Research

“‘The important thing about imagination is that it gives you optimism,’ said Martin Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Positive Psychology Center there.

His work is dedicated to studying human agency, which is predicated on efficacy, optimism and imagination. …

The hours spent fantasizing and daydreaming about future plans are valuable, Dr. Seligman said. They allow people to escape routine, and cultivate hope and resilience. …

‘Imagining the future — we call this skill prospection — and prospection is subserved by a set of brain circuits that juxtapose time and space and get you imagining things well and beyond the here and now,’ Dr. Seligman said. ‘The essence of resilience about the future is: How good a prospector are you?’

And that’s the case regardless of whether one’s imaginings of the future are over-the-top and unbelievable, or seemingly mundane. …

…Dr. April Toure, a psychiatrist who specializes in working with children and adolescents at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn [said] ‘Even though it’s not considered a core symptom of depression, the absence of hope is a common symptom.’ … Future thinking, or “the imagination and belief that something better is coming,” is crucial to getting through hard times.

Tariro Mzezewa, “Go Ahead. Fantasize.” NY Times (January 16, 2021)

What will you do when the pandemic is over?

Quote

“Compound is a new cultural complex in the heart of the Zaferia district of Long Beach. Compound is dedicated to the intersection of art, wellness and community engagement. It is a new space for culture and community to promote connectivity and belonging.”

compoundlb.com

 

I am fascinated by this organization and that it has a Policy of Belonging. Read it—it’s available in several languages:

Policy of Belonging
La Política de Pertenencia
នោលការណ៍ នន “ភាពជាកមមសិទធិ”
Ang Patakaran ng Pagiging Kabilang

Research

See: #BelongingProject: Compound’s Policy of Belonging

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a photo of a neon installation with the text, 'You belong here' in puruple script.' the neon is installed on a waterfront, so it reflects in the water. The photo was taken after sunset.
Tavares Strachan, You Belong Here, 2014, blocked out neon, 9.1 x 24.4 m, installation view, Prospect New Orleans’ triennial, Prospect, Mississippi River, New Orleans, USA // Source: PublicDelivery.org.

“Strachan’s project was a declarative statement and performance that was entitled You Belong Here. The installation featured a 100-foot neon art piece that would be transported from one location to another on a 140- foot barge on the Mississippi River. The barge that carried the neon piece was made visible from different regions and places throughout New Orleans. It was created to pass on a message to the residents of the city, encouraging the city dwellers to examine themselves and what the city of New Orleans means to them and their futures.”

From PublicDelivery.org
Research, Works

See: #BelongingProject: Tavares Strachan’s You Belong Here

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Grace Lau’s 21st Century Types

“Lau’s series of portraits 21st Century Types (2005) reflects the multiplicity of contemporary British society and comments on the Imperialist othering of ‘exotic’ Chinese people and culture. Lau constructed an opulent hybrid Chinese/English portrait studio in Hastings and over six weeks photographed hundreds of passers-by. The resulting images are a monument to place, race, people and the passing of time. The series also acts as a direct statement on the use of photography as unconscious bias, examining the politics of cultural representation and visual ‘archives’ through the genre of contemporary portraiture.”

Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (Manchester, UK), exhibition page for Multiplicites in Flux, October 15, 2020–January 31, 2021.

Still from Eelyn Lee’s Britishness

“Lee’s film Britishness (2019), 57 min, complicates the often indefinable notion of ‘Britishness’. Comprising spoken word poetry, interviews, and group discussions, the work follows young writers from Sheffield as they affirm, reject, and revise their visions of national identity and grapple with the consequences of Britain’s colonial history and their own personal experiences. The film posits ‘Britishness’ as a concept that is constantly in flux, moulded by ever-changing social, economic, political and historical narratives and carrying different significance for each individual. Through this lens, Lee invites viewers to question and re-evaluate their own definition of what it means to be British.”

Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (Manchester, UK), exhibition page for Multiplicites in Flux, October 15, 2020–January 31, 2021.

Research, Works

See: #BelongingProject: Grace Lau’s 21st Century Types and Eelyn Lee’s Britishness

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Research

See: #BelongingProject Intro

A collection of references on belonging.

I first became interested in belonging 2016. In my first project on belonging in 2017, the concept of belonging seemed a little bit abstract and nebulous… Over the years, I’ve noticed belonging pop up more and more, and I think it’s wonderful. Belonging is a deep lens through which many things can be seen: the personal and the political, the subjective and the systematic. I’ll post about art projects and art spaces concerning belonging here on my blog, with tagged #belongingproject.

