Art as Social Protest: Let Us Show You The Wei!

GKTC Summer Institute kicked off the summer exploring multimedia journalism: photography, videography, television, and radio. The past two weeks in Summer Institute was all about media in a different context… A R T!

Liz Michaels, GKTC’s longterm intern, is also an art instructor and led us in a discussion about types of art: fine art and conceptual art. We learned that in fine art, more value is placed on the aesthetic aspect of the final work while in conceptual art, the thoughtful idea or concept behind the work takes precedence. One particular type of conceptual art we focused on was social practice art. For those who don’t know what social practice art is, Tribe member Ian explains, “We are focusing on social practice art which is a type of art that is interactive, engages the audience, and conveys a message.”

We looked at examples of social practice art that inspired collaboration and interaction in environments outside the usual gallery or museum walls. Check out this short documentary about a work by Thomas Hirschhorn entitled Gramsci Monument.

Feeling inspired, Tribe tossed around ideas for their own social practice art piece. After some collaborative brainstorming, Tribe decided that they wanted to use their conceptual art piece to convey that “We are more alike than different,” an idea that Ian came up with. They wanted their final message to include:

Matthew: “We all have the same basic needs like love and acceptance.”

Anna: “We all have loved ones.”

Huan: “We are all our own person and have choices to make.”

Ian: “We are human beings with feelings.”

Tom: “We all have high expectations for ourselves.”

Another artist’s work we delved into was Ai Weiwei. His work prompted a mix of reactions. One in particular, entitled Dropping a Han Dynastry Urn, features Weiwei dropping and smashing a 2000-year old urn. The urn was valuable not only financially, but also symbolically and culturally.

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Source: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/ai-weiwei-beginners-guide

Huan:  “Holy moly, I can’t believe he did that in the name of art. If you wanted a reaction that was a way to get a big one.”

Matthew:  “I think it was badass but intense.”

Ian:  “I think it’s a shame to destroy history for the sake of attention.”

While there’s some debate in Tribe over what should and shouldn’t be considered art, everyone agrees that art is about pushing boundaries.

To end the unit, we took a trip to Smithsonian’s Hirsshorn Museum to see Ai Weiwei’s work up close.

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A trip to Washington, D.C. isn’t complete unless you take some tourist-y pictures with the Capitol and the Washington Monument!

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Waiting for the museum to open. Laura S. DeThorne, an SLP from the University of Illinois-Urbana, and her colleague, Henry, joined the outing!

The first part of the Ai Weiwei exhibit showcased a wallpaper installation entitled The Plain Version of the Animal That Looks Like a Llama but Is Really an Alpaca. After a closer inspection of the wallpaper, the Tribe found images of “technology” (Ian), “Twitter bird” (Huan), and “handcuffs” (Ben). Emma and Tom offered up their interpretations of the piece: “It says something about corruption” (Emma) and “The golden age of policing” (Tom).

The exhibit also featured the debut of Trace, an installation of Lego portraits. From the Hirshhorn website: The portraits are of free speech advocates and activists who “have been detained, exiled, or have sought political asylum because of their actions, beliefs, or affiliations.” In Emma’s words, “They were all revolutionaries.”

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Checking out Trace. Navigating past the wall art and the floor installation took a lot of motor control! Huan reflects on the experience: “It took a lot to be aware of everything. The hardest part was not to touch the walls.”

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Reading about the revolutionaries featured in Trace.

When asked how the portraits were a form of social protest, Huan shared: “It is recognizing their sacrifices.” Ian also shared, “Well plastering their infamous images on the floor calls attention to their names.”

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Posing like Ai Weiwei!

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Sharing their final reflections on Ai Weiwei’s work:

Ian: “The openness of the space makes such a difference. I get what Liz was saying about the space being part of the experience.” “It was powerful to see protest in art while browsing through each level of the Hirshhorn. The Ai Weiwei exhibit with the Legos was by far my favorite. It featured images of revolutionaries accused and charged as terrorists in Legos on the floor. It’s so crazy to think of being punished for standing up against evil.”

Tom: “I think it was a good way to call attention to those persecuted for social advocacy.” “It was so intense. I got every piece and I felt the oppression the artist wanted me to. I felt empowered to share my own oppressions.”

Huan: “The trip to the Hirshhorn was powerful I was terribly impressed with the art and how it can communicate the artist’s message. I thought the Ai Weiwei exhibit was incredible. The pictures of individuals who have lost their freedom for standing up for their beliefs was so amazing. I can’t believe that he was able to do this in Legos!

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Until next time, D.C.!

