With my compiled and expanded research, I sat down to brainstorm how my concept of merging environmental image and clothing might manifest in the made garments. I envisioned upcycling denim, using recycled and leftover fabrics, and adding in unconventional materials in order to create these looks. They will mirror aspects of the environmental imagery they renderings are imposed on through color, silhouette, texture, or material. I have begun to find old garments that I will be using as well as excess materials I have found to recycle. I am curious to explore the deconstruction and reconstruction aspects of this process and how they may tie to relate to our connection to the environment. Pictured below are my initial ideas.
One of the biggest draws for taking Green World, was the idea that we would be using art to advocate the change we wanted to see. As a theatre artist at Tisch, I experience first hand almost every day the transformative power of art and how it is able to reach and affect people in ways formal communication is unable to do. So from the onset of my midterm project, I knew that I wanted to utilize the arts in some way.
An Unfortunate Pattern
Throughout the first couple of weeks, we explored the anti-climate change movement/cover-up and tobacco industry in Merchants of Doubt, the oil fracking industry and resulting environmental impact in Gasland, the destruction of the earth’s most precious carbon sinks, water sheds and endangered ecosystems in Garth Lenz’s “The True Cost of Oil” exhibition, the dire consequences of coal-mining on our water in our discussion with Bonnie Gestring, and our battle for water rights as more corporations, such as Nestle, seek to privatize water for profit.
An unfortunate pattern became apparent to me.
Then came the question: How? How could the people on the top make the decisions that ruin people’s lives and put their health in jeopardy? How could the workers on-site go through with the fracking or the mining, that not only endangers themselves but others? How could the people living near and who are affected by these actions tolerate the dire consequences unjustly acting on them?
A Human Approach
Many answers came to my head, that were condemning and accusatory. I realized though, if I thought of it from an actor’s perspective (one that looks at the human being, their objectives, and actions objectively) then the results were much more interesting and compelling. I realized with all the propaganda, strategies, politics, and naming calling and blaming involved with these issues, the best thing to do might be to strip the issue down to it’s human core.
“Let’s make everyone human beings,” I thought. Instead of using the labels, and generalizations, why don’t we give real faces and voices to all sides of the issue and see what comes of it. I believe it will allow people to come to their own conclusions and figure out what is wrong.
Taking a form
Upon realizing the type of story I wanted to tell, and the spotlight I wanted to give to the three perspectives, I decided to do a series of one act plays. The form of a straight-play (as opposed to a musical) tonally fits my story, it also has a flexible enough form to play around with length. Also, the idea of creating a live experience is important the purpose of my plays. Creating a live experience allows it to forever live within those who see it. It also has the vivacity to make a large impact on spectators. Moreover, plays/drama were in my range of capability. As an actor and beginning screenwriter, I know how scripts are constructed and what they give to us and the audience.
Loose Structure of the Play:
For What It’s Worth (Working Title)
Part I: How now, Sir 1%? (Run time: 45 min)
Focuses on the CEO of either an existing Energy company who has just read the environmental impact report on a new hydraulic fracking site.
Part II: Stuck in the Middle With You (Run time: 45 min)
Focuses on two workers on a hydraulic fracking site, one who is unaware of the impact of what they are doing and who is far too are.
Part III: Save me from Ourselves (Run time: 1 hr)
Focuses on the community surrounding the fracking site of Part II, specifically on a family of five who are noticing the impact on their happiness and well being.
Note: The series of short plays are meant to be performed in one sitting, and are meant to exist in the same universe.
Research and Character Construction:
The issue I run in to whenever I write, is if I’m authentically capturing an experience or culture that I am/was not apart of. The only thing I can do to combat inaccuracy is to do the research, or in this case read first hand accounts, documentaries, and news articles. Not only will this provide much more accuracy in my story, but also give me the groundwork for the kind of people that exist on all three sides of the issue.
