1st Provocation 6th October 2010

April 6, 2010

A-Round Ownership – 6th October 2010

Back in the mid 1980′s I was inspired by Augusto Boal’s ‘forum theatre’ method, the core principles of which formed salamanda tandem. Boal said that human relationships should be based on dialogue,  but that in many cases these relationships became monologues between those who were oppressed and their oppressors.

There are parallels here in our work with profoundly disabled people. As facilitating artists, health care and education  professionals we hold the power and the question is: How to we distribute it meaningfully?

Certainly distribution must necessitate handing things over and allowing others to share ownership.

What does this mean for participatory arts?

What does ownership feel like, sound like and look like? And what makes it worth having?

Edit | 26 Comments »

26 Responses to “1st Provocation”

  1. October 7, 2010 at 9:15 am eAt the moment, our design team is examining ownership amongst ourselves as co-authors. Our reactive textiles are at an early stage, and we are just beginning to put them on musicians and dancers. Peering into the future, it is hard to see how the design process will ever end, given that every performer has something valuable to contribute. We hope to bring the same inclusive approach to working with disadvantaged and disabled participants with the aim of creating a collection of open-ended objects for rich inclusive communication and performance.

    • October 13, 2010 at 6:42 pm eHi Sarah
      When reading your comment I was struck in particular by the phrase ‘put them on’ musicians and dancers as you describe the process of trying on garments. This is interesting, as choreographers often describe their work like this as they ‘put movement on’ their dancers. However, when you talk about your work with open ended objects I know you are conducting a dialogue; what is that process like and how is it different from the more traditional choreographer who imposes movement on people’s bodies
      Isabel Jones

  2. Duncan Says:

    October 12, 2010 at 11:35 am eI think the key phrase here is
    “How to we distribute it meaningfully?”
    In my view its the “meaningfulness” that matters, its all too easy to create work that simply asks participants to make a sound, movement or image without really exploring the relationships. There’s so much “public” art about these days that seems to fill the world with texts collected by artists working with groups , every underpass and park is full of this stuff, but where is the meaning ? for those who contribute as well as those who experience it ?
    Distribution surely involves creating contexts (Performance, exhibition, broadcast, listening) for the work. In my experience its a bit daft to spend large amounts of time creating a piece of music thats owned by us in collaboration if the quality of the work is destroyed by the context in which it is presented. Sometimes collaborative work is very “delicate” it has a fragility that is destroyed (in the case of music for example) by playing it at a party when it would be better listened to alone, late at night, through headphones.
    As well as challenging WHO makes work we should be able to create a wider range of contexts for the work to exist in, music doesn’t have to happen in gigs, dance doesn’t have to happen in a studio and visual art doesn’t have to be displayed in a white box.

  3. kevin hodgetts Says:

    October 12, 2010 at 4:30 pm eI agree Duncan. It is a pre-condition of any consideration of ownership that work is meaningful to those involved in creating it and in an ideal world to audiences. There is plenty of lazy work out there by artists who are doing little more than ‘collecting the fingerprints’ of non-experts. But i wonder how should we go about inviting and supporting participants to make work of meaning and value? This is how we engender a sense of ownership: by engineering meaningful transactions between individuals and the work they do.

  4. kevin hodgetts Says:

    October 12, 2010 at 4:43 pm eSome more thoughts on this. When we talk of ownership it is usually to describe a relationship with an object or subject after a transaction of some kind has taken place. In the field of participatory arts this transaction can take a number of forms:
    a sense of ownership can be brought about by an active involvement in making something happen.
    a sense of ownership can result from a closeness (physical or virtual) to an object/subject.
    So why is an involvement or a proximity to objects or subjects important to us? We are born into a world that is alien to us until we make it not so. We need to make a connection to the things and people around us to avoid being in a state of constant alienation. We go through life placing things in relation to us attempting to put some order into the world in order to make ourselves feel less alone. The act of doing this, of working out where our points of connection are and organising these is essential to our sense of self and well-being.

    The beauty of the arts is that where these points of connection do not exist or not enough of them do we can make more. We can start again.

