Tag: performance studies

  • Digital Imagination


    I am doing that reading thing that I do. I finally accepted that I am okay engaging with Psycho-analysis. I just can’t work with Lacan. It doesn’t work for my thinking. I’ve read a few things that have allowed this to be okay. Currently I am reading Kelly Oliver’s The Colonization of Psychic Space. It has been fantastic for me. It let me know that my thinking was on the write track and gave me many tools, quotes, and citations to explain why so much of the theoretical canon does not work for my project. So, as I speak into the abyss of the digital, I really want to say think you to Kelly Oliver for writing this book.

    One of the things that I am loving is she does such a wonderful deep engagement with Fanon. When I took my Fanon course, and wrote my paper, it was all about getting out of the net of colonization that he speaks about and creating new worlds by taking what exists and imagining it differently.

    So when I got to this part on page 42?

    If the true revolution is one of imagination, it requires not only the creation of positive values for those abjected by dominant culture but also the revaluation of values such that the very structure of valuation is opened up for transformation. It requires throwing off not only Marx’s imaginary chains but also chains that bind the imaginary and thereby restrict psychic space.

    There was a audible yes said and then some frantic typing.

    But what does this have to do with Digital Media?

    I’ve been thinking through my project and imagination in terms of Performance Studies. That seems like a natural fit. When I read this, it hit me that it is just as valid in terms of engagement with Media Studies as well. The Digital is a realm that allows us to actively engage in imagination towards world making. By being able to pick and choose what we see, what we share, what we put together, we create worlds that encapsulate both alienation and community/communal-ness, while at the same time, directly engaging what Western epistemology has deemed the ultimate form of meaning making (and world making), the Archive. The role of the curator has been expanded. Rather than having a lead curator, there are always multiple curators, putting things together and taking things apart in ways that were not possible before. The level at which this happens goes out of the past realms of possibility (in terms of pace, size, and scale). That isn’t to say new media of the past didn’t change things in similar ways (see the electronic age happened). The Digital is different though. The element of imagination is built into the scripts. While other forms of media engage imagination, I’m thinking especially video games, the biggest difference I see in previous media is that script has a set ending. While technically digital media runs on scripted programs, the script tends to be open ended. It is really a space where the user is asked to imagine the possibilities and make what they will/want. When we couple digital media with social media, we are asked to imagine the possibilities in a way that changes the world we live in, not just the world on the screen, with people we have the possibility of speaking with instead of just speaking to or about. Depending on how we use these tools, the ability to imagine different types of social engagement and create the networks that enable those engagements with the click of a send/post button and the proper hashtag or keyword in miliseconds seems pretty revolutionary to me. And that is awesome.

    * * *

  • Trigger Warning Project / Playing with @mozilla Popcorn Maker

    It’s been about a month since I made my initial post on the Trigger Warning that appeared on Sociological Images.  Since then, they’ve posted another post with the exact same trigger warning and issue.  It has been very generative for me to experience this.  I am working through what it means to face oppression the way that we do.  I think I am almost comfortable with my thoughts on it, which is good because I have a final presentation/performance thing for my last performance studies course ever on December 7th and that is what I wrote/am writing on.  This is what I’ve come up with so far (aka iteration/draft 1) for my digital installation:

    I might play with it a bit more… I might even try to play with popcorn.js, but I am happy with where it is.  Popcorn Maker was easy to use.  Working through this  allowed me to let go of that second post.  I think I don’t need to comment on it. But I will add it to the list of things that make me shake my head and push me to do my project.

    * * *

  • MOOCs & Performance Studies: an Introduction #DukeHP

    While looking at MOOCs could start with an analysis through media, even when I do that, I go somewhere else.  The media I frame I find most helpful to begin thinking through things, the McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message”, even takes me immediately out of media.  In MOOCs the medium seems to be performance more than anything else I can pinpoint.  While yes, there is a screened device between the individuals, the second I begin thinking about what is actually happening, and how it can be useful, I end up right back in Performance theory.  When I look at what happened in Twitter vs Zombies, that connection is even clearer.  Rather than go to a whole lot of sources, I will name one that covers all the bases around MOOCs: The Sage Handbook of Performance Studies.

