Berggruen Salon & Interview with Elif Shafak Now on YouTube

April 8, 2019

7pm YouTube

In a period of decaying social cohesion brought about by an explosion of identity politics and marked social polarization, how do we rebuild social bonds and create a new shared story of “We,” while maintaining our sense of multiple belongings? All of this is unravelled in the books of British-Turkish novelist and political scientist Elif Shafak.

The Berggruen Institute sat down with Shafak, a Berggruen Prize Juror, for an interview about the importance of Storyland in dealing with the politics of identity and tribalism before her on-stage talk with Australian novelist and VP of Pen Center USA David Francis. Sample the interview clips or listen to the entire talk as Shafak unpacks the “us” versus “them” rhetoric, to reveal what lies beneath, while exploring how to navigate the political and cultural challenges of our turbulent times.

About Elif Shafak:
Elif Shafak is an award-winning novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books. Elif holds a PhD in political science and has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne’s College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow. She is a member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of the European Council on Foreign Relations. An advocate for women’s rights, LGBT rights, and freedom of speech, Elif is an inspiring public speaker and twice a TED Global speaker. Elif contributes to major publications around the world and she has been awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. In 2017, she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people who would make the world better. She has judged numerous literary prizes and is chairing the Wellcome Prize 2019.

Video Highlights: Berggruen Salon with Elif Shafak and David Francis.
Select Elif Shafak Interviews by Rachel S. Bauch. 

“It’s the Age of Anxiety.” – Elif Shafak

The Distinction Between Knowledge, Information and Wisdom

“I Worry About the Future of Democracy” – Elif Shafak

“Stories Rehumanize Those Who Have Been Dehumanized” – Elif Shafak

“As Human Beings We All Have Multiple Belongings” – Elif Shafak

“Populism Is the Wrong Solution to Very Real Problems” – Elif Shafak

“All of Us Need to Become Active, Engaged Citizens” – Elif Shafak


“Rumi’s Words Are so Timeless That Even so Many Years Later, We Still Find Solace in His Work” – Elif Shafak

“We Need Pessimism of the Mind and Optimism of the Heart” – Elif Shafak

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.