Monday, April 27, 2009

Art Based Research in Community Intervention & Mental Health

With the dismantling of community mental health system and the erosion of personal support networks new alternatives must be devised. Currently I am working cf House of Cards series with that forming a recurring imagery/concept to be confronted. In contrast to the typical approach of assuming only bureaucratic systems can explore and solve these challenges, Cultural Fusion is interested in addressing them in the context of self organization, freedom, personalization, social media/technology, ecology, economics and social evolution via art based research.

The results are multilateral solutions, an art series, that combine visual art (performance, media/software, recycled materials, installations, sculpture, paintings) as well as music and audio. That while operating as art, and community intervention – are also operating as business solutions that promote innovation in economic development.

This is an excerpt explaining our collaborative Cultural Fusion Art as Philosophy series as a demonstration of the SoulFood model I have been developing as a Source Artist.

While it advances the idea of “Self Referencing Creativity” it has been inspired by key scholarship in the areas of community mental health. As art imbued with this layered integration it seeks to pioneer new approaches to project/product development and management that promote a culture of peace. While at the business or economic level this is best understood from the perspective meaningful marketing, CRM Strategy and Global Social Responsibility; at the personal - community level it is chiefly as an expressive therapy approach to community intervention/prevention strategy.

This work is distinguished by its policy of Radical Inclusion - integrating mental health, arts and culture, history, economic development, and personal development that goes to the roots of several issues including: domestic violence, poverty, crime, depression, a host of “at risk behaviors”, etc. Rather than seeking to exclude needs, each person is allowed the time to identify and distinguish real needs from perceived ones. Resources and “intangible assets” are valued above lacks or deficits.

One of the primary benefits of this approach is its attention to integrity – starting with the integrity and transparency of the SoulFood:Ingredients included in any given project recipe. Here in this paper attention is on the community mental health model and theories that were the basis of the early inquiry into this work.

In beginning to approach community economic renewal my instinct was to go to the weakest links first – homeless, those needing mental health services, neglected seniors, those living in economic poverty, and the disenfranchised (included the previously incarcerated). The point of Radical Inclusion is that the needs of all sides seeking inclusive expression need to be brought to the table and integrated into the Recipe.

Client engagement is critical, and this is the basis of using interactive high art concepts with multiple components that also operate on the level of a project-based expressive therapy approach as opposed to traditional cognitive therapy to deliver community mental health intervention/prevention programs.

Primary experience, which exists apart from language, is described by language (a representation, or secondary experience). Language is that secondary experience created by verbalizing primary experiences. Verbal psychotherapy, then, is a procedure for the verbal processing of verbal descriptions of events. According to discourse theory, language constructs its own reality rather than corresponding to it.

Among those practitioners who use them for the purpose of representation, action methods generally are regarded as more vivid and memorable and having more impact than verbal methods. Action methods simultaneously engage cognition, affect, and behavior and better engage those clients who process information predominantly in visual and kinesthetic modes. When used as interventions, action methods provide novel ways of altering habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

According to some psychological theories, formative experiences that occurred at a preverbal stage of development can be accessed only by nonverbal methods. Also, there is evidence that traumatic experiences are stored or encoded differently from non-traumatic ones, suggesting that experiential therapies may have the potential to shift traumatic experience in cases in which verbal ones cannot.

“The map is not the territory.” Action methods get clients to venture into the territory of experience, enriching those clients who have come to rely solely on the maps of verbalization. Experiencing these methods provides both a way of discovery in terms other than verbal ones and material that can be juxtaposed with verbally encoded representations. In sum, action methods put verbalizations to the test of experience.

Although psychotherapy will continue to be a verbally mediated process, the inclusion of action methods appears to promote significant clinical change in relatively short periods of time, making them particularly valuable in brief therapy and with populations not very responsive to talk-only therapy.

Why use an empowerment-based model? Empowerment may be defined as a process through which people become strong enough to participate within, share in the control of, and influence events and institutions affecting their lives; in part, empowerment implies that people gain particular skills, knowledge, and sufficient power to influence their lives and the lives of those they care about (Torre, 1985). The process of empowerment is ongoing and involves changes in three dimensions of one’s self: personal, interpersonal, and sociopolitical participation.

