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Conversation and the Arts

 
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Wally Clausen



Joined: 11 Jul 2004
Posts: 12
Location: Weston, MA USA

PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2004 6:42 am    Post subject: Conversation and the Arts Reply with quote

In another post, on dialogue compared with deliberation under the theory/research heading, I have mentioned an upcoming venture where we are explicitly trying to bring multiple art forms -- music, dance/movement, theater, visual arts, poetry, etc. -- into the process of trying to understand, deal with, advocate for (etc.) global issues such as natural problems (hunger, disease, environment), aggression (war, violence, civil conflict), rights and participation (voice, everybody at the table), and fair/accessible marketplace (fair trade, empowerment to participate in the global marketplace).

I'm interested in others views, thinking, experiences, etc. I do not hold to so sharp a distinction among practice, theory, research as the present categories imply, but this seems the best location for this post anyway.

My interest and venture resonates, of course, with the Animating Democracy Initiative that was so pleasingly and constructively present at the last Conference. But there the focus was on the arts as support or instigation for civic dialogue (or deliberative dialogue, the definition ADI prefered), and the center of energy for shaping the conversation rested mainly with the artist, or arts organization. Here, we are interested in the arts as conversation-stimulant or conversation-enabler, and also as a potential element of the actions that may follow. To oversimply, here we are bringing arts to the issue, rather than having the issue emerge from the art.

And it is not so clear where the center of energy is. Here we will have artists, and also others -- people deeply concerned with an issue, or with all of the issues. The issue is: What can the arts, or artists, do to help the process of "working with" these issues?

Most of our conversational work involves "language", with attendant left-brained bias and the like. What are the "languages" or "vocabularies" (or codes, ...?) of various art forms? How can they help? In what way might artists and others work together to expand the "intelligences" available to us?

[Note: I recognize there's a school that would say we're all artists, etc. Here I'm thinking of "professional artists" - those who have made a commitment, become grounded in their fields, do this for a living or calling - as distinct from "others" whose lives and work do not happen to center in the arts. Blurring obviously takes place, as when professionals engage others in participatory forms of their art -- and indeed, this seems to be one of the richest avenues for exploration (e.g., the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange's work).]
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Wally Clausen
Clausen Associates -- Consultant
Partners of the Americas -- Volunteer
781-894-0793 Phone/Fax
[email protected]
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nancypeden
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 13, 2004 10:30 am    Post subject: Conversation and the Arts Reply with quote

Wally

What you are speaking of interests me. I will offer some thoughts and feelings, based on my training in Transformative Learning and Change and my life experience.

For me, the power of the arts, is that they can "reach beyond" cognition and our normal sense of conversation and so, I experience them as more powerful than the didactic and logical.

A great current example of the power of the "imaginal" (which in the model of an extended epistemology that I prefer, is "below" or more accessible than the theoretical) is Michael Moore's Farenheit 911. (What is needed to process and ground the emotionalism of such imaginal work as this movie, is emotional maturity, again "below" cognition in the extended epistemology.")

I know that this kind of imaginal presentation is provocative and I am glad it has been created, in spite of the polarization it may seem to cause. The imaginal can be provocative; advertising and the media know this power well.

I would love to see playlets on the art of dialogue and deliberation, good and bad examples.

When I have attended conferences where there has been a good amount of influence of indigineous teachers, there has usually been theater to teach and share processes, history, etc. and I feel I have understood much that I might have missed passively listening to a speech or deliberation.

Forgive me if I am being naive. I think what I want to say is that art that is rooted in clear intent can and is better than teaching the usual way, through the didactic, and even the deliberative. I hope you/we will create some expressions for the convention, though I do not know if I can attend yet.

Words will never be able to speak the power of the experience of well done dialogue and deliberation: these are acts, that are to me, sacred. The arts are needed to balance all the words. I hope the convention does do it again, this time the focus indeed will be different.

Thanks for considering.

Nancy Peden
www.livedlearning.net
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Wally Clausen



Joined: 11 Jul 2004
Posts: 12
Location: Weston, MA USA

PostPosted: Wed Jul 14, 2004 7:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nancy's post certainly captures one facet of arts-involvement that I'm interested in -- the capacity of the arts to help us reach into deeper realms of our experience and feeling (both individually and, with respect to dialogue, collectively).

On that, my own desire is to keep that aspect of the arts' contribution in balance with what, say, more structured approaches like "deliberation " offers. I'd rather address how they can be complementary than how or why this approach is better than that approach. The point about cultures, indigenous or otherwise, for whom the arts play a different, more central role is an intriguing one.

Of particular interest to me is the spectrum of arts' roles and modes in supporting individual perception and thought, dialogue and even action -- e.g., the spectrum from presentation to collaboration-across-roles, to actual participation. In the event I'm concerned with now, for instance, we could have an artist present an interpretation of a particular global challenge (hunger, violence, lack of voice or engagement, etc.) - an interpretation that might help us see things differently, more deeply, etc. Or we (the gathering, or a group within it) could work with an artist or artists where the artist's role is to capture what we are saying or expressing in a different way. Or, similar to what Liz Lerman did with a group of us at the Alexandria conference, we could be educated and coached (briefly) in a particular art form, and then "use" that art form to either/both express in a new way something specific that we think or feel, or have the art -- in the Lerman case, dance and movement -- become, sort of, part of us and how we see the world.

I wonder what others' experiences have been with these kinds of applications - and/or what your ideas are for how a specific art form or artists' mode of working might be brought to bear on a specific challenge or issue?
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Wally Clausen
Clausen Associates -- Consultant
Partners of the Americas -- Volunteer
781-894-0793 Phone/Fax
[email protected]
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