Week (and a half) in review: May 17 – 28

I’m late posting this.  After finishing up with Emin‘s part and a day and a half of work on the proposal to A Space Gallery, I took a day, Thursday, 22nd, to clean up my desks, resort the material, and basically bring some order back into my studio. First thing I got hit with on Friday morning was the news about the attack by Israeli Ambassador and lobby groups on an exhibition in Ottawa’s Karsh-Masson gallery by Palestinian artist and friend Rehab Nazzal. The rest of the day got taken by conversations with Rehab and a number of other artists and activists about ways of responding to this particularly nasty and insidious silencing attempt.

It is interesting how trauma ripples wide and far even when one does not experience a violent event first hand. I didn’t have to hear Rehab talk about her experience of being targeted, nor even to imagine it because I actually felt it, though I’m sure the intensity was much less than what Rehab had experienced. I wasn’t flash-backing to previous similar experiences of my own, nor was I “triggered.” This was fresh new trauma, old as it was in its patterns and textures and aims. The immediate effect of trauma is the sense of powerlessness, and the first step toward healing is to acknowledge the loss, and next to take effective action. When I realized by Monday that I was not simply “stressed” or “triggered” but that I was reacting to a new traumatic event, I decided to ride it and let it play itself out rather than suppress it and store-up imbalances and post-traumatic symptoms. Effective action is what I’ve been focusing on since then. That has come in three forms:

  1. actively participating in collective response to the attack
  2. making time for somatic practices to discharge stored allostatic load
  3. transforming the negative energy of this attack into positive in a supportive community context

The third action was completed last night in the collaborative workshop with Zainab Amadahy, fortuitously planned and titled From Self-Care to Collective Empowerment. In designing and leading a yoga-inspired somatic practice focused on healing trauma for an audience of activists, front-line community workers and artists/cultural producers – 90% of whom were women and 70% racialized women – I was able to connect my self-care to collective empowerment. I am deeply gratified by the feedback from the participants and grateful that my self-healing took on a more communal aspect and opened up a space for others to take effective action. This note came from a participant this morning:

I would like to thank you so much for your session yesterday and for chatting with me after! I felt my own breathe last night for the first time in years!I also truly appreciate your insights on thoughts being automatic/constant and being mindful of ones that may trigger a feeling/memory or a moment of self-awareness by bringing oneself back to the core/breathe. This knowledge is immensely helpful to my current healing of mind and body.

On the content production side, I did some research and correspondence to narrow down my options for the last two personas. I wasn’t too sure when I included Mirza Abu-Talib and Taj al-Saltanah, but the recent research and thinking has solidified this selection. Now it’s a matter of collecting some of the sources. Meanwhile, I have plenty of catching up to do by logging the highlights of works I read way back at the start of the research phase and never got to log because I was also very busy writing proposals. Some low-demand activity like typing in highlighted passages is in order. It’d keep me on track with the project and give my brain a rest. Although, physically, typing is quite exhausting, and I should be careful to move frequently.

Oh, I did go to the opening of Subtle Technology Festival’s Open Culture exhibitions last Friday. The highlight of the evening for me was when Maggie Flynn, a young woman whose compilation of Toronto Anarchist Free University’s archive was part of the show curated by Farah Yusuf, asked me if I remembered her. I knew I had met her but had to be reminded that she had been a student in one of the courses I taught at York, Crossing Boundaries. We had a really good conversation about TAFU and her work with its archive. And I was really pleased to know that she had walked away from that course with ideas and skills she was still using. Grateful to know that my aborted teaching career left some useful marks.

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  1. […] being somewhat derailed, the remainder of last week was a struggle to get back on track again while keeping in touch with […]