In many ways, art and research are both cyclic processes that are continually informed by experiences with Place. As I experience Goan village life as a foreigner, I reverberate with pieces of the scenes I encounter – and become affected by their happenings. This post describes such a scene, and has found its way into my art projects with students at the school I am researching with. Using a “junk cycle” as their canvas and leftover house paint as their medium, the students re-imagined the ways in which they engage with waste.
Riding on my bike, I explore the depths of Siolim
Excited, curious and hopeful as the wind in my hair
Humble, Goan villages –
Family homes of tin sheets, dirtied blue tarps, dried leaves of coconut trees
Barely held together by fishing ropes
Their floor is the earth – shared with dancing kittens and jungle bugs
The women have hair that is tightly kept, and eyes that are fierce with knowledge
– of the happenings of this place, of their duties to hold it together
they watch me carefully as I pass by, hanging laundry with firm arms of soldiers
Clothes dry with the salty air that breathes with the Arabian Sea
Bouncing about, children carry young siblings
Cradled on bony hips, babies are naively thrusted into adventure
Youthful boys pull two wheeled wagons stacked with heavy bags of rice
Wooden frames creaking in age, hoisted into movement by tired metal wheels
Comings and goings of local men
– dark faces dusted with sand, yellow teeth and blackened collars
Fishing poles in hand – long sticks with wire and squirming bait
Carried by bicycles from some ancient era
Rolling out of a time capsule
– rusted brown with an ear-piercing screech that announces their presence
Quickly moving, chickens squawk and scramble out of their way
Life is bustling and the sun is high with the energy of a mid-Indian afternoon
As if strategically placed in the middle of this lively performance is a dusty, white dog
The mismatched focal point of this scene
Sitting with the hunch of a hundred year old veteran
Staring at the ground, blankly as its bony carcass sways
– slowly as the saliva that spills from its mouth
It moves as if it is underwater
drowning in a small pool at the center of a busy circus ring
– held up only by some gravitational miracle
Watching this animal suffer is what Death looks like, in its most unforgiving form
a body so vacant that even the flies acknowledge its time is up
but it sways on, holding a fragile place in the theatricals of this village
And seemingly unnoticed
The starkness of this encounter – the parallels of life and death – slap me in the face
squeezing the blood out of my stomach with the sensuous hands of a curious child
I look away
And drive on
What else is there to do?
The universe is a child
with small and playful hands
pulling on the strings of fireflies
curious in their glow
Bouncing and reverberating – they spring in every direction
connected with the elasticity of a rubber band
stretched apart, and whipped together
A burst of light
Combustion, a million tiny stars
dancing in every direction
pulled apart and back again
with no control of their own
The universe is a child
sending spirals in the night
around the world and back again
they spin with electric light
Fireflies as puppets
lighting shaded corners
those ought to be left dark
It is the day before the start of the school year. Hovered around an empty table with a group of young girls in their shelter home, I listen to them sing Hindi and American songs. Their voices are gentle, lulling with the heat of the afternoon. Their vibrations humm in heavy air, so thick with humidity it could be sliced. The girls play with a gold, beaded necklace, reminiscence of their new year festivities. Brushing the surface of the table with it’s rolling beads, they form an array shapes – a heart, an elephant, a pair of lips. Not one child working in isolation; they are not “taking turns.” The girls move together, many hands working simultaneously. A web of limbs weaving over and under, sliding around and through. This sequence is intuitive, familiar. Below the cluster of intermingling bodies, golden forms emerge. Admired for a short moment, they are lost again – on to the next. Busy and quickly moving as they sing, their bodies dance with the beads. Reverberating, sensational and eternally familial, here the individual does not exist.
