Post: ISIS Canada Community Art Weekend
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Blog: R E D + D R E S S + P R O D U C T I O N S
Post: ISIS Canada Community Art Weekend
On November 25, ISIS was the location for the Doctoral defense of Sabine Silberberg from Vancouver. Sabine was defending her arts-based Doctoral research, entitled: Illuminating Liminality--A collaborative photo-based process with people affected by marginalization in a harm-reduction environment through a combination of lecture and photographic images.
Sabine is a registered art therapist and expressive arts therapist who has been working in inner-city community based health care at the Dr. Peter Centre in Vancouver for the past 12 years. The Dr. Peter Centre provides innovative clinical services to individuals living with HIV/AIDS and other medical and psychological challenges. It is one of two supervised injection sites in North America.
Sabine mounted a collaborative photo project with 6 clients of the Dr. Peter Centre. All of them identified with living with the effects of marginalization and the intention of the project was to shed light on their resilience. What emerged was Sabine’s own learning about how to “shape the moment.” As she says, “In the end, what the process has left me with is the profound longing for what the participants have moved within me: absorption in artistic processes and following my own longing for beauty.”
Her dissertation committee (Steve Levine, Paul Antze and Ellen Levine) dialogued with Sabine after her presentation and awarded her the Doctorate with the designation of summa cum laude. Many of those who attended the defense were inspired to engage in art-making and arts-based research. Congratulations to Dr. Sabine Silberberg!!
On November 24, ISIS hosted a Volunteer Thank You Party at the home of Steve and Ellen Levine. There were many people who supported ISIS through a challenging year last year and we wanted to honor and celebrate their extraordinary dedication and support. We couldn’t have made it without our community behind us! Thanks again to everyone!
Steve and Ellen Levine were invited to Vancouver from November 9 to 19th to teach neutral mask and clown in a new expressive arts program founded by Heather Dawson, a highly experienced art therapist who received her Masters from EGS and is pursuing Doctoral studies at EGS as well. They worked with a group of 25 people in the first weekend and then a training group of ten people in the second weekend. As you can see from the pictures, the groups were lively, interesting and fun.
One of the finales of the summer school session is the student performance night. Here you can see the wide range of performances: poetry, singing, theatre, dance and visual projections.
The last picture is the CAGS group which will return for their second summer next year.
Another great summer in the wild and wacky world of the Alps!!
Another highlight of the second session was Paolo Knill’s 80th birthday celebration. Many guests including Shaun McNiff and Stan Strickland (jazz musician from Boston who is an expressive arts therapist) arrived to help with the festivities.
Every year, Steve and Ellen write, direct and perform in an original clown show which takes place after the graduation ceremony. The following was written by Steve to describe this year’s show:
Some of the inspiration for the show came from digital media and expressive arts courses at EGS and some from current political events, as you'll see below. The show was great fun. It started with the usual scenario: Max and Sadie (played by Steve and Ellen) arrive in Saas Fee to see their grandaughter Natalie (it used to be to see their daughter, but, as they say, times change). Max reminiscences about the old days, and he and Sadie start quarreling about things she wants to change that he wants to stay the same. He likes things in order - like in Russia, where they know how to have a strong leader - "Look!" A video projection on the large screen shows a clip below about Putin at a celebrity dinner playing the piano and singing "Blueberry Hill" (if you can believe it - totally ridiculous). Natalie says she has her own icon, and wants to change her name to hers: Nadezhda! At that point we showed a clip below from Pussy Riot's unauthorized and blasphemous anti-Putin performance in an Orthodox church in Moscow. For this, they have been charged are are in jail for the next year and a half.
Max is horrified, while Sadie loves them - so they start fighting again - until Nadezhda insists that they go to see a therapist - Dr. Putino! At this point we Skyped in one of our old clown buddies, Bruno Mock, who appeared on the large screen and lead us through three forms of therapy, each more catastrophic than the last: SOS (Solution-Oriented Solution), DDT (Dynamic Dance Therapy) and finally PLR (Past Life Regression). In the last one, Max and Sadie go back to three past lives in sequence, each of which ends in disaster: Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette, Abraham and Sarah, and finally a Neanderthal couple who can only grunt and chase each other around the stage. When Nadezhda finally wakes them up from their trance, Max admits that maybe the old days aren't as great as he thought. They all agree that it's time for a new sound. We then play the audio from the Anti Flag video "This is the New Sound," to which the performers and the audience all dance. Though we didn't play it, it's worth watching the video - did you ever think you'd see punk rockers being tortured by Muppets?
