10th Anniversary of Pamela George’s Passing: An Homage

According to the RCMP, 1 200 Canadian Aboriginal women have gone missing and have been murdered between 1980 and 2012. Emmanuelle Walter describes it in her book Soeurs Volées as “a true feminicide, behind the spotless and peaceful image of these large territories is hidden an astonishing reality” This book by Emmanuelle Walter deepened my knowledge on this ongoing reality and helped me create this picture montage to further the discussion on this feminicide. The missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada, a theme that we have looked at in class, has resonated with me since the reading of Sherene Razack’s chapter on the murder of Pamela George. I believe that this project holds a strong purpose as it tries to pay homage to Pamela George and all the 1 200 missing and murdered Indigenous women. I have blended the theories from Sherene Razack, Gira Grant and Sara Ahmed to give a deeper meaning to my project. This project is politically charged as it tries to recreate a specific type of body, the one of Pamela George on a side street, which is trying to re-create the lived space. The picture montage tries to expose the ways in which Indigenous women are represented in the media, as socially fragile and vulnerable. I believe that through this representation one will be able to feel the danger that aboriginal women face in such spaces.IMG_0905

According to Razack, Pamela George was considered to belong to a space of prostitution and Aboriginality, in which violence routinely occurs. (Razack,126) Gira Grant’s work on The Prostitute, Playing the Whore explains “the prostitute is imagined as an invisible woman, a voiceless woman, a woman concealed even in public, in her nudity- in all her presumed availability” (Grant, 62). Indigenous women who do engage in sex work, encounter a dual discrimination because of the intersecting prejudices of racism associated with being Indigenous, and the societal stigma associated with sex work. The concept of Whiteness, studied by Sara Ahmed, holds a strong position in this project. Ahmed states, “Whiteness would be what lags behind…when bodies ‘lag behind’, then they extend their reach. (Ahmed,156) The two white male athletes are representing this “lagging behind” and purposely extending their reach on the object in front of them.

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Cemetery as an arhive of human identity

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The practices online in relation to death and the archiving of a deceased person’s digital identity is mirrored in the practices that date before the invention of the internet and before the conception of the term cyberspace coined by fiction writer William Gibson in 1982 (Badulescu, 2011). In light of this fact, we conclude that it is not reasonable to see the two spaces as separate; cemeteries and cyberspace not only both represent heterotopias but also lead to near identical behaviour in relation to the mourning of the dead. More importantly than that, the point that we have insisted on is that they both serve as archives that have recorded lived experiences in varying ways, but that both wind up containing an immense amount of data the deceased. The tombstone, size of plot, location and items left by visitors are similar to the online presence that an identify possesses. If an identity is being lived out through one or several accounts after the passing away of an individual, then the amount of friends, posts to wall and the creation of a memorial page is the equivalent of all that is found on a tomb. The main difference between the online space and the cemetery is the physical versus digital aspect; meaning that the physical may reveal less at first sight than the digital. In addition to this, digital conservation of identity and data after death has come makes it so that the archives are more widely accessible and can be accessed an infinite amount of times. This is a phenomenon that is not witnessed in a cemetery which has closing hours, regulations and private plots and tombs. An issue that is brought up in relation to the creation and preservation of online identity is the authenticity of the information that the individual chose to reveal: what is the real self, what is more authentic? The marks on the body, the embodied, neurological, biological experience; or the online accounts, the selected photos and tidbits, the mini autobiographies, reposts, etc.? This is near impossible to answer, almost as hard as it is to say what happens after death – all that we can be sure of is that it all definitely relates to the individuals identity, seeing as what they choose to post or not says a lot about them same as our actions and words in the physical world say a lot about us.

References

Badulescu, D. (n.d). Heterotopia, Liminality, Cyberspace as Marks of Contemporary Spatiality. Retrieved from: http://www.theroundtable.ro/Current/Cultural/Dana.Badulescu_Heterotopia,Liminality,Cyberspaceas_Marks_of_Contemporary_Spatiality.pdf

By Danika and Anna

Final Project – The Reconciliation

In writing two letters of love and longing to my apartment – that I lived in for nine years, left for six months, and have since returned to – I have chosen to examine my own relationship to the space and place of “home”.

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Final Project

For our project, Evan and I created a series of photos paired with gathered quotations from individuals recalling their experiences dealing with menstruation. Today we will be showing you our series digitally, but we are in the process of making it in to a zine.