  5. julie Says:

    October 14, 2010 at 9:21 pm eAs artists and care professionals trying to bring together a sense of meaning,authenticity of artistic expression, and a flowering of quality for the individuals we are engaging with. we need to be really creative and careful when we approach the multi layers and possible meanings of ownership.
    An artist who is familiar with the success of showing and selling their work in traditional ways may be connected with the recognition and buisness elements of ownership.
    where as an artist who may need support with everyday activities may connect to a sense of ownership in a completely different way.
    For some individuals ownership may not be about attaching meaning and value to the longevity of an artistic idea, or its possible legacy. But is instead the briefest of moments where a sense of being creative is felt,expressed and belongs to the indiviual experiencing it.
    Can anybody else buy, show, sell or own this moment? or could they too have the oppertunity of creating,expressing, sensing and experiencing?
    Maybe the challenge for us is to try not to view some elements of ownership as being worth less than than others.

  6. Linda Berry Says:

    October 23, 2010 at 10:31 pm eI agree with what has been expressed that the creative experience itself is something that one might own as it belongs to the one experiencing it. But equally I’d like to extend that it can also be a moment of acknowledgedment and bring a deep shared sense of community watching someone else experience that moment, as those viewing are often left in awe too. And yet further it seems many times when those creative moments happen that we are left feeling that they cannot be owned at all and we were touched momentarily by something truly divine.

  7. kevin hodgetts Says:

    October 29, 2010 at 12:48 pm ei like that this discussion has broadened out from a consideration of conventional ownership (of things, of products)to how we can own a process or a moment. I am also interested as the previous contributors are in how the concept of ownership can feel inappropriate for describing what we experience when engaged in a shared creative moment. It often seems too territorial and total to make such a claim about a process that can be transitory, mutually generous and fluid. But maybe the tranistory, slippery nature of creating something combined with the very human need to define and explain ourselves requires us to talk in terms of what we give and what we take from the work we do.

  8. Duncan Says:

    October 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm eI think (as Julie points out !) that its important not to confuse

    Success with expansion : some things are better done on a small scale (cheese, beer and art for example)

    and

    Value with longevity ; the value and meaning of things isn’t always diminished by the fact that you might only ever do them once ! (I’d quite like to try freefall parachuting but not on a weekly basis !)

  9. Ray Kohn Says:

    November 17, 2010 at 5:36 pm eAs artists, we occasionally overlook the fact that everyone is actively creative all the time – even if they do not always realise it. Just when we hear someone speak, we create a meaning to their words (i.e. listening is not passive). So in participatory artistic activity, we are hopefully generating awareness of others’ (and our own) creativity. “Distribution” assumes that power relations are paramount: perhaps our radical agenda is to ensure that this is not paramount?

  10. kevin hodgetts Says:

    November 29, 2010 at 11:39 am ei believe the ambition has to be to carefully manage our own power and capacity to influence outcomes rather than hoping power goes away if we don’t think about it. As facilitating artists we need to remain active in our behaviours and not collapse into passivity for fear of dominating others. It would be nice for sure to live in a world where power didn’t matter or was equally distributed but we don’t. And because of this we need to do something to address this.

    • December 4, 2010 at 2:25 pm eAs part of Project 20 Salamanda Tandem have been issuing a series of provocations on the subject of ‘ownership’. The following discussion was hosted on the East Midlands Participatory Arts Forum website:

      ‘Who gets to paint the bird?’ is a provocation intended to generate debate on the issue of ownership in the field of participatory arts. It is the first in a series of provocations distributed under the Project 20 banner.
      Work+Play is an arts project based in Telford supporting learning disabled adults. Salamanda Tandem has been a key partner delivering evaluation and training to the project. In a recent series of workshops project participants were given the task of designing their own ‘bird’. This original design was then made up with the support of other artists and craftspeople. For some participants the prospect and/or reality of working alone to produce a design was too demanding or else didn’t interest them. For these individuals, those least inclined or able to take up the original offer, the lead artist devised a way into the project which was more collaborative. She delivered a 3-d ‘skeleton’ of a bird made of timber and chicken wire: a raw form waiting to be covered and developed into a finished piece.

      Over a number of weeks the bird skeleton was covered with paper mache and then white emulsion by at least 5 participants from the group, many of whom spent hours on the task.

      Given the collaborative nature of the project a question presented itself towards the end of the work:

      Who gets to make the all important finishing touches to the bird, applying the final painted finish?

      The best painter in the group?
      The person who spent most time on the construction of the bird?
      The person to whom it means the most?
      The person who is least capable of producing anything else?

      If a painted finish is to be achieved collaboratively, how could, how should this be done, bearing in mind the involvement of a number of competing but ‘entitled’ individuals?
      We are interested in hearing possible solutions to the above problem and in hearing from colleagues who have experienced similarly difficult questions to do with ownership in this field.

