Friday, March 6, 2015

Navigating loss and longing

We have to work very hard to bring forward our ideas and feelings in writing sometimes. I've asked a number of you to write on the blog and you seem interested and then the rest of life takes over. I absolutely feel the same way. One way I come into my writing is through very specific affective experiences. What does it feel like to visit your schools? What does it feel like to experience an exhibition, etc.? And so I will talk about two specific instances of experience around the topic of loss and longing because that is the curricular theme within our group that is really resonating with me personally.

Experience 1

I went to the MCA to rehearse my pecha kucha presentation for the NAEA curriculum slam. While I was at the museum I visited two exhibitions, Doris Salcedo and Body Doubles. When I'm in the museum I look for a piece of work to move me in unexpected ways. I was prepared to feel moved by Salcedo's work around loss and mourning through her reconstructed objects. I felt the weight of dead bodies in the cumbersome tables that we had to navigate to get into the exhibition. These tables felt insurmountable and difficult. I thought,  get out of my way tables, but the whole point was that I had to walk through, in and around these objects/dead bodies. We must go through our grief.

This piece translates loosely to "silent prayer" and emerged out of a research process that involved looking at gang violence in LA. Salcedo "noted how victims and perpetrators of gang violence often share socioeconomic circumstances that lead to conditions of increased violence. They are often viewed as lesser in the eyes of broader society. The work was also made in response to Salcedo's experience of mass graves she visited with grieving mothers in Columbia who were searching for their missing sons."- MCA catalogue notes

Doris Salcedo, Plegaria Muda
The piece that moved me in an unexpected way was a film by Wu Tsang within the Body Doubles exhibition based on a Japanese book/movie. I felt caught off guard by the absolutely real sentiments that came out of the actors mouths. While at times they seemed cliche ("say you love me"), Tsang is playing with the Spanish telenovela genre in this film, other times the words seemed piercingly true. And perhaps this is how we play our lives too, melodrama mixed with feelings of true loss, longing and desire. It would be interesting to see how students feel about this film as it plays with queerness and doubleness. Queerness isn't just the act of being gay but also the idea of otherness.

Experience 2

Yesterday I visited Deni Drinkwater's 8th graders at Edison. I really enjoyed sitting with Deni during her prep to review our parallel histories and to consider what a contemporary art curriculum can look like. Many members of our group have overlaps in where you studied, and who you student taught with, etc. You have a strange sort of ancestral lineage. We should map it some time. You would be surprised.

I was moved by a conversation with an 8th grade male student. We sat at the computer and talked about Mark Bradford, hurricane Katrina and the possibility of not getting into a selective enrollment high school. He got into Northside. I said, "What would you do if you didn't get into one of these schools?" He said, "I never thought I wouldn't". I was really stunned to think about how we cannot be fully prepared for the way loss, longing and discomfort creep up on us. What happens when everything that we thought would happen falls apart? I trust that this student will do well at Northside and yet there is no way to be fully prepared for what might come to us in the way of loss and longing. Our students represent a kind of potential and perhaps this is what makes teaching so appealing. We are witness to student's potential everyday. I wonder, how do we attend to our potential, loss, and longing as teachers?

I have to be prepared for the unexpected to move me, shake me and force me to attend to uncomfortable feelings. This is where our curricular themes and life start to over lap. Writing the curriculum is a process of navigating all these feelings.

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