through the evening, providing temporal, physical, and spatial information punctuated by questions. A group of 20-25
musicians—drummers and other percussionists—surround
the participants, creating the rhythmic framework that
drives the pace of the event.
The Sound: At Lyndon State College, the musicians were
led by Lyndon State Professor Cliff Berrien. Together they
created a landscape of sound in a real-time relationship to
the images that appeared onscreen as well as the actions of
the participants. This was the first time I have used music in
a public dialogue event—although I have been engaged with
the conjunction of music and motion for decades in the theatrical setting. The soundscape was based on the rhythm of
the heartbeat and I was fascinated to see how the presence
of the musicians and the framework of the music created an
atmosphere of sharpened focus and ease of interaction for
photo by Josiah Schlee
The Model: After my initial welcome and explanation, I do not
speak during the event at all. Instead, I moderate the flow of
activity through cues that are given to the two people who
change the slides in tandem. I do this in counterpoint to the
drumming and the rhythm of the participant’s reaction to the
questions and the images.
The slides present a series of 27 drawings depicting different postures, each image accompanied by two titles
that appear one at a time. As each image appears the participants adopt the posture offered. They are encouraged to
notice how it feels to be physically in the posture and then to
notice how the posture feels if they imagine themselves in
the situation proposed by the first title, and then the second.
For example, Image #1:
Image #1 appears and
participants have a moment to
experience the feeling of the
posture. Then the titles appear—
first one and then the other.
Title 1: A man waiting
for his wife.
Title 2: A man waiting
for his husband.
The goal is to devise a large scale mechanism for creating cognitive dissonance, helping us to recognize the beliefs
and biases we unconsciously hold, and by doing so, offer a
look at what we have the power to change. The second title
for each image is intended to provoke this cognitive dissonance through a physical experience in the body. This occurs
most blatantly when the system of structural violence being
addressed affects what feels normal or acceptable to us in
terms of physical behavior.
The postures are punctuated by questions. After moving
through 6 or 7 postures, the participants are directed to walk
to the person opposite them. As pairs are created, a question appears on the screen with the length of time allotted
to each participant to speak to the other person in their pair.
The musicians provide a pre-arranged cue for each person to
begin and to stop speaking. The participants speak to questions such as:
“Which advantages or disadvantages does your sexual
orientation give you?”
or “What is your racial identity? How does your race
impact your life?”
After responding to the questions, the participants are
cued to return to their chair and then to rotate one chair to
the right, counter-clockwise. Consequently, each time a new
question comes up participants are speaking with a different
person. There are seven questions in all.
The event begins and ends with everyone counting down
from 10 to the rhythm of the drums. Afterward, we offer food
and drink and a chance continue the conversations informally
Continued Development: “Violence: Recode” is still in
development. Multiple models are being created in collaboration with individuals, groups and communities world-wide.
Events are planned with partners in Frankfurt, Dresden, London, Boston and Tel Aviv. Discussions are underway with
other communities as well. The project is mutable, and in
collaboration with local partners will adapt to the needs, climates and issues that arise around questions of violence in
each city and country.
photo by Josiah Schlee