New Technologies and the Human Body- Carla Rice (audio)
Project Revision: Reflecting on the Methodological and Pedagogical Possibilities of Digital Storytelling
00:00:00 – 00:00:46
>> Monique Deveaux: It’s my pleasure to welcome you here today. This is the first talk in the speaker series called New Technologies in Human Body, and I’m delighted to have Carla Rice. Professor Carla Rice is in the family relations and applied nutrition department here at Guelph. We’re very lucky to have her. She’s a world-renowned expert on body image and the go to person in Canada for body image. Her work is really at the intersection of a number of different fields or disciplines; particularly critical psychology, women and gender studies, and critical race and disabilities studies. She will be talking to us today about digital story telling and body image.
00:00:46 – 00:01:27
>> Carla Rice: Thank you so much Monique for that. I want to welcome everyone, and I especially want to thank you for attending today. I know it wasn’t easy for some people. It’s an honour for me to present this work in this series. What I’m going to offer today is a work in progress and I am very much looking forward to the discussion that will follow - your insights about the methodological and pedagogical possibilities of digital storytelling and arts-based research methods generally.
00:01:27 – 00:02:07
I am going to start out the talk today with a teaser: and that is a digital story made through Project Revision, and revision is a CIHR-funded research project that uses the power of the arts to positively influence healthcare providers’ and policy makers perspectives on disability. So in many ways the project can be sort of described as an attempt to bring a disabilities study perspective or lens into biomedical practice and into training of doctors and nurses and other health providers.
00:02:07 – 00:03:08
So I’ll follow the teaser with a brief overview of arts-based methods generally and digital storytelling specifically. I’ll talk about the ways that Re-Vision responds to the call by disability studies for representations that have been previously relegated to the edges or margins, showing stories created through Re-Vision that move these types of representations into the centre. I’m going to then reflect on how the stories produced through Re-Vision are pedagogical, suggesting that they disrupt bio-pedagogical ways of teaching—in other words, normalizing and moralizing instructions for living and I’ll spend a little bit more time talking about what I mean by bio-pedagogies later, and, instead, work as body-becoming counter-pedagogies that open up new, non-didactic possibilities for living in and with difference.
00:03:08 – 00:03:43
So this is kind of a claim that I’m making about digital stories that have been collected through Project Re-vision. I’m going to end by opening into a discussion about what is at stake, both the benefits and challenges, when these sorts of stories are loosened into the world. I am not going to talk about this first story that I’m going to show but I’m going to screen it because I want to give you a taste of the work that Re-vision is producing and supporting people – artisan and non-artisan developing.
00:03:43 – 00:04:40
Also, since people mean many things by the term “digital story,” people have different definitions of what it is - I want to give you a taste of what Re-Vision means by this term. As you watch the piece and others I show today, and I hope that I’m going to show five pieces, I want to ask you to consider the following as you’re viewing. To think about the meanings of difference that can maybe be conveyed or generated in your viewing of the story, to think about how the story might talk back to dominant representations – how it might engage with dominant representations, complicate them, challenge them, elide them, and also for you to think about what images or insights resonate for you, if any, as you’re viewing the story. So I’m not going to tell you anything about the filmmaker either at this moment.
00:04:40 – 00:04:53
[Blurred noise from another video]
00:04:53 – 00:05:13
You’ll notice that I’m kind of gesturing to Ross in the back because we don’t have public permission to show these films so I’m gesturing to him to turn the recording equipment off while I speak about the films or while they’re being screened.
00:05:13 – 00:06:08
So, I’ll begin by offering an introduction to arts based research generally and give you an overview of Project Revision. Arts based research focuses not only on collecting and analyzing but also on creating texts and artifacts. The methods harness the power of the arts in knowledge creation by fusing the arts with social science research. And the objective here is not to answer the question ‘what is art’ or answer the question ‘what is good art,’ but rather to use the arts as a kind of methodology or I guess method within social science research. This fusing opens up alternative modes through which to understand and represent the human condition.
