Workshop 3

Queer Paris: day four

The forth day of our workshop, Rashid Owoyele led the workshop, using a dry-erase board he had design in the Transdisciplinary program, focusing more one the community’s vision of itself for the future. He writes:

“The prototype is a dry-erase board that seeks to distribute agency in the production of the artifacts generated in conversation around a dry-erase board during the design process or discussion.  For this context I asked participants to think about two timeframes.  The first exercise was intended to be generative of ideas about Argenteuil’s image in the past.  The second exercise asked participants to reflect on their dream for the perceptions of Argenteuil in the future.  Each participant generated 6 words and an image in each exercise.  These were then discussed and determined to either be a single persons perspective or one shared by multiple people.

My hope was that this would start a conversation in which we would develop better understandings of the group’s collective imaginary about their own urban context.  Everyone seemed engaged – despite the length of time the exercise took.  There was a also young person who drew their own ideal space for the future which included a skate park!  This demonstrated to me that this way of facilitating discussions about the individual imaginary could develop an expressed understanding of the shared view of places and spaces.

After the workshop we went out to shoot for my video project.  It was amazing how engaged and inspired the participants became.  Though I had envisioned this part of my work in France would be primarily performed separate and in solitude from the persons we had been working with at the cultural center, it became apparent that performing in a public space can not be done in private.  It was very inspiring to see the hidden talents of folks whom we had been interacting with as they danced after or with me.  Children from around Argenteuil that were passing by or visiting parents became performers in that moment.  One young woman danced and then sang a full pop song in English.  It’s interesting just how much time it takes to actually get to know someone – then you add language as a barrier and that time-to-understanding elongates dramatically.  I realize now that after those first to days, my comfort was assumptive – as designers we need to remain aware that there is always something lurking under the surface that is invisible to us that could provide the most insightful opportunity or experience that we need for our work. This is one moment of queering public space that I will not soon forget.”

Queer Paris day three

playing Elaine's game

playing Elaine’s game

We continued with our workshops on day three, successfully engaging members of the Argenteuil community with related queer themes. It is a very unique time to be in France, as the issues around gay marriage top the news every day, and so these have certainly taken center stage. From what I’ve seen, people seem informed and engaged, and opinions are nuanced and diverse. We had the opportunity to meet two young female architects in the morning, we discussed the concern around female surrogacy being central to the “manif pour tous” argument. The role of women is much more traditional in France than in the US, it seems, revealed in policies such as an age cap of 37 for assistance with reproductive technology for any couple, as well as both adoption and reproductive technology being reserved for married (hetero) women only….until now. I’m not sure if we even discuss “the role of women” anymore in the US, but rather the rights of the female body as it relates to specific issues such as abortion. A new study reports that women now make up 40% of the breadwinners in US households, a statistic that I have wondered about for a long time. Reproductive choices for women are intrinsically tied to these larger choices of ‘career’ or simply employment/survival in today’s economy.

Christopher began stage two of his narrative workshop, presenting two legal LGBT issues–adoption and visa status–within personal scenarios. Two groups collaborated to design the characters within these scenarios, and both developed unique insights and depth within the narratives at hand. There was some confusion within the process, as it is really important when working with groups to make clear both the scope of expectation as well as the core narrative conflict. Both elements here were not as clear as they could have been, which is a great lesson to take moving forward. Christopher will be continuing the final stage of the workshop tomorrow.

Elaine presented her game “Media-tion”, which asks up to 8 players to position their reaction to an image along a dual matrix presenting two pairs of dichotomous terms. For our session today, Elaine chose “masculine/feminine” and “peaceful/violent”. We brought in two images from the “Manif Pour Tous” march to analyze and Elaine left the last round to let the community choose their own image to discuss. Both teams were very engaged throughout the game, and the format of the game allows for everyone to present their own rationale for their position, which affords opportunity for clarification and communication. There were several instances of agreement and disagreement, yet both teams followed with respectful discussion. In short, it is a very effective game for being able to “read” and share many perspectives around a given image or idea, and can be easily adapted for many purposes. Elaine donated the two boards to the community centered, and they received this with much enthusiasm.

After our second community interaction, we met to discuss our collaborative engagement thus far, plan the final day with this community, as well as other ‘queer probes’ that the students had designed within the city of Paris. A few issues that came up in the discussion were needing to accommodate time for translations, the compression of time that comes with these intensive workshops, and some cultural expectations in these types of exchanges. It has been really exciting to feel how engaged this community has been with us in such a short time, and presents exciting new possibilities for ongoing collaboration within the future Parsons Paris.

Workshop 1