Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Show & Tell (week 3)

[Organization, project ideas, newsletter, webinars, and national resources]
US Department of Art & Culture: is a people-powered department—a grassroots action network inciting creativity and social imagination to shape a culture of empathy, equity, and belonging.

- Citizen Artist Pledge:
- Access to culture is fundamental human right;
- Culture is created by all and thus should represent all;
- Cultural diversity is a social good and the wellspring of free expression;
- A deep investment in creativity is critical to cultivating empathy and social imagination;
- Art and artists are powerful forces for accomplishing social change and strengthening social fabric.

 - Standing for Cultural Democracy: The USDAC's Policy & Action Platform

[Resource site & weekly calendar]
Plug In PDX: a guide for folks wishing to: 1. fight against bigotry of the alt right, fascists and that buried in each and everyone of us. 2.  to win new found liberation.

First 100 Days: ORGANIZE. - This SATURDAY, January 28th. A day of workshops to connect artists and art students to existing activist platforms and galvanize creative resistance.

Re:Imagining Change (book) provides resources, theory, hands-on tools, and case studies on narrative-based strategies for change and amplifying progressive causes in popular culture.
Available here:

Sojourn Theatre

Sojourn Theatre, founded in 1999, is an award-winning ensemble theatre company comprised of 15 artists who live in 8 cities and make performance together around the nation. 

- 1992: Michael Rohd begins doing "Hope is Vital" work
- 1999: Sojourn forms, focus on documentary theatre
- 2001 - receives grant from Animating Democracy to team up with city planners in Lima, OH
- 2003 - 2005: Focus more on site-based work, spectacle, and workshops as part of performance practice (community research)
- 2008-09: Process becomes performance, models of display are opportunities (On The Table)
- Current: Focus on longer-term investigation and investment

Sojourn Theatre is a program of Center for Performance and Civic Practice.  Its mission is “to design bold opportunities for participation and unforgettable experience, with rigor and striking physicality.”
Sojourn collaborates towards a vision of healthy communities and functional democracy.

Sojourn acts as a laboratory for exploring arts-based community-engaged practice across the United States by:
  • Developing new models of artistic practice, creation, production, distribution and replication/adaptation;
  • Activating the Sojourn Theatre ensemble as leaders, makers, educators and ambassadors;
  • Building projects that increase the visibility of this field of work in arts and non-arts sectors.




Project Core Question: Where will we live? & Who are we responsible for?

In the course of the 75-minute performance, audience/participants talked to their neighbors, master-planned cities from scratch, and delineated their own priorities through a series of critical questions too often left to a city’s planners, rather than its residents.

With its unusual theatrical approach to amplifying civic dialogue, BUILT engaged local residents, including those from areas geographically or socioeconomically underrepresented in city planning decisions, and provoked them to think about how their communities are planned, and how they might take more active roles in that process. BUILT also generated strong interest and enthusiasm among professionals from Portland’s city planning agency, who incorporated some of the strategies that the game proposed to have the public engaged in discussions about land use and resources.
Video from performance at TBA at PICA in 2008: (see 4:15, for instance)


Sojourn Theatre’s How to End Poverty in 90 minutes (with 199 people you may or may not know) is a devised, community specific participatory theatre event that explores issues of poverty and democracy by allocating $1000 from the box office at every performance to a local organization that fights poverty. The audience decides where the money goes.


A city-wide process blending engagement, performance, installation, participatory research, cross-sector partnerships, online activity and in-home encounters.
Project Core Question: How do we create a more connected Milwaukee inclusive of all residents as they age?

-  "Artistic housecalls:" The Arts At Home/IoM Team worked on the pilot project from 2012-2014. We created partnerships and built systems to bring meaningful engagement to elders living alone. Artists offered "artistic housecalls" and built on/with the creativity of the elders to make radio segments, performances and art installations. See our report and the collaborations page for stories of all our incredible encounters!
- Crossings: Street performances to create a city that sees & stops for pedestrians.

