Friday, September 25, 2015

Meet the artists:

Justine Williams and Eva Peskin

This from their recent work: "There's Nothing to See Here"
a project which helped inspire their idea for the Institute of Prophetic Activist Art
https://www.dropbox.com/s/lqxelzam783z6cx/TNTSH_WorkSample.mp4?dl=0

Eva and Justine will spend the semester working on . . .
QUEER COUP! 
Upcoming, January 2016.  
Created in part through the Institute of Prophetic Activist Art at Dixon Place 
and the Queer/Art/Mentorship project. 

“On my honor, I will do my best...” -- Boy Scout oath
A queer, intergenerational radical scout troop/performance troupe will convene for regular meetings and performances. Interdisciplinary artists and gays, Justine Williams and Eva Peskin, broaden the idea of the scout to fit the town as well as the wilderness and to suit peacetime instead of war, re-casting and re-imagining the scout as an expert in Life-craft as well as Wood-craft and trained in matters of the heart as well as head and hand.

Picture
And a bit more about their work:

We have come together to look for ways to “come out” of -- resist, reshape, re-contextualize -- our relationships to our artistic and performance practices, which span music, theater, film/video, interactive technology, and pedagogy.  We have explored ways of practicing and creating that support this transformation, exercising our art with a radical sensibility. Radical, for us, means meeting these practices as if for the first time, and investigating and challenging our means of production (in terms of the creative process, our materials and in the producing models we employ to bring our work to the public). This process of critical engagement opened up new ways to practice and paved the way for new forms of art, scholarship, pedagogy and social action to emerge.


Out of this process, we developed a civic performance project, There’s Nothing To See Here, which engages both performer-facilitators and a group of audience-participants in questions of how we build something together, why we build, for whom, with what, and by what means? Practically, we worked with audiences over the course of two hours to build a boat, but through the process, we were able to collectively investigate how we build relationships to the material world, to stuff, to people, to the spaces we occupy, and to imagined spaces we haven’t yet created in the world.

We discovered a way of working wherein what we are doing, performing, enacting, building, creating in the present moment with our fellow performers and audiences serves as a tactic, a strategy, an intervention -- a means of practicing now to make better memories for ourselves in the future. We want to continue to press our performance practices forward in this new direction. How can our work be both poetic and playful, and also a practical and meaningful means of social action? How can our work speak to and come out of the present moment, and in so doing, help us to envision other futures?

For the Institute of Prophetic Activist Art Lab, we are going to work on a performance project currently entitled, How to Survive in the Woods, which begins with the forming of an intergenerational, queer Scout troop and will take the shape of regular
Scout meetings, and other Scouting events, to be determined by the Scout troop/performance troupe.

According to the first Boy Scout Handbook, published in 1911, the Scout is defined as:
"the one on watch for the rest”. For our project, we will broaden the word to fit the town as well as the wilderness and to suit peacetime instead of war. We imagine the scout an expert in Life-craft as well as Wood-craft, trained in matters of the heart as well as head and hand. The original handbook also says some pretty messed up things including honoring the valiant colonizer for defeating the “Red Man”, and that foundational survival skills for women are housework and cheerfulness. As such, while we plan to use some of the structure, language, ethics and overall poetics of the boy and girl scouts, we will also use the boy and girls scouts as an established framework to subvert, resist and re-imagine.

Sir Robert Baden Powell envisioned the Boy Scouts as a community space where young men could learn to do things for themselves and others, bringing Scouts beyond the military or frontier settlers. We envision a Scouting practice that includes people of all ages, where we practice how to survive coming out into the world as well as going out into the wilderness, and where we think critically about what it means to do things for ourselves and others. The essential components of Scouting -- seeking expertise in Life-craft; cultivating the heart, head and hand; keeping watch for the rest -- are practices that seem, to us, valuable and imperative for queer people, people of color, poor people, immigrants, disabled people who face violence both extreme and quotidian, direct and by exclusion, systemic and personal, environmental and psychological.

“On my honor, I will do my best...” (Boy Scout Oath)

Scouts traditionally take an oath, swearing they will do their best to be their best selves, committing to an ethos of Doing One’s Best. This phrase contrasts with the familiar sentiment “It gets better”, around which much energy has been mobilized to convince young queers that their lives will improve. We wonder, does “it” get better? Or, don’t we have to commit to making “it” better? Can Scouting be a framework for enacting and defining Better, instead of waiting for it? What could it mean for an intergenerational, queer group of individuals to endeavor to develop their potential and to guide one another through the process? On our honor, we will do our best...

