Liz Magic Laser


The Thought Leader


In The Thought Leader, a young actor delivers a monologue adapted from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground (1864), but using the format of the increasingly popular TED Talk.

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global series of motivational speeches with the mission to promote ‘the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world.’ TED Talks, primarily viewed as online videos, have promoted a forceful and inspirational presentation style across a wide spectrum of professions. Speakers propose idealistic solutions to contemporary issues but are often criticised for failing to offer tangible steps for achieving their utopian visions.

The Thought Leader insinuates the Underground Man’s views into the TED Talk format, applying Dostoevsky’s attack on the socialist ideal of enlightened self-interest to its contemporary capitalist incarnation.


Featuring actor Alex Ammerman.
Courtesy of Various Small Fires, Los Angeles and Wilfried Lentz, Rotterdam.

single channel video

9:22 mins

Liz Magic Laser is a video and performance artist based in Brooklyn, New York. Her videos and performances intervene in semi-public spaces such as bank vestibules, movie theatres and newsrooms, and have involved collaborations with actors, surgeons, political strategists and motorcycle gang members.

Laser earned a BA from Wesleyan University (2003) and an MFA from Columbia University (2008). Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Kunstverein Göttingen, Germany (2016); Mercer Union, Toronto (2015); Wilfried Lentz, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (2015); Various Small Fires, Los Angeles (2015); Paula Cooper Gallery, New York (2013); the Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster, Germany (2013); DiverseWorks, Houston, Texas (2013); and Mälmo Konsthall, Mälmo, Sweden (2012). Her work has also been shown at Swiss Institute (2016); Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland (2016); The Whitney Museum of American Art (2015); the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (2012); the Performa 11 Biennial, New York (2011); the Biennial of Graphic Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia (2011); and MoMA PS 1, New York (2010).

Video still courtesy the artist © the artist