Art as Teacher
My mind today is almost entirely on tomorrow’s solidarity walk. (Please join us at noon, if you’d like—the details are in the post/email on March 5.) I first learned about the transformative power of art—both in the making and sharing of it—when I was involved in theatrical productions. I was amazed to experience, repeatedly, the difference between rehearsals and performance, the ways in which practicing with my peers on stage was one sort of artistic collaboration, with its own emergent understandings and outcomes, and the performance of the piece an entirely different one. During performances, each event became singular, the uniqueness of that audience at that time in combination with the actors’ energy created a particular dynamic, even with the same memorized script, the same sets, the same costumes in play. Even living with the character over months, embodying her, voicing her, even with the hours involved in deep consideration of her lines and her movements, how she appeared to her co-characters on stage and to the audience, each performance still revealed newness to me—about the character, about the play, about myself.
Finding expression in another artistic medium, I worked through frustration I was feeling about a sense of domestic uprootedness, of having never kept a residential center as long as I thought I wanted, by creating a visual catalog of every place I had moved from and to at that point in my life. (I left empty spots in the grid to hold my then- (and still-!) unknown future; I’ve currently moved past what I anticipated then.) Using an MDF board as support, organizing the pieces into a grid, then painting and penciling and posting a single small sheet of paper representing each space I’d had to pack and unpack into and out of, I learned more about the power of art to transform. Memories of people, of places both natural and built, of culture and geography—not all of them positive, but wide and varied and expansive—were prompted with each location, and a sense of gratitude and awe started to emerge from the process, a type of finding my place in the world that transcends any given address.
The planning of tomorrow’s solidarity walk was prompted by fierce emotions of both grief and protectiveness, and there are many things still to learn about the walk itself. It may be that only R. and I engage in this pilgrimage together; it may be that a few or many others participate in co-creating this piece of arts activism. The weather here in Austin is predicted to be in the high 60s and fully sunny tomorrow at noon; we’ll see. SXSW will be wrapping up; I don’t know what strains of which musicians’ bands will affect the audial experience of our pilgrimage. More substantially, I don’t know yet what understanding, what transformations will emerge from the alchemical process of our being on the trail tomorrow, walking in solidarity with each other and with all others who care for the victims of violence—and I’m deeply interested in finding out.