Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Looking Back, capturing what we did

In our last week, we collected quite a bit of material.  We've posted the speeches from the final performance, other writings that didn't get performed, and our artists' reflections on what surprised them, and what they took away from their participation in My City, My Voice.

Check out this great content on the "Pages" menu to the right.  If you have any feedback for our project, leave us a comment!

Monday, August 9, 2010

TONIGHT: Our final performance!

Hi everyone out there,

We'd like to invite anyone in the Cambridge/Boston area to join us tonight from 6-8 PM for our final performance.  We'll be performing movement/dance pieces accompanied by orations, poetry, and music that we all made ourselves.  Our larger-than-life burned wood full-body pieces and face portraits will also be on display. 

Join us at: 6 PM, Cambridge City Hall Annex at 344 Broadway, corner of Broadway and Inman street.  We'll be in the outdoor east patio area (pictured).       

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Performance Arc

Today, my group had to work on creating a Performance Arc for our final performance. My group was made up of Phoebe, Jennifer, Wahed, and Kaychette. Our group was the “Directors” group. Today, we spent a long time trying to create different Performance Arcs for our performance. A Performance Arc is necessary for a performance because it helps the performers and the directors know what story they are following and what emotion goes with that story. It also helps them figure out what pieces are going into the performance and which are not; also where are those pieces going to be and at what time are they going to take place. What we did was take everything that we are going to incorporate into our performance and we created a story with our material. We took all of the poems and written pieces, and we took all of the dance and movement pieces and put them into a map or a story line of some sorts. It was stressful trying to come up with various different ways that we can portray the same story. It was difficult because everyone had their own idea and wanted to create their own map. But then, there were some people that did not agree with that idea. We all said what we wanted to say and we all took into consideration all the comments and feedback that they got. At the end, we managed to work with each other and we came up with way more than five Performance Arcs that could work. I feel like we accomplished all that we needed to in order to get our work done.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Images to Be Burned

Check the evolution: from photo to stamp...Next step is larger-than-life burned images to be displayed on August 9th at the Cambridge Arts Council on 344 Broadway.

Directors Group

Being in the directors group made me feel like I really had a huge role in the event because as a member of the directors group, I am one of the people responsible for forming a story and making a performance arc. The performance arc is very important because it is a range of moods and tones that we want our audience to feel as we perform our pieces. I feel involved because I’m a person who helps decide on important details and decision-making. It was exciting to form the plan and to make it happen. It was a lot of work and just doing it took a lot of deep thinking and reflection, for example at the very beginning, we weren’t sure on how we wanted to make the audience feel, but eventually we figured it out we wanted them to start in a neutral place. At times it was difficult and frustrating because we wanted the best, we wanted everything to be perfect and at times we would get stuck especially when there was something that did not quite fit. The experience overall was a challenging. Everything that we were doing was so complex and it was great having the responsibility to plot everything. The performance is definitely pulling together.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Full Sized Portrait Burn

There were a lot of frustrations burning my life-sized self-portrait into a large scale board rather than a small board. Carving a picture of me into a small board was easier because I had less space to cover with the burning tool and also because my arms didn’t get as tired as they would using the burning tool. The burning tool is small, like a pen; using it on a large board I felt a lack of motivation in the sense that I was spending a large amount of time on one small part of my portrait and when I stepped back I saw that I still had a large amount to go. My thought process started to shift - thinking I’m never going to get it done. Next time I burn I will be using a blow torch which should cover larger amounts of space. I’m looking forward to this because I will be seeing more progress on my piece and my arms won’t get as tired. I hope that the big torch makes strong marks that show and that I complete my piece sooner instead of later.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dancing with Moise

When I found out I was going to work with Moise for the performance, I first thought it was going to be hard because Moise is a dancer and he’s on a different level than me on dancing. The kind of dance Moise does is called krump. It’s about praise, I’ve never seen a krumper do offensive things. Krump is a freestyle dance, with chest pops, stomping, and arm swings. We brought in arm swings and stomps into our performance, but only parts of our dance are krumping. We hop, spin on our arms,and move on the ground a little bit too. When we first started dancing together it was actually easy because he realized that I didn’t dance and we did steps I could do. Then we started adding things that were kind of challenging but I still did them. I learned new ways my body can stretch in ways I thought would be impossible. When I was in the 6th grade I went to this camp and we had to perform at a show. We had to make up a dance, but that one was simpler to remember because that dance was just simple movements. I like this one better because the movements aren’t as simple and I learned more, from a real dancer. This dance piece is for a final performance for the MY CITY MY VOICE project I’m doing over the summer. It’s all about showing my art. If I had some free time I’d love to keep learning dance. But at least I have a few new moves! 

