Material Feminisms in the Making:
Of Messiness and Social Justice
in the Practices of Art, Design, and Education

Material Feminisms in the Making:
Of Messiness and Social Justice
in the Practices of Art, Design, and Education

MAR 8 | 10:00 AM — 12:00 PM ET

REGISTRATION LINK

Feminist scholars and practitioners will come together at this workshop to share research and work-in-practice that encounters and intersects the material in meaningful ways. Presenters include activists, artists, performers, educators, and designers from across academic and professional institutions in the US, Europe, and the UK. Participants will share works currently in progress with a focus on making processes that foreground its provisional nature and be in conversation together about the messiness and exuberance of the feminist making act/s with the aims of advancing social justice.

PARTICIPANTS

Diana Alvarez
Singer-Songwriter, Poet, Composer, Filmmaker, Educator, and Scholar

Sharon Clark
Playwright & Creative Director of Raucous theatre, Senior Lecturer, University of West England

Nettrice R. Gaskins
Digital Artist, Cultural Critic, and Assistant Director of Lesley STEAM Learning Lab

Sanaz Haghani
Printmaker, Graphic Designer, and Adjunct Instructor at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

Erin Mergil
Assistant Head of School, Woodland Hill Montessori School

Jessa Pelizari
Primary Head Teacher, Woodland Hill Montessori School

Anne Sullivan
Assistant Professor, Director of StoryCraft Research Lab, Georgia Institute of Technology

Rebecca Rouse
Senior Lecturer, GAME: Game, Art, Media, Experience Research Group, University of Skövde, Sweden

Nassim Parvin
Associate Professor, School of Literature, Media, and Communication, Georgia Institute of Technology





Speakers








Diana Alvarez

Singer-Songwriter, Poet, Composer, Filmmaker, Educator, Scholar

ABOUT THE ARTEFACT ABOUT THE SPEAKER VIDEO





"Ser Artista Album Campaign Video" is an attempt at capturing the feel for my upcoming album, Ser Artista, to be released in the fall of 2021. This video will be used to fundraise for the costs of production, mixing, mastering, distribution, and publicity for single releases starting in April. The songs on this album are the music for Quiero Volver: A Xicanx Ritual Opera, which has previously been a live multimedia performance. Quiero Volver was awarded a grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts, and I will produce the performance in video form this year, with music videos and instructional text scores for viewers to participate in the performance virtually. This "Ser Artista" video is an opportunity to begin a palette of ideas for what I would like the Quiero Volver videos to look like.




Doctora Xingona Diana Alvarez is a singer-songwriter, poet, composer, filmmaker, educator, and scholar whose multifaceted work centers transcendence, kinship, and the co-liberation and nourishment of BIPOC women, nonbinary, trans, and genderqueer artists.

Alvarez is the composer and filmmaker behind the award-winning Quiero Volver: A Xicanx Ritual Opera, a multimedia performance altar for women, nonbinary, trans, and genderqueer artists of color to convene and manifest futures. Quiero Volver features Alvarez's original music, sonic text scores, a poem-script for ensemble performance, and documentary portraits from the BridgeSong Series, a virtual convening for artists of color to build coalitions for planetary healing. In 2018, Quiero Volver was produced at Smith College by grassroots organizers, and raised over $10,000 to support immigrant justice initiatives. In 2020, Quiero Volver was awarded a grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts, and will premiere as a video project in 2021. Performances from Quiero Volver benefit the BridgeSong Fund, a nourishing grant program for BIPOC Women, Nonbinary, Trans, and Genderqueer Musicians in Western Massachusetts. The BridgeSong Fund was founded by Diana in 2020 in collaboration with the Institute for the Musical Arts in Goshen, MA.

Diana Alvarez is an invited performer, guest lecturer, workshop facilitator, and keynote speaker at venues and schools across the US and worldwide, and teaches music, writing, and multimedia performance at Bard College in Western Massachusetts. She is at work on her debut EP, Ser Artista, to be released in 2021.







Sharon Clark

Playwright, Creative Director of Raucous, Senior Lecturer, University of West England

ABOUT THE ARTEFACT ABOUT THE SPEAKER VIDEO





These objects are a key spur for a new theatre experience, The Undrowned Trilogy, currently in early creative development with my company, Raucous. The work that drives Raucous is transdisciplinary - fusing immersive, site-responsive theatre with AI, AR, film and digital technology. Our narratives explore the often harsh choices women have to make due to societal restrictions, geographical location, poverty or class. At the heart of our narratives are ‘familiars’ – personalised objects worn or carried by the audience that animate in response to the live performance. They are physical representations of the emotional resonance of the piece, allowing the audience to ‘feel’ the consequences of the dramatic action. In the image are ‘tokens’, small items tucked into swaddling when a mother, through poverty or societal condemnation, left her baby at the steps of London’s Foundling Hospital (late 18th century). These tokens would allow the mother to reclaim her child should her fortunes change. We are currently investigating what these tokens could do in terms of:

- making the storytelling more personal for the audience
- building awe and wonder
- providing a physical response to both diegetic and memetic narrative

So… what do these tokens physically do? How can something so small be easily worn and yet still be effective in moving audiences? How can audiences gain a visceral relationship with their object? What role do these objects play in the narrative and in revealing more about the audience’s role? Before we alight on a creative solution how messy must our process get? How can a large, complex network of transdisciplinary collaborators embrace messiness in order to alight on the most creative and impactful resolution?








Sharon Clark is a playwright, dramaturge and Creative Director of Raucous, a UK-based theatre company that fuses performance, music, film, AR, AI and creative technology. She was awarded a Bruntwood Judge’s Prize for her play Plow in 2017 and her plays have also been shortlisted for the Yale Drama Prize and the PapaTango Prize. She is a resident at the Pervasive Media Studio and senior lecturer at the University of the West of England. In 2017 she worked with Aardman Animations on the BBC virtual reality film, Is Anna Okay? In 2018 she was awarded a Fellowship with the South West Creative Technology Network exploring advancements in immersion and performance, in 2019 she was made a RSC/Magic Leap Digital Fellow and in 2020 she became a fellow with Bath Spa University as part of the Bristol+Bath Digital Clusters looking at expanded performance. Raucous was a member of the 2020 Digital Catapult cohort exploring new narrative corridors with The Foundling.







Nettrice R. Gaskins

Digital Artist, Cultural Critic, Assistant Director of Lesley STEAM Learning Lab

ABOUT THE ARTEFACT ABOUT THE SPEAKER VIDEO





This is my nearly completed NSynth super machine that uses a deep neural network to learn the characteristics of sounds, and then creates a completely new sound based on them. The machine explores improvisation and modularity, or the degree to which system components or modules can be used in embodied interaction and sensemaking. Sounds, visual motifs, blocks of code, or the y-shaped plaits that make up a cornrow braid are basic building blocks for improvisation. My research and art examine how to generate algorithmic designs in cultural artifacts and create “interactive intelligences” or AI using modules, physical devices, and tangible and virtual interfaces. For me, machine learning is a bridge between Black cultural production and generative systems.








Dr. Nettrice R. Gaskins is an African American digital artist, academic, cultural critic and advocate of STEAM fields. In her work she explores "techno-vernacular creativity" and Afrofuturism.

Dr. Gaskins’ work explores how to generate art using algorithms in different ways, especially through coding. She also teaches, writes, "fabs" or makes, and does other things. She has taught multimedia, computational media, visual art, and even Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles with high school students who majored in the arts. She earned a BFA in Computer Graphics with Honors from Pratt Institute in 1992 and an MFA in Art and Technology from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1994. She received a doctorate in Digital Media from Georgia Tech in 2014. She has taught at the secondary and post-secondary levels in the Boston Public Schools and at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Currently, Dr. Gaskins is the assistant director of the Lesley STEAM Learning Lab at Lesley University. She will publish her first full-length book, Techno-Vernacular Creativity and Innovation through The MIT Press.

Gaskins has worked as a teaching artist for the Boston 100K Artscience Innovation Prize; and was a youth media/technology trainer for Adobe Youth Voices. She served as Board President of the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture and was on the board of the Community Technology Centers Network (CTCNet). Dr. Gaskins has also received funding from the National Science Foundation for Advancing STEM Through Culturally Situated Arts-Based Learning. Nettrice provides expert advice on how to include people from underrepresented communities.







Sanaz Haghani

Printmaker, Graphic Designer, Adjunct Instructor, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

ABOUT THE ARTEFACT ABOUT THE SPEAKER VIDEO





Women in the Middle East face a set of legal, cultural, and social barriers that have limited their personal and social lives and affected their moral and mental development. I have been researching women's restrictions to visualize their lives' stories by depicting their limitations in various ways, such as installations, artist books, or sculptures crafted from handmade paper. I try to uncover the relationship between culture and its women's situation and circumstances, such as the roles they play in society, the rights they enjoy (or not), and most pointedly, the dress codes to which they must adhere. I get inspired by the color, form, and statues of the "Chador"- a fabric that has been used as a cover for Iranian women in different historical periods over past centuries. I perform my visualizations by using printmaking and papermaking techniques and incorporating materials that those women have used. I am looking to envision a presence, add something that had belonged to it, or have been somehow used by someone I was referencing. I want to convey both being and not being seen, or maybe to reach an invisible presence.








