A little while ago, I made some films for Centred (a charity I have previously referred to as Kairos). The films were the product of a workshop I ran in conjunction with the Soho walking tour the charity runs. On December 11th they had their first public airing at the Centred Winter Warmer, which is a kind of performance / logistics evening in which everyone involved with relevant activities comes and speaks.
I briefly introduced the films, but one of the points I wanted to make, that may have been a little irrelevant given the audience, was that this is the first time I have tried a workshop in which the participants transform a social experience into an artistic one.
A while ago, I hosted a discussion between animal rights activist Louis Ng and free software advocate Richard Stallman. The latter, known for his lack of social skills, struck me as someone who is perfectly aware of how his behaviour is affecting others but doesn’t give a shit. I don’t think his behaviour is very different to the rest of us who continue to buy dangerous products because we don’t give a shit about the environment, labour rights or state surveillance. At the end of the night, when my friends and I were in the coffee shop in Kent Ridge, the ethical conflict I’d felt about whether to get in on a smartphone or tablet (which was why I was interested in talking to Stallman in the first place) had ceased. A few months later I’d saved enough for an ipad, and I’ve just signed up for a new phone this month.
Two workshops this week. On Thursday I went to a sixth form college in West London, where the gay club and writing club had mixed for a special workshop. As soon as I arrived, one of them informed me that they’d written about one of my poems for their coursework, which was both flattering and strange, especially because it was an obscure, short one called “At Last We Are Alone”. The thing about working with teenagers, especially since I still consider myself one despite being in my mid-twenties, is that they have not left the bizarre social space of institutionalised education. So the barriers are up but only because they’ve never been down.
I met with Selene Daswani, head of business development at Google Asia. I met with her because the night before I’d been struck by something she said about using the resources at her workplace to help with the social justice projects she was interested in. The following week we met for lunch and I got a tour of the google offices as well as good material for what will be the first graphic review I’ve made for a long time. Sketches above. I think I’ll be finished next week. Drawing this has reminded me of why I like comics – so much attention must be paid to organisation, and organisation is hot.
What happens when artists go into poor neighbourhoods and create art? Gentrification. And also documentaries such as Diamond Inside which I saw as part of Singapore Indie Doc Fest. It’s a documentary by Luis Sanchez Alba about Boamistura, a well-known Spanish art collective who go to Cape Town to paint murals in townships. This is not the first superficial documentary of its kind, but its the first I’ve seen in a while that both highlights and leap-frogs an obvious problem with its subject: while the artists in question are very dedicated to the idea of social good via public art, there is zero strategy for ensuring that the benefits of this art go to the people who live in the area.
My friends are fighting to keep this centre open. It’s basically unfunded, has existed for decades and is being threatened by the neighbouring school who have side-stepped the fact of a five year lease and attempted to evict the project. I wish I was there to support it physically – the campaigners are now occupying the building day and night to keep it open. There’s a £5 donation drive – give if you can. Luckily it is getting press attention. Let’s give it more.
Donate a fiver
So I hosted Richard Stallman and Louis Ng two days ago. It was a sharing session about activism and it went against all my expectations. I came away with the realisation that there are several kinds of activist (obviously) and that the most curious kind is the individual who cares about a cause to the extent that they are prevented by their own principles from engaging others.