Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A New Creative Community

Hello Again,

See, I told you I had a few posts for the evening. Hope I'm not overwhelming you with my responses. :)

Navigating a New Creative Community

Artistic work done collaboratively and in the public for the public has and continues to be an evolving canon of work. Since the rise of the Post Modernist era, artists have been finding ways to integrate art back into daily lives to find ways of connecting meaning to the world in which we live.

Arlene Goldbard brings theory, practice, and social development into the forefront with A New Creative Community: The Art of Cultural Development. Goldbard’s work traces the roots of her own artistic/culturally-focused practice while connecting with practitioners across the globe in a process that she coins as “Community Cultural Development”.

Goldbard’s work breaks down the barriers between art as a commodity and art as a vehicle for social change. She discusses the need for active community and cultural development through the arts. She speaks of the desire that many artists have to create awareness through their work.

In her introduction, Goldbard recalls a dream that she had in 1968 where she was painting a picture that could put a stop to the Vietnam War. When she awoke and tried to recreate the image on the canvas, it had disappeared. She recalls her feelings of frustration and helplessness. It was at this moment that she realized the power behind collective dreaming. A dreaming that when united could shape and change the world. This dreaming was a way of collaborating to develop culture through community. She writes, “One artist’s dream cannot end a war, but when enough people dream together – when enough people have a taste of wide-awake dreaming to create critical mass – who knows what might happen?” (Goldbard 14)

This notion of collaborative-dreaming, connecting to community and banding together to bring social change through our artistic practices is where I find voice in Goldbard’s work. This is something that I am extremely passionate about in my work. I truly believe that if we find ways to connect with community using our artistic practices and abilities, we can promote a shift and change in our world.

I am interested in community-based work as a way of understanding the world in which I live. I am interested in listening to people’s stories and opening my own mind to these experiences and vantage points. I am committed to being an observer of these narratives and lending my abilities to bring it into the public forum.

I believe that through this type of community-based artistic approach, we can heal together and learn how to live openly and honesty. That is why I think that Goldbard’s explorations are so important to the development of our socio-artistic world. She writes, “…Who has not heard the frequently repeated assertion, ‘In Bali, there is no word for art; everything they do is art’…” (Goldbard 103)

That quotation speaks so intimately to me. As I continue to grow ad explore through my artistry, I see the correlations between my practice and the world in which I navigate. As time progresses I see more and more blurring of the lines between art and life. I used to, and still sometimes do treat them as separate entities; but as I refine and explore, I find the connections to my art in my everyday life. That is why I am so interested in using my abilities to promote the kind of cultural development that Goldbard speaks of.

Goldbard talks of the importance of this kind of cultural development happening in communities of oppressed people. It is here where this type of work resonates the most and is most effective (in my opinion). By collaborating with persons who have been squelched, and providing them with an open ear, heart and methods and/or tools to create can start a very meaningful dialogue; a dialogue that opens a door to understanding and growth.

Goldbard connects the theory of her practice to two monumental Brazilian theorists, Paulo Freire and Augosto Boal. Freire, and educator and Boal, a theatre practitioner both facilitated practices dealing with oppressed persons. Freire brought his work to light in the book titled Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Boal brought his forth in Theatre of the Opressed. (Goldbard 117)

These theories create the foundation of Goldbard’s exploration of Cultural Cmmunity Development. Freire’s theories around literacy shaped the views of oppressed individuals taking their power back. Goldbard summarized the main themes of Friere’s work as, “…without the ability to read and write – to comprehend and interpret the modern world- individuals become objects of others’ will, rather than subjects of their own history.” (Goldbard 116)

Boal’s theories take similar themes and put them into theatrical action and discourse. Goldbard discusses the most influential aspects of Boal’s practice, Forum Theatre. This process embodies collaboration by blurring the lines of actor and spectator. All of the participants are actors as well as spectators.

This approach allows the group to have an active dialogue around the issue that they are facing (whether it be social, political, or personal). Out of this conversation comes the creation of a skit around this issue. This compliments the discussion and allows the participants to have a dialogue through the improvised action that ensues throughout the collaborative theatrical experience. (Goldbard 118)

I align with these theories and practices. I identify with the oppressed from my own personal experiences. I am a person who has been squelched in the past. I have encountered situations where I felt like a complete outsider in society. My experiences with oppression date back to when I came out as a gay man and then got more complex when I re-defined myself as multi-faceted queer person (loving and being attracted to people – not gender).

This identification process was and still is filled with constant struggle. Trying to live in a society that is structured around labels and categories is not an easy place to navigate when you don’t fit nicely into a category. Through these interactions and struggles, I always found my solace in my art. It was the only place where I was completely safe.

Through my theatrical practice I was able to lend voice against the oppressors that I faced in an environment that was safer than the “real world”. I find this vehicle to be one of the most healing and opening processes I have ever navigated.

By engaging in this kind of theatrical dialogue I have been able to open my own heart and share the stories and experiences that are important to me; the stories that were squelched both by the community in which I lived and my own personal barriers or resistances.

This is why I wish to be in an artistic dialogue with as many people and communities as I can. I want to be able to find ways to bridge gaps of understanding through theatre. I want to perhaps foster this process with others so that they can feel the holistic power of the arts.

Goldbard quotes Maryo Gard Ewell and writes, “The true ‘people’s theatre’, as I see it, will be the creation for the community of a drama in which the whole community may participate…” (Goldbard 114)

How true this is! The arts are a way of giving back to the communities in which we live and serve. It is a constant exchange of dialogue and energy. As Goldbard explores throughout her work, it is a way to connect the world. It is a way to bring people together and proactively assist in developing a global community of understanding through the arts.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Fran,

    Beautifully said! How about getting back to the tribe? Everyone was artistic and had a ritualized participation which gave meaning, belonging and a clear sense of identity. My belief is our society has lost our tribal instincts thus becoming cookie cutters instead of creative chefs. This cookie cutter existence breeds prejudice, fear and cloning inside of individuality within a collaboration. Peace, nancy