At our troop meetings, we will seek to hone and enrich our intentions around motivation and actualization for self-development. We will create our own system for acknowledging personal progression, our own costumes (uniforms) and customs to celebrate solidarity. Drawing from our favorite
practices of the more traditional Girl and Boy Scouts, this project will provide a space for us to convene in the interest of self-development and community service with an ethical lens rooted in queer, feminist, anti-racist thought.

At the core of our activities, we will hold ourselves accountable to the following questions:
WHY be better?
HOW be better?
FOR WHOM be better?

Support and guidance through the activist art lab will help us to further form our questions around this project, to strategize how we might invite and co-create a conducive space for others to fully participate in and shape the project, to identify physical spaces, networks and other resources that we might have access to and/or will need to engage in carrying out the project, and to explore how we might continue to align our artistic, performative exploits with a deeply held desire for social action and social change in both the personal and interpersonal realm, as well as on cultural and systemic levels.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Great first class meeting of the Institute of Prophetic Activist Art on Monday -- we introduced ourselves, learned about my work developing the Prophetic Activist Art model, and then heard a bit about each artist's project/passion, which we will spend the semester solidifying and setting the structure for a long-term project.  These include:

  • Prison reform
  • A clearinging-house/safe space for African Americans to air their concerns
  • Housing justice
  • A project gently confronting people in public spaces with LGBTQ issues
  • A fashion project to confront people with social issues
  • A look back at more than 200 years of white, male supremacy in the United States
  • The creation of a safe-space for LGBTQ people, modeled on the Boy Scouts
  • Promoting literacy through a city-wide extravaganza where people all read aloud at the same time
  • An exploration of astro-dramas, exploring archetypes, astrology and society
And others!  Very exciting, and next week we'll begin to dig around in each project, exploring specific manners of outreach, interface with volunteers and groups, fundraising, ancillary activities and other aspects of building a prophetic activist art project.

Also, many interesting resources concerning all of the issues were mentioned -- and I'll share them here:


Rashaad Newsome (Rashaad Newsome’s work examines the visual language of power and status, juxtaposing high and low references to challenge perceived notions of social protocol and hierarchy)http://rashaadnewsome.com/#work/performance/shade-compositions-sfmoma-2012
Center for Story-Based Strategy (The Center for Story-based Strategy [formerly smartMeme] is a national strategy center that offers social justice networks and organizations the analysis, training and strategic support to win the battle of ideas with narrative strategies)http://www.storybasedstrategy.org
BRIC (Community TV where access is available to work on video projects, Brooklyn): http://bricartsmedia.org
Manhattan Neighborhood Network (Community TV where access is available to work on video projects, midtown Manhattan): http://www.mnn.org
DCTV (Community TV where access is available to work on video projects, lower Manhattan): http://www.dctvny.org
Cultural Mythology and Global Leadership (This fascinating collection of local mythology shows how widely leadership models differ across nations, and how deeply these differences are rooted)http://www.e-elgar.com/shop/cultural-mythology-and-global-leadership
Beautiful Trouble (A toolbox for revolution): http://beautifultrouble.org
The House I Live In (A documentary exploration about the human rights implications of the war on drugs - - the longest conflict in U.S. history, and the least winnable):   http://www.thehouseilivein.org
Tectonic Theatre Company (The company is dedicated to developing innovative works that explore theatrical language and form, fostering an artistic dialogue with audiences on the social, political, and human issues that affect us all)http://tectonictheaterproject.org
The Revolution Starts at Home (A book confronting Intimate Violence In Activist Communities)https://inciteblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/22/815/
Carl Jung Institute (Presents programs related to the psychology and ideas of Carl Jung. The Center's primary programs are seminars, conferences, study tours, and the publishing articles and books): http://www.junginstitute.org
Astro Dramas (A recently developed method to help clients approach their natal chart from a new perspective: it can enable them to experience the planets in a more tangible way): http://wiki.astro.com/astrowiki/en/Astro-Drama
Carolyn Myss (Her most recent book, Archetypes: Who Are You? was published in 2013. She describes herself as a medical intuitive and a mystic.): http://www.myss.com
Hindsight is Always 20/20 (A visual exploration of the language of presidents in their inaugural address, highlighting their most important in the form of an eye chart): http://hindsightisalways2020.net
African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (African-American history, from slavery to the first black president, is examined in ... The African Americans - Many Rivers to Cross - with Henry Louis GatesJr.)http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/
Michael Kimmel (An American sociologist, specializing in gender studies): http://creativepromotionsagency.com/mk/

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Meet the Artists

The inscription period for the Institute has ended, and we have a very strong collection of professional artists who are joining this first semester with us, to build a project and make some social change.  I wanted to take this opportunity to briefly introduce them, though we will get to know them and their work better over the next several months.  Our class is:


Erin Cherry (actor, producer and community organizer) will be working on her project A Call To Action: Stay Woke!  Cherry envisions this as a community of Black Artists and Black Activists who are joining together to create a safe space for healing and for their voices to be heard. They are specific voices that will combat and challenge racism, racial profiling, police brutality, and oppression. Voices that represent all aspects of the Black experience. The are the voices who will add to the historic movement for justice and freedom like the Black men and women artists and activists before them. The movement is always stronger when the chain of struggle remains unbroken. Cherry proposes to create an artistic community which will offer the steel in that chain.

