Key TermsAlternative Communication Assigned Identities Creative Writing Workshop
Homelessness Physical Publishing Poets, the The Cat Ate It
“Man can give himself in saying to the point of poetry– or he can withdraw into the non-saying of lies.”
SOCIAL IDENTITIES POETRY HOMELESSNESS*
Initially my research developed around how being homeless translates to an assigned identity, which by overshadowing one’s other characteristics and values can become the main factor defining their voice and position in any social interaction. For the purpose of this research, I formed a space where homeless people would have the opportunity to shape and publicly present their social identities based on their ideas and personal beliefs — and in this way pursuing their position in the public discourse. Poetry, as a figment of imagination by conveying a fictional and political narrative for discussion with the general public, could become a means of representing oneself and creating an identity formed by the aspects one wishes to be identified by.
Methodology and practice
COLLABORATION INDIVIDUAL WRITING PUBLISHING
For this research I designed a creative writing workshop that consisted of the selection of modified writing exercises (which also included illustration as an alternative practice) and classified them according to the amount of constraints they entailed and the level of collaboration required. The overall aim of the structure was to create a framework where everyone could equally participate — regardless of their writing experience — and where participants could funnel the practice and express themselves how they wished. Publishing the outcomes of the workshop, in a wider sense, would be the means for these individuals’ identities (shaped only by their voices) to be presented in public.
*Based on the principal that a researcher should not have any preconceptions about ones’ needs or beliefs, lacking access to interaction constitutes a significant barrier when it comes to community based projects. This is why the second part of this project focused on developing other aspects of my initial research.
How would this narrative apply to the present condition of self-isolation?
In the present condition, public space (that hosts most of our social interactions) has been replaced by a virtual environment of anonymity. Individuals can present themselves, creating multiple identities, bare of any presumption resulting from real life encounters. In addition, while lacking access to the public space, individuals need to search for alternative ways to communicate their thoughts and make use of spaces on the threshold between the private and the public to encounter each other.
How could the methodology be applied in a virtual space?
For the second part of this research I designed a digital creative writing workshop, deploying the factor of anonymity to observe how participants would build an identity through their poetic expression. Creating a platform where random users would have the chance to encounter each other via collaboration and exchange of thoughts, could fire a form of communication unencumbered by social identities.
Revised research question
How can poetry and illustration as creative practices be used as construction mechanisms of identities in a field of no pre-existing social classifications? What kind of publication methods can be developed in the current condition?
Notes on the outcomes
The second part of this research was a way to experiment with the practices I was planning to include in the actual workshops — and reflect on the way participants engage with them. One of the most significant outcomes from both workshops was that all participants managed to put aside whatever they perceive as their social identity and expose themselves through their own expression.
Individuals participating in the digital process came from different backgrounds and it was very interesting observing how they would create connections amongst each other — connections that I could not anticipate in real life. One of the most important aspects of this attempt was to motivate people to find alternative ways of physically communicating in the current reality of limited interaction. Constructing the workshop in the form of a game with several tasks was an attempt to make it more recreational in order to relieve participants of the anxiety of refining their writings.
I consider these research outcomes to be part of an ongoing process that will be completed once physical workshops and the use of public space (as a publishing field) will be possible again.