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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In Context: ABACUS

ABACUS comes to BAM from September 24—27. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles, and videos related to the show. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Program Notes


Watch & Listen

“We Need to Talk About Ted” (The Guardian)
“Placebo techno-radicalism, toying with risk so as to reaffirm the comfortable.” Read this pointed critique of TED Talks, which ABACUS parodies.

Paul Abacus Press Conference (YouTube)
The ABACUS mastermind reasserts that he does, in fact, exist.

Paul Abacus Visualizations (
“We will leave behind the screens as we have the Eucharist, the psalms, and the Sunday gathering.”


"Borderline Personality: An Interview with Paul Abacus" (BAM Blog)
The ABACUS creator chit-chats with Banksy while paddling a canoe.

“Inventing the Abacus” (
A TED Talk parody or evangelical vision of the techno-future? ABACUS creator Lars Jan wavers.

“Paul Abacus Doesn’t Exist. Here’s Why” (
In the Screen Age, all is surface—including the host of ABACUS.

Influences: Early Morning Opera's Lars Jan (
Frederico Fellini, Gerhard Richter, Buckminster Fuller, and Julio Cortazar made the list. 

Worthwhile Words

We fabricated a person — Paul Abacus — in order to conduct an investigation into how contemporary persuasion works, particularly in the form of presentations. You know, those setups with a charismatic speaker and a projection behind. The lingua franca of our world today. And, we wanted to figure out just what makes a person "exist" in today’s heavily screen-based world. Making people think that Paul was real was not a stunt. No one’s being punked Ali G-style and we’re not selling mp3s like Aime Eguchi. We want to point out the fact that many, many folks out there on those screens are just making up who they are. The more money they have behind them, the better produced their fictions. Who believes in these fairy-tale suits, hot news anchors, on-message politicians? Our answer: Too many.
—Lars Jan, Indiewire

Now your turn . . .

So how did you enjoy the show? Likes? Dislikes? Surprises? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below.


  1. I buy tickets to shows and then forget what I bought. I never looked at my ticket and thought I was going to Embers tonight. Instead it was Abacus. I knew nothing, had no expectations. And I loved it. Really loved it. It takes on the big questions of can we live without borders. And beyond screen-based content. Riveting, provocative, insightful, moving. And hopeful. Yeah, hopeful too.

  2. This performance was extremely intense and thought provoking. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

  3. I, too, could not remember what this show was about because I see so many and I sometimes forget what inspired me to choose them. Therefore, I walked in to the show having no idea what was about to unfold. I am glad for that because this show really made me see the world as it is now set up with our various "borders" in a completely different way. I am only now checking out the resources provided in this blog post about the show and I am fascinated. I feel that my perceptions of our world and our possible future have been altered by the show tonight.

  4. Awesome fun, thought provoking, spent the rest of the night talking about it with Friends