Here are the sources I am perusing, on top of using NYU’s JSTOR:
Much of the research still needs to be completed. After that, I need to create the entire story as if it were one long play, then figure out the different angles in which I approach the same story for the individual plays. I plan to hold a sort of informal reading of the plays, or at least parts of the plays if time doesn’t permit. I’m not sure as of it how I will be making a difference to 10 people I do not know, but for now, my idea is to tape the reading and put in online and share it on a couple of social media platforms.
“This is not to describe ‘the way things really were’ or to privilege the narrative history of imperialism as the best version of history. It is, rather, to offer an account of how an explanation and narrative of reality was established as the narrative one.”
Last year Dr. Randy Martin introduced me to the wonderful work of Gatrayi Chakravorty Spivak. For his class, “Issues in Art Politics,” we read Spivak’s essay “Can the subaltern speak?”. Just the title of the essay triggered a whole movement of thoughts in my mind. Her words against intellectual domination and her discussion of subalternism strongly resonate with my ideological approach. And now a few months later a journey of association brings me one more time to meditate about the oppressed. I think about oppressed peoples’ agency regarding their bodies, and the castrating social judgment that mandates how to express themselves.
In her essay Spivak explores how the Western intellectual tradition maintains imperialist domination while the third-world Other is categorized, and hence reduced. Subalternism is the consequence of an interventionist practice in which the dominant intellectual erases the subject sovereignty of the Other. The Other is thus defined by the dominant force rather than by its own agency. Therefore, the Other is obligated to assimilate the first-world given category; the Other is relegated to be a subaltern.
Unfortunately, oppression doesn’t exist just within cultures and classes, but also within the self. The body is being oppressed too. It has being cut and muted for centuries. As a body practitioner I seek to acknowledge both personal and collective identity through an intimate and personal connection with each person’s own body. My interest is to recognize the personal story behind each person and to embrace the body as an aesthetic and political experience. I want to encounter the most concrete manifestation of the self. I want to embrace the body, embody it.
Spivak’s fight should also be fought from the body. What is supposed to be a body, no matter whose standpoint is considered, is not what the body truly is. To encounter the trace of personal history might be a way to hear what is the body saying. The problem is not that the body does not speak, but rather that we are not taught to deeply listen to it. Maybe because it is too painful, maybe because it is too dangerous. Nonetheless, the own narrative of the body is yelling to be heard.
Likewise, we find subalternism in a wider level, a level that goes beyond human sphere. Even though nature is what makes us human beings to exist (we are part of it, we were born from it); animals, plants, and natural resources are often time merely relegated to serve our purposes. As the dominant specie, we act from selfish necessities, without paying attention to nature’s vital ones. And we sadly annul its agency because nature can’t defend itself. We wrongly see nature as the Other. We do not realize that this Other is actually inside us.
Spivak ends her essay saying that the subaltern cannot speak. While saying that “[r]epresentation has not withered away”, she postulates that the need of talking for is still deeply rooted in our Westernized culture. We might say that modern science can translate facts from nature and thus can talk on behalf of it. Is it really possible? Are facts and the imperialist way of thinking good advocates for nature?
Next week Deborah Goldberg is coming to our class to share with us her work with the organization Earth Justice. I am exited! “Because the Earth needs a good lawyer” is what says as a sort of slogan right under the organization’s name. I totally agree. Nature needs us to defend it. Its defense should not be made from a patronized standpoint, but rather from a sensible and an open-minded one. We should not think that talking on behalf of nature is separate from protecting ourselves. While caring more about nature, we will be caring more about human beings.
We might agree that human beings are an important specie in the Earth. But certainly we have to agree that we are not the most important one. We are the most dominant one though. It is sad, but it looks like we actually need to defend nature from ourselves.
Subaltern narratives exist because there is a dominant narrative that hardly oppresses. Maybe the subaltern cannot speak, that is the way the dominant can maintain its title. But subaltern narratives have certainly a trace; and when it concerns to human destruction of nature, the trace becomes clearer and clearer.
 Gatrayi Chakravorty Spivak, Can the subaltern speak?, page 76
 Gatrayi Chakravorty Spivak, Can the subaltern speak?, page 104