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In early stages of this project, we spent time digging into our memories and unpacking our own perceptions of menstruation in order to develop a basis for the photographs. We took the photographs over a period of days, taking turns suggesting focal points of the images. In this way the photos reflect both of our perspectives: Evan’s external perception, and my internalized perception of my own menstruating body. We took photos around our personal spaces to try and convey intimacy and truth, exposing what menstruation means to us in the context of our lives. During this process we thought about how our perceptions are in part formed by the environment in which we first encountered menstruation, and the people surrounding us during this time. We realized that in order to truly understand our own perceptions, we would have to understand those of others. We began asking our close friends and family members their thoughts on menstruation, emphasizing how they perceived it during adolescence and early years of discovery. Off the bat we began to see patterns between our own thoughts and theirs, and reflections of their words in our photos. We decided to pair quotations from these individuals with our photographs. This unexpected integration is key to making this exploration representative of our own lived experiences. About half if the responses came from men, and half from women, which was also essential in understanding this subject. It gave insight from both male and female perspectives to represent our own differentiated viewpoints.

By gathering responses, we hoped to allow this project to unfold in an open-minded, open-ended manner, leaving enough ambiguity that the quotations would speak for themselves. By pouring our own perspectives as well as collected responses into our series, we are analyzing both the idea of a body existing in a space and the body as a space itself. In our extended research, we drew on historical accounts of menstruation in cultural and religious practice around the world, to gain a broader understanding of menstruation in society, and how this history informs how we perceive it today. This allowed us to make connections between modern day stigmas and the old cultural customs that they rooted from.

Final Project – New Body, New Motion

Here is the link to my documentary I did as my creative portion to the final project. Below it is my written component.

–> https://vimeo.com/124431741 <–

Jessica McKnight

Professor Magdalena Olszanowski

COMS 324 Communication Analysis of Environment

April 8, 15

New Body, New Motion

            In June of 2010, my mother, Anna-Maria Fiocco, was diagnosed with a common heart malfunction. In July of that same year, she went in for surgery to replace her heart’s mitral valve. 15 minutes after the doctors announced the surgery’s success, my mother went into a sudden cardiac arrest. Eight months later, at the age of 62, she was officially diagnosed as paraplegic after the realization that her legs were permanently paralyzed. She had to re-define what it meant to move, to travel and to live. The re-arrangement of the home and the re-construction of the space were inevitable due to traditional construction. The smallest things, like the height of the sink in inches kept her from the ability of doing her morning ritual. Most architecture isn’t designed and calculated for a body in a wheelchair, or for any other type of body than a “normal” one. Spaces are generally created for a person who is able to stand and walk. This isn’t to say that disability is ignored completely, but it is clear that “seeing disability as a stigmatized social identity and a reading of the body remains largely untaken” (Samuels). In this essay, I am going to address the idea of invisible disability in the construction of social and physical space with the topics of social exclusion and architectural normalities in a need of change.

The social exclusion of disability includes political and economical aspects. The disabled body, in this view, can be defined, as Rob Kitchin quotes, “unable to be as productive as their able-bodied counterparts” (Kitchin), therefore being a drawback to society’s progress. A fully-abled body, in comparison to a paraplegic body, is socially defined as more quick, more flexible and one that is familiar. Psychological theories, such as the studies of one’s nature vs. one’s nurture, are able to analyze the exclusion of disability as a way of protecting the self. We are born with and taught, from human nature and/or cultural experiences, to keep boundaries from the Other out of “fear or repulsion” and to embrace sameness (Kitchin). These traditional thoughts are embedded in our social creation of space. Through the eyes of society, Kitchin defines the disabled body through the eyes of society as “powerless,” “exploited,” “denied,” and “marginalized” in mainstream thinking and in turn, social hierarchies are created between dominant and marginalized groups. “People who do not hold the same values or live the same way as the dominant group are repressed through physical violence and imprisonment” (Kitchin). It can be seen in the streets when crowds of people are dumbfounded when encountered with a body in a wheelchair. “If people’s comportment seems out-of-the-ordinary, being too slow or taking too long, […] then the risk is that they become treated with suspicion or even hostility” (Hansen). As an example, my mother and I have always loved to journey around and shop downtown. Wheeling on the sidewalks and into the stores takes time and planning as most stores have doorsills. Even though they are only an inch tall, my mother cannot wheel over them independently. Upon entering a clothing store, heads turn, and reactions are upon us. It is clear to see that they are thinking of my mom’s body as an ill one: one that is not appropriate for fashion. Another reaction is the look of pity: a face that does not know what to do or say when encountered with a different body, therefore decides to ignore it. As an example, common responses involve a concept called “microaggression,” initially related to race and defined by Derald Wing Sue, a Columbia University professor, that blogger Laurence Parent relates to disability. The term is how it sounds; microaggressions are subtle and brief, intentional or unintentional, insults towards “different” bodies (Parent). Nearby people roll their eyes at a body in a wheelchair as it takes up more room than someone standing would. At home, unintentional spastic comments are made in situations of anxiety or tension towards my mother about her obstruction of space and the long amounts of time it takes for her to do everyday simple tasks for the “normal” body. My mother no longer uses her legs: she uses wheels. She understands the change in her size and the new way she must navigate herself, yet it is still seen threat. As Laurence Parent puts it, “We are viewed as potential dangers because we are assumed to be unfit to move in the way that we move. The way we move challenges the ways bodies should be moving” (Parent). The microaggressions are due to these “normative” spaces that are the ones that cause her “abnormality” within a space.