      Fiona Waddle
      2. Posted: Fri 22nd October, 2010 @ 12:46pm

      Hi Kevin, I think that in this situation everyone who has participated should have the opportunity to paint the bird, could the bird be considered in different bits – the beak, the eyes, the wings, the legs the tail, the left side feathers, the right side feathers etc so that each person takes responsibility for painting a bit?
      All best wishes
      Fiona
      Author Message

      kevin hodgetts
      3. Posted: Sat 23rd October, 2010 @ 2:07pm

      hi Fiona,
      There speaks somebody who’s carved up plenty of birds in her time! Thanks for this suggestion. A good idea definitely although i guess it raises the danger of the bird looking a mess if the contributions are not co-ordinated – if the individuals are determined to go their own way with their apportioned bit. That phrase “work by committee” comes to mind. A necessary compromise in the process leading to possibly compromised final outcome?
      By the way, I think we know each don’t we? Didn’t you do some work in Telford a few years ago for Arty Party ? i used to manage the project there. If it is you good to know you’re out there!
      This is a blog we are running on the Empaf site but we are running a corresponding discussion on https://salamandatandem.wordpress.com/the-1st-provocation/

      Author Message

      Fiona Waddle
      Posts: 2 • Report
      4. Posted: Mon 25th October, 2010 @ 9:23am

      Hi Kevin, I agree the designs would have to be coordinated but what an interesting bird it would be!
      Yes I remember working with you and Arty Party, really enjoyed it and have been doing a but of work in Telford recently on one of Helen’s projects.
      All the best with the bird!

      Fiona
      Author Message

      julie hood
      5. Posted: Mon 25th October, 2010 @ 8:33pm

      Hi Kevin and Fiona
      I have spent some time with thoughts on who gets to paint the bird and have moved in and out of them! it crossed my mind too about the participants each choosing a part of the bird to paint and how this would be facilitated.Then I imagined myself as participant and would want to paint the wings.I then wondered if any of the other participants would also want to paint the wings and wondered how this would work out. Maybe images of the bird parts could be put into a hat with each participant drawing out the image they would get to paint, if i got the legs i would be disappointed !and maybe the other participants would also be disappointed with their image to paint. I moved on to thinking about the descriptions of the participants and found it impossible to decide if one individual would be more connected to or deserving of contributing the finishing touch. I was especially drawn to the individual who was least capable of contributing and wondered what the bird may mean to them. How might this individual communicate, has their been enough time for them to explore and contribute. This thought led me to sound/songbird participants exploring the possibility of the bird remaining white within a sound-scape they had created/recorded. Maybe they could explore a symbolic circular nest for the bird.Visit a wood, each being supported to choose a stick or twig, paint or decorate it. Choreograph a dance of the laying of the sticks around the bird, maybe this would be a finishing touch in itself. Using a projector maybe they could project their personal patterns onto the white bird continually changing the finishing touch. The more I dwell on the unfinished white bird and its possibilities, the more alluring it becomes. Its unfinishedness and ambiguity invites me as a viewer to think more creatively especially when I am trying to imagine the participants involvement in the making.
      Author Message

      kevin hodgetts
      6. Posted: Wed 27th October, 2010 @ 12:56pm

      dear Julie.
      how nice to hear from you! I trust you are well. Loved your response…really got me thinking.
      You are right of course. Some parts of the bird are intrinsically more valuable than others. Depending on how the bird is exhibited – standing on a post at eye level or suspended from a ceiling say – some sections of the bird will obviously be more prominent and therefore sought after than others. There is no perfect equality in dividing up the bird as even if we could apportion an exactly equal amount of surface area for each participant to paint, some surface areas are clearly worth more than others. If we were stuck with the bird as the final moment or opportunity for participation we would be a bit stuck as all solutions seem to involve imperfect compromises. The idea of leaving the bird un-altered and then using it as a focus to create new work – moving through the art forms – is a very imaginative and inventive solution and if we had the opportunity to do this i would also favour this approach. Once we think about how photography and projections can help us it opens up the possibility of many and various birds being generated out of the first. The bird gives birth to new birds….hallelujah!
      I was also very taken by you admitting that you would be drawn towards the participant who found it most difficult to contribute and I’m sure many individuals working in this field would share your empathy. Indeed, in the case study we are using here, the ownership claims of one individual (who was previously the most alienated participant in the project) ended up being priviledged over others as it was clearly more important to him. So maybe ownership shouldn’t be about establishing who did what. It’s more a matter of who cares most?