Music Composition

Today we spent a day figuring out how to incorporate our own instrumental tracks into the show. Ethan and Jacory both have drum experience, and my strongest self identified art form is both classical and jazz flute. There isn’t all that much to do with two drums and a flute that feature both, and don’t divide into melody and back up track. We realized then that we didn’t need to make a song, we needed a beat, a rhythm. We started by picking a topic we wanted to portray. Individuality is something that comes up all the time in our discussions, and it plays a big part in out final performance, so we decided to start by trying to represent this. To demonstrate this musically we thought it would be best to play strong beats, separated from one another; we had the flute play off beat while the drums stuck to the beat. This gave a strong sense of solitude. This wasn’t enough though, to even create a simple beat, something else had to happen. Individuals often collide, occasionally creating conflict. To show this, on the fourth beat of every measure, the drums would leave their steady beat and roll. The flute trilled, ending the trill on the higher note. The flute played the whole phrase high, creating tension, but leaving a pattern rising added to the musical tension, and conflict. The phrase as a whole felt tense, it felt like it was escalating. To where? Even we didn’t know, we would leave that to whatever dance or story was put over it.

The second beat we did we built off the first one. We first brought it down two octaves in the flute part, to relieve some of the tension. Instead of the offbeat pulse we added syncopation, and then we just went with our gut sense. We changed the note patterns, and the drum beat, but if you know what you’re looking for it’s still apparent the beats are related.

Both of the loops were just one measure repeated; one would think that they could be easily overlooked, but the sound that we created definitely plays subtle role in the emotion of the piece done over it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Interview with Officer Chu

Today I was given the chance to interview Officer Chu of the Cambridge Police department. In My City, My Voice we all are going to interview an older member from our community and ask them about their experiences. During my interview we talked about where he grew up, how he stays involved in the community, and what he likes about working in Cambridge.

Officer Chu grew up in Boston, and still lives there, but he chooses to work here in Cambridge. During his time with the Boston police, his role was different; it wasn’t to be an active member of the community, just to stop crimes from happening. Here in Cambridge, his job is more than enforcement. It’s his job to be a member of the community and build relationships with kids. For example, here he was at our youth center talking with me and paying attention. He likes to be able to go to all the youth centers here in town and interact more closely with kids.

The interview was a great experience for me. I gained a new perspective from my interview with Officer Chu. I knew that police officers in Cambridge were involved, but I didn’t know that some of them had different roles, or that Boston and Cambridge were so different from a police officer’s perspective. I will take some skills away from that interview, such as how to ask effective questions and follow up questions. I also found it really cool just talking to a police officer casually because I got to know how he feels. He shared that as a kid, he wasn’t that athletic, but played baseball, volleyball, and some basketball. I learned that he’s trying to make kids believe in the cops again and that he’s not their enemy but their friend. I think that kids and cops can be friends and should be friends, because I think a lot of kids think the cops are out to get them when they’re not. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dramatic Photo Shoot

Yesterday we started our “Big Photo”. This is when a body size picture, of us being our word, is taken. Then it is edited so that we can transfer it to a 4x8 sheet of plywood. Then the danger starts; we burn the images with torches into the wood. We took these pictures in a dark room where we had medium sized handheld lights. The lighting showed different moods based on where the light was placed. Maybe we were in deep thought, serious, wondering or curious. But we were supposed to use the light, shadow and our poses to show our word.

When I took my photos, at first I didn’t know what to do to show me being my word. I felt like I needed to sit on the floor because I knew that most of the time I’m sitting or laying on the floor and I felt like that’s how people know me.

What I got out of this exercise was how people saw me as danger. Because when I was getting my pictures taken I got side comments like “That shows danger.” I think my photos are going to stick out because I was the only person who sat on the floor which means my pose is going to come out smaller than most people and I’m known to be the smallest. The final pose that I chose the one light was shining from the front and side and cast my face and body in a shadow.

What the group got out of this was how to show their word in their body shape and lighting. When we were testing the lights we noticed that based on where you set the light would show a different emotion on that person. I’m looking forward to burning our figure into wood.

Dramatic Lighting Photo Shoot

Today we took our full body portraits. In order to do this we talked about dramatic lighting and ways the lights could change the mood and strength of the picture. We found that placing the light beneath someone pointing up made them look powerful, and tall. Putting the light far to the side created a feeling of mystery and danger, since the face was partially concealed in darkness. We first experimented with the lights moving them around a model just to experiment, and then we began the picture taking process.

