Exercise 1

A. Listen. What do Edgar and Camila talk about?

B. Listen again. Answer the questions.

 How does Camila feel about street art?

 Why was the Banksy mural a problem for the garage owner?

 Who shredded the Banksy picture after it was auctioned?

 In your opinion, what might the buyer have been thinking when the Banksy picture was going through the shredder?



issues related to street art


Possible answers:

1   Camila loves street art.

2   The garage owner’s life was completely disrupted. He had a lot of stress because of the mural.

3   Banksy

4   Answers will vary: The buyer might have still wanted to keep the painting. She may have felt that the publicity around the shredding increased its aesthetic and commercial value. The buyer might have wanted to get the $1.4 million back.


Edgar:   Hi, Camila.

Camila:   Hi, Edgar. Where’s everybody else? Are they going to be late for the meeting?

Edgar:   I hope not. We’re a few minutes early. Before the others join us, tell me. Who took the cool photo on the wall behind you?

Camila:   I did. It’s a picture of some graffiti here in Santiago. I love street art, especially graffiti.

Edgar:   Oh yeah?

Camila:   The more I read about it, the more interested I get. I just finished an article about the street artist Banksy and a mural he painted on a garage in Wales. Have you heard about it?

Edgar:   No, I don’t think so.

Camila:   Well, I thought it was an incredible gift until—

Edgar:   Until you realized graffiti is vandalism and against the law?

Camila:   No. I was thinking about whether the mural actually was a gift. A lot of people wanted to see it and the garage owner’s life was completely disrupted. He ended up selling the mural to an art collector because he couldn’t deal with the stress.

Edgar:   An art collector? I would debate whether or not graffiti actually is art. What are your views on that?

Camila:   Personally, I don’t like tagging, but I think Banksy’s murals are art because they are a creative form of self-expression. They provoke discussion on important social and political issues.

Edgar:   OK. I guess I can see that. But isn’t street art meant to be temporary? And so, shouldn’t it be available for everyone to see? In my opinion, it doesn’t belong in a museum or in the home of a wealthy art collector.

Camila:   I guess Banksy doesn’t think street art should have commercial value either. He shredded part of his drawing Love Is in the Bin right after it was auctioned off. The shredder was built into the picture frame!

Edgar:   Now, I did read about that. I’m not sure what Banksy was thinking. I’m more interested in what the buyer was thinking as the $1.4 million print was passing through the shredder!

Exercise 2

A. Listen. What is the topic of the podcast?

B. Listen again. Answer the questions.

1   Why does Portrait of Edmond Belamy blur the lines between human and AI-generated art?

2   What are the two kinds of creativity that Professor Ramirez talks about?

3   What did the research at Rutgers University show?

4   Why can’t human artists be replaced by artificial intelligence at the present time?



Possible answer: whether or not artificial intelligence can create a work of art


Possible answers:

1   Like art created by humans, Portrait of Edmond Belamy is new and different. The computers at Obvious learned how to create a unique painting.

2   First, she discusses the creativity of the human or the artificial intelligence that produces a painting. Then she discusses the creativity of the viewers who look at a painting.

3   People often cannot see the difference between a painting done by a human artist and an AI painting In addition, some people liked AI-generated paintings more.

4   Artificial intelligence needs input from humans. Plus, machines don’t have ideas, feelings, and life experiences like humans do.


Portrait of Edmond Belamy shook up the art world when it was sold at auction for $432,500. The impressive purchase price, 45 times higher than the estimated value of the painting, had people wondering whether AI-generated art would be the next big trend. And it brought up yet again the question about whether artificial intelligence is capable of producing art at all.

Hello. I’m Professor Sara Ramirez. Today on the Art411 podcast, I’ll discuss an important concept at the heart of the AI debate—creativity.

Creativity is a defining characteristic of humans. When humans create art, their intent is to make something new and different. Humans receive inspiration for an artistic endeavor from various sources, as well as their own imagination. The same is not true of machines.