  11. julie Says:

    November 29, 2010 at 2:42 pm eHi all
    Would like to say a couple of things here. First I would like to ackowledge my time with salamanda tandem for enabling me to open out my thinking corncerning working with people in the field of participatory arts. My response to who gets to paint a bird comes from the experiences I had working with them.
    Secondly I would like to mention here an experiece of seeing a performance at tate modern this summer which relates to Kevins comments on the ambition of the artist and the power of active facilitation rahter than a kind of artistic domination over participants.
    The performance I saw involved 75 members of the public with little or no experience in dance techniques, who had volunteered to participate in the process of learning the choreographers steps and then performing with the company in the turbine hall.
    I watched both rehearsals and performance and searched for possible meanings in the process of participation being presented.
    I found the often unspoken agreement between dancer/participant and choreographer. An agreement where the dancer/participant uses their creative power to copy,replicate or interporate the steps given to them by the choreographer. For this process to work the dancer/partcipant has to allow themself to become empty,a kind of actve blank canvas ready to observe,absorb and reflect the choreography. The choreographer has to effectively communicate the steps, how to move. While I acknowledge their is great skill involved in this process,and there is kindered beauty in witnessing the transferring of movement from choreographer to another person. It only presents one aspect of participation and would not be a fair creative exchange open to all. While I was a member of the audience I overheard many different people being verbally cruel about some of the participants. Comparing their abilities of moving with the choreography to the professional dancers in the performance. It was a shocking level of cruelty against people trying to dance anothers steps. I left with a feeling of sadness for the participants and was unsure of the purpose of their involvement. I imagined a person with a disability within this setting, how potentially impossibe and uncreative it would be for them. How irresponsible it would be to expose them to this environment of comparisons.
    Which brings me to connect to kevins words of remainig active in our behaviours of artistic facilitaion. We are working with people who each come to participation with their own imagination and creativity. As artists and experts of facilitation/participation we have a duty to work with the individual creativity of each person and provide environments where this becomes possible. There is power within this way of working, and I feel it to be the oppersite of a domineering/limited approach to participation. The power lies with the artists gifts of sensing another persons creativity, meeting it with their own, and letting both come into form. If the artist is actively engadged their power does not diminish but is being used to ensure the process of creative participation is continually fair. My ambition is for this form of participation to be fully recognised by the wider art world as an art form in itself.

    • December 21, 2010 at 10:21 pm eHi there Julie

      thank you so much for your thought provoking contributions here. As a dancer with enormous skill to be that blank canvas for the most brilliant of virtuoso choreographers, what you have said is made even more poignant. So few people really will ever know, or appreciate the creativity involved in ‘meeting’ another person on shared ground through dance. I will always remember working with you on the Indigo performance; where circles of colored light and a palate of sounds acted as a call or response for dancers to make playful invitations to each other. This was an example of finding, allowing, making, remaking as well as shifting the platform of support, done moment by moment in creative dialogue with people; responding as it worked or even failed to work.

      I remember too that the work was misunderstood – this might partially explain why some facilitating artists may never get beyond the starting block. When presented with a ‘show’ to deliver, choreographers easily fall back on impositional ways of working, it probably seems quicker. The healthcare equivalant might be the hospital gown – one size fits all! It also takes a discerning audience to know the difference.

      To be honest this is why I wanted to start these debates, because unless we illuminate the underlying thought processes and show the depth of critical thinking that needs to go on to enable empowering participation to happen – then the dance world will never change. Hurd some non-professional dancers on stage, and treat them to the same methods and approaches that have produced generations of emotionally damaged dancers; its cheap, chearful, and ticks the boxes for ‘inclusion’ and ‘audience development’!

      The alternative takes time, skill and interest in the human beings involved, and it takes imagination and creativity too. Collaborating on something taylor made which emerges both from the creativity of each individual participating, and from the sensitive pooling of shared interests and resources – I agree – this is an art form.

      How do we know we have achieved it?

      I believe that a sense of shared ownership could be the litmus test – when participants recognise themselves in the final work – and audiences too.