This is a poster from the show.....
During the second session (July 11 to August 1), we had many special guests and events. In many of the pictures, you can see how we use the surrounding landscape as a space for learning and artistic exploration---sometimes sharing the landscape with....cows! We also have lectures and presentations. One such lecture involved Steve, Paul Antze (professor and colleague from York University) and Ellen painting while they talked. The topic was Expressive Arts and Ecology. Here are some of Ellen’s reflections on the painting and the formation of the painting.
I had the impulse to use trash and garbage from around the town in the painting but, when I went searching for some, I couldn’t find anything but a few cigarette butts!! It really is clean in Switzerland! However, I did find a construction site where they had thrown away some burned out asphalt from an old roof. I picked some of that up, thinking it would be interesting to incorporate it into the painting. I also decided to challenge myself to only use black and white paint. Facing these constraints, I feel pleased with the result......for me it speaks to something about protecting the vulnerable spaces from contamination.
Here you can see the CAGS group (pre-doctoral students) using tables to construct group installations. This happened in one of the first classes and it became a way for students to connect and to get to know each other. We gave each group a “key word” and had them bring in materials from outside to add to the construction. Some of the key words were: “hope,” “art,” “play,” and “imagination.” After making the construction, the students developed performances to present to the whole group.
In the first period (from June 13 to July 4), there were a few highlights: a lecture by Steve with art-making by Ellen, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Cage. Here is Steve talking about the lecture.
I was talking on the 100th anniversary of Cage's birth, reflecting on his work and on the concept of improvisation as it happens in the expressive arts. I started out my giving some biographical information about Cage and the development of his music, pointing out that he actually hated improvisation for most of his life. He felt that it was too much tied to the performer's tastes and memories, and instead preferred chance procedures in the composition and performance of his work.
Then I conducted a performance of cage's 4'33'', with Paolo Knill on the piano. You can see Cage performing it on youtube. Afterwards, I showed one eminent music critic's views of the piece (google "Hitler's opinion of John Cage's 4'33'" on youtube).
Then I talked about the idea of improvisation in expressive arts and related it to similar concepts from other frameworks, like the Taoist wu-wei (non-doing) and Heidegger's Gelassenheit (letting-be).
At that point I discussed Cage's change of mind - in his late seventies, he developed a new appreciation for improvisation, and did an improvised lecture called How To Get Started (go to www.howtogetstarted.com). I gave a similar lecture - the method is to take ten topics of interest and talk (in a random order) for three minutes in an improvised way on each one, recording the first one and playing it back during the second, then playing back both the first and second during the third, etc. In the end there are ten takes of thirty-three minutes in total all playing at the same time.
While I was talking, Ellen was engaged in an analogous process using visual art materials - selecting objects from ten different containers and working with them to create an improvised structure in which all of them were involved. We projected Ellen's image on a big screen to make it easier to see.
Now here's where it gets interesting: Because we only had two speakers (Cage had ten channels to broadcast on), we decided it would be good to put away all the chairs and have the audience (students and faculty) walk around to hear the sounds from the different speakers. What we didn't realize was that by having them move around, they actually became part of the performance (something that Cage believed would happen in any case). It was like a dance - and a beautiful one at that. Since EGS students are such creative types, many of their movements were like dancing, and the audience as a whole became a dance ensemble in a multi-media presentation.
During this first session at EGS, we also had some music and poetry performances. Here you see Paolo Knill’s daughter-in-law, Ursina, performing in the church of the town of Saas Fee, where the school is located. Ursina has a classically trained voice and she also uses her voice in many strange and interesting ways. We also had a poetry evening in which Steve performed with Margo Fuchs Knill and Paolo provided the musical interludes and accompaniment.
The blog starts where we left off last time......with the spring in Toronto and the annual ISIS graduation ceremony on Ward’s Island, at the Clubhouse.
Seven women graduated in 2013 and the ceremony was colorful, warm and touching. The group did a performance using their painting as a kick-off for improvisational singing.
Shortly after the graduation, we left Toronto for our island and the ocean for a few weeks of rest. On June 9th, we left the island to go to Switzerland where we have been teaching every summer for the last 17 years!
Before we begin looking back over the last few months, our start this year has been terrific!! We have the biggest entering first year class in the history of the program---22 new students. The group is so large that we decided to divide it into two classes.
So we will have a Tuesday evening and a Thursday evening first year class this year!!
Welcome to all the new first year students and welcome back to the returning third year class.
We all got together for a Community Gathering on October 13th and 14th and it was a great kick-off for the year.