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My monthly conscient blog for march 2023 featuring my learnings and unlearnings from February 2023.
As you might know, I changed the periodicity of this blog from weekly to monthly as of March 2023 to reduce your reading time and my production time.
I also decided to do only occasional video versions of episodes on the conscient YouTube channel (when I have good visual materials) which gives me more time and energy to produce audio…
I’m confident I will get all 52 episodes done, in both languages, one per week by 31 December 2023, as planned. I plan a few bonus episodes for special occasions. I’m also breaking my own rules here and there (for example, e111 and e112 are longer than 5 minutes!).
I’m as excited as ever about this learning and unlearning journey but also humbled by its magnitude and complexity. For example, I wrote this piece called ‘listening, knowing, relating, releasing‘ on February 15th:
Maybe Bertrand Russell was right: ‘Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life.’ For many years now I’ve been trying to let go of… ‘me’, for example, in conscient podcast e74. I’ve also been trying hard to be ‘intelligent’. So much effort to be someone or something I am not. But I’ve been overthinking it, literally. It’s actually very simple (albeit hard to do). All I need to do is to let go of the cultural construct of ‘Claude Schryer’. In other words, to no longer believe in the story of ‘me’ but rather to trust in my inner voice by listening, knowing, relating, releasing… Listening with my body. Knowing without being a knower. Relating metabolically to all living beings. Releasing blockages.Claude Schryer, letter to friends, February 15, 2023
I’m learning more about addictions, impulses and traps, my own and around me. I created an episode, ‘e111 traps’, in radio play format about this to be published on March 12 that explores the issue of ‘exit fixation’, which is when we feel a strong urge to walk out on existing commitments.
For example, when someone realizes that the path they are on is full of paradoxes, contradictions, and complicities, their first response is often to find an immediate exit in hopes of a more fulfilling and/or more innocent alternative or an ideal community with whom to continue this work.
I’ve also been drawn to speculative fiction these last few weeks (see e108 2048). I yearn for stories that demonstrate, somehow, that we’re going to be ok. I get an endorphin rush by listening to stories that offer ‘hope’… An episode on addictions is in the works.
February 15, TRAIN workshop on privilege
I was asked by Mass Culture (Toronto) to share my learnings from their Training Respectful, Adaptive and Inclusive Networks in the Arts (T.R.A.I.N.) workshop on ’equity versus equality, anti-oppression and reflecting on privilege’. Here is an excerpt:
- I was at the cottage that day. It was cold and I was a bit nervous, because here I was in a privileged situation (albeit rustic) with the freedom to travel freely, access to nutritious food, the ability express myself through art, easy access to nature, safety, comfort, etc.
- Workshop leader Karly Rath began by asking us to think about ‘what does evaluating our work as artists or evaluating arts programming mean and how can we apply an equity lens to our evaluation?’.
- This question was familiar to me from my equity training and policy work at the Canada Council in collaboration with several outstanding equity office leaders, including Sharon Fernandez, Melinda Mollineaux, Sheila James and Mana Rouholamini, however this time I was participating as arts community member without my institutional ‘armour’ but I did have the freedom to express myself freely on an issue that was central to work at the Council in Inter-Arts: equity of access for all arts practices. My concerns now have turned to equity of access for all living beings to a liveable planet however social and climate justice are inter-related issues.
- Our group of about 20 arts leaders (of which, in passing, I was the only male) were asked to demystify the evaluation process, talk about the principles of equity and provide examples of how we might apply them in our daily practice as cultural workers.
- We were also asked to reflect on our own privileges and positionality, and to think through how to use evaluation for social justice and change. This is a lot of ground to cover in 90 minutes, but the workshop was well thought through (as were the others) with a combination of practical information and creative participation.
I’ll share the link next month.
February 15 : Listening to Social Transformation through Engagement Network Happy Hour
I curated the first LISTEN Happy Hour later that same day. LiSTEN is a community-engaged and multidisciplinary research project exploring the complex relationship between listening and social transformation in Canada and Canada-in-the-world through research-creation, experiential pedagogies, and scholarship led by Dr. Ellen Waterman, at Carleton University where I am an external research fellow.
A small group of music and sound professionals listened to ‘e101 tension’ and exchanged our responses to this episode as well as thoughts on listening. Some highlights:
- Muffled listening
- Voice forward
- Incomplete listening
- What value does a fixed media piece have?
- Disappearing sounds
- Where is the risk?
- Feeling inside the sound
- What is the value of context?
- You want to let ‘ego’ go and yet you need it to ‘be’ a listener
- How can one lose oneself in listening and still be present?
- What does imperialism and weaponization sound like?
- What is ‘settler listening’?
February 20 : ‘Sounds for Artists’ class at Concordia University
I’ve been doing a series of conversations with students and artists about the podcast. This is very stimulating and at the heart of the ‘educational’ vocation of this project.
On February 20th I was a guest at the ‘Sounds for Artists’ class in the electroacoustic music department at Concordia University taught by sound artist Kathy Kennedy.
One student asked how can a podcast can effect complex issues like climate change?
I was quite emotional in my response, noting that the reason I produce the conscient podcast is because other podcasts have uplifted my spirits and that their words and sound energize me to keep going therefore I am inspired to return the favour. I explained that my motivation was ‘energetic’, e.g. I receive energy from my guests and try to pass some on.
Another student from that class asked how I can critique modernity while benefiting from it.
I gave a response including reference to the eco-responsibility statement on my website but I did give a clear answer.
A better answer would have been that I have learned to live with the tension of living within a system while denouncing it and at the same time and that I call upon various learnings, such as those from the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures collective, to help me along such as how to walk a tightrope between desperate hope and reckless hopelessness.
As per usual in these group sessions there was little immediate feedback from the group on the episode that we listened to. Most people seem to be contemplative and not ready to respond. This might come later.
February 21 : Sound Dialogues
The ecoartspace in the US set up a series of 4 member meetings (January to April 2023) to discuss issues raised in Sounding Modernity. This group of about 20 sound artists from around the world provided me with valuable critical feedback, including :
- How can we focus on regional ecological issues and regional futures through sound?
- e108 2048 shared valuable information but was not really a story : more like a mission statement and a declaration of possibilities
- I learned what an audio moth does!
- We heard about the most recent work of sound artist Mary Edwards, whose work speaks to me
That’s enough for now.
You get the idea that I’m learning from my peers and realizing that I keep failing but that’s the point. 🙂
I hope this is useful.
BTW I’ve also started thinking about the 5th season of conscient. My plan is to return to the free flowing conversation format of season 1, 2 and 3. The idea is to continue sharing inspiring moments when I see knowledge gaps as a gesture of reciprocity for all the wisdom I have received.
Finally, gratitude to Natasha Baldin at The Charlatan newsletter for this article on my work : Ottawa podcast artist invites listeners to reflect on climate change and modernity .
Thanks for reading.