      Warmest Wishes

      Isabel

  12. December 4, 2010 at 2:14 pm eThere is a wonderful passage in Chapter 3 of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography whilst recounting some of his early childhood experiences about his admiration for the leadership of Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, acting regent of the Thembu people of the time. The passage, which describes how tribal meetings were run, really needs to be read in its entirety to gain a full appreciation for what Nelson Mandela is saying. But there are a few key elements worth extracting:

    Everyone who wanted to speak could do so, no matter what their status or role within the tribe (although Nelson Mandela does point out that in those days women were an unfortunate exception to the rule).

    People spoke without interruption. The Regent just listened.

    Many of those who spoke overtly criticised the Regent and his regime. Often the Regent was the principle target of their vehemence. But no matter how serious the charge the Regent simply continued to listened.

    Meetings continued until consensus was reached. Unanimity might be an agreement to disagree and wait for a future opportunity to present a solution.

    Only at the end of the meeting did the Regent speak. He summarised what had been said and tried to establish consensus. No solution was forced on those who disagreed.

    And at the end, a poet would deliver a “panegyric to ancient kings” – a mixture of complements and satire on the present ruling elite.

    For me the interesting aspect here regarding the nature of leadership is the manner in which the leader holds back from voicing his own opinions, waiting until everyone has spoken before respond and then sometimes only summarising what others have said. It feels that this model of leadership is rare in society today. But the special relationship described here between “leaders” and “followers” seems to be underpinned by an understanding of leadership that ensures “ownership”.

    • December 4, 2010 at 3:58 pm eThank you for your response and for bringing Nelson Mandela description of leadership to us here. It’s deeply pertinent.

      In this 30 second culture where we have to get across our ‘point’ in a few characters, and are flooded with information and choices; the person who can ‘listen’ to another fully, who can savour and value different contributions and draw them together is the kind of leader we need. This is distributed power at it’s most essential. When such a dialogue happens, then we can embrace people who have different perceptions from our our own. If we manage it, we therein escape the rush – what better antidote is there than that to our problems of isolation.

      It is sad that we have lost so much in the so called process of civilisation.

  13. Duncan Says:

    December 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm eAs the title of this is “provocation” I thought i might drop a little provocation into the discussion ! (apologies for the slightly random order of these thoughts !)

    Whilst consensus is sometimes useful and desirable sometimes I do think that in our work we need to guard against always trying to find a point of “agreement”. Sometimes I don’t want to be consulted, i want to trust and follow someone who i respect and feel inspired by. This is a tricky area when one is talking about working with people who have been historically disenfranchised from decision making processes.

    The place where I would probably part company with some (not ALL !!!) people in “community art/music” is summed up in the quote from Simon

    “Meetings continued until consensus was reached.”

    I’m not sure that I want art to be made by consensus
    but at the same time
    I don’t want it to be imposed
    which raises several important questions about how we negotiate our way to making work with people.

    If I am making a piece of music with a group of young people I usually will resist the desire that many have to “vote” on what should be in it, voting is useful for working out who empties the bins but not always a useful strategy for creating art that has a real character and relationship to those who created it

    “sometimes liking something can get in the way of understanding or even appreciating it” ………

    • December 21, 2010 at 10:50 pm eHi Duncan
      sorry it has taken me an age to reply in writing – and we’ve had various skype conversations since.

      I wonder if this question of consensus relates to collaboration and to the care and time taken to make decisions? Of course as you know I’d never be in favor of watering things down – but doesn’t our collaboration work in the end on some consensus? Or rather I mean the relinquishing of individaul territory in order to make something greater than the sum of the parts. One of the provocations should be on collaboration in due course as it’s a fundamental principle for ST – I know its another misunderstood word; but I was struck by the thought on reading your blog contribution, when I considered how we made ‘Corrosion’ and for that matter most of our collaborative works over the last 18 years.

      We try things out, debate, bring new things to each other, join in, go off and eventually agree before releasing what we do into the world, and that’s not the end of it – we then go live, take on board feedback see the potential of change re -edit and go again. Is this not some sort of consensus?

      I reckon, that there is something in this sort of agreeing process that ensures a universal quality in the final work – in the tooing and frowing decision making business – we have to go beyond personal meanderings. That is why we love the final works, and why others seem to want us to keep making them. Certainly in my case, working on something alone has no meaning, the process of negotiating co-ownership is the bit that makes it so creative.

      I hope the wood burner is still burning – its up to -2.7 degrees here and rising!

