The Vigilant Robot

a watchful eye of creative complexity

Tag Archives: social justice

Discussing Borders with “Green Line” at Fulton Street Collective

Green Line Image

Art Exhibition and Theatre Performance
This past month of December, a friend and I collaborated with Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble to put on an art exhibition to accompany some performances, all centered around a theme of transcending borders and boundaries in our lives and society. The performance was called “All the Shows I’ve Ever Wanted to Do But Was Told I Couldn’t” and included excerpts from three plays where the characters’ rolls were filled by those who would normally not be casted as such in mainstream professional plays.

Here is Chicago Danztheatre’s text about the performance:

“All The Shows I’ve Ever Wanted to Do But Was Told I Couldn’t” invites directors, writers, performers, and the like to creatively re-stage their favorite productions with an unlikely cast. Gender, racial, and sexual barriers are sure to be broken by some of the most talented voices in Chicago. Performed throughout the Fulton Street Collective’s gallery against backdrop of boundary-breaking music and visual art, each show will be followed by a discussion with the artists and curators.

Victoria Alvarez-Chacon, David Besky, Laura A. Harrison, Maria Margaglione, Maren Rosenberg, & Vahashti Vafadari
in scenes from
Sweet Bird of Youth, directed by Alex St. John
True West, directed by Jude Hansen
The Pillowman, directed by Lavina Jadhwani
Danny & the Deep Blue Sea, directed by Tara Branham
With additional Scenes written by Dana Lynn Formby

“Green Line,” the exhibition my friend Leila and I curated, was the background of every performance, working with and against the scenes and breaking boundaries in different ways. We solicited artwork from a variety of artists, mostly women and local artists, to showcases voices and artistic content that is not normally exposed in the mainstream Chicago arts community. We wanted to take the specificity of “Green Line” away and make it a broader concept of demarcations; Chicago is one of the most segregated cities and we wanted to fit the injustice and politics within that in our exhibition. The is the text about the exhibition:

Green lines are various forms of demarcations that have historically existed within certain geographical areas, separating societies from each other. From explicit territorial boundaries which impede upon freedom of movement to lines that denote areas in urban cities going through gentrification, what unifies these lines is the impact they have on how we perceive ourselves, others and the world around us. These lines are often invisible, but noticeable in the interaction, or lack thereof, between people and embedded into our views and social structures; sometimes, they are self-imposed. “Green Line” is an exhibition which intends to examine these different forms of borders existing within our society through a variety of mediums. From conceptual paintings and objects to photography and collage, the artwork encompasses a variety of interpretations about the borders we see, and sometimes do not see, in and outside our communities.

Artists Include:

Aaron King
Alma Elaine Shoaf
Annan Shehadi
Art J Olson
Ben Salus
Elsie Lopez
Francesca Lolli
Ian Macleod
Jennifer Mannebach
Mondana Jazara
Nina Lawrin
Ryan Till
Sam Kirk
Shirien Damra
Waldek Dynerman

Here are some photos of the artwork and performances:


















My Contribution to the Exhibition: “Process of Assimilation, 1967–”
My piece, “Process of Assimilation, 1967–,” was on display. I exhibited the piece a bit differently than I have before. Instead of hanging the photo on the wall, I had it tucked inside the “dictionary” to make it more realistic and slightly less nostalgic, not that the nostalgia could ever disappear. It is more tangible and less precious, because the value and respect with which I esteem this object is embedded into itself and the stand on which it sits.

The only object my father was able to bring to the United States after his family left Palestine in 1967 was an Arabic-English dictionary. It is not only a remnant of his displacement, but it is representative of a necessity to learn another language, a foreign language that is to become a refugee’s or “displaced person’s” new dialect. I recreated the dictionary to exist in the state after immigration and during “assimilation,” complete with traces of the specific process including my father’s simple marks, handwritten notes, and the inscription of the  Americanized name given to my father by teachers and schoolmates.

The only other artifact that my father has from his home is a photograph.

A photo of a home to which he cannot return and a book representing the language of his new home, the past and the present recreated to exist simultaneously, as it often does in the reality of a Palestinian.




The Future of Artist Collaboration
Discussions after each show revealed that collaborative events such as this one, where multiple artforms come together for a purpose, a cause, need to happen more often. Boundaries need to be challenged even further—art can be shown differently, not framed or on walls and non-actors can become actors. There is so much that can be done and challenged through art and I am excited to take part of more of this work in 2014.


Art’s Capabilities: Thoughts?

Can art actually create change or can art only inspire change?

What do you think and why?

365 Images of Social Justice: Week 3

January 15 (1929), The birth of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 16 (1969), Czech student, Jan Palach, sets himself on fire in protest of the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia

January 17 (1987), Thousands protest against the first test launch of the Trident II Missile at Cape Canaveral, Florida

January 18 (2011), Websites blacked out against SOPA, Stop Online Piracy Act, (and PIPA) in what became the largest internet protest in history for internet freedom

January 19 (1991), Thousands protest in Washington D.C. against the bombing of Iraq during the Gulf War

January 20 (1990), Known as Black January/Saturday, protests calling for independence of Azerbaijan from the Soviet Union erupted in Baku and Soviet troops attacked and fired on the protesters killing over 100.

January 21 (2005), Angry at the ruling government party for the declining economy, huge protests broke out in Belmopan, Belize after the government released a budget with significant tax increases; national strikes followed.

365 Images of Social Justice: Week 2

January 8 (1811), German Coast (Louisiana) Uprising, which was the largest slave revolt to occur in the U.S.

January 9 (1964 ), Martyr’s Day in Panama, riots over sovereignty of the Panama Canal Zone colonized by the U.S.

January 10 (2007), general strike in Guinea, trade unions and opposition groups called on President Conté to resign

January 11 (1943), Carlo Tresca, and Italian born American anarchist and labor unionist, known for fighting against fascism and the mafia, was assassinated (by mafia or government?)


January 12 (1848), Sicilian revolution for independence centered in Palermo

January 13 (1866), The Colored National Labor Union was founded

January 14 (2011), President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia is ousted after weeks of protest commencing from Bouazizi’s self-immolation

365 Images of Social Justice: Week 1

Before 2012 ended, I decided that I would do some sort of creative activity every single day of the 2013 year. I decided that I would create an image referencing a social justice movement or related activity occurring on that day. Most of the images would be montages to represent the complexity of the movement for justice. Below is the first week of images.


January 1 (1959), Cuban Revolution

January 2 (1975), Police execution of Siraj Sikder, revolutionary leader of what is now Bangladesh

January 3 (1793), Birth of Lucretia Mott, an American Quaker who fought for women’s rights and the end of slavery

January 4 (1948), Day of Burma’s Independence from British colonization; Burma, now known as Myanmar, is under military rule today, causing the people to fight for freedom

January 5 (2013), Idle No More protest at the US-Canada border (British Columbia-Washington) & throughout Canada for the rights of the Indigenous; Chief Theresa Spencer of the Attawapiskat First Nation helps lead the movement; Stephen Harper will meet with First Nation leaders to discuss an Aboriginal rights treaty next week.

January 6 (2012), Protest on NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s block and mansion in defense of free speech and support of journalists covering Occupy Wall Street who have been targeted by the NYPD

January 7 (2009), Protest in Oakland against police brutality and the murder of Oscar Grant by BART Police; day of Oscar Grant’s funeral