To a certain degree, Portrait of Edmond Belamy blurs the line between humans and machines because it meets one of the criteria for creativity. The painting is unique. However, the artificial intelligence behind the painting required human input. Programmers at Obvious, an AI group in Paris, compiled a database of art from the 14th through the 20th centuries. They also wrote a two-part algorithm which gave their computers a set of rules to follow. In this way, the machines utilized the data set and learned how to produce a one-of-a kind depiction of Mr. Belamy. On the one hand, the computers did not create a painting entirely on their own. On the other hand, they were certainly able to emulate creativity.

At this point, it’s important to keep in mind a common belief among artists. Creativity is not limited to the human, or to the machine, that produces a painting. Art speaks to the individuals who view it, and it may change their ideas about the world. At the same time, viewers may interpret a painting in a way that was not intended by its creator, which can change and re-create the work itself. The active role of viewers makes them co-creators.

Artificial-intelligence researchers at Rutgers University have looked into the reaction of viewers to human and AI paintings. They found that people often could not tell them apart, and in some cases they were actually more inspired by the machine paintings. Does the research prove AI can produce works of art? Possibly, if art is defined on the basis of the feelings it evokes. If art is defined as the artist’s attempt to represent personal thoughts and feelings, no machine can currently do that.

In short, there are no clear-cut answers to the questions about AI and art. As has been noted, creativity, of both the artist and the viewer, is crucially important. And while there is a degree of creativity in paintings like Portrait of Edmond Belamy, there’s little chance that artificial intelligence is going to take over the work that human artists do, at least for the moment. As for the future, who knows?

Until next time, I’m Sara Ramirez and this is your Art411.

Exercise 3

A. Listen. What is the main idea of the talk?

B. Listen again. Then complete the notes.

Improvisation (aka improv): type of theater technique; not planned

Why do it?

• good for 1_________, helps navigate life; 2_________ can do improv

How does it work?

• typical improv class = teamwork, pairs, or groups; involves performance and role play; not competitive—collaborative

Benefits: everyday life

• builds 3_________, teaches you to say 4_________

• prepares you for challenges, like 5_________ issues, 6_________ problems, etc.

• soft skills development; 7_________, teamwork, problem solving, etc.

• helps you adjust 8_________

• helps develop 9_________ listening—a very important 10_________ skill; Say YES!

C. The speaker persuades listeners to try improv classes. Which persuasive features did you notice?



Possible answer: Developing your improvisation skills can help you in everyday life.


1 self-improvement   2 anyone   3 confidence

4 yes   5 relationship   6 work   7 communication

8 to change   9 active   10 life


Possible answers:

The speaker directly addresses the listener (you). This makes the talk more relatable.

The speaker signposts her talk at times with rhetorical questions, which feel like they align with the listeners’ thinking.

The speaker shares various personalized anecdotes which help the listener imagine they are involved in improv.

The speaker lists the benefits of improv, which makes the argument feel more comprehensive.

Repeating sentence structures, such as starting with “Yes, you…,” makes the speaker’s ideas more memorable.

Emphatic soundbites are included: “It’s not about competition, it’s about collaboration.”


The ABCs of Improv

Has anyone here ever tried improv? Well, let me tell you why you should think about trying it. Improv, or improvisation, is a type of theater technique.

It’s entirely unplanned. The dialogues, the characters, the scenes, everything in improv is made up on the spot. Sound like fun? What if I told you that we’re going to do some improv right now? Do you want to crawl under your chair and hide? I thought so! I used to feel that way, too.

So, why did I start taking improv classes then? Well, I’d been looking for a new challenge, something that would develop my creative side, and help me build confidence, so I gave it a try. Improv checked all those boxes. And improv’s not just for actors, it’s for anyone. Have you ever gone to a job interview, and the interviewer asked you a question you hadn’t prepared for? That’s a great example of when you need to improvise!

OK, so how does an improv class work? Well, first off, it’s all about working together. All the activities in class are done in pairs or groups. We usually do some performance games, some role-play exercises, and maybe act out some full scenes. My favorite game is ABC. You decide on a scene and begin to act it out. But each line of the dialogue has to start with the next letter of the alphabet. It’s surprisingly hard!