      Isabel

      • tony baker Says:

        December 27, 2010 at 10:05 pm eI’d have thought that there’s probably a degree of non-consensuality about the idea of ‘provocation’, so I’ll just throw in this story from John Cage. I reckon Duncan’ll like it

        Cage is at the first performance of a new work of his and the public’s been seemingly attentive until, after about 20 minutes, someone starts shouting from the audience, the usual disatisfactions… “this isn’t music” “a load of noise” “rip-off of the public” etc etc. And Cage, hearing this, rubs his hands together and says, “ah good – finally – it’s started”

  14. lisa Says:

    December 6, 2010 at 12:15 am eHi all, great to read these comments.
    I am not sure where to start, so many responses and ideas to express. So i need to give myself some time… Isn’t this how we feel as participants? When asked for that contribution, our mind goes blank. Or else, preoccupied with the state of our lives behind the scenes. Or so full of ideas we could burst and we don’t know how to begin. The only thing that can heal this feeling when you have been asked for response is time, and a good listener.
    this is a blog, so i have to assume you are listening like a tribal meeting! time wise i have no limits right now. i have also been talking with isabel today, so have listened, been listened to and encouraged to write. fully facilitated, i am now participating in something that is intrinsically uncomfortable for me, but i want to, it might open up something new.
    When i apply my feelings now, to the participant in an art making context, and the pressure they may feel to “do ” something i wonder about time and the quality of listening that they might get. The time it takes to help more creative action happen for someone who is anxious. The skill needed to put the participant at ease, in safe hands, and one of the most effective ways to do this seems to be with intense attention, and time. Often the time it really takes is more than the artist or facilitator is paid for. Time is money (for many) and so on. Efficiently, artists can adopt strategies and develop enormous skill in creating the perfect pod and quickly, in which to put people at ease, dictate some of the less interesting decisions in order to give freedom on those decisions that the artist knows from experience are liberating for people.

    Duncan, you described the struggle to negotiate the way…when you don’t want to impose but you don’t want a session of consultation either. I know you involve your participants in listening, recognising quality of sounds and you work together on the interesting part which is possibly the content; the sounds that were found, the sounds that were made. Okay, so in the final composition you might use your skill without consultation so that people can enjoy what they contributed together rather than getting stuck in technicalities that they have no interest in now (they might do later) but the voices in it are always unique and they shared it. You deliver a balance that suits your style of delivery but i am sure in your own way you do allow for consensus even though you wouldn’t choose a vote on what would go in the composition.
    The level of consensus i reckon an artist or facilitator can bear must depend on the luxury of time afforded to arrive at the consensus.

    It seems to me an important point from Simon’s extract also is acknowledging that there might never be agreement, and that this is okay.

    Gaining fully shared ownership requires a great amount of time and has the capacity to bore people along the way. It seems to me that there is still a leader in there, a good listener, and one who neutrally reflects back what they have listened to so closely. When listening so closely to people, you are no longer on a meter, but you also have to have an instinct for when to stop too. All the many thoughts that are gathered need to go somewhere for people to feel they are making something together. So here comes the spark,

    Once you have listened, what do you do with what you have heard?

    Is it always just a neutral reflecting back?

    ..or to go back to what Ray said, with the act of listening not being passive; you are interpreting and adding your own opinion… the leaders opinion?
    So as a leader, you are not just reflecting back there comes a point of opinion, informed by your personality and experience; the best effort you can make is surely to be self aware, decide on where you can confidently facilitate consensus listen and reflect back, and where you feel you have the skill/experience to make some decisions on behalf of a group/individual in their interests, and where you will need the help of other leaders to let an idea grow.

  15. dallas Says:

    December 6, 2010 at 7:01 am eDuncan raises some important points. I’ll try and focus on some general principles rather than specifics.

    There are many layers of collective organization that can be engaged to achieve a variety of ends. Sometimes the end is the journey itself not the destination, and sometimes the preparation for the journey is a most important step. Several journeys may be required to gradually develop, hone and refine a set of skills for a totally different or related task.

    In the arts, as in the general process of education, we recognize pupil centered activity and learning, teacher centered activity and demonstration, the importance of individual and group work, working in pairs and so forth, each offer an opportunity to convey information and develop particular skills and also to encourage a particular set of outcomes. There are differing tools of instruction and participation, education and learning, and the maturity of experience can evolve through the application of consensus or difference engines.

