AN ARTS-BASED RESEARCH PROJECT

Spring 2016/17 Exhibit: #tumblingbodies #academiccartographies

WBJ Gallery, Florida State University

TODD Gallery, Middle Tennessee State University

#Blackademic (PhD Robe)

The doctoral robe/garment functions effectively as an aesthetic of academic distinction. Worn during ceremonial interaction, it influences the establishment of a perceived identity of self/other. Using sartorialism as a way to evoke complex intersections of public and private identity, I am interested in alluding to the sensory impulses it provokes within the wearer and viewer.

Those who achieve the status of adorning the robe, and then embrace the constructed hierarchies of rank within the structures of academia, are the bearers of labor on the track (service, teaching, research) toward solidifying an academic identity. Worn against a darkened complexion of racial identity and perceived through the eyes of another, less is understood of an “invisible” burden of labor. Thus, the presentation of the private self to the public space is problematized.

The interior lining of this doctoral robe is constructed of a waxed cotton textile, alluding to African lineage, yet its point of origin has proven to have a complex boundary-crossing—one that is not completely African but also Indonesian and Dutch. Through the construction of this garment, I problematize assumptions of a “Black” (academic) identity and find ways to complicate my less-acknowledged Asian and Hispanic lineage. A metaphorical veil, this embodiment also serves as a trope of colonization and commerce.

 

The map expresses the identity of the journey and what one journeys through. It merges with its object, when the object itself is movement, open and connectable in all its dimensions while also being a product of performance.

-Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari

AN ARTS-BASED COLLECTIVE RESEARCH PROJECT

Spring 2016 Exhibit: #tumblingbodies #academiccartographies

WJB Gallery, Florida State University

Sara Scott Shields, PhD; Gloria Wilson, PhD; Kelly Guyotte, PhD; Brooke Hofsess, PhD

As we encounter various spaces in our lived experiences, we, as academics/visual artists/educators have begun to consider embodied cartography as an ongoing process of both mapping and sensemaking.  Over the past two years, we have each found ourselves provoked by such embodied considerations as we graduated from the same doctoral program in art education and transitioned into tenure-track positions at different universities. Our physical movements tracked us toward four cities in the southeastern United States, and as researchers/artists/educators the aesthetic embodiment of such movements emerged in our experiences. Through ongoing dialogues, we  awakened to our interconnected epistemological, ontological, and methodological movements as we engaged each other and with our new spaces.

Our research draws upon two distinct, yet complementary qualitative methodological approaches: collaborative (collective) autoethnography and arts-based research. We re-imagine the potential for representation within shared scholarship through an ongoing arts-based autoethnography. Our inquiry engages the question: How do we, a diverse collective of female, tenure-track assistant professors, map our movements individually, collectively and aesthetically through academic spaces?  

By opening cartographic inquiries to also encompass the visual arts, art becomes a living discourse and relational event that brings together maker and observer. Embodied cartography as a theoretical perspective encourages moving through, engaging in, and therefore, entangling aesthetically with our human and nonhuman world. The diversity of factors shaping our lives as women, (spatial/bodily locations across time, for instance) has resulted in different expressions of these common themes. This framework acknowledges representations of corporeality in general, and specifically, race and gender as bodily inscriptions. As such, an understanding of “the body” necessitates that it holds meaning and does not and cannot exist independent of the world. The body is always in the world, of the world, with the world, part of the world.  

Our shared experiences as K-12 educators and tenure track faculty members unites us in these research explorations, yet we also acknowledge how our own epistemological and ontological influences generate varied experiences within our collective.  With this awareness of the difference among us, we feel it is important to specify the in, of, with and parts of the world our bodies occupy.  This arts informed and multi-voiced methodological approach to collaborative research brings together multiple researchers through co-constructed yet ambiguous, uncertain, and sometimes contradictory perspectives of cultural experiences. Embracing a critical postmodern sensibility, our approach preserves the individual voice while also exploring how these voices comprise a collective and dialogic process of meaning making through the research process.

Our work is informed by what becomes manifest in and through female bodies as they move through academic spaces. For this exhibition, we turn to arts based modes of representation to help fully realize the creative potential of our narratives.  On the tails of the representative debate, the arts emerge as a viable means of challenging what representation means and how researchers might both live in/with, and make sense of, our inquiries With the fundamental understanding of knowing as an embodied encounter and embracing the visual arts’ ability to seek out qualitative nuances, provide empathy, give new perspectives and tell about our capacity to engage with life.

Slam Poetry as Critical Duoethnography

/ˈkridək(ə)l/

Dr. Sara Scott Shields and I have been corresponding through emails, g-chats, and  phone calls and find ourselves returning to the question: How do we speak to a deeper humanity, using race as an opening? Using the methodological lens of duoethnography to work between and through the primary data which is our dialogues, we shift the ethnographic gaze from other to self and begin to explore this question through poetic performance. For us, duoethnographic poetry has emerged as a form of communal art-making and a way to give voice through democratic participation in prolonged interaction.

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Striving for intimate connection, we have committed to tension aimed at understanding and revealing the complexities and connectedness of human experience.  In keeping with a belief of researchers as the site of inquiry we pushed ourselves to consider how we might present the transformative outcome of this project to others.  With recent societal uptake in racially charged conversation, we see poetry as a method for engaging in generative performances focused on creating sites of dialogue with and about the critical issues often avoided or misrepresented in mainstream debate.   In searching for constructive representation, we are guided today by lyrical inquiry (Neilson, 2008), contemporary slam poetry (Eleveld & Smith, 2003; Somers-Willett, 2008), and the history and cadence of call and response religious traditions.

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Antiphony--or “call and response” patterns of speech are historically reflective of Black African (Africentric) and Black American oral and aesthetic tradition; often attributed to a West African tradition (Smitherman, 1985), these speech acts functioned as a means of organized communication among the enslaved and have since expanded to include performative and improvisational expressions that can be thought of as  communal forms of art-making (Sale, 1992). These characteristics of call and response patterns, hold value not only in what is said, but also in the rhythmic nature of how it is said.

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Most notably, this tradition is often recognized in its lyricality and is recognizable in “traditional” Black American religious and spiritual observance and practice (Bryerman 1985; Smitherman, 1985), aural expressions (such as jazz, rhythm and blues and hip hop) and in spoken word poetry (Walker, and Kuykendall, 2005). An additional important characteristic of this tradition is democratic participation between speaker and listener (and in the present case of this performance, between speaker and speaker).