:: by Sherry Hamlet ::
I attended the two day workshop focused on performance art put on by Groundation Grenada in collaboration with their first resident artist, New York based Guyanese artist damali abrams in connect with the Barbados Fresh Milk contemporary arts platform in October . The entire workshop was truly an awe inspiring experience. I must admit that before reading Groundation Grenada’s article i had never even heard of this type of performance art. Luckily damali abrams had recently put together a video interview series that collectively showcased the work and opinions of performance art artists all over the Caribbean and North America. By consulting this handy resource I was able to conclude that performance art was a branch of visual art that uses the body as the means through which you portray the artistic concept. I like to think of it as the mood, tone and theme one would capture within a frame brought to life and into motion by the human body.
The first day was a treat, with only fifteen available spots we had a lovely intimate circle of participants ranging in various artistic disciplines. However, I won’t go into too much detail on the first day, comprised mainly of discussion and planning our performance art pieces, instead I want to talk about a question that I have found upon the minds of many…
…Why do this?
In the Caribbean and many parts of the world street harassment is a glaring issue, like a guard dog it patrols our streets and attacks the self esteem and sense of security of men and women alike. I look it in the eyes everyday, I watch it grow in aggression and inspire hostility and fear on my small island, making the air thick with cowardice and squeezing the unique voices of peers, students and strangers straight out of their lungs. As if, they have no right to free thought or self expression. I watch it linger in the air waiting for a moment to strike and perhaps even kill…
So I decided to do something about it and the first thing I decided to do was to:
Change the conversation
A statement I once heard and that resonates with me is this, if you don’t like what’s being said change the conversation. Forever a writer at heart I felt that In this case, I could choose to use performance art as a tool to change the story, manipulate the negative narrative by challenging it head on.
To direct the conversation
The performance art workshop was an opportunity to use the stares, the jeers the snide remarks and gestures often saturating the streets to discuss a given topic, a topic worth talking about and that needed attention that had a right to be questioned.
So many times on our streets people walk past each other and choose to interact by highlighting negative aspects of humanity, choosing to poke, prod and pick away at people they often do not even know. With the use of performance art one could put before the public specifically for speculation a theme one wanted to be looked upon, to be scrutinized, discussed and analyzed. In this way people could interact and use their negative and or positive comments to exact change by forcing the public to acknowledge and discuss issues right there out in the open, issues we often hide away. I felt this could be done simply by using what is often done with no coaxing; talk. Letting people talk freely, openly and without fear, in groups or by oneself, at the top of ones voice or grouped deep in the throat because whether we realize it when it is happening or not talk teaches.
To push the boundaries of ones own creativity
It is simple for us to stick to what we know, when deciding how to represent a creative idea it seems to make sense to reference media we would have previously been exposed to. However, what happens when we move beyond the self set boundaries of creativity, when we explore a new way of representing our ideas? What happens…is discovery. Sometimes what we discover is big better or more beautiful than we could have imagined if we had remained thinking in the way we were used to… Sometimes it isn’t but which ever way it goes, it is always a valuable learning experience.
To be brave outside of the comfort zone
(photo captured of me being super nervous moments before we went on)
I am a very shy person. Many won’t believe that statement but it is true. Especially as someone living with a visual impairment trying something new can be extremely intimidating. I am not new to performing, I am a teacher, I’ve done some acting and I perform poetry on a regular basis at the Grenada National Museum Jazz and Poetry event on the first Friday of every month. However, I have never done this. This scared me, this challenged what I was used to, and this was outside of my comfort zone. I was confident it would not hurt me but that did not mean it didn’t scare me. If we stopped at the edge of our comfort zone how small would we make our universe, how drab and lacking in diversity? Will I try this kind of art again? I cannot yet say. Did I try it, live through it, feel my heart race as I concurred another fear in this raging time stream of events we call life? Yes. Was it an experience worth feeling? Absolutely! Even the extremely expressive have fears to concur.
To add flames to the fires of inspiration
As artists we are always seeking inspiration. My experience is that inspiration is rather cunning and does not hide in the same place for too long. Often we have to seek it out in corners of ourselves we have not yet explored. When you live on a small island where it is near impossible to hide your identity once attention is drawn to you, sometimes you choose to do nothing than be who you are because sometimes it feels easier and even more comfortable to be a sad wallflower than it is to be a happy person of note. Sometimes all you need to set the inspiration you feel in the deepest part of yourself ablaze is proof that it can be done, proof that someone else is willing to dare to defy the normal for a passion they believe in. I knew that this was a daring action as much as I believed it was a topic worth speaking up about. I knew that it could inspire someone who saw it, whisper to them that it was okay to want to make a difference in a way that nobody may have seen before because when you believe in something, it has to the potential to be great but the only way it will be great is if it is given a chance to breath and see the light of day. Sometimes you just have to dare to try something new and maybe…maybe you will make a difference….or…maybe you will inspire someone else to.
See Reflections of a Would Be Artiste by melinda blaise for another post related to Groundation Grenada’s performance art workshop.
Sherry E. Hamlet
Sherry E. Hamlet is a Grenadian teacher and writer. Currently she also holds the office of Vice President of the Writers Association of Grenada. Alongside perusing the completion of her BEd. in English and Literature with Education, she is often found performing self authored works of poetry before a live audience, under the pseudonym ‘TheWordyPhoenix’ . At present, she is working on the editing and publishing stages of her first collection of literary works. For more of her writing and performances, she can be found via her blog or her facebook page.