-  Exhibit/performance/installation at Milwaukee City Hall


A blog entry about how this collaboration formed:


CPCP defines Civic Practice as arts-based partnership work that is developed in service to the needs of a partner organization or agency that does not have an arts-centered mission.  Artists engage in this work with regularity, but the work isn’t always visible- not within larger community conversations, and not within artistic disciplines themselves. There isn’t a shared vocabulary, and artists and communities can end up working in isolation, often without access to networks of support and opportunities to develop their own practice.  

Jonas Staal - New World Summit


Started in 2012, the New World Summit defines itself as an artistic and political organization dedicated to providing alternative parliaments in an alternative political space to host organizations that currently find themselves excluded from democracy. Politics has failed the promise of what Staal calls a "fundamental democracy".

- Aiming for the deconstruction of the monopolies of power that want us to believe that democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech are the exclusive domain of the self-proclaimed “enlightened” Western world

NWS launch at 7th Berlin Biennale, 2012

- 5 editions so far (Berlin, the Netherlands, India, Brussels, Rojava). 
Together with BAK (basis voor actuele kunst, a politically driven art institution) in Utrecht, in 2013 the New World Academy was founded, which invites stateless political groups to develop collaborative projects with artists and students.

- On the launch at the Berlin Biennale: "the non-transparent terms by which the activities of these organisations are determined as terrorist, is never fully disclosed to the public. Within the exhibition space, the flags of each organisation are suspended from the ceiling accompanied with a model of the political agora. Significantly the majority of the insignias of each group include an emblem of violence, such as a closed fist gripping a Kalashnikov machine gun. Whether violent or not, the call to arms appears to be an embedded ideology in the majority of these organisations." 


- A politically secular region declared autonomous by Kurdish revolutionaries in the northern part of Syria in 2011, included a celebration of the start of construction of a new public parliament developed together with the Democratic Self-Administration of Rojava. 

-Rojava has a "co-governance" policy in which each position at each level of government in Rojava includes a "female equivalent of equal authority" to a male. Similarly, the "top three officers of each municipality must include one Arab, one Kurd and one Christian" providing for ethnic balance. 

Construction of New World Embassy Rojava's Idealogical Planetarium

New World Embassy Rojava's Idealogical Planetarium

The New World Embassy: Rojava is a temporary embassy that was constructed in Oslo for the Oslo Architecture Triennale and which represents the ideals of “stateless democracy” developed by the communities of the autonomous region of Rojava, northern Syria. An architectural model of sorts, it was built to resemble the soon to be completed Rojava parliament in Dêrik. Collaboration between the Democratic Self-Administration of Rojava, Studio Jonas Staal, Oslo Architecture Triennial 2016 and Art in Public Space Norway 

Inside the Ideological Planetarium, there were public discussions by people of different cultures and backgrounds. 

Ideas/topics include:
- analysis of the history, ideals, and implementation of stateless democracy 
art and architecture as tools to envision new forms of society 
ideology as form - Studio Staal's approach 

Temporary Art Review: 

"What we witnessed was, in other words, mainly a political revolutionary movement using an artistic platform to gain visibility for their cause...attempt to demonstrate the explicitly political promise of socially-engaged art

"The artistic proposal New World Embassy: Rojava was in fact a call out for a permanent embassy in Oslo." 

"One question is whether a cultural frame like this makes it easier for politicians to reject the organization’s seriousness in diplomatic negotiations"

"If one remains hopeful, it is possible to imagine that New World Embassy: Rojava could be a step on the way to broader knowledge of the Kurdish people. Whether the political promise that art can envision and therefore make possible new futures, remains more obscure. It is also not clear how seminars can work to change the course of things, even if they serve an enlightening function. To be honest, I feel they are not really taking us anywhere. Considering the now almost five year lifespan of New World Summit, it seems important to ask what kind of institution it has become. Staal could perhaps follow through their project with a closer look at the ideology bootstrapped with the seminars formal aspects, beyond its architectural premise, to help make this more clear. It is a committing dialogue Studio Jonas Staal and KORO, as the Norwegian representative, have initiated when calling out for permanent representation of Rojava in Oslo. I am anticipating how well these very different organizations are able to follow up on their promises – as of now they appear to have fallen quiet, leaving the hopeful in a kind of vacuum."


