Thursday, October 8, 2009

Conversations On Engaged Arts, Nancy V.

Access All Areas, Conversations On Engaged Arts

“Home at Home Are We Really,” By Devora Neumark

“I cannot imagine that peaceful co-existence is possible in the Middle East any more than it is here on Turtle Island. Without a commitment to rectify the wrongs of colonialism and imperialism on both sides of the Atlantic.” (Access All Areas, Pg. 32).
Colonialism and Imperialism has separated many countries and people by the control of others land, indigenous lifestyle, and beliefs thus exploiting the people and land physically, emotionally, spiritually and economically. This intrusion is still going on around the world. I think that instead of getting caught in the past, it might be a time to make changes in the present based on actions of the past. Acknowledging the past and wrong doings to cultures that have and had established roots, values, lineages and lifestyle is what I believe the above quote is expressing. I agree with Devora that shifting ones relationship to the past does embrace letting go of perceptions, acknowledging feelings, and forgiving those that created the disconnect with people, land, place, and home. Yes, it is a symbolic death. A death that is difficult and uncomfortable when self-identity, self-respect, integrity and belonging have been confronted and lost. When self-identity, lifestyle, values, and belonging are in upheaval, briefly or for decades the discontent creates a history of imperialism, colonialism and resentment. This on going colonialism and imperialism reveals the oppression, which can become a forced assimilation that interrogates a person’s ethnic background, religious choice, lifestyle and sexuality.
“So afraid of relinquishing old thought patterns and belief systems that seemed so central to my core identity. I tried to circumvent this process for as long as I could.” (Neumark, Pg, 44). I think that Devora’s words are crucial to healing on so many levels individually, as a community, and globally. But it does start individually, and then the metaphor of the ripple in the pond can become a possible reality one step at a time. Can I/we as part of a global village change belief systems and old thought patterns that keep us separated in a way that provokes fear, which then provokes violence. I believe both fear and violence becomes an ingredient for control in order to mend a broken spirit. Only this ingredient of fear and violence is an illusion. Why is there a need for every thing to be the same? Is gentrification in American communities a modern act of colonialism and imperialism?
I am now teaching a residency in Brownsville, NY, which is one of the five boroughs of NYC. I got off the train and started walking and was shocked that I was the only white person walking five blocks to the school where I was teaching. I was also the only white teacher in the building. I never have felt such a separation before and I have lived in NYC for over 20 years. I was so aware of the separation that it was uncomfortable at first until I started teaching. I was sadly an outsider. Is this separation due to gentrification, racism, or economical status? I think it was all of these issues and I think these separation manipulates and disturbances our psyche. I could feel tension in the neighborhood. I did talk to one of the teachers and asked her about the community. She said, “ This is not my community.” I left it at that. I entered this community feeling very out of place not because I have an issue with difference but because society has placed this insider/outsider mentality within my collective unconscious. I hold compassion in my humanness that we can still be treated equal within the different status compartments we are living in or put in for unfair reasons and false judgments.
I think when Devora speaks of shifting ones relationship to the past; she is speaking the truth on a fundamental humanistic level. Until we can deeply reflect in the truth of the wrong doings to fellow human beings there is no peaceful co-existence anywhere on this planet. I often wonder when the separation will transform between the different ethnic backgrounds and economical status. Can we open ourselves to change in hopes that we can bare the pain of humanity and transform as a global village? Or will our fear, which creates a false sense of empowerment hold us in a pattern of separation that confronts ones race, religion, home, lifestyle and sexual orientation? This confrontation challenges our sense of belonging, which challenges are group and self-identity, which then affects being at home in our mind, body and soul.

“The past went that-a-way, when faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.” Marshall McLuhan

“Spaces and Places” by Jules Rochielle

“Interstice: An interstice can be defined as a space between things or parts, especially a space between things closely set; a crack; a crevice; and interval.” (Rochielle, Pg, 102).
If I may, I think we all struggle at times in our lives to find a place and voice in society, community and feeling comfortable within our own bodies. When does taking up space within society become meaningful personally and socially? This is truly the journey of life. Jules Rochielle says that she was exposed to art forms…that were not driven by commerce, but by the desire to create social change. I do think both approaches to the artistic life are valid and need to be acknowledged as an important part of society, history and everyday living. I am personally drawn to art that has a great potential for social change, connection and reflective thought that leads to a creative outcome.
“Our projects explored relevant contemporary issues dealing with racial and inter-racial tensions, violence, class, displacement, memory and belonging.” (Rochielle, Pg, 105). I am personally interested in all of the above situations and issues that can affect community life and personal life. The short documentary Collective, which I am doing for this semester, connects to memory, environment and lineage. It has been fascinating to hear about people’s values, lineage, and memories around the art of hanging and doing laundry in relationship to culture and life. It has also questioned my lineage, and stimulated memories of family in my own life. I have found that listening to people that I have interviewed that the memories of doing an everyday task that has a commonality to our humanness shapes values, morals and sense of belonging within family, community and culture.
“Creating opportunities for access within communities is shaping these spaces, inspiring stories, and connecting people to each other and to place. These stories map social and cultural demographics of space, mobilize community through shared experiences and reinforce senses of memory and belonging.” (Rochielle, Pg, 106).

“The problems facing the world today cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” Albert Einstein
(Lukensmeyer, J. Carolyn, Dr., Measures and Milestones, Citizen Engagement, The Conference Proceedings. pp, 33-34).

Work Cited:

Marshall McLuhan, Think Exist, 1999-2009,
Citizen Engagement, From Measures and Milestones: The Conference Proceedings
pp. 33-40, published 1997,


  1. Hi Nancy,

    Do you think that openness, honest concern, and compassion can break down some of these barriers? Or do you think that some of these walls are imobile against the individual. Sometimes I feel like I'm being labeled by people of other cultures without having the chance to be myself. They are not open to me being different from their own stereotype of the "other," the "white." I suppose that comes with collective hurts. Have you had experiences like that?

  2. Hi Laura,

    Personally I do think that openness, honest concern, and compassion is a beginning in approaching these barriers, but it takes both sides of the barrier to take steps. I think that what Devora says about healing the past and then stepping into the future is a big chunk of transforming. I am paraphrasing Devora's words into my own interpretation. I do feel that for some folks the walls are immobile. (Frustrating) I think when you say "collective hurts" that is very strong. I believe those collective hurts are deep in our psyche. Time is the only thing that is on our side, maybe? I kinda of had this experience today. I have been taking yoga at the same studio for three years. I have watched them go through many changes some good and some in my opinion not so good. I stayed because I felt that there were enough people there to build a small community of like mined people where each indiviual is accepted within their way of life. I am working on a piece call The Last Tea Party and wanted to ask yoga teachers and the people in the community to be apart of this project. This would be something very different then just doing yoga in the studios. We started saturday. A couple did not show up and when I saw them today I got a weird vibe. So I felt outsiderish but I will ride the wave and stay grounded in my belief in what I am doing. I approached the situation with openness and compassion. This is not so much about race but just being human. I hope I am making sense. Thanks, Nancy