19 maggio, 2016

Social Practice, Collaboration, Poetry

Hi All, 

I echo Margaretha's thoughts on the discussion and Kyle's generative framing. I am deeply honored to engage in conversation with Margaretha's vital and evocative work. To begin, I will also share on two participatory art/social practice project I've been working on. Excited to engage in conversation. 

The first is the Kimchi Poetry Machine, which is currently housed at the Electronic Literature Collective 3. Iterations of the project have been installed at SOMArts in San Francisco, the Asian American Avant Garde Festival at CIIS, and other locations. I work centrally as a poet, and this project is interested in how to open up poetry as a means of participation and collaboration. For the poetry machine's programming, I asked seven feminist poets to create short "twitter" poems for the machine. 

The project is interested in how poetry can be participatory, feminist, and free. 

I have placed the description from the project below, and you can check out the link to ELO V3 as well. 


The Kimchi Poetry Machine is powered by open-source tangible computing. When the jar is opened, poetry audibly flows from it, and readers and listeners are immersed in the meditative experience of poetry. Small "kimchi twitter" paper poems are housed inside the jar, with each poem is printed an invitation to tweet a poem to the machine handle. Eight original feminist "kimchi twitter" poems were written for the machine by invited women and transgender poets. The Kimchi Poetry Machine prototype was created through my 2014 summer fellowship from the CITRIS (Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society) Invention Lab at the University of California, Berkeley. As a response to "bookless" libraries, The Kimchi Poetry Machine reimagines how tangible computing can be utilized for a feminist participatory engagement with poetry.

From the Center 

The second project is From the Center, a decade long collaborative project that implemented digital storytelling education for incarcerated women of color in the San Francisco Jail. The project draws from the framework of feminist participatory action research, and is interested in how digital education can be utilized to create educational curricula. As a feminist collaboration with academic, public health advocates, formerly, and incarcerated women, we focused on how incarcerated women, upon release, can join our team as paid research assistants and leaders of the project.

In 2009, we began to explore how art practice and specifically documentary could be utilized to highlight social issues of HIV/AIDS and women of color. However, based on our commitment to feminist PAR principles, we decided to create a program where incarcerated women of color can gain digital art skills and hold roles as leaders and creators for HIV/AIDS curricula in the jail setting. We focus on constructionist learning--learning through creating, and how digital media access can be share for women inside and outside the jail setting as authors, directors, and storytellers of their own lives. 

We are currently updating our website. For more information, you can view the digital stories here: https://vimeo.com/26096719  

As Margaretha and Kyle posit, I'm very interested in ethics and the politics of social practice community/collaborative art. I am interested in working through issues of power,  and how as Kyle writes, "taking seriously the idea that arts practice can meaningfully combat the seemingly inevitability of dispossession." I am moved by Margaretha's interventions with Guerrilla Grafters that transform the cityscape not only with graft of fruit but the socio-political implications "introducing new connections and conflicts between grafters, property owners, various human and non-human fruit eaters, and city officials." 

I think much of the collaborative work is one that transgresses roles and places people in necessary conversation (or/and conflict) for social change.  

One of the most moving outcomes of From the Center, was when one of the participants Helen Hall was able to present her story Miracle to HIV/AIDS researchers at UCSF, and  how art can intervene within binary economy of community/experts and center issues of incarceration: https://vimeo.com/26096719

I'd love to explore questions of institutional critique and social practice art. What is gained and lost when social practice art is legible as "art" within particular institutions? How is change (structural and individual) occur through aesthetics? How does one teach social practice art, especially when engaged within and with institutional power? I've found myself retiring to read Linda Tuhiwai Smith and Paulo Freire and love to discuss how their concepts of libratory education and knowledge product may shape the discourse on social practice, community collaboration, and advocacy. Also interested to discuss affect such as grief, joy, and pain. 



Margaret Rhee, Ph.D. 
Department of Women's and Gender Studies 
University of Oregon