"Art is not neutral. art has never been neutral. for everyone who is involved in art, we have to ask ourselves what is our aesthetic approach, what is our political approach, and do these two influence one another other?...I think the very shape of our society, and the human relations that exist within it - this is the real artwork. The proof of a good artwork for me is if it can contribute to that process, to bring a new social imaginary into being."

3:53 - on democracy being turned on itself today and NWS' role: "how the imaginary in art can play a role in developing experimental and emancipatory forms of democracy...a moment of egalitarianism can manifest". The NWS site states "the NWS thus claims art as a radical imaginative space more political than politics itself".


The Geert Wilders Works, where he turns his prosecution for threatening the life of a politician with a public artwork by considering the trial part of his work. He had invitations designed and printed to announce the court case as a ‘public debate’ in which key figures in the trial were presented as actors in a play entitled The Geert Wilders Works – A Trial I-II.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Century of the Self

Part 1 The story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays. Bernays invented the public relations profession in the 1920s and was the first person to take Freud's ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn't need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires.

Part 2 This episode explores how those in power in post-war America used Freud's ideas about the unconscious mind to try and control the masses.

Part 3 There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads that Must Be Destroyed.

Defying traditional notions of dance, Anna has extended its boundaries to address social issues, build community, foster both physical and emotional healing, and connect people to nature. In response to the racial unrest of the 1960s, she brought together a group of all-black and a group of all-white dancers in a collaborative performance, Ceremony of Us. She then formed the first multiracial dance company and increasingly focused on social justice themes. When she was diagnosed with cancer in the early 1970s, she used dance as part of her healing process and subsequently created innovative dance programs for cancer and AIDS patients. An early pioneer in the use of expressive arts for healing, she co-founded the Tamalpa Institute with her daughter Daria in 1978. Today, the Tamalpa’s ArtCorps program continues a vision close to Anna's heart: using dance as a healing and peace-making force for people all over the world.

With her husband, the landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, Anna developed methods of generating collective creativity. During the late 1960s and early 70s, they led a series of workshops called “Experiments in the Environment,” bringing dancers, architects, and other artists together and exploring group creativity in relation to awareness of the environment, in both rural and urban settings. Increasingly, Anna’s performances moved out of the theater and into the community, helping people address social and emotional concerns. An ongoing community effort, now more than 35 years old, is her Planetary Dance, promoting peace among people and peace with the Earth. Open to everyone, it has been performed in more than 50 countries. In 1995 more than 400 participants joined her in a Planetary Dance in Berlin commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Potsdam Agreements, at the end of World War II. More recently, she took the Planetary Dance to Israel, bringing together Israelis and Palestinians as well as other nationalities.

Over her long career Anna has created more than 150 dance theater works and written three books. Many of her dances have grown out of her life experiences. After her husband faced a life-threatening crisis, for instance, she developed the performance Intensive Care: Reflections on Death and Dying (2000). Facing her own aging, she worked with older people in her community to evolve Seniors Rocking (2005), performed by over 50 elders outdoors in rocking chairs. To honor the memory of her husband, she created a trilogy, including Spirit of Place, a site-specific work in an outdoor theater space he had designed (performed in 2009, shortly before his death). In 2013 she revisited her groundbreakingParades and Changes (1965), retaining its essence but adding new sections to heighten its relevance for today’s world. For her 95th birthday celebration in July 2015 she joined her grandson Jahan Khalighi in a poetic duet, passing on a lifetime of memories and wisdom to her heirs.

Parades and Changes (1965–67 and revivals)

Parades and Changes is always evolving; it is never performed in the same way. Although it includes distinct scores, which specify activities over time in space with people, these are not fixed; they simply tell people what to do, not how to do it. Certain scores may be dropped or new ones added to fit the demands of a particular performance environment or social situation. One of the best-known scores involves dressing and undressing, revealing how an ordinary task can become a dance when it is done with awareness by the performer. When the piece premiered in Sweden in 1965, this revolutionary use of nudity onstage was seen as a “ceremony of trust,” but two years later, in New York City, it led to a warrant for Anna’s arrest. For a 2013 re-creation at the Berkeley Art Museum, Anna introduced new scores in response to violent killings and the need for reconciliation—scores that evolved yet again when performed in Israel in 2014 by the Vertigo Dance Company.