The physical organization of space is produced through social means and architectural means, such as blueprint manuscripts for building planners. “Barriers to inclusion are clearly evident in the urban environment” (Kitchin). Many buildings are concerned with beauty within the design and practicability for “normal” bodies rather than for all bodies. Urban geography “prioritizes” the able-bodied, and divides disabled people from the public street with, for example, rehabilitation centres. These isolations are in place in order to “normalize” the disabled for the ableist environments they are bound to encounter. “As such, policy is aimed at trying to make disabled people more ‘normal’ rather than changing the system to accommodate disabled people for who they are” (Kitchin). During the search of an adaptable living space for my mother, it was clear that there were very limited spaces available. In the end, the location choice was an apartment building with an elevator. Though it was the best option, much construction and re-adjusting was needed in order for her to be able to sleep, cook, and use the bathroom. Anna-Maria was sent to a rehab centre for 1.5 years of her life in order to be taught how to live in the “real world”. She has designated areas in public spaces such as work, schools, cinemas, etc, where her type of body is “accepted”. These separations from “general” space are a digression to the societal inclusion of disabled bodies: they only support the boundaries. “The space of the disabled body must also be thought of as a space of the contradictions of neoliberalism – it is at once privileged as a site of inclusion, but that inclusion is also the promise of its exclusion” (Sothern). These accommodations or add-ons are not natural space – they are made so natural space isn’t disrupted.

Needless to say, spaces are in constant transformation: “produced and constructed, dynamic and ambiguous, claimed and contested” (Kitchin) through active social interaction. A request for geographical change and new construction guidelines asks for disabled inclusion in all spaces, not just particular ones. Rather than disabled bodies adapting to normalcy, normalcy should be adapted to them and all bodies. In its traditional sense, the word “disability” contains negative connotations and consequently, the overall response from the sight of disabled bodies is with pity or disgust – and that is not right. Nancy Hansen quotes one of her respondents, “We’ve been given the wrong label, ‘disabled’, it makes you sound as if there’s something terribly wrong and I don’t thing there’s anything wrong with disability, I…se myself as getting around differently. I can’t use my legs, so I use wheels, it’s that simple” (Hansen). My mother’s attitude is a strong one and looks forward to encountering new obstacles, over-taking spaces and turning them into her own.


Works Cited

Hansen, Nancy, and Chris Philo. “The Normality of Doing Things Differently: Bodies, Spaces and Disability Geography.” Tijdschrift Voor Economische En Sociale Geografie 98.4 (2007): 493-506. Web.

Kitchin, Rob. “‘Out of Place’, ‘Knowing One’s Place’: Space, Power and the Exclusion of Disabled People.” Disability & Society 13.3 (1998): 343-56. Print.

Parent, Laurence. “We Are The Danger.” Web log post.https://www.mia.mobilities.ca. M.I.A, 24 Nov. 2014. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. <http://mia.mobilities.ca/we-are-the-danger/&gt;.

Samuels, Ellen. “Critical Divides: Judith Butler’s Body Theory and the Question of Disability.”NWSA Journal 14.3 (2002): 58-76. Print.

Sothern, Matthew. “You Could Truly Be Yourself If You Just Weren’t You: Sexuality, Disabled Body Space, and the (neo)liberal Politics of Self-help.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 25 (2007): 144-59. Web.

Thank you

Nocturnal Silences

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First and foremost, this project is a tribute to transmission; a way to speak up about internalized voices gathered through readings and films, then projected onto a space: here Sweden, precisely the city of Malmö. Hélène Cixous explains the importance of women writing in Laugh of the Medusa. She says: “I shall speak about women’s writing: about what it will do. Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been away as violently from their bodies—for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal.” (347) Even though a lot of the words written in my journal are from different writers, I do reflect on them. The act of writing becomes a way to perpetuate women’s voice and develop a language that represents taking possession of your own body and your own memories. To silence oneself is to tame intuition, as Terry Tempest Williams says, and “when one woman doesn’t speak, other women get hurt.” (122) If the ability to speak up has been violently taken away from women, they need to re-appropriate their bodies in order to influence each other.

Final Project

I decided to do a creative project about the area of the Plateau-Mont Royal with a specific focus on Mont-Royal Avenue. The project is focusing on the history of the space and how it has developed from a working class borough to the multicultural neighborhood that it is today. The project is showing a photo series of old pictures of the avenue from the beginning of the 20th century. To re-create the experience of the space I went to the same exact locations and took new pictures of the spaces. The project aims to illustrate and describe how the street has changed.

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