00:06:08 – 00:07:04
In arts-informed research then, “art” is not the object but rather the mode of inquiry, whether that be a generation of data and the dissemination of data through fiction, through poetry, drama, dance, the visual arts, etc. According to McNiff, who is the person who coined the term arts-based research, arts-based research involves making art as a primary way of understanding and examining experience by both researchers and the people that they involve in their studies. And Knowles and Cole, who also wrote a pretty foundational handbook in this area talk about arts based research as a mode of qualitative research that aims to enhance understanding of the human condition through alternative processes and forms of inquiry.
00:07:04 – 00:08:06
Now, for many people who draw on the arts in their research - many social scientists - there are many reasons to consider arts-based methods— and these span from reminding audiences that research is an interpretation rather than a reflection of reality to encourage in critical self reflexivity in audiences. As you can see, the types of researchers who are more attracted to these sorts of methods are researchers who already approach knowledge as a kind of construction and may be working from a more post structuralist frame. At the same time, bringing arts-based inquiry into the social sciences comes with its own tensions and contradictions, and they are considerable but that’s not the focus of the talk today, but they really do revolve around the push and pull of making art that is research driven, aestetically exciting, and educative—and all at the same time.
00:08:06 – 00:09:07
So there’s a lot of different objectives and goals to kind of straddle in that project. So to give you a little background about Re-Vision: Re-Vision is a mobile multi-media lab and expressive arts institute that’s dedicated to exploring ways that communities can use arts-informed research and methods to advance social inclusion and justice by challenging stereotypes. So we’re interested in the representational field and how that field informs education and health care policy and practice. So our vision is a world where differences are welcomed in. So embedded in that is the idea that there is not sort of talking about tolerance alone but talking about the difference that difference makes and what can difference offer in the most productive sort of understanding of that word.
00:09:07 - 00:09:35
So in our Project’s first year, we ran fourteen digital storytelling workshops, three of these also allowed researchers and students involved in Revision projects to make their own digital stories as a practice or an act of critical self-reflectivity, which I try to embed in all of my research projects and then two of the work shops as well enabled some of us to receive facilitator training.
00:09:35 – 00:10:29
So, I’m trying to run a facilitator and training workshop once a year so that graduate students and researchers who are partners on various research projects have an opportunity to learn the method. The workshops enable participants to create digital stories, which, as the teaser shows, which are very short, hyper short, two to three minute-long films that combine first person narrative with different kinds of visuals, video clips, still photography, sometimes people create their own illustrations, and sometimes they also use music or other types of sound. The aim is to create spaces where people unpack and talk back to received representations and make new meanings.
00:10:29 – 00:11:36
To date, we’ve generated an archive of about ninety digital stories through two primary projects that we’ve been involved in so far. So, to give you a sense of the process, I’m going to take you through it, from story circle to final screening and beyond. Following diverse storytelling traditions, story circle brings participants together in a group process of mutual sharing and listening. Some essential elements of this include: Attempting to create an environment of safety, comfort, confidentiality, and consideration, and when working around disability issues we talk about the spaces being one where we have an ever expanding definition of accessibility, acknowledging that we can’t master difference – we can’t know it and own it and so that our notion of creating an accessible space, we can’t fully anticipate what people need in order to make the space accessible. So, we have a kind of ever-expanding idea of what that is, a kind of provisional and expanding idea of what that is.
00:11:36 – 00:12:17
Also a feature is asking storytellers what kind of feedback they would prefer to receive and honoring voice and silence alike. And as you can see from the logo on the bottom of this slide, our work is informed by and adapted from the work of the Centre for Digital Storytelling, which is a centre in Berkeley California. This method was conceived of by a man named Joe Lambert in the late eighties, early nineties and it’s kind of spread around the world since then. So we’ve received training from the folks at the Centre for Digital Storytelling.
