What It Takes to be Sincere is a participatory workshop that asks: Why do we place such a high value on sincerity? How does one know if an individual is being sincere?

Perhaps we idealize sincerity because we fear being manipulated. Sincerity, in this case, is an attitude toward language—one of great suspicion and paranoia. Our collective obsession with technology and the endless connectivity of Twitter and Facebook has made the notion of sincerity a top priority: we constantly desire to know what others are actually thinking, feeling, and doing.

Although we seek sincerity to avoid being duped, lied to, manipulated, and betrayed, it remains a seemingly futile endeavor that any one human might decipher, with absolute clarity, another individual’s intent. But perhaps sincerity is not an idealized rejection of this fundamental disconnect between intention and expression. According to writer David Foster Wallace, in order to be sincere, one must have the courage to not only highlight but also accept this disconnect. The only way to be sincere, paradoxically for Wallace, is to foreground one’s inability to directly express his or her thoughts.

What it Takes to be Sincere will begin with a brief presentation of the history of sincerity, detailing through images sincerity’s dramatic shift from the religious notion of becoming one with God, to the most valued characteristic in a U.S. presidential candidate. Beginning with the Protestant Reformation and ending with David Foster Wallace and the New Sincerity, we will seek to understand the underlying connectivity of the ways we define sincerity, from what we value in human relationships to how we make ourselves understood.

After the presentation, the floor will be open to participants for discussion. Participants are encouraged to discuss specific events, places, memories, arguments, movies, paintings, dreams, hallucinations, books, or foods that they consider to be sincere. Through this process, we will collectively attempt to create a working definition of sincerity.