    I know, I know. A text book! But it talks about everything and it is a fantastic primer for those outside of Performance Studies and those new to Performance Studies.

    In Della Pollock’s chapter, part of the “Performing History: A Politics of Location”  “Memory, Remembering, and Histories of Change: A Performance Praxis” the “not not me” and you being “not not you” seems to be central to the performance of MOOCs.  When a student or professor enters the MOOC world, they are re-presenting a version of themselves that, if taken in conversation with the whole, can never be completely representative of who they are.  When we put our bodies/beings in conversation with others on the in MOOCs, we open ourselves up to a certain type of interpretation that is us, but not us.

    I should stop. I won’t give you a blow by blow of the book and how I think it relates to MOOCs because I think half the fun is discovering the connections we can make on our own and then entering into conversation.  I would like to point out the two main areas though that, in my opinion, absolutely need to be incorporated into our conversations about MOOCs.  The first is Critical/Performance Ethnography.  The introduction to this section in the Sage Handbook of Performance Studies states the following:

    “Performance ethnography embraces the muddiness of multiple perspectives, idiosyncrasy, and competing truths, and pushes everyone present into an immediate confrontation with our beliefs and behavior. Body-to-body, we are less able to retreat into the privacy of our own limited self-serving thinking, our stereotypes and biases. We have to acknowledge the validity of another viewpoint, because it is living right there in front of us. In this way the embodiment and action that is inherent in performance ethnography makes this a methodology that reflects, in Conquergood’s visionary phrasing, a “critical genealogy” that can be “traced from performance as mimesis, to poesis, to kinesis, performance as imitation, construction, dynamism” (1992, p. 84).” — Part V: Introduction: Performance and Ethnography, Performing Ethnography, Performance Ethnography, Olorisa Omi Osun Olomo (Joni L. Jones)


    I also shared a Conquergood Essay that appears in the handbook via twitter yesterday in PDF format, “Rethinking Ethnography: Towards a Critical Cultural Politics”.   I think one of the most important things we need to do as we pull students into these experiences and environments is provide them with a toolkit to help analyze and understand what is going on, what their role in all of it is, what everyone’s role is, and, most importantly, what the stakes are in terms of the class and the world outside of the classroom.

    The second area that I think is so important for us to examine, especially as MOOCs are a model that sees student-as-teacher to a degree, is Performance and Pedagogy. My offering to all of this is, rather than trying to create a new framework about how people are “performing” in these environments, instead of looking for ways to analyze the co-performance that is taking place, locate political stakes, etc, why not just go to the place where it has been going on for a while now, Performance Studies?  There is even a whole area that specifically speaks to Performance and Pedagogy.

    “[A] performative epistemology makes us responsible for how we inhabit the world. There is no recourse to foundational claims. The world, here, is always-already pedagogical, always being articulated and rearticulated. How we choose to enter this back-and-forth is the key to the ethical dimension of performance. In particular, the performative decenters our taken-for-granted assumptions about pedagogy—where it happens and with what texts.” (Dimitriadis, Pedagogy on the Move: New Intersections in (Between) the Educative and the Performative)

    Even more in line with some of the things that were said yesterday around the purpose of MOOCs is the following:

    “Many performance studies classes involve performance as a way of knowing; they further the objective “to understand performance as a method of inquiry” (Pelias, 2001, p.1). While some performance scholars focus on performances as a subject of study, others view performance as epistemological. “ (Stucky, Fieldwork in the Performance Studies Classroom: Learning Objectives and the Activist Curriculum)

    And finally, the big giant quote”

    “Performance as pedagogical discourse signals students to engage both their critical and creative skills as well as their enfleshed knowledge in order to display and present their understanding of complex concepts grounded in social, cultural, and political issues through the body—and maybe more importantly through their experience. Their performances serve as products that evidence their understanding and their resistance. These performances also serve as demonstrations of how they came to their understanding, as well as critical dialogic engagements with those who witness the performance. In constructing the notion of performance as a pedagogical discourse, I am suggesting that it offers the opportunity for a critical engagement of issues that go beyond pedestrian notions of experiential learning to a form of critical performative pedagogy.


