DARING FEMINIST ARTISTIC PRACTICE

Blog Post by Joy Ross-Jones, April 26, 2019

This is an entry as a part of Imago Theatre’s Daring Feminist Artistic Practice blog series.

When I consider the origins of the beauties and ills I perceive in the world, I land time and time again on education. Perhaps spending most of my after school hours in the classroom where my mother taught second grade, reading and re-reading colourful books, and making messes with craft materials wired my mind to always wonder how we shape minds. How do we nurture minds in formation to believe that they are capable? To me, belief in one’s capacity to create is the origin of a daring, feminist artistic practice. It’s what I’d like to jam on today.

 

A couple of relevant anecdotes:

 

  1. A friend I met testing out an improv class dreamt of being a professional performer. Because she was afraid of not ‘being good enough,’ of ‘not having what it takes,’ and of ending up a ‘poor artist,’ she pursued the professional life of a translator instead.

 

  1. At age six, an art teacher told my partner that he was ‘bad at art.’ To this day he rarely creates with his hands, and when he does, he is ashamed of his creations. He avoids expressing himself in visual mediums.

 

To be sure, I don’t believe everyone is an artist. But I do believe that everyone should feel empowered to practice their creativity. I also believe that our culture of art creation is strengthened when it includes various kinds of voices.

 

There are a million and one reasons for art-curious folks to step away from creative spaces:

 

“My parents don’t want me to be an artist.”

“I can’t afford it.”

“Art is frivolous.”  

“If I’m not directly helping people, then I’m not doing anything.”

“I’ve never seen a face like mine on TV.”

“She’s better than me.”

“My story’s not interesting.”  

“My body’s ugly.”  

It’s too easy to shatter a person’s aspirations of creativity and their feelings of self-worth. People moving through the world in trans and cis women’s bodies are particularly easy targets for these kinds of painful arrows. My vision of a daring, feminist art practice involves creating spaces where creativity can be practiced at full potential, at 100% expression, unhindered by the various shortcomings the world has told us we hold. To achieve our full capacity, in spite of these various critical, insidious voices, un-learning is required.

Sarah Ahmed says that feminism is about “bringing people into the room,” and I believe that daring, feminist art is the outcome of this. It starts with offering artists/learners of various backgrounds and ways of being in the world access to space where they can explore their voices and tell their stories. As such, the space should be financially accessible, open, patient, and full of exciting prompts to test. The humans facilitating the space should hold space, listen, and challenge the artists/learners to muster the colours, the notes, the lines, the words, and all other ingredients that will be cooked into their daring, feminist concoctions.

Montreal has incredible free mentorship, training and creation spaces that welcome young folks of various non-dominant identity intersections’ and nourish their capacity to test their creative expression. I think this is absolutely amazing, so I’ll take a moment to toot some horns for Imago’s Artista, Black Theatre Workshop’s Artist Mentorship Program, Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal’s Young Creators’ Unit, and Project 10’s Our Bodies our Stories. Let’s raise a glass for free mentorship and theatre training!

I’ll leave you with a poem, a bit of my process for creating this post as my closing remarks (which I also wrote because my colleague Erin Linday’s poetry is inspiring- you can find her work on her Instagram account @crowlake)

Thanks for tuning in 🙂

 

A flashlights inside her picture book mind,

searching, noun, verb, adverb,

sweaty pits, tonguing teeth to elocute.

Meanwhile a hound of impatients.

Ready to jump in, run-on-sentence right past,

in a spitfire, fury, or a perfectly worded, rational sentence.

Bullseye. Bulldozed. Stunned into silence.

Bravo. Bravo.

Delicate idea buds flourish with

tender soil, water,

a bit of room to bloom.

So maybe just get up from your chair and dance instead.

Joy