Vertigo Eco Art Village

Jerusalem Promenade designed by her husband and architect, Lawrence Halprin.  

Most recently, in the fall of 2014 Lawrence’s wife, the postmodern dance legend Anna Halprin, traveled to Israel. There she led over 100 Mulsim, Chrisian, and Druze women on a peace walk along the Goldman Promenade. This interplay between Lawrence’s landscape designs and Anna’s dances was one of the hallmarks of their marriage and professional relationship.

Seniors Rocking (2005)

Affirming that “people of any age can dance,” Anna worked with seniors in local retirement centers. “In some cases their movement was limited or their balance skills were compromised,” she notes, “so we used rocking chairs, allowing everyone to participate safely.” A performance was held outdoors, next to a lagoon at the Marin Civic Center. The seniors’ continuous rocking symbolized the heartbeat of life itself. At the end, each performer picked up a red rose from under the chair, placed it on the seat, said good-bye, and walked to the water’s edge, where in unison the dancers raised their arms, sending their legacies up to the birds to pass on. What came through was these seniors’ spirit, as can be seen in Ruedi Gerber’s film Seniors Rocking

Blank Placard Dance (1970 and revivals)

At a time of multiple protests against the Vietnam War and social injustices, Anna invited people on the street to voice their concerns. A group of white-clad performers marched down city streets carrying blank placards, and taking care to keep 10 feet apart to avoid the need for a permit. When asked, “What are you protesting?” the performers inquired, “What do you want to protest?” and collected the answers. After writing the responses on the placards, they walked back, bearing the spectators’ messages. This piece has been reenacted several times, including the  performance What Matters to Us in 2015 in San Francisco’s diverse Mission District, home to many colorful murals addressing cultural and sociopolitical issues.

Ceremony of Us (1969)

A few years after the 1965 racial unrest in Los Angeles, Anna was invited to work with Studio Watts on a performance for a festival at the Mark Taper Forum. She saw this as an opportunity to explore race relations through dance. For five months she worked separately with an all-black group in Watts and an all-white group in San Francisco, doing the same scores. Then, for ten days, she brought the two groups together to develop the performance. “During those days, working and living together,” Anna later said, “they collectively created their performance around the experience of becoming one group. My role was to see what the group was most ready for and what materials turned them on, then to guide them in choreographing their own responses.” For the performance, the entering audience had to choose between two doors into the auditorium: one where all the black performers were lined up or one with all the white dancers. At the end the performers brought the audience together, inviting them to join a conga line processing to the plaza outside.

Myths (10 events, 1967–68)

Taking note of strong spectator reactions to some of her performances, Anna began exploring ways for audiences to participate, seeing her role as a guide to generating creativity. Her announcement for these 10 participatory events read: “Each evening will explore a different relationship between the audience and the performers, and between our awareness, our bodies, and our environments…. Myths are your myths. They are an experiment in mutual creation.” The 10 events were named Creation, Atonement, Trails, Totem, Maze, Dreams, Carry, Masks, Storytelling, and Ohm (referring to the sound). Central to the participants’ experiences were the different environments designed by Patric Hickey.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Unpresidented Times: Chitra Ganesh

“The truth is that mass demonstrations are rehearsals for revolution: not strategic or even tactical ones, but rehearsals of revolutionary awareness. The delay between the rehearsals and the real performance may be very long: Their quality—the intensity of rehearsed awareness—may, on different occasions, vary considerably: but any demonstration which lacks this element of rehearsal is better described as an officially encouraged public spectacle. A demonstration, however much spontaneity it may contain, is a created event which arbitrarily separates itself from ordinary life. Its value is the result of its artificiality, for therein lies its prophetic, rehearsing possibilities.”
John Berger, “The Nature of Mass Demonstrations.” Quoted by Chitra Ganesh's above article.

Chitra Ganesh is going to be speaking at PSU on February 7th.

MFA Studio Visiting Artist Lecture Series presents
Chitra Ganesh

Tuesday, February 7, 2017 at 7pm

Portland State University
Lincoln Recital Hall (Lincoln Hall 75)
1620 SW Park Avenue
Portland OR 97201

FREE and open to the public