Recap: Engaging Art, Building Community

What does it mean to build community today? What are the implications of technology for reaching new audiences and creating new links between people? How can art be harnessed for constructing new ways of interacting, engaging, empowering youth? Just some of the questions that inspired the workshop: Engaging Art, Building Community that was held this past Thursday at Stony Brook University’s Humanities Institute.

First, Phillip Baldwin and Margarita Espada described their process of creating immersive spaces through creative technology, hacking infrared sensors, writing cutting edge code, manipulating visual and sound content as part of their recent production of “Life is a Dream” (based on Calderón’s “La vida es sueño”). I was struck by the “kinesthetic grammar” that they described, a way for students to use the body not only as an expressive tool, but also as a means of communicating with and through technology; with and through the audience; with and through the layering of code, space, color, time, contrast. Very cool stuff.

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In the second half of the program, La Poderosa Media Project, represented by myself, Executive Director Alejandra Zambrano, and Theater Instructor Gabriela Espinosa, demonstrated one of the learning situations (mini projects) that we use in order to engage students’ capacity for observation, creativity, collaboration, and narration. The exercise focused on creating a narrative soundscape out of 5 individual elements. There was one story of an asthma attack, another of a jilted wife returning home to an unpleasant surprise, a game of hide and seek ended by an unfortunate sneeze. Iteration, pacing, volume, silence, combining to create an intelligible story through sound.

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What is art for? What is an audience in the 21st century? How can art build community? Some of what we discussed had to to with accepting and incorporating the now–technology and virtuality. And yet, interestingly, we also noted that the human connections that are central to ‘humanism’ are and remain embodied, corporeal, tactile. I think, in the end, there was a really generative contrast, a sort of productive tension, between how interpersonal connections can be made through technology and how the spaces and encounters that define–and in many cases produce–difference are felt most viscerally as embodied sensation. Hopefully we can continue to dialogue about pedagogies of community, pedagogies of technology, pedagogies of the body, not only in their application but also in the epistemological implications for humanism, decoloniality, and the future of activist practice.

Engaging Art, Building Community at Stony Brook University

pedagogy workshop building community 2015

Organized by Margarita Espada (Theater) and myself, and supported by the Humanities Institute and the Department of Hispanic Languages & Literature, the event is open to all (undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, and the public) and will involve a hands on demonstration of new methods of community engagement, technology, and arts education. ​It will be especially useful for those of you interested in innovative ways of teaching and engaging students, international exchange, and applications of technology in the classroom.

It will also serve as a point of departure for the new Faculty Led Study Abroad Program in Ecuador, in collaboration with La Poderosa Media Project, which I will be leading. More to come.

New Article: “He ahí un hombre”: Composite Masculinity in Retratos y Recuerdos by Lucio V. Mansilla

I was recently invited to participate in a special thematic edition of Prisma Social, “Narraciones de masculinidad(es)”. That edition, Number 13, including my article, “He ahí un hombre”: Composite Masculinity in Retratos y Recuerdos by Lucio V. Mansilla,” was just published. So, here is the abstract and a link to the full content.

ABSTRACT

Studies of Lucio V. Mansilla typically focus on his appropriation of otherness in Una excursión a los indios ranqueles (J. Ramos), his literary ‘pose’ as causeur (S. Molloy), or else his cultural function at the center of Argentina’s Generation of 1880 (D. Viñas). These approaches hinge on the fragmentary nature of Mansilla’s self-construction. In contrast, this article focuses on the composite portrait of Argentine masculinity Mansilla constructs in Retratos y Recuerdos, published in 1894. Mansilla’s text aims to portray the physical and psychological characteristics, as well as the moral and political ideologies, of the Argentine men who shaped the modern nation. In doing so, the author suggests an elite masculinity that is constructed by an elaborate network of fraternal relations, homosocial bonds, which are charged with an inexplicable erotic tension.

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Drinking with Volleyball Players in Chelsea as an Indian/Indian Not-Yet

I

A bar full of tall athletic dudes. It was Friday night. I was with a friend who had invited me to tag along for a gay volleyball league social.

Our two became three, then five, a group. And then time for a move, another friend’s apartment in Chelsea, but first a slice or two to continue the night.

“I always thought you were Spanish,” one of them said, puzzled, uninhibited.
“Well I’ll tell you the story if you want.”