    ‘It is from the clash of differing opinion that the spark of truth arises’

    One aspect of creative expression is to draw on differences and antagonisms for creative tension and power. But it is important for such tensions and differences to be focused on the creative process, not to become a source of personal prejudices, contentions and antagonisms.

    The faculty of abstraction is extremely powerful. It has profound implications for the ownership of collective visions and ideas. One exercise I find useful is to take what appear to be incompatible ideas and create a form of understanding that unites them. It often involves going to a higher level of abstraction through metaphor. An important consideration is that realms of abstraction unify differences, whereas the pursuit of logical (rational) definitions and distinctions emphasize and enhance differences that can easily become personal and antagonistic. In art we often use provocative antagonisms to stimulate the audience to engage with our works, and ideally this provocation eventually forms a deeper sense of unity and understanding of the work if the audience is prepared to engage with it and work at it.

    I also feel it is important to consider the purpose of artistic expression and creativity in participation projects. In those where the journey is more important than the destination it is wise not to get too hung up by the quality of the destination (outcome), but to consider what has been achieved on the journey. On the other hand a high quality outcome can give a great sense of achievement…

  16. kevin hodgetts Says:

    December 6, 2010 at 11:27 am eyes! down with consensus.

    The arts are attractive because they offer us a space where we can’t or shouldn’t be owned by others. Speaking from past experience, perhaps the most depressing aspect of working for a local authority (and it would be the same with any large employer i guess) is that idea that they own your work and by implication ‘you’. In the arts we should aspire to more than this and appreciate the rights of individuals to refuse to give of themselves, to refuse the uniformity of the group, to refuse generally. This has to be a starting principle for any discussion of ownership: the right to own yourself!

  17. julie Says:

    December 6, 2010 at 2:33 pm ewords like
    open hands
    i want to meet

    words like
    wagging fingers
    overhead

    • December 21, 2010 at 10:58 pm eI agree – it’s time to meet. Is anyone free on January 20th? We are running ‘Living Room’ at Rufford Crafts Centre and we’ve just scheduled in a interactive debate / play get together from 3 – 5pm. The Living Room is also open on friday 21st 10.30 – 2.30pm if you would like to bring groups along to play.
      If it’s too far and the weather foul – how about a provocation group get together at ST offices on March 30th 2011 at ST offices in WB?
      Isabel

      • Ray Says:

        January 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm eI would love to come to a provocation group get together, Isabel. Not back from Brazil until the end of January but free on 30th March.

  18. February 1, 2011 at 9:18 pm eSince I’ve been slow off the mark I am working backwards and contributing to the first provocation now. To get me started I have simply splurged, and so apologies for the lack of reference to other contribution…it will happen in my next quiet hour. Here we go….

    Freedom, Uncertainty and Responsibility: These three words pull together (although are not exhaustive) my ethos of facilitating ownership in the workshop space. They are certainly three aspects I find myself managing when working with people and of course when working with myself. They can be arranged in any order, one is not more powerful than the other, all three illicit a response, and all three require a dialogue of negotiation from each individual, between participants, and between the facilitator and participants.

    The kind of environment created for work is imperative to the outcome. Too much freedom might leave some overwhelmed with uncertainty, too much responsibility might suffocate the freedom, too much uncertainty might scupper participation at all. Certainly, this last sentence relates to both facilitator and participant. Often before work can really begin with participants, work has to be directed towards the institution/organisation from which the commission has come. Without this groundwork it can be difficult to facilitate ownership because there are too many agendas on the loose, which can be detrimental to the environment and sensitive levels of participation most hope for.

    I’ve noticed a development in my way of working with people. There was a time when my ‘formula’ was to teach a bit (steps), set a ‘creative task’ usually based on some abstract choreographic tool, followed by splicing both sections together and treating the movement with yet another choreographic device to ‘finish it off’! For a while I was happy with this, I spent a lot of time working with very large groups of junior school children and this jigsaw mode of making and remembering was successful, the children were energetic, motivated and seemingly proud of what they had made; teachers were impressed with the children’s abilities to manipulate movement and more than anything remember the complex sequencing. And why not, this formula is not too dissimilar to what many professional dancers are asked to work with each day. However, I started to question the origin of movement presented and the assumptions which informed my choice of movement for particular groups of people. I started to realise that what I needed was a framework (score) through which a group could find their own movement language and the ways of treating that language appropriate to their goal/purpose; in doing so, increasing the levels of freedom, responsibility and uncertainty.

