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Constructing voices : a narrative case study of the processes and production of a community art performance Miller, Lorrie Anne

Abstract

Constructing Voices is a narrative case study exploring the experiences of young women as they participated in a major public art performance project. I followed the process and production of Turning Point and Under Construction over the course of one year. Under the direction of American performance artist and educator Suzanne Lacy, this Vancouver, Canada based art project and performance sought to empower participating young women; to help them fin their voice and to provide them with a forum so that they might challenge and alter public perception and stereotypes of young women in the mass media. Seven young women from Turning Point and three local organizers, including the project and performance producer, have offered their narratives to inform this study. Together, they take us behind the scenes of a huge and complex community art project and performance. Their stories help us find meaning amidst the contradictions inherent in art productions of this magnitude. I approach this inquiry from a constructivist paradigm, informed by postmodern feminism. Through this research I call for a collaborative art practice which is reflexive, critical and egalitarian - one in which power is shared and where representation is determined by those whose lives are displayed. To inform our future artistic and educational practices, we need to turn to those pedagogical frameworks that best correspond to the intended goals of the projects. In the case of Turning Point and Under Construction, we need to look to feminist, emancipatory and performance art pedagogies. Only by informing our practices in this way, can these projects provide the opportunity for individuals to achieve a heightened engagement with their world - to learn through currere. In this narrative case study, we hear from young women at turning points in their lives. They believe what they say has value and should be heard by others. Performance art has the potential to be a rich site for learning so long as the process is congruent with the goals of the art project. As art educators we can respond to these narratives in our practices by providing environments for learning where participants/learners can find their own ideas and voices while expressing themselves in personally meaningful ways.

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