A Way of Nonviolence and Art
by Peter Dickson
Nonviolence and socially engaged art begin when we rend our ears to the narratives of the other; which is to say, they both begin with listening. Listening helps us identify a community’s social ills. When artists or activists enter into a context with which he or she is unfamiliar, their status as outsiders may engender miscommunications and conflicts. In order to avoid the conflict, we must listen.
In class, we talked about WonderRoot’s intentionality with hearing people’s stories before engaging with the community. I love that WonderRoot allows communities to prioritize their own issues and solutions before they engage in their creative endeavors. They choose to partner with the community by listening, creating a collaborative art piece driven by a community’s perception of its own needs. WonderRoot’s primary focus is collaboration with the community, by not superimposing a normative imperative, but giving voice to the community in the form of an artwork.
Listening corresponds with a method of nonviolence: Information Gathering. An activist who enters a community must listen to the wounds within a community. When I began my work with Wholesome Wave, I took a posture of listening. Our project began with research and meeting with Wholesome Wave’s director, Ms. Sarah Berney. She shared a study that examined the contribution of fast food accessibility to communities’ obesity rates. For her, the report highlights a wound within the community that Wholesome Wave’s mission tackles, making healthy food accessible for those that are food-insecure. After hearing the issue of accessibility and food insecurity, I began to think how my artwork can engage this issue. Nonviolence and socially engaged art both envision an ongoing dialogue between activist and communities.
The dialogue that happens between the activist and the community is vital because it brings together a community’s stakeholders and relevant actors. Artwork, or nonviolent activism, becomes a medium for collective problem-solving.
Picture taken from http://fusiontalkshow.com/wpcontent/uploads/2013/05/DSC_0655-704×329.jpg
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