    Suddenly the responsibility of the group and the facilitator changes and the whole experience of a workshop becomes much more reflexive, and with this, more exciting! Possibilities open up because more questions are asked; the framework allows space to notice what is arising and offers the space to respond. Maybe this brings liveness to the work and therefore a heightened sense of experience and thus ownership. I am interested in not only creating processes, products and artifacts in which each participant is invested, but in finding ways to enhance each particpants’ embodiment of the moments they’ve manifested. Projects are time based, I endeavor to facilitate ownership of experience which transcends the duration of the project, leaving a visceral residue of experience in the body’s memory.

4 Responses to “1st Provocation 6th October 2010”

  1. willi213 Says:

    I heard about the Nov 15th meeting too late to attend as I am going to DaDa fest but hope to attend later ones.As someone whose own decision to train at 60 stems directly from membership of Cecilia Macfarlane’s mixed ability community company in Oxford ( DugOut) for 20 year.m.My questions are about how these ideas move into the world of professional dance.What supports and develops the abilities of disabled artists to create innovative work based directly on their embodied experience of moving and living in a disabling world rather than always translating or adapting these to established mainstream practices?
    I am in the early stages of a PhD at Coventry University and will be seeking the views of the disabled students who have , or are training here as well as those of disabled choreographers and audiences for their work.
    I am interested in linking with others, including researchers who are interested in these questions.
    Gill Williams
    PhD Student Coventry University
    PS first time I ever posted a blog so sorry if not the right way to do it.


    • Hello there Gill. What an interesting journey to take – I met Cecilia Macfarlane in the summer as we were co-teaching on a course and was impressed by her inclusive approach. You raised the question above on how these ideas move into the world of professional dance. One key point here I think revolves around the movement material and processes chosen by choreographers to make new work. I talk a lot about that in my recent book ‘dance and disabled people’ published by the Foundation For Community Dance if you are interested; in it I interview Alito Alessi an inspiring American choreographer who uses improvisatory processes to make dance that is totally inclusive. For salamanda tandem, the values and principles we have been talking about here, underpin all our work; because whether ‘professional’ of ‘participatory’ – I believe simply that it makes for greater creativity. If you are around. would you like to come over to Living Room to join our debate/ play session on the 2Oth Jan?

      Isabel


  2. Might be a long post – deep breath…

    I’d like to look at ownership firstly from the point of view of perception. We are aware that our senses deliver information from our surroundings, which, of course, are heavily moderated by our attention, focus, history, emotional status, education, socio-political, spiritual and other elements of our inner being.

    So the first level of ownership is the way we reach out with our senses and engage with the world around us – people, places, things animate, things inanimate.

    Next we need to consider our total engagement with the external environment and here we enter the realms of habitation and performance. This habitation is tempered by motive, of which the fundamental polarities of possession and selfless service are crucial here. Are we to gain possession of our environment for personal gain and profit, for preservation and conservation, for selfless acts of service, or for challenges of adversity that facilitate growth and development?

    Of course, they are not mutually exclusive, but in an economy of utility the outcomes of all such motives must be examined carefully and, equally, a consideration of our fundamental nature is also prescient in considering the whole.

    Let us now consider consider expression through habitation, which is a fundamental aspect of performance. The way we relate to a scenario – location and context – involves all the elements of perception, personal history, physical skills and attributes and subtle factors like preconceptions, prejudices and preferences.

    In performance we bring ourselves into dialogue with all the above, including bringing with us our personal limitations be they of maturity, technique, experience, language or otherwise. And in this respect we all engage with this process of habitation / performance to varying degrees. The ownership of ourselves, our self image, proscribes to a large extent the degree of our perceived and actual ownership of our environment. And bearing in mind that a thought, conscious or unconscious, precedes every action there is a weight of the centrality of our inner being that relates to our perceived ownership of everything around us. And that ‘being’ is somewhat separate to any detached considerations of legalities of ownership and possession, I refer essentially to ethical, moral and spiritual ownership as conveyed through sensory, cognitive and intellectual considerations of ourselves in the context of our fundamental Being and our inhabiting of this universe.


  3. The second consideration is ‘possession'(a consequence of ownership), not of the demonic type! But considerations of possession through expression. What latent potentialities are expressed through actualization by different forms of possession? If we possess things what is the purpose of that possession? What are the main distinctions of material and other (abstract, ethical, moral, spiritual, religious) possessions and what are the expressed potentialities of such possession?


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