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Reflections of a Would Be Artiste

February 6, 2014

:: by melinda blaise ::

Domestic Violence Performance Art - Grenada 1

As a sometimes writer, actress and shockingly horrid singer (ask all my tortured loved ones), I am always on the lookout for creative outlets.  Perhaps it’s the innate wanderlust in my bones that drives my need to explore opportunities to push beyond comfortable limitations. I’m still investigating possible theories. In any case, in early October I happen to be browsing Groundation’s website and noticed a posting for a chance to participate in a free two-part workshop focusing on Performance Art. Although I had been exposed to this medium while growing up in NYC, I didn’t really know its background and where it stood conceptually in modern times.  So what better way to find out than to sign up for the gathering, which included “participants developing and executing performance pieces collaboratively” and taking those collaborations “to the street and performing pieces in public” spaces around Grenada.

What I found in these sessions was not only a great introductory lesson into the historical and contemporary foundation of Performance Art but also an understanding of the influence and long reach this method is having in the world from Europe to the United States and to the Caribbean.  I was intrigued by the tough issues tackled by these artists around the globe more specifically in the pre-workshop assigned videos showing the facilitator and interviewees examining often all too difficult topics of discussions. Many of the themes considered were matters that I have grappled with (i.e. love, womanhood, race, gender, power, etc.) If you haven’t had a chance to see some of these recordings check them out here at The Fresh Performance Project.

In our workshop, it was clear that we too would be doing the same. We were placed in groups and given a moment to choose a topic to represent. My group which consisted of three other women of like minds immediately bonded and strategized on the best way to create a Performance Art piece that would best reflect the “high rates of unemployment” in Grenada. We jumped right into discussion  focusing on the:

  • Impact on women and men, families

  • Risk factors (including teen pregnancy, transactional sex, prostitution, etc.)

  • Crimes associated with unemployment

  • Mental illness/ depression as a result of shame and guilt

  • Stigma

  • Emasculation

The discussion was invigorating but time was of the essence. We had less than 24 hours to plan and execute a 15-20 minute performance.

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 5.18.29 PM

If you can imagine the planning for the actual piece was even more stimulating. We decided to go with developing something powerful yet simple.  Our prop- a black shroud representing the shame and stigma of unemployment and underneath was going to be myself and two other teammates demonstrating:

  • Violence

  • Prostitution

  • Teen Pregnancy

  • Depression

At the end of our demonstration we’d plan to fall to the ground in exhaustion and despair.

Group4 - Unemployement

On the day of the actual performance we did all that we had planned and more. However, I was not prepared for the reactions of the public who stood there watching the three of us lying under this black shroud for over 10 minutes. I was amazed at the comments that I could overhear from those standing near as well as those of passersby.  Things like:

  • “Dey dead? Someone call the police!”

  • “Oh my, the floor is dirty- you’ll catch germs!”

  • “Kick dem, see if dey move?”

  • “What’s really goin on there?”

  • “I wonder how long dey really goin to lay there?”

After it had become uncomfortable (for our audience) and unbearably HOT under that shroud (for us), I gave my team members the sign that it was time to be revived. And it couldn’t have been a minute to soon! Amazingly enough we arose to a standing ovation, hoots and claps. It was quite fitting that we were that last group of performers to perform among a pack of talented individuals.

By the end of my teams’ performance I was gratified once again for another opportunity to stretch myself in a different direction. Most importantly, I am grateful to add one more tool into my arsenal of techniques for creativity. I. Have. Been. Re-inspired. What about you?

 

See Magnify the Message by Sherry Hamlet for another reflection related to Groundation Grenada’s performance art workshop.

__________________

melinda blaisemelinda blaise

melinda blaise is a clinically trained psychotherapist, currently serving in Grenada as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer working with the Ministry of Social Development and Housing as a Pyscho-Social Educational Development Officer. In this capacity she develops trainings for personnel responding to adult victims of trauma, including sexual violence and domestic violence. She hopes to utilize aspects of Performance Art at her post as a tool to educate and to inspire the masses around the prevalent issue of Gender Based Violence. She promises… absolutely no singing will be involved -at least not by her!

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 6, 2014 10:20 am

    It sounds like a wonderful experience – for you and for the audience. I love performance art and wish I could see more of it on Caribbean streets!

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