We’re in an age where everything seems to be quantifiable, whether it’s page views or Facebook likes or Twitter shares or how many people showed up for an event.* Or at least there are a lot of people and organizations out there that feel the need to quantify what we produce, what impact we’re having. This is not a bad thing necessarily, especially not when it comes to social campaigns or advocacy projects.
So is it elitist to want art to exist on a plane that’s different from the “quantifiable”? I’m not even speaking about the art for art’s sake idea – for art can indeed be a tool for social activism – but also from the standpoint of personal connection and exposure.
Lately, I’ve been devoting a lot of time to lectures, exhibits, and cultural exploration and it made me realize something. Aside from enjoying what I’m seeing and being inspired by different perspectives, I’m continuously learning about the world around me. It’s the comment that makes me think about something in a different way, or a series of photographs that evokes someone else’s state of mind, or a film that reveals to me that there’s a subculture within a subculture within another culture that I didn’t even know about.
And I think that’s one aspect of how art can connect us to what’s outside ourselves, and sometimes even make us realize what we never thought of as being inside ourselves. Continue reading →
This weekend, the OneMinutesJr. awards were announced and “We Walk Their Path,” by Amar, won the One Minute of Freedom award. The film was produced during a workshop I facilitated in Zaatari, the Syrian refugee camp in the north of Jordan.
There are so many stories from that trip – tales of kids uprooted from their homes, remembrances of lost items and childhood adventures, consistent declarations of an eventual return to Syria. All the kids in the workshop lived at Zaatari, some having been there a year and a half already. The majority came from Daraa, a city in southwestern Syria, just north of the border with Jordan. At the time of the workshop, in January 2014, the Zaatari camp hosted about 85,000 refugees from the conflict in Syria.
I had facilitated workshops in over 20 countries at this point, so I was no stranger to challenging work environments. In addition to the physical containment (our movement was extremely limited) and the emotional impact (of witnessing life in the camp), there was the hurdle of general inexperience. Most of the seventeen participants of the workshop had never held a video camera before and their image-taking experience was mostly limited to mobile phones. The ideas behind creating imagery were fairly distant for them. But while they didn’t outright grasp the concepts of filmmaking, their imaginations never lacked.
As you can imagine, there are many stories to be told. But, for now, a focus on Amar (first name only, for security’s sake) and his tale of war. Continue reading →