Everyone had ideas about where they wanted their picture taken, how they wanted the lighting to be, where they wanted their hands, and what they wanted to portray. I watched my entire group go ahead of me, even the people who claimed they had no idea what to do loosened up in the lights and took tons of thought provoking pictures, all of which turned out really well. I’m not always camera shy. I don’t mind cameras when I’m goofing off, or when I’m with friends. I don’t mind posed group shots, and I will even smile for a camera if people are taking pictures. Something about the lights though. The fact that the pose we did was supposed to reflect us and the word in us, something about how we were supposed to strike a pose that would make people think, made me freeze up in front of the lens. I can honestly say it was the most awkward moment I’ve had at my city my voice. I couldn’t come up with any pose I thought reflected me. The word in me I always viewed as an internal thing, “beat”. It starts in me and expands outward; if I can’t feel it in myself I can’t project it. All of my pictures were closed, they were awkward. I couldn’t think of anything to do with arms or legs in front of the camera, and the poses others suggested seemed wrong. They weren’t me. It was suggested to me that I try to take the pictures again later, with fewer people there, just enough to control the lighting, and camera. I will try this soon, and hope the lights will seem less daunting without the same number of eyes watching.  

Monday, July 19, 2010

Today in dance class we learned how to move slowly while dancing (slow movement) If it takes the average person half of a second to take a step, in slow movement it would take five seconds. Slow movement removes time as a factor.

The slow movement exercise was a way to bring all focus to one. It’s like meditating; relaxing, calm, and being attentive allowed me to gather all focus within and keep my head clear. The slow movement exercise blocked out all negative energy, it allowed me to be free in my mind. The difference between fast movement and slow movement is that, slow movement allowed me to concentrate and gain focus. Fast movement along with its tempo brings distractions from all areas; it could be really hard to keep up with the fast moving pace. An audience watching a performer would be attentive due to the power behind each movement. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dana Park Field Trip

Today, half of our group went on a field trip to Dana Park. We went to go talk with people from the North Cambridge Senior Center about our community. We talked with the seniors about the Cambridge/Summerville area and how much it has changed throughout the course of their lives. It was very surprising what they said. When we got to the park, we sat down and introduced ourselves, the program and what we were there to do. We split into groups: three of us, one of them. My elders name was Ida. Ida has lived in Somerville all her life and she told us about her life growing up in an Italian home in Somerville. To sit with a person that has lived in your area for their entire lives is so informative. Ida helped me realize that we, nowadays, have it way easier than what she had to deal with before. She told us that when she was younger, families wouldn’t let their children wander to other parts of their city. They were sent to school, the corner store, and to church. When they wanted to just hang out, the kids and teen would hang out with kids and teen from their block or neighborhood only. Now, my mom has a way to contact me without having to worry, because we now have cell phones. Cell phones have helped me be able to hang out with any one from the entire city, and my mother wouldn’t have to worry about a thing. I would fell separated from the world not being able to hang out with whoever I wanted to because it was too far and my mother couldn’t see me. I can imagine what Ida felt when she was my age. Ida also talked about how she grew up without all the technology that we have now. She told us that when she was in school, all they had were the old type writers. You had to have proper grammar and good spelling because on those type writers there was no spell check or grammar check and if you messed up, there was no erase button so they would have to write it all over again. I would die if I had to memorize each word and had to learn by heart every grammar trick in the book because when I had to do work, I couldn’t make one mistake or I had to start over. That takes a lot of work and skill. Now, we have computers and other technology that helps us do all that. Ida and the rest of our group talked about how all the technology has advanced until it was time to eat lunch; the lunch was donated from Whole Foods Market. We all sat together, children, adults and elders, enjoying a beautiful summer day at the park. It didn’t matter what age we were or what color we were, we all had a good time together as a community. I felt like I left there, closer to my community than ever before. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Word in You

The group went through an activity called The Word in You. The Word in You activity is where someone stands on a chair, in front of everyone and the group deliberates on the kinds of words that describe the person standing on the chair. Then it’s all up to the person standing to decide which word would suit him or herself. The group must come up with fat words, words with more than one meaning or idea in it.

The words that everyone thought of for me, made me feel very good about myself. The fact that all of them were positive words filled me with so much pride, I felt very confident and happy about it. It made me blush on the inside.

On the other hand, if I gotten words that I felt didn’t describe me, I imagine I would get frustrated. If others think of words that are completely untrue to who I am, it would make me feel like an outsider in the group.