    A critical performative pedagogy also offers teachers and other students in the class (the audience), the opportunity to see themselves again through the performances of others; performance as a barometer of truth or reality. The performance can serve as critical reflexive lens in order for teachers and students to see and realize their own resistances, stereotypic assumptions, habituated responses, and experiences relative to particular issues related to the theoretical arguments that frame the assignment and the person in performance. This is especially important when teachers and students explore the complex intersections of race, sex, class, gender, and privilege; and how the politics of these embodied practices blend and bleed the borders between school and society.”
    Introduction: Performance and Pedagogy, Bryant Keith Alexander

    Hamera, Judith, and D. Soyini Madison. The Sage handbook of performance studies. Sage Publications, Incorporated, 2005.

    * * *

  • Working Through the Breasts of The Secret Museum of Anthropology

    The Secret Museum of Anthropology
    I have a book. It has been in my possession for a few weeks now. It is called The Secret Museum of Anthropology. It was a private printing from the American Anthropological Association created in 1935 from a series of pirated photos. It included illustrations as well, to make it more science-y I am guessing. The photo above is the cover, the copy, and the drawing that I’ve been intrigued by since receiving the book. I… like it? No. Yes? It is provocative. That is a better word I think.

    So, today, since I woke up an hour early due to daylight savings time, I decided to finally work through the illustration and the book by drawing, photographing, printing, cutting, and pasting. The result is a triptych (three 16x20inch panels) of the book and the breasts featured in the book. I did this because my way of working through problems is to play with them/tear them apart, recreate them, meditate on them, and then figure out what the hell is going on in my head around it (Yay to weird methodological approaches!).

    Secret Museum Types of Breasts and NIpples
    Secret Museum Types of Breasts and Nipples

    [those are some crooked photos!] I think I might keep it in this order. I think what was so intriguing to me about the photograph is the ability to reduce even breasts to types, when, if you actually put the illustration next to the breasts in the book, it… doesn’t work. The reduction is actually, hilarious. And the actual breasts in the book are overwhelming. So, that is where I am. The problem is, and will always be, the reduction of women of color from specific groups being reduced to a squiggly line, a line that can be erased and erases at the same time.

    I need to finish cleaning up the drawings. I am debating adding the numbers. I will be sharing the triptych with a class in 1.5 weeks, so I need to get everything finalized. I think I’m almost there.

    * * *

  • The Whisper Room #tweetasound

    The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has a Whispering Gallery. It is a 40 foot long sroom covered in metal. The thing is, when you stand at one end, you can whisper the quietest whisper you can manage, and the person at the other end can HEAR you as though you were speaking right into their ear. That moment when you realize that your little voice has made it to the other side, because the other side replies and you experience what happened to them when they heard your whisper, is a moment of glee. And then you keep doing it until other people show up because even though you may have heard that voice before, you know get to hear it as breath, a whisper, loud and clear. Digital media, for me is like that whisper. There is loud talking about what it means to be black and what it means to be a black woman and what the black experience is supposed to feel like, look like, sound like, taste like, etc. that we have a hard time letting it just be. When I say be, I mean it in terms of being a state of becoming.

    Ghana 1881/1895
    Ghana 1881/1895

    Digital media is the place where I can’t see the other side of the whisper room, but I know it is there. I hear the whispers that make their way to me, across time and space, through cables (as light, yay fiber optics!). Digital media is the space where I can find a photograph and post it with the whisper “did you know she was this beautiful?” and I can hear back “she really is”. And while yes, she might be and/or represent all those things that define the black experience, in fact, I may be even placing her as “the Black Woman” at that moment of whisper, we are allowed to just see her and see that yes, she was, is, and will always be beautiful. And we are allowed to see her and say yes, she is and will always be, like me.

