As an Arts-based Educational Research (ABER) / Arts-based Research (ABR) 'Project e-ma' is firmly rooted in Freire's Critical Pedagogy. Arising from this, there is an inherent, nay, fundamental construct of discourse and dialogue undergirding the research. That discourse and dialogue has, over the past year, taken a number of forms from the fundamentals of planning and community engagement to that which is shown here; my visual response to the community.
After the e-ma were burnt in July their occurred a definite loss of tension in the threads that bound the community to the work. Given that the original idea was to uses the cyclical nature of Participatory Action Research (PAR) to refine the project, and then feed ownership back to the community and have them assume ownership and custody of it; it now appears that this is not a sustainable course for the work. Despite on-going discussions it looks likely that in this particular instance; this particular geographical locus, in this space and time, that one iteration is all that can be achieved. As we say in Japan 仕方ない - it can't be helped!
That said, however, after the 167 citizens painted their hopes and aspirations and as we began to see themes emerge I felt it appropriate that somehow the loop be closed (at least temporarily) and that the achievements we made should be fed back to the community in some form or shape. Currently I have a grant application in submission to fund a book; a collection of photographs of the project, and if that is successful, one will be distributed free of charge to all households in the Pass. That aside I still felt the need to produce some kind of precis, consolidation, or perhaps even momentary closure, and I began to consider how this could be achieved within the structure of the project and the frame we had set. The idea I stumbled upon was to record a visual response to both the e-ma the community had painted and also the themes generated in the length biographical interviews, and to use those as a way to speak back to the community.
On this page are some of the 96 e-ma I painted as a collective response. There are 96 hooks on the wall frame hence the 96 e-ma. In these works I tried to embody and reflect that which I had seen, heard, and encountered in the Pass. Aside from the actual responses I set out to capture, the resulting e-ma I painted focus on the themes of, amongst other things: layers, erasure, depth, isolation, departure, cohesion, consistency, reciprocity, hope, truth,and lies.
Initially it was my intention to hang these e-ma on the frame in the Pass and use them as a means of stimulating discourse to perhaps arrive at a point near a state of closure. Unfortunately, however, due to factors in the Pass which are beyond my control (not a negative thing per se.) there is no realistic way that a genuine democratic and dialogical element of the work can be explored in this way, and so plans to hang the e-ma on the frame were abandoned. If nothing shifts in terms of community cohesion and politics, and if my grant is successful then photographs of these e-ma will be included in the back of the booklet so as to at least denote what the idea was, and the visual responses that were generated by me.
*Project e-ma is copyright ARWoollock 2013, all rights reserved. Legal and intellectual property rights have been asserted.