The coronavirus keeps making us go through hell. The panic, our quarantined selves, the social distance, ruined plans, social upheaval, political turbulence, economic insecurity and mental health deterioration has given me, I’m sure like many others, not the sweetest mixed cocktails there is.
Amid all this the Feminist Artivist Camp organized by Artpolis, held from June 26-29 in Kukaj, seemed like the best and worst idea of all. I said yes instantly when asked to be a participant. I thought to myself how in the hell am I going to spend four days with more than 20 people I have never met before, in an environment like the Kukaj village that is so different from the comfy living room I had not escaped away from for too long.
Having no outlined and detailed agenda for the camp was not helping either. But I trust Artpolis and I trust Zana Hoxha — the executive director — and I had already confirmed as going, so I did go.
The art of listening
I had forgotten how important it is to really listen. It is extraordinary to have access to one’s unique standpoint. The Feminist Artivism Camp gave this to me. In a dynamic world it is so hard to practice the art of stillness. The art of being in the moment, exchanging energy, giving and taking, listening and speaking, connecting through this balance.
Simplifying things, grouping and categorizing other humans is a go-to-practice to make our lives easier. This time it was all about taking the time to address complexity; it was about precision and understanding intersected identities that create unique situations for each individual.
We weren’t just women. We were more than that. Adjectives and explanatory sentences always followed our names that carried simultaneous labels, identities and personas. I admired how much we pushed to acknowledge those unique intersections.
I fell in love even more with the space we created where we allowed each part of ourselves to breathe freely. I cannot count the times I have had to limit myself as one thing or another, prioritize one identity or another; as an artist or a woman; as an Albanian or an alien resident of some other country; as that religion or that sexuality; that job or this mental state, as this or that.
I am never only this and/or that. I am both and neither at different times and places. It was inspiring to find a group of people who embraced complexity and the unknown, pushed to find comfort in that, and gave human compassion and love through that.
This camp gave me the freedom to give a voice to the multiple selves I hold dear to myself; to just breathe and be in touch with these selves. I can’t imagine a world where compassion and love is given to another when it is lacked in oneself. It is in this dimension precisely where this camp succeeded the most.
Self-love and acceptance and connecting through them both regardless of the unique situations we all are placed in is powerful. Provoking groundbreaking art cannot be produced where multilayered human beings are not part of the conversation and are not embraced as such.
Socially impactful art that shakes fundamental structural injustices recognizes that social categories are socially constructed and are both limited and limiting at all times. They can be changed, and we should push to do that at all times.
Creating art. Or not.
I found power in the journey of grounding myself and then taking this collective emotional journey to a concrete practice of making art. I contributed with poetry. Some other participants’ contribution was their performance skills.
After having the chance to connect through meditation, yoga, dancing, social debates, games and eating, it was easier to expose our inner colorful worlds and help one another breakthrough in the art performance pieces we created collectively and showcased at the final day of the camp.
I remember on the second day of the camp we were divided into groups. Throughout the camp we had different opportunities to work closely together and produce an art work of our choosing. I didn’t know any of the group members. Each of us had something different to contribute. It was a hard process.
The first time we worked together, instead of creating the art work, we spent the whole time talking to each other, brainstorming and really just sharing our personal stories. At the end, most of us felt bad that we didn’t have an actual artistic piece to present or perform in front of the other groups. It didn’t matter. I realized that at that time and place, talking, sharing and listening were what we needed. You can’t rush things. That wasn’t our momentum.
Finding the art
Our momentum came after we acknowledged each other and formed at least one small truthful connection. The next day we had another chance to work in groups and continue developing our art pieces. What happened next I can’t say I understood completely. It was smooth and organic. We shared poetry. We moved our bodies. We also experimented with music and boom, there we had our art work.
It was a combination of instrumental music, poetry written by me and another group member, and three other girls improvised with their bodies and created silent embodied stories while following the words of our poetry. I will not forget the moment we shared this with the rest of the participants. It was a holistic experience that filled my heart with joy. We built an alliance and combined our strengths. Only then we had something powerful and impacting.
The bottom line is, I fell in love with the process of making art through discussing the social component of it, as much as I fell in love with the final product. We artists grow in the process of making art, as much as we try to help others grow with our final artistic product. It is a collective effort. Always.
The personal remains political
I am here for pushing forward the creation of accepting friendly spaces where humanity, equality and compassion isn’t a privilege of labels, but a given in one’s existence. The Feminist Artivist Camp reminded me that such a thing is possible.
When all is dark and miserable, it is helpful to sit down, talk and listen, share and connect, form alliances, create support networks and create emotionally grounded work that comes from a sincere place deep within. One can only hope, the work will also shake the foundation of someone else’s soul deep within.
Finally, there are some main take-aways I was reminded of in this camp;
- The art of stillness must be mastered
- Emotional release and connection is the biggest self-care method I can do for myself.
- The best artistic creation comes from multifaceted socio cultural conversations and grounded knowledge
- Body, mind and spirit is the holy trinity that I need to respect, cherish and take care of.
Last but not least,
- Being in the moment, letting things flow and adapting as you go is so underrated. From now on, count me in.
The personal remains political and so it shall be treated and addressed in the many events to come.
This blog is part of our #Youth2020 series. Want to share what’s on your mind? Click here to find out more.
Feature image: Artpolis.