And I spoke. First about my father, who was adopted, and not knowing his biological family, and then me, growing up in South Texas thinking I was ‘Hispanic’, and finding out later—opening the sealed adoption records—that my father was actually born to an Indian mother and a White father. That I was American Indian, I was telling him. At least in part, and that’s what he wanted to know, I thought.

“That doesn’t exist.”
My lips pursed. My freckles burned.

“There’s no such thing, it’s all just Asian.”

That sinking feeling.

II

Not allowed to speak. Watch as I lose my body. Oh, please let me tell you who I am.

It was to exhort the other to speak as other while reserving the right to withdraw the discursive space of otherness, to be at the threshold where subject and object meet only to find that that space was never really there, an illusion.

It was to demand my enunciation as self, to fan my desire to call myself self only to find that that desire impels inexorably, sinisterly, toward the unraveling of me.

It was the power of Whiteness.

Let me rehearse it again: I position myself for the benefit of another—what is really to other myself for his benefit—and oh, what power do I cede. What self-determination do I vacate. I attempt to narrate myself, or at least how I see myself, or at least how I want others to see me, oh, and how I expose my self to its own negation. What oblivion.

I think that’s what happened at least. That I was foreclosed the identity I was demanded to produce. It was more than a racist attack. It was the negation of my ability to speak as myself. It was abjection, which is worse.

A not yet interpellation. Speak your-self. Not yet.

A not yet eternal. A not yet of Becomings promised, required. But promised and required only to be rejected. A demand to translate my mestizaje into legible categories, only to be de-tongued, un-spun, anti-selved.

To be a subject-in-process dangled the carrot of fixity, its impossible desire (I should have known better) only to be sent back to in-between and not-yet land.

Tell me your story. Tell me about your skin. Tell me about your hair.

Speak up, little Indian not-yet.

LASA 2014 Sexualities Studies Section Report

Now that my tenure as Co-Chair of the LASA Sexualities section has come to close, here is our annual report that will be coming out in the next LASA Bulletin.

Sexualities

By Joseph M. Pierce and Guillermo de los Reyes, Co-Chairs

The Sexualities Section business meeting took place on Thursday, May 22, and was attended by 18 people. We held elections, confirming the new co-chairs of the section, Laura Arnés and Maja Horn, as well as the secretary/treasurer, Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel. During the meeting we announced the winners of the Carlos Monsiváis Award (social sciences) and Sylvia Molloy Award (humanities), discussed future topics for sponsored section panels, and revisited the possibility of holding a pre-conference for LASA 2015.

This year we sponsored two section panels, one of which explored new perspectives in the study of sexualities in Latin America, while the other was organized in collaboration with the Southern Cone section and focused specifically on narratives of love, sex, and gender in the region. Both were well attended and we are looking forward to exploring new possibilities for collaboration with other sections in the future.

The 2013-2014 Carlos Monsiváis Award for best peer-reviewed article in the social sciences was awarded to James Green for his article, “‘Who is the Macho Who Wants to Kill Me?’ Male Homosexuality, Revolutionary Masculinity, and the Brazilian Armed Struggle of the 1960s and 1970s”. Abel Sierra Madero was awarded honorable mention for his article, “Cuerpos en Venta: Pinguerismo y Masculinidad Negociada en la Cuba contemporánea”.

Likewise, the 2013-2014 Sylvia Molloy Award for best peer-reviewed article in the humanities was awarded to Carlos Riobó for his article, “Raiding the ‘Anales’ of the Empire: Sarduy’s Subversions of the Latin American Boom,” with honorable mention for Matthew J. Edwards, “How to Read Copi: A Historiography of the Margins”.

We would like to thank the Monsiváis committee members, Horacio Sívori and Jordi Díez as well as the Molloy committee members, Dara Goldman and Lawrence LaFountain-Stokes for their work this year reviewing articles for the quality of their research, analysis, and writing, as well as on their contribution to the field of sexualities in Latin American and Latino social, cultural, and intellectual contexts.

 

Spotlight

Here is a link to The Statesman spotlight about me and my involvement with La Poderosa Media Project, and a photo of the group in Port Jefferson, NY, after our workshop at Stony Brook University.

 

Image Joseph M. Pierce, Nicolás Schvarzberg, Gabriela Espinosa, Jorge García, Alejandra Zambrano, and baby Joaquín