On Aesthestics

In reading “On Aesthestics”, I was struck by the concepts of intuition and the ways in which it can be related to performance through the audience reaction. As the author describes, intuition is like the “heart’s core” and it “sees things in the heart” (71). It takes the core of complex and intricate experiences and strips them down to the simplest and most pure form . For Lederach, he best saw this through haikus because they are so simple in form, that it’s structure allowed the writer to approach intuition. And when you do this, as he goes on to note, “ you capture the heart of a complex experience, you have arrived at insight and often at way forward” (71).

In connecting this to performance, I found that this principle was best illustrated through an audience’s reaction to a performance. In the instant emotion that comes from viewing or identifying with a performance, the audience is feeling the “heart’s core” of the issue. And since emotion is, by nature, reactionary, I think that it’s structure also allows a person to embody and represent the core and essence of a situation just as the haiku does. With this, here is so much power and beauty in the fact that performance can be used to strip down a matter so that it can be acknowledged, experienced, and understood at its core. Below I have attached a video of a performance that always bring up an emotional reaction for me and allows me to experience a issue in a its core without much though on my behalf—just purely feeling.

Oral History

In reading Della Pollock’s Oral History Performance piece, I came away with refreshed sense of what it means to remember; and similarly what the process of recalling does in the present to incite action. As Pollock notes of the power in oral histories, “The performance of oral history is itself a transformational process. At the very least, it translates subjectively remembered events into embodied memory acts, moving memory into re-membering. That passage not only risks but endows the emerging history/narrative with change” (2). Thus, in connecting with a historical moment—in bringing it up, in reliving its legacy— witnesses are able to play on similarities in their present to derive power, motivation, and will for change. As Pollock again describes, “the peculiar temporality of the representational real: an engine embedded in historical time, it invokes the beyond time of possibility, making possibility real or at least staking the grounds of real possibilities” (7). This process also connects back to our discussions of mimesis and poeisis and the duality of the two in oral histories can create new possibilities or realities in the present.

This principle reminded me of an organization that I work with called The Sunflower County Freedom Project. SCFP is an educational and leadership non-profit in Sunflower, MS that offers students supplemental academic and leadership development opportunities. The organization was designed and structured around the Freedom Schools of the 1960s and incorporates the legacy of Civil Rights history, as enacted many outlets including performance, as a major component in the curriculum. In having the privilege to work with the students of SCFP on several occasions, I have seen the transformative power that emerges from the performance of history. Through the recalling of Civil Rights stories, the students are able to learn and recreate leadership, empowerment, and change for themselves and their world. A have attached a video of one of SCFP’s performances as well as a link to their website.

http://www.youtube.com/user/SCFPTV#p/u/14/AKBeN6Uq3_Q
http://www.youtube.com/user/SCFPTV#p/u/2/_Sqz1uCpjvs

Website: http://www.sunflowerfreedom.org/

Organizing for Social Change

I found this week’s readings to be very insightful and systematic is breaking down all the components of social change. For me, when I conceptualized the idea of social change, I always framed it as gathering to fight against an oppressive force or entity in a very one-sided, defensive fashion. However, as the readings highlighted, there is also a key element of balance within a fight where you have to work with the tensions of oppression and fragmentation to realize your ultimate goal.

This really came out in the control vs. emancipation tension that the readings discussed. One point that the authors made was that when trying to bring about change, the actions of the oppressed must be embedded within the system of control . Meaning that in order to fight against or change the system, you must not only acknowledge, or be aware of, it but also learn how to work with it to bring about change from the inside out. I thought this was an interesting point because it speaks to the power of society or policy levels actions to incite change. Taking a health perspective, in many of my classes, we discuss health as being a combination of personal behaviors as well as social and economic environmental factors that shape the resources and opportunities people have in their life. And because health is more than behaviors, sometimes the best way to fight back is by working to alter the circumstances in which people live. And often times this is achieved by working through or with the people with the control. For example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had profound health impacts for the African American population because it changed the circumstances in which they received health care through the desegregation of hospitals. However, this was only achieved by working with the people in power to bring about change at the federal level. Similarly, this also works on a society level through using the system to change social norms and stigma. Like the readings mention with the entertainment-education programs in India, working through systems like the media or performance can be effective in altering society’s control on the individual. An example of this at work is the Anti-stigma project seen here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJQJ5Hkx4rY

Also, I thought the tension between dissemination and dialogue was also very interesting and relevant. Relating it to our recent performances and questions of who has access to what histories and information, I though it brought up great points about the tensions that can exist between those affected and people who come in to help them.

Lift Every Voice

Pulling on the introduction and selection from When Bullets Begin to Flower and some topics that we discussed in class, I wanted to discuss the relationship that exist between symbols as re-presentations of history and who exactly is granted access to those symbols and histories. As an extension of the question “who get to share what meaning?”, I’ve been thinking about the process in which history is written (and immortalized through symbols), and subsequently who get to access them.

To frame my thoughts, I considered a ritual in my life that connects me back to a shared history. As a member of the Black Student Movement, every Wednesday, I sing the Negro National Anthem Lift Every Voice.  It is a ritual within the organization to begin each meeting with this song. This works to connect members through a shared history and link them to the foundations of the organization.  Using a symbol (the song) to accomplish an acknowledgement of purpose, the action brings people together. However, moving beyond this, I considered the fact that the Negro National Anthem is probably only sung during BSM meetings and generally not along side the US National Anthem. The history that the Lift Every Voice symbolizes is, however, apart of American history, but it is not represented as such. From its practice and exposure, it seems that African Americans are granted or tasked with the responsibility of taking up this history alone.

With this, it is an example of how symbols can be used to fight against oppression and empower the oppressed. However, if they are not incorporated and taking up by the dominant, which usually is also the oppressors history, then the history they represent can be easily overlooked—still working to reinforce systems of power and oppression.

Health Theater in a Hmong Refugee Camp

In reading the article “Health Theater in a Hmong Refugee Camp” I was struck by the idea of performance used as a tool to create (or re-create) a sense of self, society, and culture within disconnected populations. The article discussed how cultural performance and intense creativity are generally features of refugee settings. Through this, the expression of traditions and folklore are able to help reaffirm, unite, and inspire the populations to adapt and create to a new environment.  All this is based on the idea that “Through its reflective capabilities, performance enables people to take stock in their situation and through this self knowledge cope better.”

To me, this related back to the idea of co-construction in education. As discussed in class, when teachers act as facilitators in education—connecting with the students to determine what knowledge is and how it can relate to them—all students are able to better engage and learn.

Another point brought up in the article, is the use of performance as a culturally sensitive way to educate people about health. Again returning to the idea of how people learn and their feelings of connection to the teacher, it could be a very effective way to teach people about health issues.

Below is a link to a performance in a refugee camp: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGHjT3KhSPg