(Editor’s note: Thoughts from our 2014 Summer Institute Documentation Work/Study, Jessica Hale, on her experience at the Institute. Jessica spent an incredible amount of time behind the lens of her camera, and her experience reflects that unique frame of reference. You can read previous reflections on the Institute here and here. Stay tuned for even more reflections to come! –Amanda Newman)
It has been two weeks since I have left the Dance Exchange Summer Institute and I am still processing the ten-day roller coaster that was my experience. As the Documentation/Media Work Study, who has had the wonderful opportunity to work with the Dance Exchange for the past two summers, I’m leaving this year’s institute with a task I hope explore outside of the Dance Exchange: To use my skills as a multi-media artist to move equity forward without letting my personal implicit bias interrupt my body of work which involves the histories and stories of friends, family, partners, allies, and the places we see, live, and inhabit.
I’m leaving this institute knowing that History will always be rolling and I don’t plan on stopping the record button just so our histories can be seen in a pretty light. As a multi-media artist, living an equitable lifestyle is not about documenting only the best parts of life, like Instagram portrays, but knowing that I can utilize my artistic eye, camera and personal awareness of such issues to unearth or highlight notions surrounding not only racial equity but equity for all.
Sifting through the hours and hours of footage from this past week’s institute is a reminder of the 40 multiple truths, histories, and perspectives that I have been blessed to come into contact with and capture with my camera. Documenting our process has given me a foundation to stand on in order to move forward in my personal life as well as my professional career. Our documented history is full of inconsistencies, and I’m finding that my work can help fill in these empty spaces. Especially as we continue this line of work in Dallas, TX, where racial equity is still a tiny seed in the dirty south.
Art making is a medium through which I can work to open up this type of dialogue and Dance Exchange, along with their Dallas Partners, has given me tools in which this dialogue can take place. We can overcome racism. As a Graduate Student at Texas Woman’s University, I am eager to continue working on racial equity by attending the Dallas Faces Race Conference held in Dallas, TX on November 13th-15th, 2014. This experience has not only raised my awareness about racial equity but it has given me a platform to begin questioning my own implicit bias and the structural racism that lives in our educational systems today.
We have to remember, building bridges for racial equity isn’t a tonsillectomy, but it’s brushing your teeth daily. It is a practice and a healthy way of thinking and living an equitable life. I’m ready and willing to do what is necessary to build these bridges through activism and art making. I want to thank Dance Exchange, Race Forward, and Dallas Faces Race for making art the vehicle for such an equitable dialogue. These are the people who inspire my personal life and the way I create my work as an artist.