Collaborative Story Telling

(Duncan Figurski)

On November 14th 2019 hécatombe magazine got the opportunity to do two activations with Tribeca Art +Culture Night: Collaborative Storytelling and Meditation Portraiture.

Those who engaged with the Collaborative Storytelling workshop were told that they would be able to add a one-minute recording to a story that had been built by the community over the course of the night. The only context they would have for the story would be listening to the previous one-minute recording. Participants had access to a variety of prompts on the table, including pamphlets, word cards, and pieces of machinery to get their story juices going. The story was then edited and scored by Duncan Figurski. Below is the attached story.

Please read the following only after having listened to the audio.

When I came up with the idea for the Collaborative Storytelling Excercise I was of the belief that it would devolve into childish nonsense. That was the fun of it, a stream of consciousness hodgepodge filled with fantasy elements and humor. I had done exercises that fit within this ilke while teaching children and while sitting on my couch at three in the morning with my friends. I had never done this with strangers and had my own assumptions as to how it would go.

I set the tone by using a fake accent to create the first story, and the second person jumped right into the story of the little dog. After the 6th participant, the recordings lost their narrative structure seemed to take on a quasi biographical sentiment, one person passed compassion and understanding onto the next. The more honest the previous recording was, the more the next person saw it as an opportunity to share openly.

It shook my expectation to see person after person using this portal somewhat therapeutically, and I began to wonder how susceptible each one was to the previous share. It became a beautiful ideal to think that given total freedom these participants would drift toward messages of love and understanding. It only took one conscious shift of this narrative to reset the next iteration on a path toward empathy. Was this the default, or were we primed to create feedback loops that we can easily connect to?

I became very emotional during these recordings, and it has since inspired me to continue this exploration, potentially with different primers and interjected narratives. I will be interested to see how this experimentation continues.

If you would like to participate in the next experiment or have an idea for a future one please reach out to us at: