Writing About Fear

Yet another poem we wrote during Writing With Communities. This one was written based on the word “Fear”. After collating responses from the whole class to this word, we sat down to create a poem from words or phrases that struck us.

This is the poem my group created:

panic in the darkness as time passes slowly
fear of the future,
of being forgotten
of no love
of death

we start dying from the day that we are born.
each second that passes feels like hours
my insignificance grows with days passed in limbo

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Performing Research presentation 2013

This was a Performing Research presentation speech in 2013.

Presenters: Sasha-Rose Giles, Lenina Ofori, Timothy Doolan and Adelina Ong

Introduction
Sasha:

Good afternoon

Our research question is
Attaching Youth to Urban Arts: exploring the significance of attachment between young people and ‘risky’ art?

So… can you attach youth to urban art?

We’d like to explore the significance of attachment between young people and ‘risky’ art because we recognised a relationship between the young people and the Urban Art which offered a ‘secure base’ something we recognised in John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory.

Tim:
Conceptual Framework

Attachment Theory is “when a child engages in an activity that results in accessing or maintaining proximity to another who the child believes is better able to cope” (Bowlby 1988: 19).

Observing the behaviour of infants gradually exploring the environment, increasing distance from the carer, Bowlby suggests that the child uses this person as a “secure base”.

Donald Winnicott observed, “After a few months…most [carers] allow their infants some special object and expect them to become, as it were, addicted to such objects.ʼ These become, ʻthe first ʻnot meʼ possesionʼ known as the ‘Transitional object.ʼ and in the play with the object the child continues to develop. Through this ‘creative living’ as Winnicott calls it, as the child develops. The object is replaced with environment. A key discovery for us is in the ‘potential space between the individual and the environment’ (Winnicott 1971: 100) known as the, ‘Third area’ (Winnicott 1971: 102)

This is where ‘cultural experience’ is located and this, ‘potential space happens only in relation to a feeling of confidence…that is confidence related to the dependability of the …[or carer] or environmental elements, confidence being the evidence of dependability that is becoming introjected. We would argue that in that ‘Third area’ there is potential for our artists, often struggling with ‘that feeling of confidence’ to work out some form of attachment to their ‘urban art’. Winnicott asserts that …attachment behaviour is a characteristic of human nature throughout our lives, from the cradle to the grave. (Bowlby, 1988) But to what extent could this potential form of attachment alter the course of those characteristics?

Sasha
We interviewed many young people who have dedicated their lives to urban arts, some choosing to make careers out of their passion, across a wide field of disciplines.

Prezi Urban Arts

We are using the term urban arts to describe art forms that take place in public spaces and have an element of risk or stigma connected to them.

“Like dropping in on a quarter pipe or something on a mini ramp…You should just do it properly and get over that fear because the only barrier is in your head. Like everyone can do anything.” H, female skateboarder

Skateboarding, graffiti and street dance resonated with the idea of physical risk and spoken word and music represented for us, an emotional ‘risk’ as we find these forms emotionally ‘transparent’, requiring great vulnerability from the performer. However, as H says, the “only barrier is in your head”. Once they overcome fear, they find a sense of identity, empowerment and belonging.

We went into this research with a passion for young people hoping to find something and we realized it’s not just the art, it’s where it is, who it represents and what it means to them. We found that urban artists struggle to be taken seriously and this echoes Giroux’s observations that youths are “bearing the brunt of a system that leaves them uneducated and jobless and, ultimately, offers them one of the few options available for people who no longer have available roles to play as producers or consumers ­ either poverty or prison. ” (Giroux 2012).

Tim:
As part of the research we wanted to engage in a practical interactive way with Urban Artists. We initially planned to facilitate a workshop in Urban arts. However recognising that the youths are the experts, we chose to borrow from Friere’s “cultural synthesis” (Freire 2005: 179), not assuming a position of authority or superiority but rather, meeting the youths on their own territory expecting them to teach us.

Visual fly-thru Prezi map with each tube station
We explored Urban arts from London, Luton and Singapore. We visited Trocadero, Royal Festival Hall and interviewed street artists, walking with them to Waterloo and making spoken word on the way. We did a graffiti walk following a map tipped by an Internet community on Londonist.com starting at Whitechapel through Brick Lane to Old Street tube. We followed a homeless sculptor through Shoreditch on a Unseen Tour by the Sock Mob. There was an air of pretentiousness and restriction in galleries, but an overwhelming sense of freedom in urban arts. We found the street gallery astounding. (Show the collage of graffiti).

Adelina
Psychogeographically, the graffiti provided a visible voice for the community. Ranging from

collages of racially fragmented identities in Whitechapel,

to woodcuts of elderly isolation threatened by invisibility in Bricklane,

to spray-painted precision lines of depression and despair in Old Street

To newspaper sticker monsters for a child with leukaemia.

Psychogeography, popularised by Guy Debord and The Situationists in the mid-1950s, is defined as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, whether consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals“ (Knabb 2006).

For us, the sprawling graffiti in London represents freedom.

Speaking personally, It reminds me of the one legitimised graffiti wall that I have in Singapore. It reminds me of what one has to risk in order to overcome fear.

Urban arts are publicly spectacular form of play that has spilled out of the home, into the streets, creating “a differential space through which the city is rendered a site of play and pleasure, surprise and critical possibility” (Dickens 2008: 3). To borrow from De Certeau, this play is a form of publicly spectacular perruque where one “finds ways of using the constraining order of the place…without leaving the place…he establishes within it a degree of plurality and creativity” (De Certeau 1988: 30).

James Thompson advocates the need for applied theatre practitioners to make alliances with “performance artists who specialise in public spectaculars, site-specific interventions and transgressive perruque-like critical acts” (Thompson 2011: 41). Urban arts matter because they are publicly spectacular critical acts of perruque.

Lennina
Box 2 – Methodology, Conceptual Framework and Key Terms all weaved

Looking through the eyes of the youth in their urban habitat at the dialogue between attachment and creative possibility
the surrealness of liminality; is there a sense of belonging displayed by youth from graffiti to territoriality?
Our methodology of performance ethnography, juxtaposed with psychogeography
Finally through research of youth participation in urban arts we will experience their reality!

That spoken word piece was an example of performance ethnography.

The liminal pedagogical space provided by performance is complimented by the transparency and non-hierarchal position an ethnographer hopes to acquire. ‘liminality/liminal space, […] is defined, according to cultural anthropologist Victor Turner, as a site of transformation and a space where different networks come into conflict’ (Turner cited in Gokturn: 2010) Therefore by way of communion, of the two performance and ethnography offers an opportunity through liminality and as Turner states a ‘relatively undifferentiated community, or even communion of equal individuals’ (Turner 1969:96) is now possible, it becomes a ‘forum for cultural exchange’ (Denzin, 2003). Denzins’ 2003 Performance Ethnography, offered insight into this unconventional and non institutionalised research style-concerned mainly with the people it is researching.

As researchers we are aware that we cannot completely divest ourselves of our stereotypes, biases, socio-political views and culture.

Through performance, we are reassimilated into their society, which can be the place they perform in or the streets they spray in. For example, I performed spoken word with Kareem in Waterloo station, where we caused a minor congestion.

Through performance ethnography, the topographical views are eradicated from our minds at least, seeking to find the rationale behind their social behaviours, their cultural activities, and in our case their art forms.

Therefore we look at the participants somewhat hermeneutically, exploring theory and notions from the outside, then experiencing participation with the urban artists, and returning to the outside to reflect and assimilate new knowledge.

Trust comes into play. The researcher surrenders something and the participant is able to see that person is sincerely interested in them. ‘What is included here is an exposure of self only insofar as it takes us collectively “somewhere we couldn’t get to otherwise”’(Behar cited in Grady 2000: 19).

Sasha:
During this research, as we take part in the urban arts, emotions can be evoked in ourselves as researchers, emotions that young people may feel daily. Being able to experience their reality ensures we do not label them or make assumptions about youth ‘at risk’. We acknowledge Conrad’s argument that the “list of risk factors is so long that all youth might be said to be, in some way or other, ‘at-risk’ nowadays” (Conrad 28).

lena
Our research methodology presents the opportunity for us as researchers to look into the kinesis ‘the struggle/movement’ of the performances. Denzin quotes Conquergood as he speaks of the eradicating of ‘sedimented meanings and normative traditions’ (Conquergood cited in Denzin 2003:4) through performance. It is the ability to contextualise the behaviours through the kinesis thus challenging misconceptions about the participants that makes this methodology all the more desirable to Denzin and to ourselves as researchers.

We spoke a little of psychogeography in our introduction. Psychogeographically, I noticed there was a distinct difference between Kareem in London and Third Eye Premonition in Luton. Kareem had more opportunities in London to further his craft and was happy, passionate and engaged. Third Eye wrote and spoke monotonously that no one in Luton could help him grow as a spoken word artist. G says, “I am from Nigeria, but live in north London Edmonton and there is nothing in my area for my form of art, well as far as I am concerned”.

The risky art that we research is counter hegemonic, challenging the ‘dominant order’ of what is formally defined as art, and the groups partaking in it are often deemed unconventional themselves, therefore it is imperative that we integrate rather than interrogate,

Tim: participate rather than insinuate

Lena: challenging outside preconceptions,

Tim: ignorance,

Lena: topographical views

Tim: yet very importantly also challenging characteristics

Lena: the participants may be accustomed to

Tim: from Turner’s ‘outsiderhood’ (Turner 1974:237)

“If I stopped singing I’d go back to the Natalie that wouldn’t talk to anyone.” singer

Sasha:
When they grow up, adolescents practice territoriality, identifying with their area and representing their area as a sort of super place attachment. Massey says, ‘Territoriality in each case grows out of a deeply ingrained, learned place attachment. It is not just a product of material conditions, although they are important, but about values and practices that are shared between young people and are transmitted across generations’ (Massey in Skelton & Valentine 1998: 32)

In a 2008 case study on territoriality for Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Kintrea et al found that “territoriality is associated with disadvantage”, the research strongly supports programmes that are designed to create alternative opportunities for young people and offer them positive ways of affirming themselves other than on the streets” (Kintrea et al 2008: 7).

We believe that urban arts could offer such alternative opportunities.

Lennina
So do the youth find a truth
In the arts that they use
Tim:
Or does the graffiti that they spray help get out internalised speech
Do the skateboards that they float on help them to reach
Sasha
The happiness they may lack at home or institutions in which teachers teach
Does the spoken word they patter out give them a platform to preach
Tim
Does it enable us to come face to face with their true feelings
In order to gain understanding and meaning
Lennina
Have they become attached to the their risky art
Using it as a safe place to offload matters of the heart.
Sasha takes over Prezi

Adelina
Box 3 – Findings & Significance
In analysing the “significance” of attachment between young people and ‘risky’ art, we focused on four main stakeholders:

1. The Family

Tim:
“My brother passed away a couple of years ago so that was a really big blow and downfall of my life” – N

Sat in a dilapidated old pub in East London that looked derelict from the outside, the base was pumping from the music studio inside from young people mixing music and others rehearsing their dance. The pub was like a house, old sofa’s, heaters. The noise was just like a family gathering. Amidst this, Natalie told me, about losing her brother.

She said, “So with people that have lost family members I want to make them know that, yeah it’s hard at the beginning but you can get through it at the end of it and you can do stuff to dedicate them.” – N

Adelina:
“We are not a crew, We are family…I will stand by my crew, if anyone starts dissing my crew.” – W, street dancer

LIke a family that provides basic needs and emotional support, the urban arts community provides the social capital for employment and emotional support for youths. Bboy Felix says, “The general misconception about street dancers is that we are all delinquents and we all have no education, and we’ve got nothing better to do with our lives than to dance on the street.” (Huang in Seah 2013) But many of the young artists we interviewed have successfully challenged this perception by creating a career for themselves through urban arts. Felix owns a dance studio that employs 16 street dancers as teachers and certainly has helped to develop the street dance industry in Singapore.

Linking back to Winnicott’s “third area”, urban arts is an important cultural experience and a form of play provides “alternative opportunities for young people and offers them positive ways of affirming themselves” (Kintrea et al 2008: 7).

Sasha:
2. Youths

The word ‘expression’ is used frequently by the artists interviewed. The idea that these art forms give opportunity for young people to express themselves in a society where they rarely feel they can, is exciting but also disheartening.

E says “I have a different life. (Laughs) So our main thing…was to have, not persona’s but be the people that we wanted to be, that we are not brave enough to be”.

Our findings confirm that youths find a strong sense of self through urban arts. They find the courage to express themselves and in doing so, create braver versions of themselves. We suggest that urban arts could therefore set a strong foundation for youths to navigate a path towards being confident adults who have the opportunity to turn their talents into their profession.

3. Society

J says, “society tends to label young people as lazy and work shy but we aren’t. We just don’t get enough opportunities. Young people are so hungry to learn and so passionate and enthusiastic. I think people need to know that” (J, One Youth Dance).

Adelina
Giroux opines, “Already disenfranchised by virtue of their age, young people…find themselves living in a society that seeks to silence them as it makes them invisible” (Giroux 2012).

As alluded in our introduction, urban arts offers a publicly spectacular way of disrupting the hegemony, ‘as a valid cultural experience, in no way inferior to funded arts activities “from theatre to digital art” (Arts Council 2013). Whilst we acknowledge a complex tension between urban artists and the ‘art world’ that is beyond the scope of this research, we observe the desire of youths to be recognised as professional skateboarders, graffiti artists, spoken word poets and street dancers.

We recognise that some urban artists interviewed have become teachers and role models in their own right. They actively contribute to the growth of the urban arts scene, opening up new possibilities and professions for others. They strengthen the security of attachments within the “third area” by being mentors to other youths.

So what has this research taught us as applied theatre practitioners?

Psychogeography and performance ethnography gave us a peek into the perspectives of the urban artist at different stages of their craft. From tentative exploration, to feeling supported and confident; playing in the “third area” whilst strengthening the attachment for other young artists within; all this whilst consciously building support within the larger society for their craft.

We learnt a lot from them. If youths are a major focus of our work as applied theatre practitioners, we need to engage youths based on who they are, what they are interested in.

To borrow from Freire’s ‘cultural synthesis’, we do not come to “teach or to transmit or give anything, but rather to learn” (Freire 1993: 161) with the youths, about their world.

If we want to engage young people better then we need to learn to speak their language better through urban arts.

Lena
Through our research we’ve met youth crying out to be heard
And we were able to hear them ‘cos their language we learned
4 academics doing or speaking urban you say it’s absurd
Yet through our liminal standpoint they knew that we cared

They opened up to us in ways you never thought they would
The reason is because at last they felt understood
We learnt about their risky art ,their lives now and childhood
Can youth be attached to risky arts we found that they could

Speech written by:
Timothy Doolan, Sasha-Rose Giles, Lennina Ofori, Adelina Ong

Bibliography

Abram, J. (1996) The Language of Winnicott, London, Karnac Books

Arts Council (2013) ‘Funding’, Arts Council England, www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding (accessed 17.04.13)

Bowlby, J. (1970) Volume I: Attachment and Loss, London, The Hogarth Press

De Certeau, M. (1988) The Practice of Everyday Life, (trans. S. Randall) California, University of California Press.

Denzin, N (2003) ‘The Call to Performance’ in Performance Ethnography: Critical Pedagogy and the Performance of Culture, London, Sage

Dickens, L. (2008) ‘“Finders Keepers”: Performing the Street, the Gallery and the Spaces In-between’, Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1: 1-30

Friere, P. (1996) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, England, Penguin Books.

Giroux, H. (2012) ‘”The Suicidal State” and the “War on Youth”‘, truthout, truth-out.org/opinion/item/8421-the-suicidal-state-and-the-war-on-youth, 10.04.12 (accessed on 04.04.13)

Govan, E., Nicholson, H. and Normington, K. (eds.) (2007) Making a Performance : Devising Histories and Contemporary Practices, Abingdon, Routledge.

Hall, S., Held, D. and McGrew, T. (1992) Modernity and its Future, Cambridge, Polity Press and Open University

Kintrea, K, Bannister, J. Pickering, J, Reid, M & Suzuki, N. (2008) Young People and territoriality in British Cities, UK, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Kuppers, P. & Robertson, G. (eds.) (2007) The Community Performance Reader, London, Routledge

Lee, A. (2013) ”Sticker lady’ Samantha Lo pleads guilty’, TODAY,www.todayonline.com/singapore/sticker-lady-samantha-lo-pleads-guilty , 02.04.13 (accessed on 22.04.13)

Seah, M. (2013) ‘Movin to the Groove’, TODAY,www.recognizestudios.com/downloads/BreakinBad/BreakinBad_2.pdf, 16.01.13 (accessed on 03.04.13)

Skelton, T. & G, Valentine (1998) Cool Places: Geographies of Youth Cultures, London, Routledge.

Tan, A. (2010) ‘Swiss Vandal’s Jail Term for Spray Painting Train in Singapore Is Extended’, Bloomberg, www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-18/swiss-man-s-vandalism-jail-sentence-in-singapore-extended-by-two-months.html, 18.08.2010 (accessed on 22.04.13)

Thompson, J. (2011) Performance Affects: applied theatre and the end of effect, UK, Palgrave Macmillan

O’Toole, J. & Beckett, D. (2010) Educational Research: Creative Thinking & Doing, South Melbourne, Victoria, Oxford University Press.

Winnicott, D.W. (2005) Playing and Reality, Oxon, Routledge Classic

9 April 2013: Some Initial Thoughts on attachment theory, street culture and young people

The research question:

“Attaching Youth to Urban Arts: exploring the significance of attachment between young people and ‘risky’ art?”

This is a journal of sorts, detailing the research findings and thoughts…

Week 1: Taking stock of ‘Know How’ and ‘Know That’ (Nelson 2012)

Pearce highlights that a child is able to form “multiple attachments”, not just with one’s parents but also relatives and alternate caregivers and asserts that in social-emotional development, it is not about the relative significance of singular attachments, but rather, how the network of attachment figures support the individual. Pearce (in explaining Bowlby) is comparatively brief on how secure attachments lead to a “sense of self”, stating only that the child perceives himself to be “good, lovable and competent” when care is “consistent, sensitive and encouraging” (Pearce 2009: 18). Winnicott elaborates in Playing and Reality that “It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self” (Winnicott 2005: 73). Winnicott then links the adolescent’s need to test the security of attachment back to this discovery of self, stating that adolescents need to constantly test “security measures” because are:

“meeting frighteningly new and strong feelings in themselves, and they wish to know that the external controls are still there. But at the same time they must prove that they can break through these controls and establish themselves as themselves” (Winnicott 2006: 46).

Week 2 & 3 – Gathering ‘Know That’ (Nelson 2012)

Graffiti in Singapore remains an illegal act of vandalism. Urban artists like Trase and Sticker Lady use their art in ‘risky’ ways that push boundaries in Singapore in order to expand the territory claimed for artistic expression, advocating for freedom of speech in public spaces. Conrad argues that “youths’ risky or resistant behaviour could be seen as infrapolitical performative acts through which they appropriate (tacitly or deliberately) the mainstream portrayal of ‘deficiency’ and ‘deviancy’” (Conrad 2005: 31). Without romanticising the risky and transgressive actions of urban artists, I argue that urban artists have succeeded in expanding the definition of art and creating value for urban arts. OCBC Bank in Singapore recently commissioned Trase to create an artwork for the bank’s headquarters. The artwork intentionally lends itself to multiple (subversive) readings that critique the dominant discourse of capitalism as driver of innovation through competition (see picture above).

Week 4 & 5 – Deciding on our ‘Know What’ (Nelson 2012)

I am enjoying Broderick Chow’s ‘Parkour and the critique of ideology’ where he achieves heightened physical awareness of his surroundings saying, “I became aware, in that moment, of the oppressiveness of the architectural design in this council housing. It is only in using a wall in a paradoxical way that I understood its function…Why is this wall so high? Who is it trying to keep out? Or in?” (Chow 2010: 150 – 151) I decide to borrow Chow’s psychogeography to analyse focus on skateboarding, graffiti and breakdancing. Psychogeography is defined as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, whether consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals“ (Knabb 2006). Guy Debord and The Situationists popularised the practice of psychogeography in the mid-1950s and sought to challenge the consumption-oriented transport routes and routines by drifting through the city led by one’s pleasure and whim in a ‘derive’. Where one reflects on the psychological effects of the environment so that people become critically conscious of consumerism and “the emptiness of their lives” (Nicholson in Govan et al. 2007: 141). Anderson observes that, youths are “liminal beings” caught between childhood and adulthood and they occupy a “grey area within the mainstream: in terms of their age and the places they can go” (Anderson 2009: 133). Could this liminality be the key to understanding how ‘risky’ behaviour acts as a form of resistance?

Week 6 – 9 – Our ‘Know What’ + ‘Know How’

1. If the “indestructible environment” is not found at home, then youths will look to find secure attachment in the streets, through their art. Without family support, redirection is inevitable. We find evidence of this in our interviews where anger is turned into a productive and creative force.

Tim’s graffiti walk down Bricklane, Lena, Tim and Sasha’s interviews – they unhesitatingly state that their art is an outlet of expression when there is a need to vent anger and aggression.

In an interview with Lena, G says, “Writing it calms me down and I use it as my stress release as I just turn everything into spoken word”. Lena translates this into poetry, saying, “G used the spoken word to vent and his anger was contained, actioned through verbal punches and pattered out words”.

With Tim, E says, “When I’m angry I just sing and I’m trip again, off the air! Sometimes they don’t make sense after”. D, a graffiti artist says “it can be a good way of getting your aggression out’ and Rayner from Urban Legends says, “street dance reflects a certain situation…its part of their culture to dance, and on top of that they are angry and frustrated…dancing becomes a way to let out the frustration. Back in the day people felt a sense of injustice about their lives and street dance was a way to express them”. I know breakdancing saved my friend’s life. He would get into fights over a cheeseburger. He couldn’t express this anger at home and he couldn’t control it either. Then he found breakdancing and the battles gave him an outlet for his aggression. He’s worked out most of his anger now and is much more mellow.

With Tim, E says, “It’s the only thing that can put a smile on my face…If couldn’t have any attachment to music or singing I’d miss everything the feeling when I sing If I sing a song now and someone’s assessing you like and they say it was good or it wasn’t good – It’s good to get compliments it boosts your confidence and it make you feel good it makes you feel that what I actually put effort into people appreciate”

Winnicott and Bowlby concur that aggression can be productive: “angry behaviour between members of a family can often be functional…in the right place, at the right time, and in the right degree, anger can serve to maintain these vitally important long-term relationships” (Bowlby, 1988: 81). This resonates with O, a DJ who acts like a brother to the rap group at Brady Arts Centre. He posts, “I hate it with a passion that I’m more productive when I’m angry”.

2. Not all of them are able to find secure attachment figures. But they do find a sense of ‘self’, and when this sense of self is validated and accepted by the urban arts community, these youths also find “a sense of belonging”. They find their identity through the community identity defined by the urban art practiced. The aliases BBoy Felix, DJ Wonder Woman, Trase are examples of how one’s identity is defined by one’s chosen urban art.

E says: I have a different life. (Laughs) So our main thing in Skinny Latte was to have, not personas but be the people that we wanted to be, that we are not brave enough to be. N, interviewed by Tim says, “Just because you go through the hard stuff doesn’t mean that can’t come out on a good note. I don’t just have to be N from southeast London”.

Tim: Would you say then that you wouldn’t have got that confidence at home?

N: No. Without a doubt no.

Spoken word poet C says, “I wouldn’t say I have a specific mentor, but it is life which I use as my teacher to help me better myself as a poet.” Female skateboarder H says there wasn’t one person, but a community of people who “helped me and inspired me. I can’t remember anything specific but there’s just like everybody helps everybody within skateboarding, and like eggs each other on.”

3. Our interviews also indicated repeated mention of the urban arts community as “family”. Wansmoof, the street dancer I interviewed from Singapore said, “You always hear the phrase, “We are not a crew. We are family…” The name of a crew is like a family name to us…I will stand by my crew, if anyone starts dissing my crew…Same goes to anyone tries to cause problems to my real family or family name”.

Music producer K says, “The people I work with musically are family, they could only be family, how could I work with those I’m not close to?” “A rhetorical question”, Lena reflects, “that may not always be one satirically posed by a big time music producer; yet from a Nigerian young man who found himself in Marsh Farm, Luton, one of the most deprived wards; trust doesn’t always come too easily for him.”

Interestingly, Pure Evil who just completed a ‘tour’ in South Africa painted a picture of his newborn son, Bunny, on a wall of a house with the permission of its owner who recognised the commercial value a nice work of graffiti would bring to his property. By organising a trip to paint in Woodstock, South Africa, was Pure Evil reliving Woodstock of the 1969? Why did Pure Evil feel the need to paint a picture of his son – a performance home when away from home?

4. Wanting to “heal” others through their art
Neumark observes that, “Artistic practice, often through its inherent repetitive nature, invites the possibility for validation and integration” (Neumark in Kuppers & Robertson 2007: 147). Participants find “healing” as they use the symbolic language of art to “risk” revealing one’s memories and self to others. Neumark argues that “creativity, violence and the tendency to want to save others are intricately linked” (Ibid: 147). We believe this is something applied theatre practitioners should be conscious of in working with urban artists to create programmes.

K, a music producer says, the inspiration for his song ‘Lost Orphan’ was the “reality of our community where kids are being raised by negative role models and nothing but negative deeds are therefore implanted in their thoughts.” K attributes this to “the lack of fathers in our community”. He said, ‘A woman couldn’t fully BRING UP a man’ therefore the loss of a man in a boy’s life plays a big loss in his development. Notice how I said a woman cannot ‘bring up’ rather than ‘raised’”. Lena reports that K says his family “did not respect their art form” and this was commonly expressed by many of the spoken word poets she interviewed.

W, a youth music producer says that he lost his father at a young age. Watching him work with the young people at a youth organisation, Tim reflects that the lack of a father figure may have compelled W to take on the identity of a surrogate father figure to at risk youths that he works with.

However, it is precisely this role that people like W play that inspires young people to want to be a role model for others. One of W’s youths, N, who is interviewed by Tim says, “So for example with me…My brother passed away a couple of years so that was a really big blow and downfall of my life. So with people that have lost family members I want to make them know that, yeah it’s hard at the beginning but you can get through it at the end of it and you can do stuff to dedicate them. Singing brought out my confidence and…So I’d say If I stopped singing I’d go back to the N that wouldn’t talk to anyone.”

The desire to help others through art is communicated through several other interviewees. Spoken word poet C says, Spoken word for me is not something which I use to benefit me, but instead I use it as a medium to be the voice of individuals who have been hurt, misunderstood, underestimated, frowned upon and belittled. It is my way of making people more aware of what others go through.”

E, in her interview with Tim says that music offered, “a way to speak because sometimes speaking isn’t enough…you can say words but to sing it you have to show emotion.”

As I sorted through the findings, I became increasingly frustrated with ethnography’s limitations as a methodology. The mass of findings accumulated was overwhelming, filled with “thick descriptions” but lacking insight or critique of the observed phenomenon.

I turn to psychogeography and that leads me to…

5. Accessibility (affordability) was another aspect of urban arts valued by its practitioners who felt that anyone, any age could participate in urban arts. Many talk of not being able to afford classes and learning from the community who gathered around informal locations like Trocadero for street dance, “Brixton Beach” for skateboarding. It’s about having “accessible expression”, says J2 in an interview with Sasha. “You don’t have to play a certain type of instrument or have a certain type of tool, it is just you and a piece of paper and a pen”.

This jars with the increasing gentrification of areas that have become “hip” because of the urban artists. A mapping of graffiti by Roa, graffiti sighted on the Unseen Tour by the Sock Mob and Tim’s Graffiti Tour of Bricklane centres around Shoreditch High Street overground station and is bordered by City Road, Hoxton Square, Hanbury Street and Spitalfields market. We see the consumption of “a city’s aesthetics and culture” (McRae 2008: 33) through ‘gentrification’ – where it is possible to acquire a “hip” identity through the artists associated with one’s postal code.

The most recent illustration of the cultural consumption that threatens urban arts: Banksy’s Slave Labour which was cut out of a wall in Haringey. It appeared on an American online art auction site. Two enraged “millionaire property developers” accused the Haringey Council of “doing nothing” to protect the work (Wright 2013). Which begs the question, “What moral high ground in community art interests could these property developers possibly claim to possess?” Interestingly, Henry, my Sock Mob guide, tells me that a graffiti artist would never paint over another person’s work unless he has a bone to pick with that person. There is a respect of each other’s work (and place) that comes with the reclaiming of space. Perhaps one loses some sense of respect for others when one is driven by consumption.

I am reminded of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl,

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz…
the madman bum and angel beat in Time,
unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death,
and rose incarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow of the band
and blew the suffering of America’s naked mind for love into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry
that shivered the cities down to the last radio,
with the absolute heart of the poem butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.”

Stranger, in his painting “Needs and Benefits” notes that “Most of the technology we see today is not something we really need…The process of this painting made me think about how the city has been evolving to make it a beneficial place but might end up turning itself into a ludicrous with redundant needs”.

6. Anderson notes that, “Every generation of youth culture, in every place, produces its own groups…youths have constructed for themselves their own identity positions and senses of place” (Anderson 2009: 136). Do youths reclaim a sense of place when they claim an identity position within urban arts? In a case study on territoriality, Kintrea et al. argue that, “territoriality is a kind of ‘super place attachment’…where young people identify themselves topographically. Perhaps urban arts decreases territoriality by providing an alternate identity that becomes more important to the youth than his/her geographical location.

Week 10 – Identifying ‘Praxis’ (Nelson 2012)
In analysing the “significance” of attachment between young people and ‘risky’ art, we chose to focus on “significance” of our findings in regards to four main stakeholders:

i. Youth:
Giroux opines, “Already disenfranchised by virtue of their age, young people…find themselves living in a society that seeks to silence them as it makes them invisible” (Giroux 2012). With the regularity of recessions and collapse of economic institutions, young people no longer enjoy the secure economic futures with stable jobs that their parents enjoyed. They are told to manage their expectations in terms of remuneration and job security whilst being blamed for their ‘unemployability’, viewed as “unproductive, excess and utterly expendable” (Ibid).

Through the urban arts, many of the young artists we interviewed have successfully created a career for themselves. BBoy Felix owns a dance studio that runs street dance classes for professionals. It broke even through the international breakdancing competitions that Felix organises and Felix has renewed his lease for two more years. He currently employs 16 street dancers as teachers and certainly has helped to develop the street dance industry in Singapore.

ii. Family
Despite its numerous positive outcomes, the various forms of urban arts researched (in and of themselves) do not provide an adequate “indestructible environment”. With all reclaimed sites, they are temporal and can be taken away. The effort to save Southbank Undercroft is a case in point. After becoming a “legendary destination” amongst the international skateboarding community, it is threatened again by Southbank Centre with relocation. One skateboarder on the “Save Southbank Skate Park” Facebook Page writes, “We don’t want another purpose built man made skate park, we want to cruise through the streets, finding weird and strange things along the way, using that architecture in ways no one else would have thought of…we want this freedom and this reality, this idea of pure street skateboarding.”

Adolescents need both the secure attachment of a family and the freedom to “break controls” in order to discover their “sense of self” (Winnicott 2006: 46).

What is significant here is that the modern “nuclear family unit”, defined by the Family Policy Social Centre (FPSC) as “a set of parents and their children” (FPSC 2009) does not seem to provide the adolescent with a sense of identity. The identity is created by breaking “external controls of all kinds” as a secure adolescent has confidence in self-control and when “self control is a fact then security that is imposed is an insult” (Winnicott 2006: 46). This is certainly different from the Renaissance family where one’s family name was synonymous with one’s identity, reflecting one’s profession and position in society. The interaction between ‘self’ and ‘society’ produced the ‘identity’ which was then supposed to “stitch the subject into…the fabric of society” (Hall 1992: 276). This is no longer the case today.

I argue that the gaze of urban art communities and their audiences are in fact Lacan’s “formation of the self in the ‘look’ of the Other” (Ibid: 287). Youths find identity in urban arts then “not so much from the fullness of identity which is already inside us as individuals, but from a lack of wholeness which is ‘filled’ from outside us, by the ways we imagine ourselves to be seen by others” (Ibid: 287). Knowing that youth identity is created through the mirror of others in a Lacanian sense when they perform their art for others, the applied theatre practitioner must question the effects of such a gaze and raise consciousness of its possible negative consequences.

Hall argues that the “host of estranged figures in twentieth century literature and social criticism” reinforce the construct of ‘self’ as the “isolated, exiled or estranged individual framed against the background of the anonymous and impersonal crowd or metropolis“ (Hall 1992: 285). ‘Stranger’ as a graffiti alias seems to embody this identity “estrangement”. Does Stranger reclaim a sense of self when he inscribes his alias on a (non-designated) wall? Can the act of reclaiming a space also create a sense of identity “wholeness”?

iii. Society
Following from the above, I argue that it is vital that the funders and policy makers recognise that neglect of urban art development would deprive our youths of a significant positive environment for the shaping of their identity. As Giroux cautions, the demonisation and disposability of youth is tantamount to “suicide” for any society because it encourages a “culture of cruelty in which the ultimate form of entertainment has become the pain and suffering of others, especially those considered throwaways, other, or without consumer privileges and rights” (Giroux 2012).
For property owners, it is also necessary to acknowledge that it is the nature of urban arts to reclaim ‘found spaces’ within the city for its activities. Where a symbiotic relationship has been established between the urban artists and the local community, I argue that property owners should embrace and support this as they would other forms of community art. Obviously the property developers in Haringey appreciate that having a Banksy on its walls increases the property value to their benefit. But the skateboarders at Southbank are not credited with turning the Southbank Undercroft into a world-famous destination for tourists and skateboarders. Spoken word poets perform within Southbank and the Barbican, but some urban art expressions are more artistically validated than others.

Can One Buy Identity?
One worrying emerging trend is the commodification of identities. Giroux says, “kids learn early that social exclusion is tied to one’s status as a shopper, that identities are determined by owning the most fashionable commodities” (Giroux 2010: 55). There is an ongoing ‘war’ between skateboarders and hipsters who pose as skateboarders. Owning a longboard, or a penny skateboard, has become the new indicator of ‘hip’. In his mockumentary Exit through the Gift Shop, Banksy satirises the art world’s fascination with acquiring graffiti, as if exhibiting a piece of wall in their homes buys ‘street cred’. As much as urban artists fight against it, can they resist being assimilated into consumerism?

iv. To the field of applied theatre:

There is a growing body of research, particularly in the fields of cultural and social geography, that explore attachment theory in relation to youths’ engagement in urban arts. As an applied theatre researcher and practitioner, I am compelled to question the intention of competitions and reality contests that commercialise the visually spectacular nature of urban arts. Commercialisation pigeonholes youths into categories established by corporations who seek to turn youths into products fit for consumption. Giroux highlights how this unbridled consumerism that over-sexualises young girls and militarises young boys produces “future generations of young people who cannot separate their identities, values, and dreams from the world of commerce, brands and commodities” (Giroux 2010: 32). Can applied theatre practitioners afford to stand by whilst the identities of our youths are commoditised?

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anderson, J. (2009) Understanding Cultural Geography: Places and Traces, Oxon, Routledge
– Youths as “liminal beings” experimenting with their youth cultures on the margins
– how this threatens the mainstream
– tribalism or tribal behaviour in youth culture

Barrett, E. and Bolt, B. (eds.) (2007) Practice as Research : Approaches to Creative Arts Enquiry, London, I. B. Tauris.
– not particularly persuaded by PaR. I am still skeptical of how some people might try to pass off producing an interesting collaborative performance or artwork as a piece of “research”

Bentley, T. and Gurumurthy, R. (1999) Destination Unknown: Engaging with the Problems of Marginalised Youth, London, Demos.
– there is a useful chapter here on youths and their relationships with adults

Bowlby, J. (1969) Attachment And Loss: Volume I, Attachment, London, Hogarth Press.
– useful chapter on nature and function of attachment behaviour

Brock, J. (2013) ‘Campaign aims to bring Banksy home’, HARINGEY TODAY, http://www.haringey-today.co.uk/News.cfm?id=6493 (accessed 7.3.13).

Chow, B. (2010) ‘Parkour and the critique of ideology: Turn-vaulting the fortresses of the city’, Journal of Dance & Somatic Practices, Vol. 2, No. 2: ­­­143 – 154
– psychogeographic analysis of parkour
– notions of alienation and territoriality explored

Clayden, J. & Stein, M (2005) Mentoring Young People Leaving Care: ‘Someone for Me’, York, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
– I like how this explores the long-term impact of having a mentor on young people leaving care
– very detailed interviews with mentor and young people on how they were matched, how often they met, what the mentor helped with specifically and post-mentoring reflections.
– young people were able to express preferences for mentor. e.g. a young women wanted a mentor who was also a young mother so she would be able to empathise and support with knowledge.
– mentoring could involve practical knowledge like how to shop for groceries, decorating their house, managing their finances, getting around via public transport etc. these are things we take forgranted, but they are not easy for young people leaving care.

Conrad, D. (2005) ‘Rethinking ‘at-risk’ in drama education: beyond prescribed roles’,Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, Vol. 10, No. 1: 27 — 41
– On redefining ‘at risk’ youths and how risky behaviour is a form of resistance

Cross, L. ‘Banksy Haringey mural auction ‘will stop if protesters prove theft’ | Metro News’, Metro, 1923, metro.co.uk/2013/02/23/banksy-responds-as-missing-haringey-mural-set-for-auction-3510607/ (accessed 7.3.13).
—– ‘‘Missing’ Haringey Banksy pulled from Miami auction at 11th hour’, Metro, 1924, metro.co.uk/2013/02/24/missing-haringey-banksy-pulled-from-miami-auction-at-11th-hour-3511335/ (accessed 7.3.13).

– link to Sock Mob tour where Henry was telling us that Banksy got so frustrated with people cutting out his work and selling it off that he decided to cut out his own artwork, make a copy of it on the wall and sell off the original so he could survive. Banksy now has his own gallery and people say that he has sold out. But an artist has to survive…and how else would one do that in this age of capitalism?

Debord, G. (2009) Society of the Spectacle, Eastbourne, Soul Bay Press.
– the guy who really developed the idea of Psychogeography.
– most of his work is now online as well at http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/index.htm

De Certeau, M. (1984) The Practice of Everyday Life, (trans. S. Rendall) Berkeley, University of California.
– the person who first came up with the idea of the flaneur, someone who is guided to walk the streets by pleasure…where his movements are not dictated by work or shopping

Denzin, N. (2003) Performance Ethnography: Critical Pedagogy and the Performance of Culture, London, Sage
– A passionate call for ethnographers to engage in “performance sensitive ways of knowing” and for more “dialogic” fieldwork

Dickens, L. (2008) ‘“Finders Keepers”: Performing the Street, the Gallery and the Spaces In-between’, Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1: 1-30
– A riveting analysis of grime chic and the tensions/pressures placed by the art world on the graffiti world

Dickens, Luke(2010) ‘Pictures on walls? Producing, pricing and collecting the street art screen print’, City, Vol. 14, No. 1: 63 — 81
– An analysis of Banksy’s Paintings on the Wall production house that manufactures screen prints of his street art

Duncombe, S. (2002) Cultural Resistance Reader, London, Verso.
– I really enjoyed the Manifesto for Walking article by Wrights & Sites because it showed how walking can be guided by pleasure (as a flaneur would) instead of being guided by work or consumption
– I also enjoyed the flash mob party on the train

Gallagher, K. (2008), The Methodological Dilemma: Creative, critical and collaborative approaches to qualitative research, Oxon, Routledge
– Loved Ch 5 on Performed Ethnography
– this provides a good defense of performance ethnography, and its strengths and weaknesses. We should highlight some of the issues surfaced here during our Performing Research presentation where it is necessary to illustrate that we are aware of the limitations in our research and did xxx to mitigate it

Gallagher, K. and Fine, M. (2007) The Theatre of Urban: Youth and Schooling in Dangerous Times, Toronto, Buffalo, University of Toronto Press.
– this is an example of THICK DESCRIPTION which Nicky advised us to do for our ethnographic methodology

Govan, E., Nicholson, H. and Normington, K. (eds.) (2007) Making a Performance : Devising Histories and Contemporary Practices, Abingdon, Routledge.
– I loved “Between Routes and Roots: Performance, Place and Diaspora” in ‘Performance Place and Diaspora” where Helen Nicholson talks about how “contemporary perceptions of indentity are formed by identifying with, and travelling between, different locations and multiple places.” (p136). She says, “spatial practices are therefore often reconfigured and unfixed in performane and how place is conceived, lived and perceived becomes redefined.

Giroux, H. (2010) Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability?, New York, Palgrave Macmillan
– a good argument here about how consumer culture has shaped the desires and aspirations of our youths. how youths today only think about their future in terms of having the power to be a ‘good consumer’ or being famous (celebrity) and becoming “a brand”. talks about how we have contributed to this sorry state of affairs. sobering.

Giroux, H. (2012) ‘”The Suicidal State” and the “War on Youth”‘, truthout, truth-out.org/opinion/item/8421-the-suicidal-state-and-the-war-on-youth, 10.04.12 (accessed on 04.04.13)

Hall, S., Held, D. and McGrew, T. (1992) Modernity and its Future, Cambridge, Polity Press and Open University
– On postmodern identity

Harvie, J. (2009) Theatre & the City, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.
– talks about cultural materialism and performative analysis
– also mentions Guy Debord’s derive and psychogeography and the De Certeau flaneur

Hopkins, D.J., Orr, S. and Solga, K. (eds.) (2009) Performance and the City, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.
– I enjoyed reading about the work of artists after 9/11. Recreating healing memories through performances in the city

Kintrea, K, Bannister, J. Pickering, J, Reid, M & Suzuki, N. (2008) Young People and territoriality in British Cities, UK, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
– breaks down reasons for territoriality in gangs and how this leads to violence
– uses case study of 6 areas to analyse with interviews of people in gangs and in the areas
– I found this really relevant to our group research….whilst gangs certainly express a high amount of territoriality, the ‘tribes’ formed by youths through urban arts may not (Canan mentioned their attachment to ‘place’ is ephemeral).
– it made me curious….and i don’t know about London, but in Singapore, the youths in general know that they are trespassing, that they are using a non-designated space. so when they have to leave, they just treat it as part of the nature of the relationship they have with the space. Perhaps one of the aspects of Urban Arts is this ability to de-escalate territoriality?

Knabb, K. ‘Situationist International Anthology’, Bureau of Public Secrets, 2006,http://www.bopsecrets.org/SI/index.htm (accessed 7.3.13).

Koh, J. (2012) ‘Sticker Lady’s Arrest: Is there space for street art in Singapore?’, Facebook page, Janice Koh, www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=414236755288024, 05.06.12 (accessed 19.01.13)

Kuppers, P. & Robertson, G. (eds.) (2007) The Community Performance Reader, London, Routledge
– Conquergood on the ethical dilemmas of performance ethnography: four sins of the ethnographer + advocacy of dialogic practice.
– Neumark on the healing nature of creative practice that uses symbolic language to mitigate the risk of revealing intimate details of ourselves through our memories

Lee, A. (2013) ”Sticker lady’ Samantha Lo pleads guilty’, TODAY,www.todayonline.com/singapore/sticker-lady-samantha-lo-pleads-guilty, 02.04.13 (accessed on 22.04.13)

Lefebvre, H., Kofman, E. (ed.) and Lebas, E. (ed.) (1996) Writings on Cities, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing.
– Three representations of space and how this is controlled.

Lo, S. (2011) ‘An Interview with Urban Artist Trase One’, The CANVAS,www.thecanvas.sg/showcase/interviews/an-interview-with-urban-artist-trase-one/, 15.02.11 (accessed on 20.01.13)

Lyall, S. ‘Borough Searches for Taken Banksy Mural – NYTimes.com’, 1928,http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/01/world/europe/give-us-our-banksy-mural-back-londoners-say.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 (accessed 7.3.13).

Mackey, S. & Whybrow, N. (2007) ‘Taking Place: Some Reflections on Performance and Community’, Research in Drama Education, Vol. 12, February 2007, No. 1: 1-14
– helpful to contextualise the space/place debate

McRae, J. (2008) Play, City, Life: Henri Lefebvre, Urban Exploration and Re-Imagined Possibilities for Urban Life, Unpublished PhD Thesis, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, Queen’s University
– Gentrification, consumption of city space. Buying the city. Buying an image?

Nelson, R. (2012) Evidencing the Research Inquiry, Lecture, CSSD, 15.01.13
– Useful for understanding the different phases of research and classifying different modes of knowing through findings collected.

O’Brian, A. & Donelan, K (eds.) (2008) The Arts and Youth at Risk: Global and Local Challenges, Cambridge, Cambridge Scholars Publishing
– Very crucial in highlighting the problems of defining youths as ‘at risk’ and evaluating various interventions undertaken with such youths. In particular Cahill worries me as she cites evidence that “at risk” youths who have undergone “helping programmes” may suffer more long-term negative effects in comparison to youths who did not undergo any programme at all

O’Toole, J. & Beckett, D. (2010) Educational Research: Creative Thinking & Doing, South Melbourne, Victoria, Oxford University Press.
– very useful in describing different methodologies possible

Pearce, C. (2009) A Short Introduction to Attachment and Attachment Disorder, London, Jessica Kingsley.
– A good examination of Bowlby’s attachment theory and how this relates to observed attachment disorders

Prentki, T. & Preston, S. (2009) The Applied Theatre Reader. London, Routledge
– Bell hooks on the margins. Need a community for resistance

Seah, M. (2013) ‘Movin to the Groove’, TODAY,www.recognizestudios.com/downloads/BreakinBad/BreakinBad_2.pdf, 16.01.13 (accessed on 03.04.13)
– breakdancers are not delinquent youths

Skelton, T. and Valentine, G. (eds.) (1998) Cool Places : Geographies of Youth Cultures, London, Routledge.

Storey, J. (ed.) (1994) Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, Hemel Hempstead, Harvester.

Taylor, S. (2009) Narratives of Identity and Place, London, Routledge.

Wertz, F.J.J. (2011) Five ways of doing qualitative analysis: phenomenological psychology, grounded theory, discourse analysis, narrative research, and intuitive inquiry. New York; London: Guilford.
– Useful for grounded theory and phenomenological methodology

Whybrow, N. (ed.) (2010) Performance and the Contemporary City: an Interdisciplinary Reader. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

Winnicott, D.W. (2005) Playing and Reality, Oxon, Routledge Classics.
– one can only discover one’s self through play

Winnicott, D.W. (2006) The Family And Individual Development, Oxon, Routledge Classics.
– I found the need for adolescents to test security in the family environment very relevant and it chimes with Tim’s findings on “indestructible environment”

Wisker, G. (2008) The Postgraduate Research Handbook, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan
– a really easy to understand, break it down in simple english guide on methodology, grounded theory, action research, data analysis strategies and lots of useful tips about managing your supervisor 🙂

Wright, H. ‘Council did ‘nothing’ to protect Banksy (From Haringey Independent)’, 1926,http://www.haringeyindependent.co.uk/news/10252342.Council_did__nothing__to_protect_Banksy/(accessed 7.3.13).

AntiGravity

gravity brick

In response to ‘Gravity’:

‘Sooner or later, for each of us, gravity came calling to shackle our ankles and dreams. But, for a time, we were free’. (Jacob Sam-La Rose 2006: 22)

Awkward blue railings

practising turnvaults.

Bitter cold

black hands like tarred walkways.

Crawling backwards

to that time when we were free

transgresses the present.

Spinning in and out of…

leaping onto walls

a brick falls

as she hits the ground. she calls it a day

…for now.

Gravity can shackle only that which has mass

reminding us that all things decay

and all architectural monuments

disintegrate with time.

Ideas survive.

We will be back to play…

Motion Sickness

1 Nov 2015

Just push me with your littlest finger and

I’d shatter into bright splinters of white light.

George Sand stares at the pianola in ION shopping mall performing Chopin.

She traces the ghostly movements of the keys

remembering where his hands would…

hate

I see green in the back of my throat

my insides keep turning, playing catch-up

with what I see and

where I want to be.

It only feels better when you close your eyes.

Afraid of Heights

railing

The higher you go the harder you fall – they all say.
Wonder Woman afraid to fly.
The invisible plane is a harness,
not a means to escape that glass ceiling.

One step in front of the other.
Light green leaves on dark brown branches
tickle my face.
Do not be tempted to rely on them for support.
Focus on feet.

Not accepting praise.
Or asking for recognition.
“It’s the team”, she says
They leap.
She decides she’s gone high enough
And steps down.