00:12:17 – 00:13:26
What makes Revision unique is that we focus on digital storytelling as a research creation and knowledge dissemination method, so we’re interested in it for research purposes. Secondly, we also create a new curriculum for each project that we work on, that orients all participants in the project to dominant representations of the topic or group being explored and the ways artists and activists from within that community or around that topic, close to that topic, have responded to these. So we’re really interested in delivering some kind of formal curriculum where we think about what is the representational field that we’re entering into, that we’re asking people in some way to talk back to. And three that we approach art as a kind of activism—in its power to disrupt norms, create understanding, and open possibilities. So each person has a story to tell, but it can take work to get it to the place where they feel that it adequately and artfully represents their experiences.
00:13:26 – 00:14:15
Script review, in the context of the group, is an opportunity for storytellers to work with each other and with facilitators to polish their narrative without losing their voice. And to create the sound track, participants tell stories in their own voices, so they read their scripts to a sound editor in a sound booth. Our lab is completely mobile, we can transport it you know virtually anywhere and so we kind of construct a temporary sound booth in the space that we’re working in. And I’m lucky that one of the people who works on the project is someone who used to work for the CBC and she used to radio documentaries so she’s really great at voice recording and editing.
00:14:15 – 00:15:14
So the audio track is later imported into an editing program, called Final Cut ten. And some people might be familiar with Final Cut ten if you’ve done any video work. Storytellers participate in a Final Cut ten editing tutorial, so everybody learns the basics of Final Cut ten within the context of the workshop. They are assisted also, by facilitators and artists who also come into the space and help people kind of create their story. And you know everybody works together in learning and teaching each other how to add visuals to their audio tracks and to link image to sound. Some people bring images and video clips but many people generate those in the context of the workshop.
00:15:14 – 00:16:15
At the end of every workshop, storytellers gather to share their stories. This is often participants’ favourite part of the weekend as people get an opportunity to see where their story has moved from story circle. And often there has been some dramatic shifts from their initial presentation of their story to the group. Digital stories are often also shared beyond the group, with proper permission of course, and we offer people like layers or levels of release so people can decide if they want to release their films to be shown to academic audiences only or to be shown in film festivals only or to be shown to policy makers or to you know, have a more public dissemination. So people make their own decisions through lots of discussion about what is the best kind of level of release for them.
00:16:15 – 00:17:13
So, one example of how some of the digital stories have been shared is a project that I worked on in partnership with Dr. Susan Dion who is a professor in Aboriginal education at York University and we put together an art exhibition and digital story screening at a gallery that’s located actually in the provincial legislature and invited many policy makers and senior folks with an education to come and see the show. And we were lucky that it attracted both policy making and general audiences including senior Toronto board of education folks and senior folks from the Ministry of Education, as well as the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.
00:17:13 – 00:18:18
Subsequently stories that were produced through this project, which was called “Invisibility: Indigenous in the City,” and the project focused on urban Aboriginal education and the experiences of Aboriginal students and teachers and parents in urban schools. Those stories have gone even beyond this art exhibition and they have been screen for super intendants and trustees in school boards across Ontario on the basis of sort of their exposure to some of this material, senior folks at the Ministry of Education are also you know sort of really moving on Aboriginal education and rethinking the curriculum and especially the history curriculum so that Aboriginal perspectives and experiences are you know, sort of included or braided into the history curriculum in a way that they’re now not.
00:18:18 – 00:19:09
So, through our partnership, another example is our partnership with Tangled Arts and Disability, which is Ontario’s I guess you could call it premier disability arts organization and we developed a partnership project called “This Artist’s Body” where we worked with a group of disability-identified artists to create digital stories, and those stories screened in December at the International Day for persons with Disabilities at the Toronto International Film Festival space. Finally, our training workshops provide background and practical knowledge to people.
