed, humbled.

What are you most excited about at TED?

Learning. I’ve been watching TEDTalks for a while and I’m addicted. There’s a lot of room in my head to learn more. I made room; I emptied some things. I did some spring cleaning there before I came. I think I’m ready for a lot of information about the world and seeing new ways of being in the world, and new ways of changing it and actually believing in the possibility of making a difference in some way and not being skeptical and not being cynical. I hate cynicism and this is an amazing place where there is not even a trace of cynicism and I just soak it all in and see what it does to me. I know it’s already doing something.

Who are you hoping to meet here at TED?

My approach is I prefer not to make a plan and not to have any expectations. Going into this world undefined and being open to whatever comes and trusting that whatever comes is the thing I’m meant to meet and experience. There’s nobody I specifically want to meet. I feel more like anybody is interesting to me, anybody who’s here speaking. And so far anybody that I met and spoke with, I couldn’t have planned or desired to meet such an interesting person if I set out to.

Which speakers do you want to meet?

Temple Grandin. I’m amazed by this woman and what she does. I’d just love to hang out with her and experience her being.

Anita Doron is a surrealist filmmaker and documentarian. Check out the trailer for her film EUROPA, EAST which just debuted at the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

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Tell us who you are.

My name is Dr. Mitchell Joachim. I’m an architect and urban designer. I’m from Brooklyn, NY.

How has your experience been at Long Beach so far?

My experience at Long Beach has been getting off the jet, entering this bubble, which I guess is called TED. It’s been very intense. People here are great. My roommate, who I didn’t expect to have, is also pretty fantastic. So there’s a little camp-like element to it. And it’s been nonstop talking, so eventually I think I’m just going to lose my voice if I continue to “blah blah blah.”

Who is your roommate?

Raffael Lomas, he’s an artist from Israel and he does works with wheels. He carries these wheels from different regions, across continents and then displays them. And he does this with, also, screws. A very intense guy, and in the beginning of his book, which he showed me, are the most beautiful words — not even a paragraph — describing, to him, what art is. I thought that was great. He said, “I had no training and whatever I do now is not going to necessarily be the thing I do tomorrow, and there’s no way to practice for this or describe the method.” And it’s very much about the true art, so I have a kinship with that because he’s a sculptor; my father’s a painter so it’s a perfect match. Whatever little algorithm that was, it’s scary, but it’s good.

Who did you have dinner with last night?

I had dinner with an amazing CSI biologist from Brazil [Juliana Machado-Ferreira]. She’s a phenomenal activist trying to find appropriate places for animals based on their genetics, and deal with people who are knocking out their environments. So what’s essentially happening is that she’s looking at these animals that people are keeping and domesticating, and finding their original places and restoring or conserving them. Actually, it’s conservation biology specifically that she’s doing.

We had a phenomenal conversation about conservation vs. preservation, about what environment means in cultures in Brazil and in America … absolutely stimulating. We could have gone on the whole night, but we were, I guess, being rude to the rest of the people at the table. And right across from her was Robert [Gupta], who is a violinist here in the LA Philharmonic and he’s an extremely interesting guy; also an ex-biologist. So no one seems to be a bore, which is fun. I probably would have preferred less wine and gotten here a little less jetlagged, but it probably added or fueled the entire conversation to be slightly wacky.

What are you most excited about at TED?

Well it’s early yet. I guess my imagination seems to think that so much could possibly happen here — that there’s so much opportunity and the ability to connect and meet people that may spin off into nothing or may be lifelong relationships. I come from a place where I went to every school on the planet Earth — from Columbia, Harvard, to MIT, even to state schools — and I’m involved in education and I think I found a ceiling there. TED, for me, seems to be a place where ideas and the channeling of those ideas actually exist. It’s brief, it’s temporary like a comet through the sky, but to be on it in that tail gives me the opportunity to go beyond the education that I’ve had and find a very mature place in humanity.

Who are you hoping to meet here at TED?

I’m definitely hoping to meet Al Gore. Apparently that’s going to happen tomorrow. There will probably be a lot of people in the room and I won’t get much face-time with him — I expect that — but he’d be someone to definitely meet because he’s certainly a hero, not only of presentations but what he does with the environment. I don’t care about his political standing (I’m a Green Party member) but I understand that he’s found his true self again and I really appreciate that.

And I would love to meet Bill Gates, just maybe to choke him a little bit for making me wait all those times with his operating system taking forever to open. It’d be more of a hug, but a tight hug … a very tight hug. I’d maybe ask him about his mosquito spiel that he used in his previous talk where he released them into the audience as his star moment — kind of wonderful. There are so many others that I would like to meet that I just don’t want to label those two, but they’re certainly big leaders and attractors to why I’m here.

Which speakers do you want to meet?

Well I met David Byrne already. He was a goal, but we actually did a talk together. He’s phenomenal. I’d like to meet Sarah Silverman because she’s really sexy and I’m sure whatever she’s going to say will be phenomenally funny. David Rockwell I’d like to meet because he’s an architect, so there’s kind of a kinship in the field. I haven’t met him before, so he’s representing us right now and I think he’d be a great person to meet. I’m excited about a lot of the work he’s doing with media, which is the most interesting thing, so I definitely would like to meet him.

I’ve met some of the Fellows who are super-important. Cesar [Harada] has been doing a project called Open_Sailing. We’re actually in the same gallery show together but we weren’t there at the same times. So I’d see this guy’s crazy-brilliant work, and he’s probably seen mine, but we never shook hands and we had to meet in California finally. And, actually it’s just slightly selfish, but because it’s in Long Beach and my godfather’s here and his daughter, I definitely want to see them, probably most of all, at least briefly, because it’s very hard to do the Brooklyn-LA thing all the time, so it’s a good excuse to say “hi.”

Mitchell Joachim is an architect and co-founder of Terreform ONE + Terrefuge, non-profit design groups that promote ecological design in cities. Check out his project Fab Tree Hab, which exhibited at MoMA, and In Vitro Meat Habitat.

Portraits: TED / Marla Aufmuth