As an artist-scholar, my teaching and research surround the integration of the performing and visual arts with a focus on current theoretical concerns of contemporary art and culture. My goal is to provide a professional and working example of an artist in the field to motivate students and to guide them toward developing a clear purpose in building and crossing bridges among and outside of the arts and encouraging them to explore and integrate different modes of creativity.
Through my decade-long experience teaching at both the community college and university level, I have developed a teaching practice focused on encouraging collaborative learning and engaging my students in creative thinking and making. I encourage students to awaken their curiosity, to experiment, question, feel, think and reflect. As they produce work, I demand that they communicate their experiences with honesty, compassion, fluidity, and strength.
Using myself as an example in the classroom, I introduce students to my creative practice as a model, which centered on the blending of new materials and new media, such as video, performance art, multi-media installation, and digital arts, to create non-traditional narratives or documentaries that utilize the full spectrum of the arts: visual arts, theatre, dance, music, and creative writing. My influences range from performance artist-activist Karen Finley, musician-poet-filmmaker-graphic artist Yoko Ono, composer-choreographer-director Meredith Monk, writer-filmmaker Luis Bunuel, performance artist-musician Laurie Anderson, performance artist Marina Abramovic, to name a few.
I bring my professional experience forward, not just in theory, but as an example of how the knowledge and skills gained through mentorship can influence the creative process. I often borrow ideas from my artistic work to create exercises that keep the essence of the original concept but allow for the generation of new, freshly arising material. These exercises place all participating bodies in the room on the same level—the teacher becomes the student, the student, the teacher, and dialogue is encouraged and promoted.
It is in these moments that I strive to demonstrate to my students that even though technique is the foundation one needs to build their toolbox, it is not the primary drive toward success; nor should it become their identity. Instead, I promote the exploration and discovery of identity, and how the integration of technique and personal passion can produce a rich body of work. My role as a professor is to assist the student in defining their passions and instilling confidence in the pursuit of them. Thus, I employ a variety of pedagogical methods and work to better understand the needs of individual students.
For example, I use the approach of ideokinesis as a way to enter into creative thinking and embodying the physical aspects of the work we are studying or attempting to produce. Ideokinesis is the method through which one can find fluency of movement through structured, guided imagery that uses metaphors, such as visualizing an object moving in a specific direction along with various muscle groups throughout the body. This can be further expanded to visualizing an object in space and then actualizing that image in your own body; thus beginning to produce the work in real-time. Through this practice, we start to approach a state of what I like to call the thinking body—wherein which we begin to react and notice internal impulses and direction through collaborative action. Moreover, these collaborations fuel my passion for learning and inspire me to give these new ideas back to my students. The power of ensemble-based work and the internal dynamics of individuals working together in space continually reminds me of the importance of teaching communication and organization.
Therefore, I work to create an environment that facilitates two-way learning that allows for the sharing of technical skills. I believe that effective teaching begins with fully participating in the teaching process as active learners, peer teachers, and public scholars. I often turn to everyday resources that they can access and engage in interdisciplinary methods—integrating literature, history, sociology, anthropology, political science, art history, dance, and theatre—to illustrate the complex theories and concepts that we are studying. Through guided discussions and analytical analyses, I lead students toward a reflective process that integrates theory with practice and fosters interactions with various publics, such as empowering them to organize a public site-specific performance, a campus event, build a website, or publish articles. I also encourage students to apply scholarship in the classroom to their creative practice and activism beyond the academic sphere by producing their work at the professional level and collaborating on projects with me. Through this method of collaborative authorship or student-centered teaching, students are given practical examples of how to produce interdisciplinary work and begin to take responsibility for their creative actions.
Additionally, I stress the importance of engaging in digital spaces, both as a classroom device and networking tool. I use online classrooms as a resource for students, providing them with videos of class demonstrations, presentations, readings, and a space to continue discussions. As a networking opportunity, I encourage students to create a professional presence online, and I use my experience in building social media and websites to guide my students to this goal. I also strive to connect students to the broader performance art and visual art community by providing networking and professional opportunities by presenting various workshops with artists from diverse disciplines.
Through my own personal example, I hope to show them as an artist-scholar, neither of my identities overshadow the other. Instead, they are intertwined, connected in such a way that they enrich one another and make both my creative and academic work more productive. I consistently work to expand an understanding of worldviews so that we may begin to recognize our commonalities, embrace our differences, decenter privileged positions, bring to the forefront marginalizing experiences, and strive toward an awareness of social issues. I continue to grow as my students grow, and in that growth, we are getting closer to this idea of the thinking body.