00:19:09 – 00:19:39
Re-visioning is important because we live in a world filled with misrepresentations of disability. Aboriginal writer Thomas King reminds us that stories are wondrous things and that they are also dangerous. Wonderful because they have power to connect people across differences, but also dangerous because they can create barriers, reproduce stereotypes, you know sort of keep in play certain kinds of power relations.
00:19:39 – 00:20:06
The Nigerian-born novelist Chimamanda Adichie talks about the single story that represents people in only one way and told repeatedly, becomes how people are identified. She reminds us of the dangers of a single story, writing: “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story the only story.”
00:20:06 – 00:21:16
So at Revision, our goal is to move past the single story that collapses a diversity of experience and replace it with a multiplicity of stories that proliferate people’s voices and experiences. And you know in many ways that’s what the digital story telling project is. And it’s interesting, because you know once you watch a number of these stories around any particular issue, what starts to distil out is kind of the essence of an experience, but it starts to distil out in a way that doesn’t lose peoples individuality and their sort of their nuance to unique perspectives. And you know so it doesn’t you become reduced to information, there’s still a richness. In this way, we seek to represent experiences relegated to the edges of the visual field. And even a cursory look at representations of disability in North American society, we see that disability is typically predominantly represented as a problem in need of solution.
00:21:16 – 00:22:04
Solutions can take a number of forms but disability most often is represented as a problem in need of a cure in our kind of biomedical world. People with disabilities often seek out cures for what ails them obviously, just like everyone else. However, the problem with entwining, constructing disability as a problem and seeing cure as the solution, is that many impairments, including Cerebral Palsy and Down’s Syndrome, have no cures, so to orient to disability as something that always in need of a cure, discounts the human experience of living with disability.
00:22:04 – 00:22:48
Another solution to the problem of disability historically and currently is elimination. One historical example of this is found in the Social Hygiene Movement, in the earlier parts of the 20th century, which sponsored “better babies” contests across the country as part of a drive to eliminate disability from the nation. Contemporary efforts to eliminate disability involve genetic screening or prenatal testing (which often result in aborting disabled fetuses). So the problem with elimination as a solution is that it ignores the reality that most people acquire disability, not genetically, but by living in the world.
00:22:48 – 00:23:32
Most of us, if we live long enough, as well according to disabilities study scholar, who was Mary Garland Thompson, will undergo the gradually disabling process of aging, so disability should not be seen as exclusive to a small number of people but, rather, as a central part of the human condition. And if we look at some of the ways that disability is represented in disability studies, and kind of in other spaces of alterity, where disability is approached in ways that try to sort of challenge or complicate the dominant understandings, we see a whole new and different narrative emerge.
00:23:32 – 00:24:22
In disability studies disability is represented as a life worth living, as an identity, as creative and desirable, and as a culture. This is an image of the British Artist, Alison Lapper, and this was actually used in the opening of London’s Paralympics a few years ago. So this piece is actually huge and it’s modeled on a famous statue of her that I think is in Trafalgar Square and there’s a lot of controversy around this placing of the statue in Trafalgar Square. So this move relocates the problem of disability from within the individual and places it squarely in the social.
00:24:22 – 00:24:45
Now, at Re-Vision we believe these sorts of representations can offer a powerful counter-narrative to conventional stories of disability as a problem to be fixed or overcome. We take up this challenge through digital story telling and other arts approaches. So, earlier, what I presented was the film Shift, and I have to ask Ross to turn off the fan.
00:24:45 – 00:25:46
So what is distinct about digital story telling is that it allows story tellers to give voice to unspoken experiences and to engage, reengage, and engage again with those experiences first through writing their narrative, then through developing their visuals, and then through creating the sound or capturing the sound that they’d like to use, in order to clarify and to layer their intended meanings. In this iterative and creative process, they construct preferred meanings of experiences, communicate their perspectives in sustainable ways, through the digital story they create, and in a way, come out from under existing representations by speaking back in some ways, by breathing life into in other ways, culturally dominant images and stories.
