Ain Gordon: Well, first of all, I do think they are more siloed because unlike the directors, they didn’t have the shared task of guiding the Center along. So they didn’t have a built-in, work-centered reason previously to be in dialogue with each other. That was the first thing.
The second thing grew out of a conversation we had at one of the directors’ meetings. I had raised at some point earlier on this question of authorship and what is authorship in contemporary form? It stemmed from a conversation about the word “excellence,” which is part of the Center’s mission. What is excellence in work that is improvisational? What is excellence in work that is archival? What is excellence in work that is group generated? All of these questions according to whom and when. And that led us into this question of authorship—what does authorship look like? How many kinds are there now? And does it help us to always be lauding a single author?
So I went to the specialists’ meeting. They were circling many thematic questions but finding it hard to reach consensus among so many minds, because they had never had to do that before, I think. Among their potential questions were a host of ideas relating to the very questions I had raised in our talk at the directors’ meeting. So I offered the many-headed conversation of authorship, which is itself a question about many heads—
PM: As an analogy for—
AG: As an analogy for both their problem and their questions. And I suggested that they should give up trying to reach consensus and agree to be many authors—and to therefore, in fact, model their question in their process. So that became the Push Me, Pull You project.
But it’s been interesting all along the amount of times—and they say it now themselves—when I have had to say, “Wait a minute, this is going wrong because we’re trying to all agree on it. We don’t have to agree. We have to jump off each other’s investigation and refract it and add another way of investigation. This is not a monograph.”