Archive for September 27th, 2011

September 27, 2011

The Video Lab: “Geeking out” at The New School

by alexandrakellyg

“[…] as youth engage in DIY efforts, they are learning to critically read and write the world.”

– Yasmin Kafai and Kylie Pepper in Youth Technology and DIY: Developing Participatory Competencies in Creative Media Production

Tevin Campbell is a Senior at Washington Irving High School.  As he presents his film “A Nice Day at Oval Park” to an audience of over 100 graduate students in an Understanding Media Studies lecture hall, he doesn’t flinch.  “Making this film, I got to know the ins and outs of being a filmmaker.  It was cold on some days and I didn’t want to go outside, but I made myself.  And now, I want to be a filmmaker as a career.”

Tevin’s aspirations to be a filmmaker were inspired by this small participatory youth media program at The New School, The Video Lab.  The Video Lab was started over nine years ago by Carol Wilder and Dawnja Burris as a way to bring our Media Studies knowledge into the community and teach students how to tell their stories through film.  Many students have access to filmmaking equipment through their phones, but very little access to mentors who can work with them to understand media through creating media, rewriting the metaphor of reading the world to read the world (Freire & Macedo 1987) as filming the world to see the world.  Washington Irving High School has minimal art programming, but is overflowing with students who have stories that need to be exploded onto the big screen.  The big screen is not just for celebrities.  At The Video Lab and many other youth filmmaking programs, the big screen is for the everyday; for our ideas and our lives.

The Video Lab Spring 2011

At The Video Lab, curriculum is guided by the students.  Their attendance and commitment to the weekly program dictates the depth and bredth of the filmmaking process.  Below is a short film that depicts a “typical” brainstorming session.  Students come up with ideas and, like clay, shape them into short documentary films over the course of a semester.

At the end of the semester, students present their work to an audience who asks them questions about their process. Every student has a different way of explaining their own storymaking journey, but ultimately there is an increased group cohesion that comes with spending hours and hours editing films with Final Cut Pro, scarfing down late night pizza and then pulling it all together for the public together, as a group.

Highlights from Tevin Campbell’s film, “A Nice Day in Oval Park” – about a park in his neighborhood in the Bronx

September 27, 2011

Maker Fair. DIY, Recycling and Education. Silla Re-Uso, Colombia

by Natalia Guerrero

At the Maker Fair that took place in Queens, NY this year I couldn’t stop thinking about the intersection between trash (what we throw out or discard as no longer useful), the appropriation of the concept maker, recycling and education. A couple years ago in Colombia the government decided to ban all the non-institutional recycling taking place in Bogotá city in response to the inadequate (translation: pleasant to the eye aesthetically) medium of carrying the trash by recyclers. The use of horses and even people to pull on wooden carts seemed to be the focus of this whole issue on how to dispose of the waste in the city and the unpleasant aspect and smell of the families who went through the trash. This lack of thoughtfulness on the issue left out that 55% of the population in Colombia is below the line of poverty and that around 60% of the income for families comes from informal work, including recycling. Recycling has always been left for the unprivileged and the stigmatization of this population is significant. Nevertheless, a small part of the population, artists privileged in a way for being able to have and education began to use waste as their prime source for their designs and trash began to be something more digestible.

Going beyond the simple realization that waste is not always un-useful, becoming a Maker and also to incorporate this as a tool for education and empowerment can be truly a challenge. This is where Silla Re-Uso comes into place. Samuel Córdoba designer and Director of the documentary Tumaco Pacífico, traces the path from his experience and responsibility as a film maker in Tumaco to building chairs out of recycled carton boxes.  “Me siento bien sentado sobre una silla de cartón” (I feel good sitting on a carton chair”) became an idea that left the art gallery to become a proposal that involves the community in a space that allows them to also become makers. Fundación Promedio was then born from two fabulous artists, Catalina López and Samuel Córdoba, who together envisioned a place for the Maker Community with the mission of creating artistic activities in defense of the environment and culture.  Fundación Promedio created workshops to bring the recycling community into a space where they could learn to be makers by gaining knowledge on a craft that is just one step ahead from what they already do, recycle.

DIY, Recycling and Education. The fulfilling experience of learning, making and then being able to pass a certain knowledge; ex: how to learn and make a chair, goes beyond the simple need to protect the environment. The documented experience in this case exposes a whole economic and political context. What I like about this project its the ability to bring forward a Maker Community who can  re-assign the value of their work and give the individual maker its importance when it relates to the community.

September 27, 2011

Theater of the Opressed and Street Theater. Unidad de Operaciones Tácticas de los Payasos Policías de Puerto Rico

by Natalia Guerrero

The Police Clowns of Puerto Rico brought performance into the street as a political tactic to join the student protests who where fighting for the right to education in the public university of Puerto Rico. Through their performance they over took the public space to bring into the discussion the contradictory relationship of the State forces who in their mission to protect the order and lives are also used to oppress and control freedom of speech. In their mission to accomplish this, direct and indirect violence is executed, political arrests and forced disappearances, physical abuse and justification of violent actions. The discourse and mission of the clowns in their manifestations contained the same discourse the police uses to justify their violent actions to maintain public order. Los Payasos de la Policia de Puerto Rico publicly reclaiming their right to also protect and verify the law.