A photo of a gallery wall with a piece of paper with questions about belonging in it. There are also salmon pink signs that say "What does belonging mean to you?"
A collective brainstorm on questions related to “What does belonging mean to you?” produced during the inaugural artist in residency program at the Sanitary Tortilla Factory in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A sticky note with handwriting that reads, "Why is it important to feel a sense of belonging? Some people find it important because they want to feel socially accepted and to fit in. To some it can be the only answer to find friends. But also if you're surrounded by the right group of people then you'll feel like yourself and do not have to change to belong."
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Impressions

On Fear, Responsibility, and Intelligence

“Perhaps [Dorothea] Lange’s fears came from a deep consciousness of her responsibility. After documenting nearly a half-century of crises and the lives of those most deeply affected by them, Lange understood, possibly too well, the enormous responsibility that comes with telling any story, but especially the story of other people’s struggles. Fear is an embodied knowledge, an almost physical intuition of possible outcomes learned through past experience. It can spin into paranoia, paralyze us, shock us into impassivity. But it can also be a powerful drive, as I suppose it was for Lange, who with all her “darkroom terrors” was still able to document what many others had not yet seen or wanted to see. Fear allows us to give shape to things that we were unwilling to see or unable to name. Fear is a specific form of intelligence that comes when hindsight, insight, and foresight collide.”

—Valeria Luiselli’s profile of photographer Dorothea Lange, “Things as They Are” in the NY Review of Books (November 19, 2020). 
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Impressions

On Aging and the Perils of Perfectionism

“I was not quite 40 but felt, in many ways, older. My hair, once as heroically thick as the David’s, had begun to thin visibly, and I felt sad about this, and I also considered my sadness to be its own failure, because I wanted to be the kind of person who didn’t care about superficial, middle-age things….

“My youthful pursuit of David-like perfection had gone, shall we say, not terribly well. I had turned out to be a strange person, not anything like an ideal. My life was littered with awkwardnesses, estrangements, mutual disillusionments, abandoned projects….

“Perfection, it turns out, is no way to try to live. It is a child’s idea, a cartoon — this desire not to be merely good, not to do merely well, but to be faultless, to transcend everything, including the limits of yourself. It is less heroic than neurotic, and it doesn’t take much analysis to get to its ugly side: a lust for control, pseudofascist purity, self-destruction. Perfection makes you flinch at yourself, flinch at the world, flinch at any contact between the two. Soon what you want, above all, is escape: to be gone, elsewhere, annihilated.”

Sam Anderson, “David’s Ankles,” NY Times, August 17, 2016
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Research

Brené Brown on Shame, Racism, Accountability, and Armoring Up

Shame and belonging researcher Brené Brown spoke specifically to white people confronting racism and their own feelings of shame in a terrific podcast episode (“Brené on Shame and Accountability,” Unlocking Us, July 1, 2020).

There’s a lot in here that resonates with the current moment—resistance to antiracism and white racial resentment—as well and a central question in my art and life: “How do you keep your heart open?”

Racism and Shame

“…being held accountable for racism and feeling shame is not the same thing as being shamed…. We need to understand the difference between being held accountable for racism and experiencing shame as a result of that accountability, and how that’s different than actually being shamed for being a racist.”

Shame vs Guilt (focus on personal flaw vs behavior)

“We think that shaming is this great moral compass, that we can shame people into being better. But that’s not true. …everyone needs a platform of self-worth from which to see change. You can’t shame people into being better, and in fact, when we see people apologizing, making amends, changing their behavior, that is always around guilt…. We feel guilt when we hold something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values, they don’t match up, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s helpful. It’s a positive, socially adaptive experience [which] motivates meaningful change. It’s as powerful as shame, but its influence is positive, while shame’s is destructive.”

Shame as a Social Justice Tool

“…shame is not an effective social justice tool. … Shame is a tool of oppression. Shame is a tool of white supremacy. Humiliation, belittling, those are tools of injustice; they’re not tools for justice. First, shame corrodes the belief that we can be better and do better, and it’s much more likely to be the cause of dangerous and destructive behaviors than the cure. … Shame itself is inherently dehumanizing.”

Self-regulation and Antiracism

“…there’s a huge difference between being shamed for being a racist and feeling shame. And it’s our responsibility for experiencing and regulating our own emotions. It’s my job to regulate my emotion, move through shame in a productive way, without defensiveness, without doubling down, without rationalizing, without demanding to be taught, demanding absolution, demanding comfort from the person who’s holding us accountable, which is often a Black person or a person of color. I’m responsible for that emotional regulation.”

Armor Is the Greatest Barrier to Courage

“…the greatest barrier to courage is not fear. The greatest barrier to courage is armor, is how we self-protect when we’re afraid. And I studied the arming-up process and just in preparation for this podcast, did I realize that this armoring-up process is so applicable to white supremacy.

So let me go through the six stages of armoring-up…

So number one … building the armor: “I’m not enough.” Number two: If I’m honest with them about what’s happening, they’ll think less of me, or maybe even use it against me. … Number three: “No way am I going to be honest about this. No one else does it. Why do I have to put myself out there?” Number four: “Yeah, you know what, screw them. I don’t see them being honest about what scares them…” Number five: “You know what? This is actually their problem. This is their shortcomings that make them act this way, this is their ultra-sensitivity…” Number six: “In fact, now that I think about this, I’m actually better than them.”

…“I’m better than people” and “I’m not enough” is the exact same standing still position of pain and shame.”

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