~Janine Caguicla and The Tribe

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RPM Community

I am getting ready to head out for another round of RPM workshops in Atlanta, Georgia and Portland, Oregon. To me, workshops are not just about helping kids and families communicate and learn through RPM, it is about building communities. The older I get (and I am getting old!), the more I realize the critical importance of community. There is only so much we can do as individuals but when we harness our talents, our compassion, our strengths, our understanding – we can do amazing things! The Atlanta RPM community is a model for what community can do. Last night, a bunch of the Atlanta RPMers got together to go to a baseball game. This was nothing elaborate – just a Facebook announcement saying who’s in? The result, a bunch of kids, just being kids, out at a ball game with their families and letter boards!  When I saw the pictures pop up on Facebook, I called my friend and RPM mom, Lou Blankenship, and asked her if she would be willing to write a guest blog about how she and the other Atlanta families are making community work so well. I am so grateful to her for sharing her experience with RPM and RPM community!

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Atlanta RPM hits the ball field!

Luckily for Reece (our 20 year old autistic son) he is the “baby” of our family. With two very active, involved and social older sisters, even if he could have spoken he had no say regarding being shuffled from outing to outing! Consequently, he became pretty adept at navigating the sometimes extreme challenges facing autistics that occur when having an unpredictable schedule, and actually began to like being busy and included.  

Reece

Reece

After his sisters graduated from high school and headed off to college and even more so after Reece left public school at age 19, our outings and social opportunities diminished. Looking for our “what’s next” in both the academic and social arena I stumbled upon a group email written by Susie about something called RPM.  Intrigued, I set up a meeting with her and we spoke at length as I grilled her on the amazing things her daughter, Graciela was doing with RPM. It was a meeting that literally changed our lives!

Susie introduced us to stencil boards, helped us in organizing “poking” practice and encouraged “presuming competence”….she also asked if we would be interested in participating in an RPM workshop the following November.  I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough.  Two months later during his first ever RPM workshop, Reece and “his angel” Elizabeth Vosseller of Growing Kids Therapy tilted our world  as he spelled out words such  as “Zeus”, “advocated” and “manifesto.” And *BAM* we were hooked!

Reece gives the greatest bear hugs EVER!

Reece gives the greatest bear hugs EVER!

I could go on and on (and on) about how RPM has been our answer to academic lessons, how it has given us a better understanding of autism, and especially how it has helped in opening  lines of communication, but as vitally important as all that is, I want to tell you the truly unexpected thing RPM has given us. It gave us peers, it gave Reece friends who communicate the way he does, it gave us a support group, it gave us camaraderie, it connected us to families who shared mutual experiences.

Proudly representing Atlanta RPM!

Proudly representing Atlanta RPM!

While each family is unique and special  in their own way, those of us who love a child with autism share a bond. The bond of sleepless nights that extend well past the infant stage and potty training that goes on much longer than “typical”.  The bond from researching endless options for treatments, therapies, diets, etc. The bond of knowing that even if things are going wonderfully, any little thing may make that great outing turn bad in a second. The bond of whole heartedly loving a child who  has never been able to verbally communicate that, yes he loves you too. And unfortunately, the bond that comes from understanding how it feels when you take your child out in public and they “act weird” or “different” and others stare or make negative comments.  But now, with RPM we have families that share a bond unlike those I mentioned …. it is a more positive bond, a happier, more empowered bond that says “my kid may have motor planning issues, and yes, he sometimes acts differently but he is proving to me and everyone he comes into contact with how extremely intelligent he is!”  

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In the few month since our first Atlanta RPM workshop, we have had the immense pleasure of attending a seminar with other RPMers at Agnes Scott College that was sponsored by the wonderful Hirsch Academy community; we have organized a book club where the kids use their letterboards to discuss literary works such as Life of Pi, Heaven is for Real and Grapes of Wrath; we stepped into the  world of poverty when the original four RPM kids took a field trip to the Compassion Experience; we are conquering new and exciting, very relevant topics in an unconventional educational experience taught by a special TA from Duke University; we have met for a hike, birthday celebrations and just last night we had a great time during an RPM group outing to the minor league Gwinnett Braves game.

Atlanta RPM

Atlanta RPM

For us, Atlanta RPM has not only been the key in establishing communication, understanding and learning it has truly become a community supporting each other in actions, ideas, lessons and friendship.  I have heard it said that “it takes a village” – but for us it takes an RPM community!

Thank you for your story Lou. At the end of the November 2014 workshop, Reece told me that he wanted to start a RPM Center. Reece, you have done better than that! You, Graciela, Charles and John – my “Core Four” (that’s my new nickname for y’all) along with the help of your beautiful mammas: Lou, Susie, Joan and Patricia have created a COMMUNITY!!! This weekend I will meet 8 new RPMers who are new to me, but not new to the boards thanks to the help of the Atlanta RPM coaches: Jess, Camiley, Kelsey A, Kelsey T, Roxy and Shelley! I am so excited for our “Community Meeting at the end of the weekend when my Core Four will participate in a panel discussion answering questions about RPM!  Here we grow again…It’s going to be an amazing weekend!

