Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Out of Place - Jumblies Community Arts Writing

This publication includes some excellent articles on community arts practice by Jumblies members - a Toronto, Ontario-based arts group. Ruth Howard introduces the collection:
This publication was conceived in 2007, out of enthusiasm for Jumblies’ new public seminars, which grew, in turn, from our learning and mentorship program – the Jumblies Studio – and the realization that there is a lot of knowledge and experience to share.
There is a groundswell of community arts practice in Toronto, both as a result of the excellent work of several groups that have been creating wonderful work and community for years: Jumblies, Shadowlands, Clay & Paper, Red Pepper Spectacle, Sketch, ArtsStarts, Regent Park Focus, Storytelling Toronto, 1,001 Friday Nights of Storytelling, Carlos Bulosan Theatre and many more. For several years now York University has had a Certificate in Community Arts Practice (CAP), unique in Canada (here's their blog), and a joint program of the Faculties of Environmental Studies and Arts.

Michael Burtt, a friend of many years, in his article Community Art-Making: Where Heaven and Earth Meet shares his thinking and practice connecting his art with his explorations into spiritual contemplation. He shares a term from writer Alan Clements that i loved immediately: "the holy unexpected." Maggie Hutchison, a fellow community artist of many years, in her article The community artist in the Creative City Engaged citizen or‘regeneration bulldozer’? writes critically of the "creative city" phenomenon. She opens the article with what i consider quite the shocker:
[Joe] Berridge [a partner in Urban Strategies] encouraged conference attendees to revitalize our workplaces, our working practices and, ultimately, our cities; transforming them into exemplary hubs of creativity. And he had specific ideas as to how we should do it. In order to revitalize, Berridge suggested that we abolish meetings and other collective processes, and embrace the individuality and inductive thinking that he argued are essential to an artistic modality. “Beauty is not a collective product, it is an individual product...This runs completely counter to the way we have structured all of our institutions, in which the power of the collective suppresses the power of the individual”, Berridge insisted.
I find it rare that advocacy against collective creativity and for an individualistic notion of the artist and art is as brazen as this. I'm sure Joe has some goods ideas about art in the city. But this opinion that Maggie reports is one of those dominant notions that fits so nicely with a capitalist-individualist (even aynrandian) world. And it is one that i think is wrong - but that's a longer discussion than i have time for now.

Here's a few reports of community arts discussions that are worth reading:

What About Me - CFS/ME Trailers

What About Me? Trailer - USA from Double D Productions on Vimeo.

A good friend who lives with CFS/ME sent me the links to two trailers being used to raise funds to produce a feature length documentary. CFS/ME remains misunderstood, misrepresented, disbelieved in and ignored by medical systems and practitioners around the world. The suffering that people living with CFS/ME is made all the worse by this ignorance. This documentary could help a great deal.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The joy, the joy, the wonder

I learned from my aunt in Bath many years ago that my scottish grandmother's favourite expression was, "and this too shall pass." I learned these words from the story of King Solomon's ring:
King Solomon once commanded his councillors to fashion him a ring and inscribe on it something that, when read, would turn his mood of joy to sorrow and of mood of sorrow to joy. The councillors worried over this conundrum for some time and, after much thought and work, presented Solomon with a ring. Solomon took the ring and was pleased when he read the inscription: and this too shall pass.

The whimsy and wonder of this video fills my heart. And the dedication and hard work it took to pull this off is an inspiration. Mostly, this is simply wicked funny! It's also a brilliant study of the wildness of creativity. Anyone who feels stuck on a creative project should watch this as medicine.