MISSION (in spanish):

1. Proteger la vida y propiedades, impedir el crimen y el desorden.
2. Prevenir, descubrir y perseguir el delito.
3. Cumplir y velar por el cumplimiento de las leyes, reglamentos y ordenanzas municipales.
4. Observar y procurar la protección de los derechos civiles del ciudadano.
5. Observar en todo momento una conducta ejemplar.
6. Tomar las providencias necesarias para garantizar la protección de las personas detenidas.
7. Tratar cortésmente al público y prestar la debida ayuda a las personas que la requieran.
8. Prestar la debida protección al pueblo reunido legalmente para cualquier fin lícito.
9. Obedecer las órdenes legalmente emitidas por sus superiores.
10. Ser puntual en sus compromisos oficiales y diligentes en el cumplimiento de su deber, actuando siempre en forma ecuánime, serena y justa.
11. Orientar y aconsejar al público sobre el mejor cumplimiento de la ley, así como en todo lo que concierne a la seguridad pública.

Part of their discourse is to inform citizens of their rights and the mission of the clowns (which is the institutionalized mission of the Police of Puerto Rico). With this they bring up the need for their presence in this space. During the performance the clowns involve both the public and the Police Force and confront the Police who are in violation of their own purpose which now will be in vigilance by the Clown Police and the civilians. The clowns are there to symbolically protect the public and students from the brutality of the police presence which is in violation of the right to have Universities and schools free from the presence of the State Forces. The clowns re-assumed their protagonist function in their performance and in society by making a “joke” of the protagonist who separate themselves from the mass, the Police. The Police clowns play out symbolic disputes embedded in the fight and struggle of the oppressed in Puerto Rico through out its history.

September 27, 2011

Language(s) and Intercambio de Communidad

by andrewjbowe

Andrew Jay Bowe

Within a contemporary framework, John Bell has appropriated many of Boal’s techniques for his Bread and Puppet Parades. Bell communicates a similar form of extensive version of language within his assessment of theater, ‘For three and a half decades the Bread and Puppet Theater has been communicating in the language of puppets, masks and images; sharing (with hundreds of volunteer performers who have worked with the theater around the world) a particular dialect of that language…” (Bell 272). Bell’s project, a public theater using puppets to display a spectacle of political and social issues that dissent from the modern entertainment industry and capitalism, is directly influenced by the transformative process through which images-language can ignite forms of agency and action. To subvert stabilizing notions of language, both the concrete location of education as a physical space and mental-grammatical space, using a moving parade of image-phrases is to ask for a participation and excitement that is a tactile use of language.


Though, there are numerous other examples of organizations that have attempted to center their attention on transforming the immediate situation of language and language access. While Friere and Boal operate at a macro-dialogic location of shifting the entire structure that produces consciousness, many community organized non-profit organizations have operated at a micro-level in order to offer the skill of language for immediate utility. Organizations such as “Intercambio de Comunidades”—a growing organization out of Boulder, Colorado, which seeks to “help immigrants achieve greater self-sufficiency and confidence” through English education courses as well as citizenship workshops –look to rearrange the access of marginalized people to a variety of forms of social capital. The organization, develops by asking volunteers to sit and have conversations with immigrants who have a scales of English proficiency, the framework is non-traditional in the sense that most of what is communicated is a meta-conversation on language where the English-education volunteer and the Immigrant teach one another about themselves and about their languages by speaking about language.

The focus of this organization on English education courses highlights the practical need not only for the transformation of the oppressed consciousness, but also the need for an immediate form of assistance in the process of seeking the skill of language. While the technique of many community organized literacy organizations does not at first seem to allow for a consciousness of ones oppressive position, these organizations help to undo the oppressed/oppressor dichotomy by bringing folks together from a variety of backgrounds and asking that they interact together and teach one another. It is in this sense that language might not plainly be imagined as a form of interaction that expresses thought, but language as a relation that happens in-between the changing notions of self and other.

September 27, 2011

Creation Nation Station

by athenallewellyn

The first floor of 765 Broad Street, Newark NJ used to be an office. Where cubicles once divided an open floor, the art work of thousands of Newark’s youth  now flourishes. An in-kind donation from the owner of Cogswell Realty, in the five years we have been there the Creation Nation Parade came and has grown. In preparation for the upcoming Parade we have opened our doors twice a week as a free makers space, where any individual is welcome to come and paint, build or fabricate from our various array of supplies and scraps. We make collective banners, individual pro-create signs (rather than protest) while some artists simply use the space as a studio and work on an ongoing project to display in the parade. The sessions are loosely guided by artist supporters, and we break each session for a fifteen minute open discussion addressing the concept of a “Creation Nation”. These discussions have been amazingly enlightening, as a dialogue grows between many different members of society. These photos are of some of the sessions and think boards the group has come up with. Anyone is welcome to join us, a schedule can be found by clicking here.