The personal (self-perception) dimension involves attitudes, values, and beliefs about self-awareness, self-acceptance, belief in self, self-esteem, and the feeling that one has rights. The interpersonal dimension involves acquisition of knowledge and skills, assertiveness, setting limits on giving, asking for help, problem solving, accessing resources, critical thinking to participate and work with others in networks and systems of mutual aid and education in order to enhance the world they live in. The political dimension involves participation by joining appropriate social organizations, giving back by helping others, making a contribution, voting, writing letters, teach others what is learned, and taking control in generalized areas of one’s life are specific skills that will be cultivated during participation in this fully implemented program.

The underlying assumption of empowerment practice is that clients are generally disempowered through membership in devalued and oppressed groups; that the system of governmental policies and services is a barrier to achieving desired goals; and that learned powerlessness is an attribute of many clients (Albert and Green, 2002). Therefore, practical empowerment attends to power issues and promotes the creation and discovery of personal and group empowerment among clients.

Affirmational Psychology
a later model I learned of that contributed to the work and let to a few major project collaborations.

It is my hope that in sharing this document that others who have similar interests....working in related areas will contact me. I have finally had a breakthrough in visually connecting this series as it evolves and organizing the huge amount of content I have already generated. In conclusion a few links to key pages in the Development Workspace:
Cultural Fusion Futurist
This is one of the primary projects - an installation called cf House of Cards Installation i
Defining Installation for SoulFood context

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Stuck with new piece, working on others

The cf House of Cards has continued to evolve. I finally got the sketch of the installation modified and put online as a conceptual drawing. At first I was fussing over details before remembering the concept would be modified for the space it is install part of the virtual counterpart I am working on a digital piece - my reason for finally learning Flash.

Unfortunately, it is not going quite as I intended. The image above is the overlay layer, the original diagram is being modified to go underneath with the top layer parting, so to speak, to see the diagram text associated with the original cf House of Cards. One of the problems is the rippling water effect I was doing for half of the top layer seems to conflict with the script being used to provide the interactive component for the viewer. Since trying to fix it has finally given me a headache I have taken a break from it.

The on site installation requires a few things I still haven't completely ironed out so I am considering possible collaborations to help address that...namely the augmented reality, software art and 3D VR integration.

One of the things I am really excited about is that the piece integrates information that has value/merit in practical terms but it is transformed by its inclusion in the piece. I am hoping the discussions with potential tech partners will deliver the tools to make the information and content being included usable for the audience.

The installation needs a home so I have wondered about what the smallest size space could be....still not quite sure about that.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reaching Out for OutReach

Since finishing the first play and starting the next couple - one of which could be Act 2 for the first one....I have been pondering positioning the piece when it is performed.

Since Proposition 8 took the scene I have thought about how my play goes beyond the standard excuse given for supporting a policy of discrimination. That excuse is usually religious in nature (See Proposition 8:The Musical)but what has gotten far less attention is what is really driving church fueled homophobia - I suggest it is rooted in denial, self hatred, and self rejection. I guess that would be a key theme in the play.

I was struck by reports about support for the ban which indicated that:

Proposition 8 draws its heaviest support in Republican strongholds such as the Central Valley and Inland Empire of Southern California, according to recent polls. Its biggest opposition is coming from Democratic bastions such as San Francisco and Los Angeles along the coast.

But two Democratic constituencies -- African-Americans and Latinos -- are leaning toward the ban. Among likely black voters, 58% supported Proposition 8 compared with 38% who opposed it in the most recent Survey USA poll. Among Latinos, 47% supported the proposition while 41% opposed it; white voters were nearly evenly split. The reason, "Yes" officials say, is that church attendance is strong in many minority communities.

In the Huffington Post I found a piece on Rev. Al Sharpton's response that resonated with my own views.

"There is something immoral and sick about using all of that power to not end brutality and poverty, but to break into people's bedrooms and claim that God sent you," Sharpton said bluntly. He made the remarks as the keynote speaker of the Human Rights Ecumenical Service

"It amazes me," he said, "when I looked at California and saw churches that had nothing to say about police brutality, nothing to say when a young black boy was shot while he was wearing police handcuffs, nothing to say when they overturned affirmative action, nothing to say when people were being [relegated] into poverty, yet they were organizing and mobilizing to stop consenting adults from choosing their life partners."

This has all inspired me to look at partnering the Human Rights Campaign or a similar organization to make the play part of an educational outreach that moves beyond PR.

If anyone reading this is interested please contact me to discuss further.