Dimensions of change 3

Hint: Best to read Dimensions of change 1, then 2, then this.

I am still banging on about change and addressing the question of the relationship between change at the level of the individual and at the level of the society.  I have talked elsewhere about how economics and theatre are based on an image of the human.  They assume an image of the human.  An image of the human is implicit in them.  This ‘imaging’ of the human can be shared across practices.  The framing of this ‘imaging’ is culturally specific and it is anthropology that studies these determinations.  The use of the expression ‘homo economicus’ and the presentation, in the model of classical economics, of a rationally self-interested individual demonstrates this ‘imaging’ work.  Alternatively, for example, the Deep Ecology movement works for the realisation of the ‘ecological self’.

Can we in the course of our lives remodel ourselves?  Can we move beyond the culturally determined and practiced identities that we grow into?  What part does this imaging work or (more simply put) the imagination play in these processes of change? Do we passively wait for change to come even if we know it’s coming, even if we feel it’s coming? How do we imagine ourselves on earth? How on earth do we imagine ourselves?

mappa mundi is offering theatre as equipment for imagining.  Since imagination and re-imagining oneself is a part of realising change we are encouraging the use of mappa mundi as a way of enacting stories of change as well as a way of activating change.  These two processes may be interconnected.  Sharing our stories of change, conceiving of ourselves in the process of change and actually changing may be almost the same thing.

This is the reason why we are working with the ideas of Joanna Macy and Augusto Boal in our creative sessions.  Also with the transformative work of participatory video as it is practiced by Insightshare but at the moment I know less about this.

Joanna Macy’s has worked out a theoretical framework for personal and social change and has articulated this in a practical workshop format.  mappa mundi is a pluralistic project and is not based on any single method of work or body of philosophy.  Also it is not pretending to ‘reinvent the wheel’.  Our work is co-dependent on other people’s work.

We are envisaging four stages in our creative sessions work.  We are modelling and structuring this work through the four basic movements outlined in ‘the work that reconnects’.  We have recognised that mappa mundi is a ‘making’ process and this distinguishes it from Macy’s work.

The process described in the last blog of what Boal calls ‘pluralisation’ in other words finding the general story from an array of individual stories is similar for our purposes to the shift between the second (called ‘honouring the pain’) and third (called ‘seeing with new eyes’) basic movements of Joanna Macy’s ‘work that reconnects’.

Is there really a correspondence between these two moments in these different processes (Boal’s Rainbow of Desire and Macy’s ‘work that connects’) ?  Why do we want to overlay or interconnect these two methodologies?

Macy’s work is aimed at an activation of change.  The connection between personal change and social change is at the centre of it and permeates it (runs through it like a river).  The image she uses is that of a spiral. The whole four movements of her workshop process are figured as a spiral but also the spiral is a fractal form that inhabits each cell of the work.  It is a movement that is developing but also returns, a combination of a line and a circle. So in each of the movements all four movements are present but at different stages of development.

Boal’s work is aimed at liberation from oppression.  The key movement in his work is the transposition of experiences into the ‘theatre space’.  Then the original experience and the embodied (or enacted) image of it are held in dynamic tension (he calls this holding both the image of reality and the reality of the image) , separated so the image can be reconstructed, connected so the results of the work on the image can be reintroduced into reality (he calls this ‘theatre as a rehearsal for life’).

I really don’t want to flatten both these processes so they appear the same.  What I want to do is bring Macy’s imagination of change towards Boal’s imagination of liberation from oppression.  What these two moments (movement from ‘honouring the pain’ to ‘seeing with new eyes’ for Macy and the ‘pluralisation’ process that involves confirming the ‘reality of the image’ for Boal) appear to me to share in common is what I would describe as ‘seeing the self in the other’.

I can imagine that this could be obscure and difficult to come to terms with if you don’t have a basic knowledge of these two practitioners!!

So our creative sessions will have four movements.  There will be three layers.  There will be the ‘Macy’ layer, the ‘Boal’ layer and the ‘participatory video’ layer!

The first movement will have as its keynotes: gratitude and presence.  This is a focusing on the ‘here and now’ so it is a preparation of the ‘aesthetic space’.  It is a physical warm up and focuses on breathing.  It is aimed at building trust in the group and giving the space for play.  The recognition of what we have to be grateful for is central to this process.  Also there will be an exploration of the three basic stories that can be used to describe our current circumstances.

The second movement focuses on the development of individual stories.  The underlying movement is looking at the obstacles to change, encountering grief and honouring pain.  Seeing the individual’s pain in the light of the pain of the world. This will be a process of exploring stories, teasing and combing out the separate strands.  It will look at isolation, aloneness. The direction of the work will be inward and reflective and then at the end of the movement there will be the activity of embodying the story/images (the separate strands), of showing them in the ‘aesthetic space’, making the invisible visible.  The assembly that this movement ends with is the basis for the group to move onto seeing the general in the particular, seeing the self in the other and thus moving towards the next movement.

(Bear in mind that this is not a mechanical but a creative process so it is possible that things can go backwards as well as forwards.)

This third movement is characterised by ‘seeing with new eyes’ and is to do with the group extracting the way they want to tell their story of change from the stories they have witnessed.  We are imagining that the part played by participatory video in the process will be developing.  Here the group is creating an ‘image of the images’, ‘pluralising’, continuing the work of seeing the self in the story of the other through acting out the story and working to break down this key image into a series of images.  This could be like ‘story-boarding’.  This is the movement where ‘making’ is more dominant.

The fourth movement is that of performing and videoing the drama story.  This continues all the main thematics that have been set in train by the work.  Each movement may involve going back to the beginning, to basic group trust and breathing together but now it is in the context of creating a picture to make a part of the bigger picture.  Joanna Macy calls this last movement: Going Forth. The filming includes the editing and uploading of the video.

This is a very rough outline of the creative process for our sessions.  We believe that this process will be transformative.  It will also involve conflict and struggle and fun and pain and joy.

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