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Tomas Jonsson – Day 1

September 15, 2010

On Monday, September 13, beginning at 4:30 p.m., a small, enthusiastic group congregated at aceartinc. to discuss poverty and housing.

This is how it went…

After a few formalities consisting of welcomes, introductions, and few housekeeping items, Tomas gave a presentation about his practice and his recent work. From there, each participant noted their reasons for attending the session including personal experiences, concerns, and desires. At this time, we began a personal conversation about the nature of what we agreed was an artificially constructed opposition of “us” and “them”, and we talked about how all people experience various states of “housing”, but what is at stake is an understanding of where social values come from, and how we as a society decide who gets what, and how momentary lapses of security can spiral for an individual, or an intergenerational network of community members, when the systems in place to help are lacking or altogether absent.

An important feature of the conversation also included the notion of education and the various forms it has taken (i.e. traditional university) and alternative forms people are becoming excited about pursuing (i.e. peer led free school). In both cases, we discussed what constitutes education, who can access it, and the ways it is either instrumentalized to assert divisions, or maximized to help individuals and communities gain real agency and/or improved quality of life.  This related to conversation about the trades versus liberal arts, and the idea that there is a necessary connection between work (especially physical labour) and housing.

We took note of phrases, statements, and other ideas that captured the motion of our conversation, as well as thoughts we might want to return to when looking back later on.

As a group, we decided to go for a walk. Initially we were inspired to check out some buildings along the river that looked like they could be converted into housing or sites for skills training, and other social services, but once outside, we decided to go for a drink along Main Street instead. We sat down and started talking about potential project ideas that had come up earlier in the day and various people came over to chat with us.

One person in particular took interest in our project which, at that moment, was being defined in the extremely broad sense of places that are comfortable/uncomfortable, and what that could mean. He told us a story about the Fyxx versus the Woodbine. The same building divided down the middle with two service establishments. In one he’s perfectly comfortable – breaking out into song with friends. Yet, at the other, for singing just once, he was kicked out! He told us about how he found it so strange to belong on one side of the building, but completely not belong on the other.

The notion of belonging was a meaningful point of departure and, what we already decided we wanted to do as a project was a combination of a choose your own adventure/scavenger hunt, we decided to start with that:

“Go to a place where you feel you don’t belong”.

As you can probably see from the scrawled and re-scrawled notes, we deliberated possible questions about belonging, neighbourhoods, residential properties, etc. We spent a couple of hours refining these questions and decided to not be *too* spontaneous and think about them a little more the following day.

We did, however, continued to refine the way we would disseminate the questions and came up with the idea of making small, self-contained questionnaires that could be placed in various sites in the city (i.e. university campus, library, bus shelters, etc.), picked up by anyone interested, filled out if desired, and mailed back to the gallery using the stamp already available on the document. We would encourage people to draw and or take photos either by e-mailing digital images, or picking up a single use camera from aceartinc. during regular hours.

More on all of this forthcoming…

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