I won’t lie. These performances can be a daunting experience. Yes, you’ll be out of your comfort zone. Yes, you’ll be afraid. But you’re also supported—you’re working with others, and they’re working with you! It’s not about competition, it’s about collaboration.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering…how can improv help you in everyday life? Well, first, many of us have a fear of public speaking, standing in front of others looking (or feeling) foolish. Improv is a great way to build confidence, as it makes you face your fears. You can’t shy away–improv teaches you to say yes! It requires an action mindset. You learn by doing. Sure, you might fail at times, but improv helps you to accept that sometimes failure is learning.

Second, improv can help you prepare for challenges in your life. A lot of people think improv is all about comedy because it’s often funny, but that’s not always the case. Our improv group chooses the topics we want to perform together, and they can be very personal. We’ve acted out relationship issues, work problems, bullying, even childbirth… Improv is a great exercise in empathy—you can really put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

Third, improv is a great tool for developing soft skills which are important in the workplace. Communication, teamwork, problem-solving, creativity, adjusting to change. Scenes can be unpredictable, and you never really know the direction they’ll go in. This means you need to be ready to adapt and to think on your feet.

Above all else, improv helps you to develop one of the most important skills needed in life: active listening. During improv, your performance is built on the performances of others around you. With no script, you really need to concentrate on what others are saying, and you need to respond thoughtfully. Think of how important active listening is in everyday life. Giving impartial advice to others, responding to questions in a meeting, staying attentive during a class, all these require listening with conscious effort.

So, if you’re looking for a challenge or to build some new skills, then give improv a try. Don’t wait. Say yes and look for a class today!

Exercise 4

A. Listen to the blog post. What does the writer think of Burning Man?

B. Listen again. Answer the questions, according to the blog post.

1   What changes at the Burning Man festival each year?

2   Why don’t organizers book entertainment for Burning Man?

3   Why can’t you buy merchandise at the event?

4   How is the principle of gifting demonstrated by participants?



Possible answer: The writer states that Burning Man is worth adding to your bucket list, so she is very positive.


Possible answers:

1   The size of the festival, and the location are the same, but the general features of the festival, and the entertainment, change every year.

 Attendees make the entertainment.

 The event is decommodified—commerce is banned at the site.

 The article does not suggest that gifting is merely a physical act, i.e. the gifting of objects. Entertainment provided by participants is considered a gift—self-expression is a gift to others. The article mentions massages and bike repairs as other practical examples of gifting. Participants might gift resources such as food to each other through entertainment such as cooking sessions.


Burning Man Festival by Autumn Smith

It started as a small bonfire gathering on a beach back in 1986. It’s since evolved into one of the world’s most famous celebrations of community, art, and self-expression. Every year, up to 70,000 people descend on Black Rock Desert in Nevada to attend Burning Man.

It’s said that Burning Man is not a festival, it’s an experience. In fact, organizers describe the event as a “culture of possibility.” It’s not a theory or an idea, it’s a way of life. It’s not political, it’s moral. It’s not sponsored, it’s supported. It’s unlike any other event on the planet—it truly is unique.

Burning Man is a nine-day event focusing primarily on arts and performance. It takes place in a pop-up city in the desert erected by the participants themselves. The Burning Man experience is built on active participation. The organizers don’t book any entertainment—attendees provide entertainment for each other for free. You can find a vast array of activities at the event, including dances, theater performances, cooking sessions, parties, and art workshops. Some participants also offer services to their fellow attendees for free, including recycling, bike repairs, and even massages. The event is built around a communal effort and is open to everyone.

FOUNDING PRINCIPLES as written by Burning Man founder Larry Harvey:

RADICAL INCLUSION: Burning Man is open to everyone.

GIFTING: The act of gifting is encouraged and is unconditional.

DECOMMODIFICATION: Burning Man is unmarketable. The event does not invite sponsorship from commercial organizations. In practice, this means that commerce is banned at the festival site.

RADICAL SELF-RELIANCE: Participants are encouraged to rely on their own resources. For example, they provide their own food and water for the duration of the event.

RADICAL SELF-EXPRESSION: Community members’ self-expression, in whatever form, is a gift to others.

COMMUNAL EFFORT AND CIVIL RESPONSIBILITY: Cooperation, collaboration, and public welfare are emphasized.

LEAVING NO TRACE: The Burning Man community respects the environment, and cleanups are a communal responsibility.