    I go into my project knowing it is not a critical mass project. However, I know how whispers affect feeling and how seeing affects world making. My only hope is that by sharing these photographs of women who were here before us, I help keep their images in mind. Having that image creates a new world. This is, of course, the moment when things move from media to performance.

    * * *

  • How do I poetically transcribe a photo…

    with no story?  She fades into the words of the actions around her photograph. 542 notes, but almost no one leaves words… when they do, I save them.

    Photo #3 Madame, 547 Notes
    “Nosy-Be kvinde” (“Nosy-Be woman”). From the island of Nosy-Be, north west Madagascar.
    date unknown
    [collection] Photographs of the Mission Archives, School of Mission and Theology, Stavanger, Norway, ca.1870-1950

    onbecomesone reblogged and added i like her hair

    outponbail reblogged and added she rocks rough and tough in her afro puffs
    rock on whitcha bad self

    potofgoldoverthedigitalrainbo reblogged and added (in bold italics) speechless, she looks soo flawless

    rudolove reblogged this and added  (in italics) Her hair is amazing.

    divalocity reblogged this and added Beautiful! I love historical photos that display the beauty of the African woman.

    collegekidd reblogged this and added Wonder how she got her hair like that. It’s everything.

    ohtwelve reblogged this and added Haute #naturalhair

    quitefascinating reblogged this and added Her hair is what most fascinates me here… it’s beautiful.

    soshespoke reblogged this and added I want my hair to look like that!

    wrivol reblogged this and added Can I have your hair please, ok, I’ll just silently wish for it. I will have a fro.Soon.

    fromjtoz reblogged this and added That is a pretty sick hairstyle 😉

    thesignsinthestars reblogged this and added the hair, the dress. the hair. the necklace. all wow.

    naturallypolished reblogged this and added She looks like a queen .

    leebasays reblogged this and added It would be nice to know who she is humph!

    yamfu reblogged this and added She’s really fly! Who is she?

    artofkawaii reblogged this and added pretty hair and lady!

    iamridiculousthings reblogged this and added hmph..she looks like erykah badu

    Original Post:

    ETA Turned it into a project:

    * * *

  • On the Specificity of Black Experience

    I am in the midst of an argument. A colleague of mine who is also black, and also in Performance Studies (and is male) doesn’t understand my frustration with people and their talk of essentializing. Any claim to a universal but closed off experience is cornered as being essentializing. Apparently performance can close gaps in experience. I don’t agree. I think performance can make the gaps smaller, but there are some things that certain groups or people experience that others will never completely understand. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to deepen our understanding of each other. It does mean though that we have to accepts the limits placed on us by our social positions in terms of race, class, gender, nationality, etc. We have to.

    He seemed really frustrated and said I was claiming there is such a thing as black authenticity. I agreed with a caveat. Anything I do is an authentic black experience because I am authentically black. Even though my background is what it is, the way I am interpreted in society as I move through the world is as associated with blackness, not always as all black mind you, but black is always there, literally on the surface. I feel like the beauty of Performance Studies, for me ,is it allows us to expand and share and play with what authentic blackness is. The more representations of blackness we have, the more diverse the experiences we share are, the greater our potential to explode the idea of an essential blackness.

    The next part of the conversation had to do with people experiencing the black “Other”, and accepting their positionality. Different bodies in traditionally black spaces does things to that space. Even when different bodies are invited to those places some people might see this as problematic because they don’t think the space should be changed in that way. Or, they might just not be comfortable in a black environment. In this specific instance the discussion was around the black church. As much as I want to explode the idea of blackness, I think so much of life is meeting people where they are. If someone feels like they don’t belong is a we need to accept that they might not belong in that space. At the same time, it is important that we in our role of teachers help them interrogate why they feel the way they do in a meaningful and productive way and nudge them towards new experiences without pushing. And then we hope that someday, preferably that day, they will take the dive into the discomfort and reposition their world.

    * * *