00:25:46 – 00:26:26
I think the method is interesting to me because it provides people with the space, the resources, the ideas and the tools, to undertake a process that social scientists once exclusively saw as their own, and that is to identify your personal or social problem, to pose questions about it, to create and interpret data based on lived experience, and to generate new understandings in the context of the community that gets created in the workshops. So thus sharing in many ways in the power of knowledge construction.
00:26:26 – 00:27:24
So, I’m now going to turn to talk a little bit about the pedagogical possibilities of these films and in order to do that I want to unpack the types of body pedagogies that dominate in our neoliberal, medicalized world and those are bio-pedagogies. Some of you may not be familiar with that term but it comes from critical health studies, and it’s really informed by the work of Foucault. So by bio-pedagogy, I mean the loose collection of information, advice, and instruction about bodies, minds, and health, often moralizing or lecturing in tone, that works to control people by using praise and shame alongside “expert knowledge’s” in order to urge their conformity to physical and mental norms.
00:27:24 – 00:28:20
These “assemblages,” as Leahy describes them, of instructions and directions about how to live, how to be embodied, what “health” is, and what to do in order to be “healthy” and happy, and avoid “risk” are not only transmitted in formal educational contexts, although they certainly are there, we could also see them being translated in virtually every sort of social domain and you know every institution in many interpersonal interactions as well. While differences deemed as correctable and modifiable, are most often targeted for normalization, and when I think about differences targeted for normalization I think about things like fatness and certain kinds of learning disabilities, bio-pedagogies may apply other kinds of instructions to those categorized, to those differences categorized, as unchangeable and intractable. So for example, certain physical impairments.
00:28:20 – 00:29:18
These types of instruction set different, in other words, lower standards for the body or mind tagged as deficient in order to embed responsibility for “failure” in that body or mind so as to maintain ablest standards of normal. In our visually oriented culture, I would argue that representations of bodily differences often function as bio-pedagogies. So it doesn’t have to be explicit instruction for people about how to normalize their bodies or themselves, but the representation has embedded in it certain kinds of instructions for living and for how one’s body you know, should look, and for how one should appear and for how one should act. This is because representations tend to carry, often implicit, instructions for how we should live in our bodies and to establish a set of bodily norms to which we all must conform.
00:29:18 – 00:30:22
If we look at the history of representations of disability, in many ways that history has been characterized as one as of either being put on display or hidden away. Throughout the nineteenth century, for example, parts of Europe and North America saw the emergence of freak shows, displaying various kinds of anomalous embodiments for entertainment and profit. The middle of the nineteenth century marked the beginning of institutionalization. Where we had sort of you know, the beginning of custodialism or the kind of containment of people with mental and physical differences. Institutional spaces—the buildings themselves and the sprawling lawns which surrounded them— functioned to contain and hide so called deviant bodies and minds while also serving as topographical reminders of insanity and danger thus guaranteeing, though impossibly so, that all other public spaces were geographies of safety and sanity.
00:30:22 – 00:31:23
This brief history shows some of the ways that disability representations inform cultural expectations for disabled bodies. Hiding people away teaches us that disabled bodies are not fit for public life. Putting people on display in medical theatres and textbooks, in charity campaigns, or our television screens during telethons, reality TV shows or even horror movies teaches us that disabled bodies are frightening and fascinating objects to be stared at. Through representations functioning as bio-pedagogies, we learn that non-normative bodies should conform to normative life or live lives thought to be not worth living and, at the same time, that normative life needs bodies of difference to be abnormal to give us a sense of what a normal body is and can do.
00:31:23 – 00:31:56
Rather than trying to convince people to adopt narrow norms or live unbearable lives, how do we create the conditions that will enable them to imagine other possibilities for their bodies? And that’s precisely what disability studies tries to do and what other areas like critical fat studies tries to do as well. In contrast to bio-pedagogies, a body-becoming pedagogy would move away from practices of enforcing norms toward more creative endeavors of exploring abilities and possibilities unique to different bodies.
