How do we map our memory & curiosity as we try to make meaning out what we experience, especially when that experience asks us to interrogate the ways in which we have been colonized & the ways in which we colonize?
I attended the Teaching Artists Guild conference on Tuesday, and it was a day of talented Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, women, queer, and disabled teaching artists sharing insights about their practice, their praxis, and how we stay in right relation with ourselves, our communities, our ancestors, & our non-human relatives.
As the artists presented, I took copious notes, trying to capture their words carefully because there was no recording to review. I knew they would be my only record. I must get everything perfect. I was hired as a Teaching Artist Reporter, and I want to do honor to the nuance & complexities of Tamara Anderson's, Amalia Ortiz's, Brittney Boyd Bullock's, Miko Lee's, Heleya de Barros', Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osario's, Precious Blake's, Dr. Maria Rosaria Jackson's, Cindy Marten's, Eddie Madril's, and Victor Sawyer's wisdoms & insights.
My hand furiously scribbling on my iPad, I wrote & wrote & wrote. Not fully paying attention because I was focused on capture. I felt myself falling into patterns of frustration & criticality, of paying attention to penmanship over perspective. It was in direct contradiction with the content being presented: how do we decolonize our practice?
Still, I had a j-o-b to do. I was there to be productive, to be astute in my observations, to take this seriously & be serious about the craft of teaching art. And for four hours I listened, took exhaustive notes, tried to not miss a thing. By the end, I was depleted, exhausted, fried. And I had no clue what or how to "report".
I missed the next two days of the conference due to work meetings & the Immigrant Artist Network's Virtual Salon. (SIDE NOTE: YAY! We had our first presenting session, and it went smashingly. Help us raise some money for it.) I wasn't able to sit back down with my notes until Friday early morning, and when I began, everything was a jumbled mess.
This feeling of being a mess is a feeling I am comfortable in. It is a feeling of being unfamiliar, a bit lost, of not knowing. And I know what to do when I do not know. My my wanders memories & I become curious. And this wandering always leads to revelations unexpected & outcomes unseen. In fact, it was in a space of the unknown I was able to rebuild Queerly Complex.
So I looked back on notes & found one specific phrase that really stood out to me because it is so reflective of the work I am doing with Crystal Mason through Queering Dreams. It was shared by Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osario, and it was a quote by Mari J. Matsuda:
With a thread found, I knew what to do next: Set some parameters for my exploration. I knew I wanted to start in the here & now and follow whatever threads that may appear. I new I wanted to create a map; it's what I proposed to do. I knew I wanted to something that felt like it was unfolding or like an onion peeling back layers. I wanted it to be somewhat messy & chaotic to represent the way my brain works. And I wanted it to be Queerly Complex aesthetically.
With those decisions, I set to the task of expressing what I felt & thought starting at a single origin point:
What follows is a series of maps. I have included descriptions of each below the image for ease of reading, and so I can add in attribution when necessary & possible.
SLIDE ONE Image description: "HERE - Imagination takes us into the future - NOW" in a textured pink circle against a black background.
SLIDE TWO Image description: SLIDE ONE slightly smaller in the middle with a line extending above it to the phrase, "Quote by Mari J. Matsuda," with a line extending from the end of the phrase to the right and down connecting to the phrase, "Introduced to me by Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osario," with a line extending from it to a phrase that reads, "Introduced to me by Teaching Artist Guild Conf. April 5 2022."
SLIDE THREE Image Description: SLIDE TWO slightly smaller with the words slightly darker. Lines extend from each of the initial phrases. The new phrases in white are, "Memory: TAG was 1st Teaching Artist's Organize." "If only we remembered what the world wants us to forget," a line of poetry from the closing poem by Dr. Osario. "Google: Mari Matsuda & imagination."
SLIDE FOUR Image Description: SLIDE THREE slightly smaller with the words slightly darker. Lines extend from each of the previous phrases. The new phrases in white are, "We stood in circle in a church basement in Oakland joyously." "Who do you need to remember?" "Result: 'When the First Quail Calls: Multiple Consciousness as Jurisprudential Method' by Mari J. Matsuda" (Mistitled in the slide). (Note: I read the whole article, and I highly recommend it.) A galaxy is becoming noticeable in the background.
SLIDE FIVE Image Description: SLIDE FOUR slightly smaller with the words slightly darker. Lines extend from each of the previous phrases. The new phrases in white are,"NEW THOUGHT: The circle unfolds into a spiral." "Always remember your ancestors." "'It was a consciousness developed in their feminist & abolitionist struggle,'" a quote from the article. The galaxy is more noticeable.
SLIDE SIX Image Description: SLIDE FIVE slightly smaller with the words slightly darker. Lines extend from each of the previous phrases. The new phrases in white are,"NOTICE: This is a circle unfolding." "Advice by Luis Valderas gifted in intergenerational virtual exchange in 2020." "Resource: A Space for Dreaming Abolition & Freedom." The galaxy is more noticeable.
SLIDE SEVEN Image Description: SLIDE SIX slightly smaller with the words slightly darker. Lines extend from each of the previous phrases. One white line turns into a spiral. The other phrases in white read, "Connection: Intergenerational exchange takes us into the future with our ancestors." "Co-created by an intergenerational group of Indigenous, Black, queer, disabled, & poor artists over 2020-2022." The galaxy is more noticeable.
SLIDE EIGHT Image Description: SLIDE SEVENTH slightly smaller with the words slightly darker. A single long, looping spiral encircles the whole slide. The galaxy is prominent.
SLIDE NINE Image Description: The galaxy is very prominent. The words "What's y/our imagined future?" is written in hand lettering and overlaid with purple stars. It has a drop shadow. All around the question is the whirling spiral from SLIDE EIGHT.