I trail around the neighbourhood jungle, a basin of Goa’s flora, fauna and local squander – looking for materials the school children can explore with in this afternoon’s art project. Sharing the cool morning with my usual company – a family of indigenous pigs and ragged street dogs – We scour the land for treasures. In amongst blankets of garbage, there are pieces of tile, stone, shells, wire – tiny pebbles dusted with sand – small capsules of matter from places other than here. In some aeonian journey, they have made their way to this place. As we gather them, they move on to the next. Some to be digested, spat out, or crushed. Others to be glued, painted and admired. Enmeshed in beds of waste and sunken electrical wires, mango trees thrive high above us. Rooted with reaching barked tentacles, their greenery offers us shade from the waking sun, heavy and damp with morning dew. Lining the eastern edge of the jungle is a quiet dirt road leading to winding rows of humble shanti-homes. Built with brightly painted concrete and shabby tin roovs, their warm character is a testament of the people who live here. Through open doors and shaded windows, neighbours rise, peering out at this peculiar morning scene – curious about the girl who scours through waste with feral scavengers.
Thank you for joining me in my first post as a CAPI Crossing Borders Scholar with the University of Victoria. Using an assemblage of literary vignettes, poems, images, and video clippings as my medium, I intend to use this blog space to share my process as an arts-based researcher working within the context of a shanti-school in a small village in Goa, India. Fractitious, sporadic and tangled, these posts form a body which avoids the dilution of factual representation and instead sits in discomfortable spaces where language hesitates and absolutes falter. Uncertain and often unspoken, this is not a memoir of interpretation, rather a movement of sensual invention. A living, aesthetic inquiry into my practice. As I think with some of the tensions, highlights, curiosities and inspirations that emerge through this research experience, I hope that these posts may provoke you to critique, question and explore alongside with me.
So, what sort of arts-based research am I doing?
Drawing loosely on feminist and post structural notions of learning as an “untamed” and “more-than-multiple” experience, my a/r/tographical research explores my affectual experiences as a British Columbian, school-based Child and Youth Counsellor as I work as a visitor in the context of a shanti-school in Goa, India (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 154; Irwin, Beer, Springgay, Grauer, Xiong, Bickel, 2006). Well practiced in traditionally Western paradigms of education, my intention is to move beyond my familiar understandings of what it means to be educated in North America, engaging with a rendering of a/r/t/ography to heighten awareness of intuitive forms of learning that arise in an encounter between intra-acting bodies, materials, and the agentic spaces between (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987). Understanding learning experiences as relational and enigmatic events, composed of rather than in the world, I am engaging with an inductive, intuitive and becoming-with process, exploring the emerging themes and entanglements of my presence in this Goan classroom as they grow out a child-driven, emergent art project (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987; Mazzei, 2010). As I take on the implications of methodology and “data analysis” in post-qualitative research, I think with Deleuze and Guatarri’s (1987) constructions of maps, expressing my interpretation of these events with my own poetic and visual assemblages and navigating curiosities through artistic memoir. Through this method, my intention is to look into the “events of activities and encounters” with affective, arts-based education, “evoking transformation and change” in my experience with “data” and understanding of learning (Hultman & Taguchi, 2010, p. 535). Ultimately, this research seeks to provoke movement beyond my habitually North American understandings of education, and towards post structural epistemologies as a means to nourish intuitive forms of learning, being and knowing.
Stay tuned for pieces of my artistic memoir coming soon!
I will also be posting blog entries and photos of my process on my website alexmberry.com if you’d like to follow along.
Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). Ch.6: How do you make yourself a body without organs?. In A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Hultman, K., & Taguchi, H. (2010). Challenging anthropocentric analysis of visual data: A relational materialist methodological approach to educational research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 23(5), 525-542.
Irwin, R. L., Beer, R., Springgay, S., Grauer, K., Xiong, G., & Bickel, B. (2006). The rhizomatic relations of A/r/tography. Studies in Art Education, 48(1), 70-88.
Mazzei, L. (2010). Thinking data with Deleuze. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 23(5), 511-523. Retrieved March 19, 2015, from file:///C:/Users/Alex/Downloads/Mazzei_Thinking data with Deleuze -2 (1).pdf