Blog / 2014 / How I Ended Up Talking at TEDxGeneva

April 18, 2014

Last week, I spoke at TEDxGeneva, and, while there, I found the answer to the question “how did you end up talking in Switzerland?”

the artist’s parents, painted portrait
Gwenn Seemel
Papa and Maman
2006
acrylic on canvas patchwork and canvas
20 x 40 inches (combined dimensions)

Like all of my successes, the story starts with these two beautiful people, my parents. In this case in particular, I cite their involvement because without them I wouldn’t be bilingual. My father is American and my mother is French.

painted portrait of handsome man dreaming
Gwenn Seemel
Dreaming
2013
acrylic on panel
6 x 6 inches

Also and always, this man has a lot to do with all good things in my life. Where Geneva is concerned though, I credit my partner with inspiring me to forever reach further with my work. Dreamers dream better in pairs and in communities.

OWNI
screenshot of OWNI

Narrowing the trail down more, I come to Twitter. A few years ago, I started blogging regularly about free culture both in English and in French. I think it was through the magic of hashtags that my efforts came to the attention of Lionel Maurel, a writer and free culture advocate. Several times now, he’s written about my work on OWNI, a French site that’s similar to BoingBoing.

Pierre Selim photo
photo by Pierre Selim

And, either through these posts or through Maurel’s direct intervention, my art and activism were featured at Wikimédia France’s annual celebration of the public domain this past January. That’s where Alexis Kauffman—founder of Framasoft and the man pictured in this photo—learned of what I do.

When TEDxGeneva organizer and president of ynternet.org Théo Bondolfi asked friends to point him towards artists who are talking about free culture, Alexis recommended me.

TEDxGeneva Gwenn Seemel
photo by TEDxGeneva

In other words, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak at an awesome TEDx event for three reasons:

  1. I fight every day for the things I believe in—art, freedom, and generosity.
  2. I work at being in the right place at the right time by putting myself out there regularly.
  3. I am extremely lucky.

And while #3 is usually useless without #1 and #2, passion and hard work can’t ever amount to much without luck either. And that’s something I try to keep in mind, because acknowledging the role of chance in my life helps me to be more empathetic, humble, and grateful. It brings a sense of wonder and delight to my life.

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