Art and Activism Workshop

Seminar by, Josie Cockram

This workshop/seminar will consider making in protest and making in the midst of protest; is art, or can art be, analogous with activism? With focus on using and thinking about the voice, we will discuss and play with oratory, polyphonic narration, making a noise and silently seething.

This seminar began with a piece of writing by Audre Lorde entitled 'The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action'

I began reading the piece by asking myself, "what does a black lesbian writer have to say to me?" By the end of the piece I realised that, actually she had plenty to say to me and anyone else for that matter regardless of age, gender, sexuality or colour.

I think Lorde sums this up beautifully in the the closing paragraphs when she states:

'And where the words of women are crying to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives. That we not hide behind the mockeries of separations that have been imposed upon us and which so often we accept as our own. For instance, “I can’t possibly teach Black women’s writing – their experience is so different from mine.” Yet how many years have you spent teaching Plato and Shakespeare and Proust? Or another, “She’s a white woman and what could she possibly have to say to me?” Or, “She’s a lesbian, what would my husband say, or my chairman?” Or again, “This woman writes of her sons and I have no children.” And all the other endless ways in which we rob ourselves of ourselves and each other."

She concluded by saying:

'The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an at-tempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.'

Another statement that really resonated with me was a quote by Lorde's daughter saying:

“Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don’t speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside.”

Another piece of writing by Lorde I enjoyed was 'Poetry is Not a Luxury'

The article by Abaki Beck begins...

'In this text, Audre Lorde discusses poetry. Not poetry in terms of rhyming words or specific stanzas, as white literature frames it, but poetry as a mode of communicating and accessing our emotions. Too often, she argues, emotions are left by the wayside, and we are viewed merely in terms of our ability to think and produce. For women of color, however, poetry is vital for survival and for thinking of new ways of being and striving for justice in the world. She argues that only through connecting deeply with ourselves and our feelings can we find true ways to make lasting change. Poetry can help name these often intangible feelings and yearnings, and bring them into being. Poetry, she says, helps bring a name to our pain and our joys, which are meant to be destroyed in a capitalist society.'

I found this interesting as my recent engagement with poetry was very much that of the 'rhyming words or specific stanzas, as white literature frames it'. I had not thought of poetry in terms of protest and striving for justice or really as 'a mode of communicating and accessing our emotions'

Beck also gave some interesting quotes by Lorde:

“We can train ourselves to respect our feelings, and to discipline (transpose) them into a language that matches those feelings so they can be shared. And where that language does not yet exist, it is our poetry which helps to fashion it. Poetry is not only dream or vision, it is the skeleton architecture of our lives.”

“The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us - the poet - whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free. Poetry coins the language to express and charter this revolutionary awareness and demand, the implementation of that freedom.”

“Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”

Since the seminar I have gained a copy of and I'm currently reading:

Audre Lorde - The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master's House.

Links for research...

Sara Ahmed and Liv Nimand Duvå, ‘Those who tend to cause trouble’ (2014)

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