Entertainment TED Fellows

Pardon Me, but WTF?: TED Fellow Safwat Saleem calls out for stories of bs

Posted by: Karen Eng
Safwat Saleem puts out a global call to the bemused, disappointed and outraged. Photo: Ryan Lash

Safwat Saleem puts out a global call to the bemused, disappointed and outraged. Photo: Ryan Lash

On Monday on the TED Fellows stage, Safwat Saleem made the crowd roar and squirm with his art – satirical and profane posters and animated shorts skewering racism, the absurdity of politics, petty dishonesty and general stupidity. In a word, bullshit. Here at TED2013, he’s launching a new project, called “Pardon Me, but WTF?” – a call to the general public for their own stories of bullshit, an act of public catharsis which Saleem will curate and make into art.

What exactly are you looking for? Do you have examples of the kind of bullshit you’re looking for. What constitutes bullshit in the first place?

I don’t want to say. I’m being ambiguous on purpose because I have a strong feeling that, six months into it, strong themes will begin to emerge and I’ll base the rest of the project on those themes.

My art was mostly about race and social injustice and immigration issues and Islamophobia – all the things that I thought were bullshit. It’s very political. But the stuff that I’ve been getting from others is much more personal. Someone’s father left them 10 years ago and they never heard from them again, for example. But also it’s very mundane stuff. One lady sent in a story that her 3-year-old pooped his pants, and she asked him, “What’s going on? Why did you poop your pants?” And he said, “It’s not my poop. I didn’t poop in my pants.” And she goes, “Well, then whose poop is that?” And he goes, “It’s Daddy’s. Daddy pooped in my pants.”

So it’s funny stories and it’s serious stories. I feel that, when it’s done, it will be kind of like This American Life meets Post Secret, where we’ll learn about each other through art. That’s the goal.

So you’re going global. Global bullshit?

Global bullshit. Exactly. All kinds of bullshit collected together. That’s the plan. I’d love to hear your stories of bullshit, absolutely. So please visit my website, and submit your story.