PARTICIPATION AND IMMEDIACY: Direct, active involvement is encouraged. Participants create entertainment for each other and live the Burning Man experience in the here and now.

Given that entertainment is created by participants, you can’t always predict the content of Burning Man. However, there are certain forms of art and expression that you can expect to see. Some participants arrive in mutant vehicles, which are creatively altered trucks and cars. Electronic dance music also features regularly at the event, as do large-scale interactive art installations. These are displayed across the desert, converting the vast landscape into an interactive gallery exhibition. Creative outfits are also likely to feature, as are bicycles, which are the preferred mode of transportation for attendees.

Burning Man has an annual theme to loosely guide the event’s content. Past themes have included “Hope and Fear,” “Metamorphoses,” and “The Floating World.” Although the theme changes each year, one thing remains the same: The event culminates in the ritual burning of a wooden effigy—the Burning Man itself. The effigy can be up to 30 meters tall, and attendees enjoy the hour-long bonfire spectacular, which includes an impressive fireworks display.

From humble beginnings, Burning Man has become an internationally renowned event. Despite its growth, it has stayed true to its founding principles throughout the years and is a vibrant and enriching experience that’s well worth adding to your bucket list.

Exercise 5

Listen. Which clause or phrase is substituted? Circle the correct answers.

 if not =

      a   if you haven’t seen the mural

      b   if the kids hadn’t painted the building

 if so =

      a   if you have other plans

      b   if you like street art

 by doing so =

      a   attracting tourists and making the area beautiful

      b   working in cooperation with street artists to create murals

 did so =

      a   had his own work shredded

      b   turned the auction into a work of art

 says so =

      a   says that it’s art

      b   says that it’s a room full of balloons

 hope not =

      a   hope the kids didn’t say that

      b   hope the school wasn’t vandalized 


1 a   2 b   3 b   4 a   5 a   6 b


1   Have you seen the mural at the new Turkish restaurant? If not, you should definitely go check it out. They let a group of local kids paint the entire side of the building. It looks amazing!

2   Do you like street art? If so, do you want my tickets for an exhibit by a new street artist? I bought these tickets a month ago, but now I have other plans.

3   Some local businesses are working in cooperation with street artists to create murals. By doing so, they’re attracting tourists and making the area more beautiful.

4   Banksy’s painting sold for $1.4 million before it was shredded. Everyone was shocked that Banksy would have his own work shredded, but when he did so, he turned the auction itself into a work of art.

5   We went to a strange art exhibit last week. It was basically just a room full of balloons. My brother argued that it wasn’t art, but I disagree. I think art can be anything as long as the artist says so.

6   I heard some kids say that the school building was vandalized last weekend. I hope not.

Exercise 6

Listen. Check (✓) the correct answers.




Can’t say

 They had been looking for a way to improve team building when Jackson suggested an improv class.

 Kara had been drinking coffee when Sam called her.

 Gavin hadn’t taught improv classes until he started working in sales.

 Amira had been studying French because she was planning a trip to Africa.

 Chris lost his job because he hadn’t taken it seriously.

 The speaker had lost his favorite jacket years before he finally found it.


1 True   2 Can’t say   3 False   4 True

5 True   6 True


1   We spent weeks trying to think of a good team building activity. When Jackson finally suggested an improv class, we were all a little nervous. We’d never tried anything like that before, but it turned out great. Everyone had a lot of fun.

2   Kara was embarrassed when she arrived over 30 minutes late. Somehow, she’d completely forgotten about the class. When Sam called to remind her about it, she was hanging out at the coffee shop with some friends.

3   Gavin used to be a musical theater actor and improv coach before he started working in sales. He still teaches an improv class on weekends. I went to one of his classes, but I found it to be a daunting experience. I’m too shy for that kind of thing.

4   Amira made a conscious effort to learn French before she traveled to Africa. She studied hard and practiced for months before her trip.

5   I’m not surprised Chris lost his job. He was late for work almost every day, and he was always arguing with his co-workers. He didn’t seem to take the job very seriously.

6   I can’t believe I found my favorite jacket at my grandmother’s house. I guess I left it there a long time ago. I’d been looking for it for years, but I finally just accepted the fact that it was gone.

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