00:31:56 - 00:32:28
How a body-becoming pedagogy might guide responses to disability is an open question, but at the very least it would invite us to think about the effects of meanings we give to mental and physical differences, and the creation of the divides themselves, so the creation of the normal, abnormal binary itself. It would ask us to consider how much agency we lose by imposing expectations on bodies and how much creativity and beauty we miss in attempting to regulate human diversity. Finally, it would posit that we have to perceive differently if we want bodies to become differently.
00:32:28 – 00:33:31
I see arts-based approaches produced through Revision in spaces of alterity informed by feminist disability studies as body-becoming pedagogies—as alternatives to bio-pedagogies whose instrumental, outcomes-oriented methods and moralizing overtones enforce physical and mental conformity over diversity and creativity. Rather than being outcomes driven, a body-becoming pedagogy, or counter-pedagogy if you will, is presence and process oriented, and interested in improvising the properties and potentialities of all bodies. So where can we see this happening? I think on the margins, in countercultures, and art communities one can find clues about how to perceive differently. The disability arts and culture movement that emerged from the disability rights movement of the late 1970s marked a shift in disability activism from securing legal rights for persons with disabilities to aesthetic concerns about the representation of disabled people.
00:33:31 – 00:34:48
In disability arts, disability has been defined broadly to include people with mental and physical impairments, as well as sensory impairments, with different kinds of cognitive and emotional challenges, mental differences or mental disabilities, chronic and severe illness. And it also draws close connections with all those people, including trans and fat folks, whose bodies don’t conform to cultural and medical notions of normal. It is in this context that folks like Sins Invalid, which is a San Francisco-based performance troupe, have turned to art to reimagine imperfect bodies as aesthetically interesting, exciting and vital. Sins develops cutting-edge performances that challenge medical and cultural paradigms of able, normal, and sexy, offering instead a vision of beauty and sexuality inclusive of all individuals and communities. And this is one of the performers in the ensemble, by a woman by the name of Nomealamb, who also writes a lot about fat politics. She has a blog and she also makes a lot of zenes.
00:34:48 – 00:35:28
In Canada, a growing number of disability-identified artists such as Persimmon Blackbridge, Jes Sachse, and this is Jes’s comic, kind of take on the American Apparel ads, and she called this American able, to draw attention to the invisibility of woman with disabilities and popular culture. The dancer, Geoff McMurchy, and the beautiful storyteller, David Roche work across a variety of mediums to refigure the corporal in our social imagination and thus re-signify the meaning of disability and other forms of bodily difference.
00:35:28 – 00:36:45
Let me offer examples, a few examples, of critical responses to bio-pedagogies and of possibility in difference from Revision digital stories. The digital story I now show, if we could turn the, sorry about that, in this case of disability with incapacity and objection offers critical insight into the ways that art might disrupt our pre-reflective, gut level reactions, and provoke new visceral responses to things. In her reading of Deleuze, Elizabeth Grosz, the philosopher reflects on the ethicacy of art to create and proliferate unexpected perceptions by magnifying or intensifying previously unrecognized properties and qualities of phenomenon, in this case disability. She writes: “Art is not frivolous, an indulgence or luxury, an embellishment of what is most central: it is the most vital and direct form of impact on and through the body, the generation of vibratory waves, rhythms that traverse the body and make of the body a link with forces it cannot otherwise perceive or act upon”.
00:36:45 – 00:37:41
Grosz suggests that artistic representations may operate at a different register than scientific ones – scientific ones demand that we predict and proscribe certain preferred ways of being—artistic representations in contrast open up emergent, unpredictable alternatives for knowing difference. Thinking with Grosz and Deleuze, arts based interventions may function pre-reflectively as body-becoming counter-pedagogies that offer non-didactic and indeterminate possibilities for living in and with difference. While intensifying qualities of disability (asymmetry, leakiness, imperfection), through art may bring something new into the world, this ushering in of the unpredictable is risky since what it generates cannot be foreseen.
