Edited by Radiodress in consultation with Syrus Marcus Ware
our singular body
part of a larger communal body
Moving together as one good body
a violated body
a bloody body to be
from the “good” body, Barak adé Soleil
Summer 2016. Minneapolis: Stepping away from my studio for three months to immerse in a different type of relational practice. Participating in an intensive training in prison-based Spiritual Care.
I'm temporarily living in the Twin Cities, working as a chaplain intern at Stillwater Prison, a maximum security men’s institution just west of Minneapolis. As the summer drones on, I witness a summer of death in the United States. First, the shooting of 49 queer and trans people at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando; second, the murder of 37-year-old Alton Sterling in Louisiana, an unarmed Black man who was selling CDs at his local record store; third, the murder of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old nutritional worker at a Montessori school in Saint Paul, Minnesota, not far from where I’m living; fourth, the death of five police officers in Dallas, on the tail end of a legit and peaceful Black Lives Matter demo, framing non-violent activists as potential public threats. And then there were more: the death of a three-year-old boy, and the near-fatal injury of his sister, both caught in gunfire in North Minneapolis; further shootings in Baton Rouge; and then the extreme retaliation against demonstrators at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. As the heat increased, I felt the cool numbness of overwhelm sweep across my skin. I resisted its relief.
Community grieving seemed to surround me like the Minneapolis dew-point humidity, providing a haunting backdrop as I learned the techniques and strategies of the healing practice called Spiritual Care. The modality is used in hospitals, hospices, prisons, detention centres, addiction recovery spaces, and more. It invites multiplicity and complication. It opens up the isolation, racism, misogyny, marginalization, and criminalization so many of us marginalized people experience into a fuller, and thicker, story about what lands people in places like prison. While my training was teaching me how to expand into context and social experience, I was watching the news media contract and reduce the lives of victims of gun violence and their perpetrators’ into headlines, sound bites, and profiles of singular “bad apple” cops.
In a summer of polarization, it seemed to me that violence in the West had become the aperture through which humanity expressed its light—for those of us who refused the binary axis of crossfire, the light of being alive and the light of self-determination shone a bit more brightly. I reflected on my consistent feeling of upsurge, of concentrated potency. Indeed, it is our very bodies—the bodies of violence survivors and wisdom seekers—that provide the medicine for a panorama of healing: the grieving, the storytelling, the release necessary to transcend. We bodies in grief and motion provide the nuance, the questions that offer a re-storying. From this lens, I reflected on the fact that Orlando shooter Omar Mateen had himself been struggling with his queer desire, that the intersections of Islamophobia, internalized homophobia, and racism produced a man who shot other people of colour in a nightclub he frequented, because his shame and confusion had nowhere else to direct itself. I consider Dallas shooter Micah Xavier Johnson in his full humanity—as a veteran of the war on Iraq who had suffered moral injury, had been violent with his partners in the past with impunity, and had cried out in many ways along his path with his own mental health.
This aperture of violence through which we are forced to live and narrate our lives is sparking a massive reframe. A light shines through it from a certain angle, undeniable and stark. There's a touch of hope when the histories of social justice movements, so often born from the wisdom and struggles of Black women, can finally shed unhindered light on our strategies for achieving justice. When a meeting facilitator, or an interviewee, or a rally speaker invokes some fierce wisdom, won from decades of front-line struggle, we turn towards that beacon with ease. In the case of Castile, it was his partner Diamond Reynolds who took a moment of utter despair and transformed it into what might become the only hope for justice in his case. Tapping into a new technology not yet fully understood by the slow-moving arms of the criminal injustice system, Reynolds repurposed the Facebook Livestream, creating a kind of post-mortem justice for herself and her four-year-old daughter, Dae'Anna, who was in the back seat, witnessing it all. In her calm and her brilliance, in her wisdom and her practice, Reynolds used the master’s tool to dismantle his house. There she was for the whole world to see—in obedient conversation with Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who shot Castile. As Yanez continued in his panic to yell and shout orders, Reynolds followed his rules and narrated each one clearly, despite her beloved moaning in pain and bleeding beside her. Dae'Anna calmed her from the back seat, now on global record, bravely, saying, “It's OK, Mommy. It's OK. I'm right here with you.” Marcus Sandoval, "PHILANDO CASTILE *FULL VIDEO* Diamond Reynolds BLACK LIVES MATTER," (2016), YouTube video, 9:00, posted July 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmBUpHFWYQI
This intergenerational women's justice, linked with a moving livestream of the familiar isolation and pain, caught my deepest attention. The intersection with technologies; with artfulness; with the elegant coming together of a trace, a tool, and a strategy spoke to me of healing justice, and its deepest potential. As Kindred: Southern Healing Justice Collective states on their home page, the practice of healing justice lies “not only in collective grief, but also in collective resiliency and resistance.”
