Author Archive

October 14, 2011

Ghana Think Tank

by sarafusco

Yesterday I attended the Ghana Think Tank session at Mobility Shifts.  I went there not knowing much about it, but very interested to learn about their work to basically reverse the flow of knowledge and expertise between people in “developed” and “developing” nations.  That is, they gather local problems from individuals in developed nations and send them to think tanks in various developing nations, who then propose solutions to be implemented (humorously, some of it made me think of White Whine). 

The session began with your standard PowerPoint presentation about the project and a short video.  But the projector turned off suddenly in the middle.  We resumed, but the projector turned off again, and there we sat in a pitch black room, confused.

Suddenly, the session was commandeered (or so I thought…) by a woman at one of the tables who wanted to “do something different”.

Keeping all the lights off, she led us through a series of Theater of the Oppressed-inspired exercises to move us around the room and make us feel increasingly uncomfortable (as evidenced by the handful of people who quickly left the session).  When she said “stop” we had to walk.  When she said “walk” we had to stop.  And then she added more commands.  “Clap” meant hop, “hop” meant clap, “arms” meant bend your knees, “knees” meant put your arms in the air.  Needless to say, it was an amusing, confusing, surprising, awkward, (insert adjective of your choice here), exercise.  It broke our expectations, shifted our thinking.

We did a handful of other exercises – statues, repetitive motions, sounds – intended to have us demonstrate the conditioning, urgency, impatience that we felt technology could create within us.  The exercises generated this interesting, albeit semi-abstract, parallel with international development work that, as the facilitator said at the end of the workshop, showed us how it could feel to have people inserted into a population that hasn’t necessarily asked for “repair”.

It turned out that we were actually participants of one of the solutions a think tank, I believe in Gaza, proposed to the challenges of boring PowerPoint presentations.  As they’re a community accustomed to random power outages, they suggested presentations using community theater and, in a sense, I think it worked.

What’s very interesting — and I think quite daring — is that the Ghana Think Tank tries to implement the solutions no matter how awkward, impractical or brilliant it may seem.  For example, for a wealthy community in upstate New York who complained of a lack of diversity, the think tank in El Salvador proposed they hire day laborers to attend social functions.  The presenters said it was a terribly awkward experiment (and personally I could think of a number of objections), and yet some of the local community-members said it was eye-opening.

And overall, I have to admit the workshop experience was pretty eye-opening for me as well.

October 7, 2011

DIY at Occupy Wall Street

by sarafusco

Here’s a great video I just saw capturing the thriving DIY community of Occupy Wall St.

September 28, 2011

DIY Slider

by sarafusco

For any video enthusiasts, here’s a pretty sweet idea for a DIY slider using a gorilla tripod and skate wheels.  The instructions began to get a little confusing to me in the middle of the video, but it looks relatively do-able.  Maybe?  Anyone have an old pair of skates they aren’t using?

September 26, 2011

The Politics of the Theater of the Oppressed

by sarafusco

I just came across this workshop happening on Saturday, October 15th.  There’s a registration fee ($50-$75), but looks to be really interesting:

October 15th, 2011 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
The Politics of the Theater of the Oppressed
Facilitated by Marie-Claire Picher

This workshop is an outgrowth of a collaboration and some recent conversations that took place between Julian Boal, TOPLAB facilitator Marie-Claire Picher and other members of TOPLAB. When it first originated in Brazil in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Theater of the Oppressed (TO) was a political and theatrical project that sought to work with oppressed people and communities toward their own self emancipation and to change society and abolish the class structure that is the underpinning of capitalism. Today, a good amount of the radical political thrust and focus that motivated and informed TO as it was originally conceived and formulated is lost in much of its current practice. This workshop will attempt to return to the political, pedagogical and theatrical roots that are central to the theory and praxis of Theater of the Oppressed. With the surging popularity of “reality TV” and “interactive art” produced by corporate edict, the accelerated commodification of culture and its ongoing recuperation by capital, once-genuine participation in daily social life has too often become nothing more than a fashionable, radically-chic presentation (and consumption) of culture; in the case of TO, such presentation compromises the radical sensibility that is at its core and turns it into a poorly-disguised form of interactive manipulation.

Marie-Claire Picher is a co-founder (1989) of the Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB) and has worked and collaborated closely with Augusto Boal until his death in 2009. One of the most experienced TO practitioners in North America, she has presented thousands of hours of TO facilitation training in New York and throughout the United States, as well as in Chiapas, Tabasco, Mexico City, Guatemala and Cuba.

September 13, 2011

Bio: Sara Fusco

by sarafusco

Where to start?

In large part, my interest in this class was sparked by a desire to explore various approaches to DIY storytelling. I admit that I’ve had limited exposure to many of the DIY concepts and projects we’ve begun to read about and discuss. But I’m also beginning to realize that many of the things I’ve been involved with over the years are, in fact, surprisingly relevant. Or at least they skirt around the edges… (just nod and say yes)?

(An example: A recent project brought me to Uganda, where we met this awesome guy who invented something pretty spectacular, I think)

As more background on me, I’m originally from upstate New York. I completed my undergraduate degree in political science many years ago in Pittsburgh. I skipped around DC for a while, working at a legal aid NGO (aka non-profit) doing fundraising, marketing, graphic design, event planning…essentially whatever I could get my hands into. I then worked at a refugee advocacy NGO, where I started focusing on online outreach, communications strategy, and video production. I traveled twice to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan interviewing Iraqi refugees and producing videos. And this was the project that finally pushed me toward pursuing my Master’s here at the New School.

I’ll graduate this Spring, and afterwards I hope to continue to focus on storytelling projects that are largely related international human rights and humanitarian work. But I’d like to engage in ways that are different from the “norm” whenever I have the chance, and hopefully this class is my gateway to some new ideas and approaches.

And here’s another video, simply because I still feel incredibly lucky to have been there, from a recent trip I did with an NGO on the eve of South Sudan’s independence. My DIY approach to filming without a lightpanel on pitch-black streets at midnight? Taping on my headlamp and rushing out to the street, hoping that somehow it would work…