00:37:41 – 00:38:30
I see these stories as body becoming pedagogies that expand options for becoming without teaching people to adopt any particular way of being as the “correct” (in other words moral or normal) one. In that sense, body becoming pedagogies are non-instructional. While they are necessarily non-didactic, these pedagogies are still instructive and productive insofar as they produce new possibilities for living. Thus, by reflecting on the work of Revision, I hope to make space for pedagogies that expand openings for improvisation, creativity, sensory pleasure, and beauty in and of difference, and hence, for remaking the once abject into an embodied, even celebrated identity. That’s it.
00:38:30 – 00:39:09
>> Monique Deveaux: We will take questions. I only ask you to use this because of the podcast and just press the button once. There are cookies and coffee here if anybody wants.
>> Carla Rice: I wonder if I could put up the questions. Or some questions that I have. Yeah, yeah, okay fantastic yeah.
00:39:09 – 00:40:27
>> Audience Member 1: Hi Carla, I’m Helen. I’m in the OAC and I work in issues around rural poverty, sort of international, sort of glocal media and development and the thing that struck me and the reason I wanted to come to the presentation today was because we use digital storytelling quite lot in the kind of work that were involved with and we use audio more so for storytelling and digital storytelling because storytelling comes from oral culture, especially from rural and remote areas where oral culture is considered a really important asset and means of livelihood for people and I was surprised how dominant visual was in your work and until the, I think it was the second last, or maybe it was the last clip where what we saw were sound impact images and the power was in the spoken word in that and that’s the only time that I really sort of saw that come out in the story telling.
00:40:27 – 00:41:09
So my question is, in your field of work is the visual more important because of the context in which you’re working and the type of sort of oppressive relationships that people who are labeled disabled find themselves, is that unique to that and if you could think about some of the audio work, what are you learning about the audio side of storytelling and would you consider their potential therefore maybe emphasize in that a little bit more because of where storytelling comes and it’s this link to oral culture and cultural expression.
00:41:09 – 00:42:18
>> Carla Rice: That’s a really good question, that’s a really interesting question. And I think that you said it exactly because the history of the ways that you westernized cultures, the ways that we have responded to disability by putting disability on display or by hiding it away, optics and the gays you know sort of emerge as a really significant you know sort of dynamic I guess in the oppression of people with disabilities and so the visual is really important you know in a context where people with bodily differences are continuously put on display in ways that render them abject, people are you know sort of, you know they want to take control of their image in some way and so working with image becomes really important and what they reveal and conceal through image you know sort of is a really focus in the workshop, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about that.
00:42:18 – 00:44:07
So, because I think the gays and the stare, what Thompson talks about, the stare, is you know really significant dynamic for many people with disabilities, particularly people who were born with, the visuals really important. But you know we're always in workshops wrestling with the question of what does it mean to put bodies on display in these digital stories that have been on display culturally, you know, sort of, that's kind of an open question for us in the context of the workshop. And Jan made a very conscious decision to not represent her body because of the ways that female bodies have been objectified in our society and she didn't want to put either her normalized or her pathologised body in the story because that's what people want to see right, you know, people are really you know, there’s sort of this fearful fascination that people feel in relationship to the emaciated anorexic body and she's conscious of that, she understands those kind visual dynamics and so she made the choice to not put her body in her film. And but yet use visuals that were choreographed to her voice, so the visuals move with her pattern of speech and I think that's quite beautiful.
00:44:07 – 00:45:29
You know in the Invisibility Indigenous in the City project, the story circle and the honoring of oral tradition with indigenous context was extremely important and there was a lot of ceremony around that group and then there was lots of discussion around what could be filmed and not filmed from people's different cultural traditions and perspectives, but I think that people were also wrestling with the idea of visibility and invisibility in their context as well because of, you know, sort of forced assimilation, the state policies of forced assimilation, and how Aboriginal people have ended up in cities in Canada and often, you know sort of cut off from their nations, and from their cultural traditions and language and the question of recognition also emerged as a really important question for people.