Cherry received her M.F.A. in Acting from Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts. She has appeared on stage at Julie Harris Stage; WHAT, St. Louis Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Classical Theatre of Harlem, New York Stage and Film, Capitol Rep, The Prince Music Theatre, The Guthrie Theatre, and Crossroads Theatre to name a few. Recent stage roles include Stick Fly (Majestic), The Farm (Penguin Rep), Lines in the Dust (Luna Stage), and When We Were Young And Unafraid starring Cherry Jones (Manhattan Theatre Club/understudy).  Cherry also received a Best Actress Audelco Award nomination for her work as Yolande in New Federal Theatre’s production of Knock Me A Kiss starring AndrĂ© De'Shields as her father. 


Olivia Jade Corbett (fashion designer, dancer, rapper and activist)
For her first official campaign, she chose to shed light on current issues by choosing seven global themes where she saw a need for dissection and action. In a photo series named You Got CON’d, she posed an air of sudden consciousness, “OMG, I need drugs!!! Wait... Do I?” or “WTF have I been eating?!” featured in comical speech bubbles. The other themes covered media, celebrity, money, government and religion.
Campaigns that she has designed since rely on thought-provoking observation and conversation to get the ball rolling.  The Price is Right? was a simple tweak done to pose the question, “at what cost?” or “at who’s expense?”. I’d Rather Go Hairy Than Eat Dairy acknowledges cows as sentient beings, social and nurturing beings it turns out, but supports the use of certified humane meat and dairy. 

Mashuq Deen (playwright) has been a playwright for over a decade,.  Art and activism has always gone together, and most of the time that takes place on stage. He is now interested in looking at other stages -- stages within the community.  
Fellowships and awards: New Dramatists Fellowship, MacDowell Colony Fellow, NYFA, NYTW 2050 Fellowship, James Baldwin Award, Dennis Johnston Playwriting Prize honorable mention, nominated for the Weissberger Award.


Theater-affiliated writing groups: Ma-Yi Writers Lab,  P73 Interstate writing group member (2014-15), Public Theater Emerging Writers Group (2009) and Alumni Writers Group (ongoing).


Residencies etc: LMCC SPARC Fellow (teaching artist), affiliate artist w/ Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics (2012-13), Tofte Lake Center (2012),  Literary Committee at Queens Theatre in the Park. 

Deen is also an activist for the Asian LGBTQ community, both here in the States and internationally. He has taught writing workshops and led facilitator trainings. He is an avid bread baker, sew-er of stuffed monsters, occasional woodworker, and student of the classical guitar.mashuqdeen.wix.com/playwright 

Pamela Enz (filmmaker, writer and performance artist) creates multi media work with her body, ink, oil, and photos, a lifetime torn and layered into text, her own, or the gift of random lines that continue to haunt and inspire. Striving toward an insight into space and being that doesn’t line up with the shorthand of everyday vision she aspires to zoom past the representational into the realm of poetic realism. 
Two Japanese aesthetic principles guide her. Wabi Sabi is he first, as she have always found beauty in imperfection. And Clinamen realized in the doing over time as she discovered how to deliberately break a rule to enhance the beauty of an otherwise “perfect” whole. At the institute, she will develop a project which will utilize both her writing and performance skills.  The injustice that most moves her is the inequality that from almost birth damages the most beautiful spirits. 

The honors Pamela has received of which she is most proud include: Edward Albee Fellowships, (two), a Franklin Furnace Emerging performance grant, and three PEN Grants.

Loren Halman (Performing artist exploring intersections of music, dance, performance art, 
social justice, and healing.)  Known by his stage name Lolo has been exploring the meeting place of narrative strategy, artistic creation and base-building community organizing as ways of making change. He attended the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics' EMERGENYC Program for artist/activists, just finished a 3-week residency working on performance where he developed political performance work, and has gone through several other trainings recently related to activist art. 
He is specifically interested in addressing broader underlying values/assumptions as relates to gentrification and housing justice, as an anti-displacement organizer in Bushwick currently working on these issues.  The vision of this project is to create a systematic approach to engage with groups across the housing justice spectrum and to, through intentional research and targeted project development and implementation, create artistic works to hit on underlying values of audiences that, if involved, would mean enormous growth of the housing justice movement. This would look like workshopping a narrative power analysis with each group, developing artistic product concepts, involving the groups in the development of this broader project, and eventually putting it together.