Indeed, these tools and traces are what interested me when I was invited to guest edit Issue #2 of MICE. Coming as it does from a history of independent art production, of politically and socially aware cultural labour, MICE’s focus on healing justice led me to wonder what this issue might produce. The result is a constellation of sorts—a grouping of artists' reflections on how the moving image can evoke resiliency in the face of deep grief and apparent isolation. Some of the pieces you'll find here are very personal reflections. Others are more of a weaving between self and movement, movement and self.
As a practice, healing justice is relational, archival, and redemptive. For this issue of MICE, we’ve stretched the container of the “moving image” to include a spectrum of works that focus on bodies narrating themselves. Bodies often ignored, or spoken for or on behalf of. These works invite you into thickened stories of survival—individual and collective. We’ve chosen works that represent ways in which artists are grappling with the ethics of production and dissemination in a context that often minimizes race, ability, class, gender, and sexuality as one-dimensional, lacking, or simplistic. The annual Allied Media Conference in Detroit hosted the first Healing Justice Practice Space (HJPS) in June of 2010. Their guiding principle, “we begin by listening,” offers the model and reference for Issue #2's title. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha discusses this and other HJPSs in her piece “A Not-So-Brief Personal History of the healing justice Movement, 2010–2016.” Piepzna-Samarasinha offers an articulate framework for how healing justice might be understood and practiced by cultural workers invested in honouring its origins. Her text provides a key for unlocking the approaches of the other artists, curators, filmmakers, and critics that appear across Issue #2.
Barak adé Soleil offers a sound work sourced from his performative lecture the “good” body. Soleil’s project highlights the ways in which Blackness is often reduced by mainstream news and fiction media to singularity; the need for justice restitution is ignored. He proposes that disabilities can act as disruption to false categories. Soleil’s project includes a transcript available for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
In “A Story of Indigenous Birth Justice,” Rebeka Tabobondung explores the making of her documentary Spirit of Birth and her personal experiences giving birth as an Indigenous woman of mixed ancestry. The piece follows the founding of Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto, a midwifery practice with “a focus on providing culturally grounded care for the Indigenous community.” Tabobondung proposes that Indigenous birthing practices are cultural resistance. Her project reaches into the most unhealthy parts of the colonial state’s so-called “health” institutions to critique how life is brought into the world. Tabobundung illuminates how independent media can honour birthing stories in culturally relevant ways.
Considerations of how media can offer direct movement support sit centre stage with Chris Kennedy and Samuel LaFrance’s piece, “Brûle la mer: A Welcome Returned.” Their piece focuses on the French film of the same name, a collaborative project between Maki Berchache, a Tunisian migrant/organizer, and his French colleague, Nathalie Nambot. Through the resources of L’abominable, an artist-run underground film lab in Paris, Berchache and Nambot co-author a gorgeous film that explores men’s experience of migration and racial profiling in Paris, and the wounds incurred by the limits of its hospitality.
Alize Zorlutuna’s video BLMTO explores the fraught experience of dealing with chronic pain while being an ally to the Black Lives Matter movement, asking questions around contradiction and capacity. Reflecting on her own Turkish ancestry for strategies that include food, touch, and contemplation, Zorlutuna leaves the complex challenges of how to build sustainable support unanswered, open for each of us to fill in.
Sheena Hoszko explores the openings and limits of art production in the context of prison resistance movements in her piece “Of Birds, Ointments, and Care: How Peter Collins’ Artworks Kept Him in Prison.” Collins was incarcerated for over thirty years at Bath Institution, just west of Kingston, Ontario. His 2-D works spread like wildfire over North America, and his short film Fly in the Ointment is one of few collaborations made by an incarcerated and non-incarcerated team. Hoszko’s piece draws on interviews with Collins’s close family and friends.
In “#callresponse: presence across platforms,” curator Tarah Hogue describes the framework and individual pieces for the upcoming exhibition at Vancouver’s grunt gallery, which she co-curated with Maria Hupfield and Tania Willard. Hogue considers healing justice as a lens for understanding the healing potential of art, suggesting its limits and potential for harm in both artists and audiences. Working with an amazing array of Indigenous artists from diverse territories, #callresponse critiques the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission, proposing a critical analysis for both the terms healing and justice and reminding us to move beyond simple display and consumption in relation to Indigenous women’s creative practices.
Peppered throughout Issue #2, you’ll find images from Lab, Alberta-based artist Shanell Papp’s delicate textile work exploring the human skeleton. Each body section suggests a different container for reflection, providing an embodied visual marker through which to choose your own path through the text.
our singular body
part of a larger communal body
Moving together as one good body
My gratitude to the MICE Collective, particularly Gina Badger and Rose D’Amora, who have long supported this project with their hard work beyond expectation. Special thanks to my colleague and friend, artist and Black Lives Matter Toronto organizer Syrus Marcus Ware, for his counsel and collaboration in selecting the works for this issue.