00:45:29 – 00:46:27
Like it was called invisibility because urban Aboriginal communities are largely invisible and students in classrooms are invisible as Aboriginal and many students don't want to come out as Aboriginal because there's no community. There's no context in which to claim that identity in any kind positive way and many students talk about the idea that one can either be a good student or Aboriginal and that you can't be both. And so, making Aboriginal presence, felt seen, heard, was a really important part of that project. So enhance visibility, invisibility. And just sort of on top of the fact that we live in such a profoundly visually oriented culture. I mean, people want to work with image. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
00:46:27 - 00:47:44
>>Audience Member 2: My one sentence is that it’s also visual associated with male hegemony and talk with women so I think your artist had an implicit reason why she chose that.
>> Carla Rice: Yeah, absolutely.
>>Audience Member 3: It’s more of a comment than anything else. I liked it very much and what I really like about all of these things and what to do with disabilities, we were watching this and I was thinking of, and you’re probably familiar with it, “Staring Back”, a book by Kenny Fries, or edited by, lovely, I loved reading that.
>>Carla Rice: Yes.
>>Audience Member 3: But what I like about this type of thing, is the challenges, the sort of master narratives of what it is to be disabled.
>>Carla Rice: Absolutely.
>>Audience Member 3: Did you get a bit out of that, that this was you know, an opportunity to do that? I suppose I'd also like to know if there is any stories that, I mean because the usual narrative for being disabled is you’re heroic and amazing, rather than maybe the occasional failures when it's really miserable. So, I wonder whether any of that was discussed at any of these workshops?
00:47:44 – 00:48:45
>>Carla Rice: Absolutely. I mean I very very, these workshops were spaces of alterity and they were spaces where people began to form disability community and people connected across different kinds of disabilities. Something kind of interesting emerged that is not globally true, not wholly and solely true, but I did note and you know, other sort of people involved in the workshops and participants, all of us noted together, the difference in experience of people who were born with and acquire disability early in life versus acquire disability later, the difference between people whose disability is their bodily difference, versus people whose disability is shifting and changing and is entirely unpredictable on a day-to-day basis, and a lot of that is also connected to how our social world can't accommodate those shifts and changes and fluctuations.
00:48:45 – 00:49:55
And you know something else that I need to tell you about these workshops is that they are run by people with disabilities, for people with disabilities, so many of our facilitators are self-identified as having a disability. And we run these workshops not only for people living with, we started with women and we're now working with trans people and self-identified men. And we also run workshops with health care providers. Health care providers as participants, and it is so powerful to you know, sort of see what kinds of I'm power shifts happen when the person you need in order to realize your project for the weekend, is somebody who has a disability, and they're also an artist or they're also a technical expert and they know how to use final cut. You know so people can come into that space thinking that they have an equity framework and that really gets challenged over the course of the weekend.
00:49:55 – 00:50:18
>> Audience Member 4: I have a question that follows up on that.
>>Carla Rice: Yeah.
>> Audience Member 4: Is there a tension between the non-instructional nature of the project and your efforts to convey the content and of the project to academic audiences or other audiences?
00:50:18 – 00:51:23
>>Carla Rice: I think there's a tension inherent in the workshop, simply that we're delivering a curriculum, and we're talking about what the dominant representations are and were talking about some other artistic and activist interventions into those representations and then we give people free rein, you tell the story you want. But there's a tension between, you tell the story you want, you stay true to your voice and also we have an aim with this project, which is social change, right? And so that that is just attention that we manage. Everybody's peace is ultimately their peace and we collect probably more stories than will end up being used, and different stories are used for different audiences.
>> Monique Deveaux: I think there is a class coming in here soon, so we may have to finish.
>>Carla Rice: Okay, thank you.
Initiatives in Global Justice
Monique Deveaux, Director, IGJ