Charles Munn (actor) is working on a piece that explores the language used by white men on the wrong side of history. The piece uses sourced documents from slaveholders, segregationists, and senators to confront its audience with words we want to pretend never existed. Charles is interested in what can be collectively learned from this confrontation. 
Charles is using this work to explore audience agency, word choice, and a person's ability to produce tangible change.  Hs desire is to have the audience compare and contrast their own syntax and contemplate its daily effect.  Charles is an actor with Guerrilla Rep and was a part of the 2015 Core Company at the Orchard Project.

Eva Peskin and Justine Williams (interdisciplinary performing artists) approach performance as a kind of research. They draw from shared roots in experimental, devised theater.  They have discovered a way of working wherein what they are doing, performing, enacting, building, creating in the present moment with their fellow performers and audiences serves as a tactic, a strategy, an intervention -- a means of practicing now to make better memories for all participants in the future. 
They plan on working on a performance project currently entitled, How to Survive in the Woods, which begins with the forming of an intergenerational, queer Scout troop and will take the shape of regular Scout meetings, and other Scouting events, to be determined by the Scout troop/performance troupe.
While they plan to use some of the structure, language, ethics and overall poetics of the Boy and Girl Scouts, they will also use the Boy and Girls Scouts as an established framework to subvert, resist and re-imagine.
Scouts traditionally take an oath, swearing they will do their best to be their best selves, committing to an ethos of Doing One’s Best. This phrase contrasts with the familiar sentiment “It gets better”, around which much energy has been mobilized to convince young queers that their lives will improve. We wonder, does “it” get better? Or, don’t we have to commit to making “it” better? Can Scouting be a framework for enacting and defining Better, instead of waiting for it? What could it mean for an intergenerational, queer group of individuals to endeavor to develop their potential and to guide one another through the process? On our honor, we will do our best.  www.thereisnothingtoseehere.org

Kerri Quinn (writer) will build her project around the homelessness issue in New York City, simultaneously examining the face and the stories of the homeless and how they how exposed due to weather, lack of clothing, begging and crying every minute, of every day with the face and the stories of the detached: Those who are not exposed. Those who have clothing, food and a roof over their heads who laugh, cry and beg behind closed doors.

Her activist experience includes facilitating an afterschool writing program for a group of fifth grade girls at an elementary school in Flagstaff, Arizona. The group was called “Ladies Write Now.”  She also facilitated creative writing workshops at Flagstaff Medical Center in Flagstaff, Arizona as part of their Employee Wellness Program. She also facilitated a writing workshop for the 2013 Breast Cancer Survivor Retreat. 
One of her current playwriting projects focuses on the stories of women who are fleeing their homes in Central America and coming to the United States as refugees. She also has been working for Q Media as a scriptwriter and creative consultant. Their current project is in collaboration with American Rivers. The goal is to create a film that halts development at the Grand Canyon.
Kerri has a Phd. in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Mississippi.  Her website www.almosthomeproductions.com is currently under construction. 

Hannah Schilsky (visual artist) . The project she will be exploring at the Institute is called Hud. Hud explores the stereotype and racial profiling of "the hoody." While a hood can be a huge comfort for an individual, a cave in which they can be alone in a public space, it can cause a huge amount of discomfort to members of authority and in some cases causes the wearer to become a suspect or target. She is interested in filling a space with multiple sculptures of these life size faceless Huds and potentially including audio within the figures in an attempt to create a mysterious tension that questions ones right to remain anonymous in a public space and explores how the public interacts with what is hidden beneath a hood. www.hannahschilsky.com

Nate Speare (storyteller, teaching artist and astrological consultant) current passion is using the performing arts, symbolic ways of thinking and mythology as tools to empower and inspire people of all ages. He will be working on a project entitled, “Astrological Dramas: Exploring Conversations Between Archetypes."  
Astrology, far from being fortune telling, is a practice of knowing oneself profoundly and developing a friendly relationship with the archetypes. These archetypes are not elevated concepts but everyday experiences, exemplified by the moments over the course of a day when human beings need to consult members of an internal subcommittee in order to make a seemingly simple decision. “Astro-Dramas”, or astrological dramas, are plays that can inspire people to become conscious of both the language and the tone that they use to talk to themselves and others in various life situations.
Nate is interested in bringing the archetypes into greater social consciousness, and to show how these archetypal forces reveal themselves in all facets of society, not only on the individual level.  www.natespeare.com