Wood Burning

Today we started our wood burning projects. We took pictures of ourselves and burnt them into wood. The wood burners were like pens that heated up. Holding it was a new experience. It was kind of scary because it’s really hot, but it was really fun because I saw the piece of wood transform into my face. I learned how to convey different meanings through my strokes even though I only had one color. I based my strokes off examples of my peers. I learned that slow and deep marks were dramatic and grabbed attention, and light and fast marks could mean anything from happiness to sorrow. Working with the group was really helpful with this project, because even though we were working individually we were able to help each other to make each one of the portraits the best they could be.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Movement with Ingrid

The first time I heard that we were going to dance for the program, the thought that came through my mind was “Oh great. We are going to get some random teacher that has NO experience and we are going to come out looking like idiots on stage”. Later, when we got into detail about that part of the program, Bo talked to us about Ingrid. Ingrid Schatz is a professional dancer that is coming every Monday to help us with our dance piece for our performance. Ingrid has travelled all over the world. She has been dancing for over 30 years and has been teaching dance for about 20 years. Today, Ingrid came in and taught us some basic elements and movements that we will use. She taught us the difference between actions like slash, punch, flick, float, and more. Ingrid also taught us the difference between light weight movements and heavy movements and the effects that the tempo of the movement has on the dance piece or on the feelings that you demonstrate through the piece. While she taught us about all those things, I felt like I knew what I was doing. She made you seem like it was ok to mess up, because it added a new movement to the piece or exercise. It would add a new line or image to the overall drawing. I felt I was creating a picture or that I was in the picture and I am a piece of it. We did a couple of exercises to learn the differences and to learn what is what, like learning the difference between the vertical, horizontal, and the sagital planes in dance. We would move from one side of the plane to the other to work on what the planes are and how we incorporate them not in only dance, but in the world around us. For example, the sagital plane is the plane that is the front and back of your body. You walk forward or backward, you’re in the sagital plane. Ingrid made it fun and exciting to learn all of those things and has now opened my eyes to the dance world. I am now using the stuff that she taught me and am thinking of ways that we can incorporate it into the piece. Ingrid’s visit was very fun and I learned so many things about her and about dance in that period of time. I can’t wait for all the Mondays after today.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Expressive Painting

The goals of this afternoon were to become in tune with emotion in songs and poems and to represent the feelings we heard, through our own visual art. Learning to be aware of what’s around me and displaying themes through only black paint and white paper was challenging. As I went on, I became engaged in my paintings. I created pieces with emotion.

The staff then layered songs and poetry on top of each other. To me, trying to filter songs and poetry from one another was the most strenuous part of the afternoon. The challenge the layering created was similar to the difficulty of solving a jigsaw puzzle or a crossword; I wanted to continue, but it was overwhelming and frustrating. The layering made my art more scattered. It became harder to communicate the emotions I felt. I wish that I had been able to focus on one emotion instead of two. Instead I was more focused on the challenge than the actual art I was creating.

We ended the afternoon exercise by reflecting as a group on the experience. We touched on the layering of the music and poetry. We all disagreed on whether it was helpful, or if it disrupted our art process. We also talked about how the experience would help our overall art in the future. For me, the painting helped me learn how brushstrokes can be related to emotion. It also showed me that I have to make the best out of the materials I am given. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rob Cutler

Today we met Rob Cutler. Rob is a human rights advocate, a self proclaimed “freedom fighter”. Rob talked to us about the importance of being who we are, and loving where we’re from. We went over the four agreements, by Don Miguel Louis, a doctor of both western medicine and cultural cures. We conversed about speaking without making assumptions, being clear and communicating. We discussed with him what we can learn from one another and the things we’ve all gone through.

Talking to Rob was slightly different than talking to the majority of people you meet. Rob used facilitated communication, a form of talking for those who cannot speak out loud. A close friend of Rob, Steve Powell who has been working with him for 16 years held his arm between his elbow and his wrist, stabilizing it so that Rob could point to letters on a laminated mat. When Rob had finished pointing to a word, Steve read it out loud so that the rest of the group could hear. I was interested to watch this form of communication, as recently I had a discussion with friends about facilitated communication, and the legal complications it has. There is a fear from some that the person holding the arm of the communicator is controlling where the arm points, and speaking for the person. This didn't seem like the case with Rob. Rob would look us in the eye while he talked to us. He spoke the same as anyone else I had met before; the words just didn’t come from his mouth. Still many people don’t believe it works. Steve and I talked after Rob’s visit. He told me at one event they went to, people were skeptical to the point that they didn’t believe it worked even when the person assisting the communicator wasn’t even touching them.

Rob’s visit taught the group a great deal. It initiated discussions about ourselves, our similarities and differences. But it also introduced us to this way of speaking few of us had heard of or seen before. I look forward to his returning visits and the discussions they bring.

To learn more about Robert Cutler and the Autism National Committee, go to http://www.autcom.org/ and read Robert's article in the Fall 2009 newsletter on pages 9 and 10.  http://www.autcom.org/pdf/AutcomNLFall2009.pdf