SSSS: Silences, Secrets, and Sea Songs

in Field Notes/Programs/Teaching

SSSS is a playful first attempt at co-creating a coastal curriculum for Melbourne, a first throw of a skipping stone along the surface of Phillip Bay, that took place during the month of March 2017 thanks to the artist Sean Peoples who offered Camila Marambio and Sarita Gálvez a chance to develop a workshop for a group of year eleven Visual Arts students from Victoria College of the Arts Secondary School.

We have decided to share here the curriculum as we devised it. In a following post (only in Spanish) we share our very honest reflections about what worked, what was too ambitious and what we would try again. We’ve done this as an invitation for you to consider the description below and our post-teaching reflections a template of sorts. A template that is already becoming undone for us through the exercise of carefully remembering what we learned, what we enjoyed, and what was missing, so as to go at it again but, that is nevertheless, swelling with possibilities.

SSSS:Silences, Secrets, and Sea Songs

Plan for a First Session:
Wednesday, March 8th, 2017. 1.5 hours
VCASS Classroom

A video (‘Onde va la Lancha’ by Christy Gast) will be playing as students come into the classroom.  This video is online so we will need a computer with internet connection that is hooked up to the projector.  Chairs get set up in a circle.

I will briefly introduce the video and through it myself as a curator and the director of Ensayos. Then I will lead a consciousness raising round (sitting on chairs), asking that each student briefly introduce themselves and say where they took their first breath.

While this is going on, Sarita will be making a map that visualises all the territories being named by the students. Once the round is done we will look at this map and call attention to the waters, the oceans, seas, rivers and fluids that encircle, surround, and criss-cross the territories. Introducing ideas of sounding the territory, deep listening, more-than-human agency, the voice of the non-human and the grain of the voice.

This will lead to a repetition of the consciousness raising exercise but now non-sensically. Without making meaning, naming, or claiming, just voice and movement of breath. This will be lead by Sarita. No chairs.

Sitting on the floor now, I will briefly present the work of three artists: Bas Jan Ader, Pierre Huyghe, and end with Cecilia Vicuña.  I’ll be at the computer flipping through images of ‘In Search of the Miraculous’, ‘The Journey that Wasn’t’ and ‘Kon Kon’.

I will end by giving homework (“study one of these artists’s practice more in depth and come prepared to talk about your findings”) and mentioning somethings in prep for next week’s excursion (bring towels, bathers, etc.)

Materials that will be needed for this session are: large piece of paper for map drawing, pastels, projector, computer, internet.

Plan for Second Session:
Thursday, March 16th, 2017. 3 hours.
VCASS and Port Melbourne

1. We will start in the classroom. I’ll speak for about 10 minutes. Recapping on artistic research and introducing or clarifying the terms: Embodied research, situatedness, fieldwork and attunement. Seated in a circle.

2. We will do a very short exercise on the Anthropocene (do all students have their phones with them? they will need them to do quick google search) and then speak in a round.  5 minutes.

3. Sarita will introduce the ‘Weaving a Carry Bag’ idea using Ursula Le Guin and referring to Cecilia Vicuña. Students pick and choose their materials. Sarita will follow up this email with a request for specific materials. 10 minutes.

4. I’ll give some instruction for our ride to the coast. Weaving, pairing up to give reports of homework, and silence in between. 5 minutes.

So after about a half hour we head to tram.

5. Tram: weaving, whispering in pairs (change pairs at 10 minutes) 30 minutes ride.

6. When we arrive to the coast. Sarita leads a Deep Listening exercise (mentions artist Pauline Oliveros) 10 minutes.

7. Speak of “Bohemian Research” methodologies (mention artist Stephen Dillemuth), the art of attentiveness (Goethe) and ancient call and response methodologies (all gestures as responsive). Students are given 45 minutes to go off to practice their bohemian research. They will take their carry bags, their note books, their towels).

8. We will call them back with flutes and possibly have little flutes for them all. We will play with call and response for some 10 minutes.

Share a small snack? in a circle?

9. We will sit in a round and begin a storytelling exercise that I will introduce: remembering, recollecting, collective storytelling. This will be recorded (sound and writing). Is there a sound recorder at the school? This gets repeated about three times. 1 hour.

10. We end with a restorative rest exercise (mention Mabel Todd “The Thinking Body”). 15 minutes on towels. Led by Sarita.

12. I’ll close with homework assignment and we will once again try “sitting together.”

Plan for Third Session:
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017. 1.5 hours
VCASS Classroom

We begin with tables and chairs out of the way.
1. Camila continues to introduce Ensayos and puts coastal research into perspective. RE-SEARCH. We will look again at what we felt, saw, collected, perceived when in the field.
2.  Sarita leads “restorative” exercise”, everyone is on the floor and in the dark.
3. We play audio recording of collective storytelling from last session, still in the dark.
4. Sarita and Camila ask each one to mentally work on their story-line phrase with prompts about de-centering the bounded individual and an introduction of the idea of secrets, we know we are part of something much larger. Have the sentence talk with or to the object or carry bag. (i.e. Plastic attracts plastic).
5. After a few minutes everyone writes their sentence on a large piece of paper taped to the wall.
6. We break off into groups (2 or 3 per group):
-Scribes o reporters (Mapping the course. The observer of the observer. Preparing Blog post).
-Song writers. Looking at lyrics and organizing phrases.
-Videographers.
-Art directors.
-Performers:
singers,
dancers,
musicians
-Post-Production.
-Speak of our roles (teachers) as directors, care takers and roadies.

By the end of this session a first draft of the song must have been recorded! “Sean, can you secure a room for recording?” Sean will be working with post-production team on getting this ready, while Sarita works with Singers, Musicians and Song Writers. I will be working with Art Direction, Dancers, Scribes and Videographers.

Plan for Fourth Session:
Wednesday, March 29th, 2017. 1.5 hours
VCASS Classroom

1. Students present video (version they did last week or some new version that gets worked on in the morning?) Video lasts six minutes.
2. We do two rounds of speaking. First answering question: What did you do? Second: What do you think/feel now upon seeing it as a whole? 10 minutes max.
3. Show Signal webpage and briefly mention the possibility of them applying to get a grant to finish the video and do one more critical round with ideas of how to flesh out video in new directions.
4. We return to the concept of the Anthropocene, and describe how this collective work is part of many similar efforts to create more livable futures. We show them Christy Gast’s work with students in NYC and show video Ilha das Flores.
5. Reporters present their work in progress: This should be a document that can be projected from a computer and include texts, images, sketches, etc. in blog post format. 5 minutes. We ask others to fill in the gaps and add to the document, live editing in preparation for this blog post to be added to Ensayos website.
6. Sarita and I address their report by fleshing out concepts, artists and other moments that were mentioned: embodied research/ situatedness/attunement and all the artist’s referenced.
7. Finish with “sitting together”.

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