Do you need a RPM community? Call a friend – share your experience about RPM. Get your kids together and hang out. Start a book club. Send other RPMing parents an encouraging text. Form a local Facebook community. Share your experiences. Bring your kids and letter boards out to local events. The ripple effect is growing my friends, catch the wave!
~Elizabeth and Lou

 

Remember. Honor. Teach.

Lately, I have been thinking quite a bit about my older RPM “kids”, who are not really kids at all, but young adults. These young adults, in their late teens and early twenties, are without a doubt, the most selfless, caring individuals I have ever met. Throughout their writings are consistent themes of desires to: make meaningful contributions to society; form strong friendships; learn; educate; gain independence; help other nonspeaking kids; and hold worthwhile employment. I take their words very seriously and am constantly thinking of ways to help them meet their goals. So, my friend and fellow RPM provider, Meghan Pennington told me that she and her client, Camille, were participating in Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery, I thought this was the perfect opportunity for these young adults to be of service and hang out together!

So, EARLY morning, on December 13, we set out on our first RPM Young Adults Outing! My crew: Meghann, my GKTC counterpart and RPMer extraordinaire (yes, there are 2 Meghann/Meghans in this story!); Christie, my partner in crime; and Linda, willing friend and adventurer and I met up with our band of young adults –Ben, Huan, Emma and Paul at the metro to ride to Arlington Cemetery. Because our young adults have expressed a desire for independence, this was a parent-free outing, and we “companions” agreed to be as un-parental, un-clingy, yet responsible as possible! Better than any words I could expend telling you about our day, I think these pictures tell the story best!

It was a loooong metro ride into the city!  What should have taken 20 minutes took 2 hours!

What should have taken 20 minutes turned out to be a loooong metro ride into the city! Overcrowded trains and long waits at the station did not diminish our fun. Ben and Emma took it in stride, enjoying the trip!

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Waiting for the next train to come through was a great time to hang out and chat.

Linda, Meghann and Paul are decked out in wreaths!

After arriving at Arlington National Cemetery we picked up our wreaths. Linda, Meghann and Paul are decked out in wreaths and leading the way!

After arriving at Arlington National Cemetery, we got our wreaths.

After arriving at Arlington National Cemetery, we got our wreaths.

We met up with fellow RPM friends, Camille, Meghan and John!

We met up with fellow RPMing friends Camille, Meghan and John!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben and Meghann read the name of the veteran and pause in remembrance before placing their wreath.

Ben and Meghann read the name of the veteran and pause in remembrance before placing their wreath.

Huan chooses where to place his wreath.

Huan chooses where to place his wreath.

Emma places her wreath.

Emma lays her wreath on the gravesite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meghan and Camille have a moment of silence.

Meghan and Camille have a moment of silence.

Paul views the miles of grave markers now adorned with wreaths. It is a stunning reminder of all who have served this country.

Paul views the miles of grave markers now adorned with wreaths. It is a stunning reminder of all who have served our country.

The gang befriends some soldiers, thanks them for their service and gather for a picture!

Our gang befriends some soldiers, thanks them for their service, and gather for a picture.

We stop talk about what we have learned today. Ben writes, I AM SO HONORED TO BE HERE SHOWING RESPECT FOR OUR VETERANS.  Paul spells, THIS IS BY FAR THE BEST DC OUTING EVER!

We stop talk about what we have learned today. Ben writes, I AM SO HONORED TO BE HERE SHOWING RESPECT FOR OUR VETERANS.

Paul adds, THIS IS BY FAR THE BEST DC OUTING EVER!

Paul adds, THIS IS BY FAR THE BEST DC OUTING EVER!

We decide to avoid the metro lines and walk into DC to catch the metro there! We pause for a group photo on the Memorial Bridge.

We decide to avoid the metro lines and walk into DC to catch the metro there! We pause for a group photo on the Memorial Bridge.

And who can resist a photo opp in front of the Lincoln Memorial?

And who can resist a photo opp in front of the Lincoln Memorial?

After a clocking in 4.5 miles of walking for the day, everyone was HUNGRY! The kids used the boards to spell out what they wanted for lunch and ate every bite!

After a clocking in 4.5 miles of walking for the day, everyone was HUNGRY! The kids used the boards to spell out what they wanted for lunch and ate every bite!

The "old adults" were worn out from the day, but the young ones had energy to spare!

The “old adults” were worn out from the day, but the young ones had energy to spare!

As you can see, our first RPM Young Adults Outing was a huge success and will not be our last! My kids are constantly challenging me to think of new ways to involve them in the community to: learn; educate; be of service; and show the world they are smart, talented and have something to contribute. I am always on the lookout for new and interesting things to do (Don’t worry, I have ideas in mind for my elementary and middle school kids too!).  Our challenge to you is to get together with your kids and RPM friends and see what you can contribute to your community! ~Elizabeth