Sanaz Haghani is an interdisciplinary Iranian artist based in Georgia. She is a printmaker, papermaker, graphic designer, and adjunct instructor at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. Haghani has presented her work across the United States, i.e., at the Georgia Museum of Art, Robert C, Williams Museum of Papermaking, and the Missoula Art Museum. She is one of five artists selected by the Georgia Committee for the National Museum of Women in the Arts to exhibit at MOCA GA in Paper Routes: Women to Watch 2020. She has exhibited her work internationally in multiple solo and group projects and has been included in invitational and juried exhibitions.







Erin Mergil

Assistant Head of School, Woodland Hill Montessori School





Jessa Pelizari

Primary Head Teacher, Woodland Hill Montessori School

ABOUT THE ARTEFACT ABOUT THE SPEAKERS VIDEO





What materials figure in your processes thinking, analysing, reflecting, arguing, conversing, or sense-making broadly?
Concrete materials, based on the skills our students either currently master or with which we want to inspire mastery, are the start of our processes. When there is a final product we would like to create, as a goal, we scaffold each skill and material and consider what opportunities we have for a medium used in one process to be extended to provide use in another layer of another project to truly inspire meaning and material stewardship.

In what ways does your practice engage with issues of relevance to social justice such as feminism, postcolonialism, or anti-racism? In what ways do the selection and characteristics of materials in your practice advance or thwart your social justice aims?
The beginning of social justice can be found in agency, identity and equality and the opportunities provided to establish those values in individuals and communities. Our methodology provides students with the freedom and self-determination to build skills of agency while also providing the structure and opportunities for true skill mastery so they would not be inhibited by any deficit in physical manipulation of materials or experiences upon which to base their individual creativity and exploration. Social justice continues with the expectation that all materials of all genres will be available to all children and that the expectation is to see one another operate in their strengths, regardless of culture, age or gender. We expect science and mathematical projects from any child and we anticipate creative, artistic expressions from any child.

Students are offered opportunities to compare and contrast their modern school materials and processes with native, indigenous and traditional methods used by the cultures we explore in our curriculum. They learn why materials are used and why techniques are employed, not just that they are used in seemingly ‘foreign’ or ‘exotic’ places. Creating a background of understanding and knowledge of how groups of different people make decisions based on their land, their value systems and their goals, help bring common language and empathy for the human condition; a connection that confronts colonialism, racism and an “othering” that simply uses cultural differences for entertainment. The children become scientist- artists and they gain respect and grow in humility.

Are there temporary materials that you work with, which are different from your finished work materials?
Students are free to make temporary materials permanent, through mod podge or lamination, and conversely make permanent materials temporary through revision, deconstruction and reconstruction and revision.

What kinds of messes do you make when you are making?
The entire philosophy of our Method is process-based. The sensory experience of making a mess helps a child with executive functioning and sorting their creative efforts from their opportunities for refinement.








Erin Mergil


Erin Mergil, (she/hers) is Assistant Head of School at Woodland Hill Montessori School in Upstate NY. Erin received her BA from the University at Albany in Spanish and Linguistics and has her M.S.Ed in Early Childhood Education from the College of New Rochelle. Erin is credentialed in EC from the American Montessori Society and has an ABAR credential from AMS in process. Erin is a Montessori teacher and a mother of four.

Jessa Pelizari


Jessa Pelizari is an early childhood educator at Woodland Hill Montessori School in North Greenbush, NY. She earned her MA in Communication Sciences and Disorders from The College of Saint Rose (Albany, NY) and has held positions as a Speech-Language Pathologist in a variety of settings serving individuals across the lifespan. Jessa’s early academic pursuits in the humanities and anthropology continue to influence her work today. In addition to the design of engaging classroom materials and lessons, Jessa applies her creativity to writing and music composition, as well as assisting with Woodland Hill’s theater and glee clubs.







Anne Sullivan

Assistant Professor, Director of StoryCraft Research Lab, Georgia Institute of Technology

ABOUT THE ARTEFACT ABOUT THE SPEAKER VIDEO





One morning shortly after the presidential election in 2016, I woke up and instead of the despair I had been overwhelmed with previously, I was consumed with anger. Anger at the indifference of so many towards increasingly normalized injustices, anger at being told our fears were unfounded, and anger at decades of being told by society that I didn't matter. This quilt top is four years of sitting with and processing that anger while meticulously hand-stitching this piece together. Growing up, I was taught that as a girl, I should not show my anger, lest it make someone else uncomfortable. In many ways this quilt is about letting my anger be heard and learning to accept the discomfort that may cause. Working with textiles, and quilts in particular, helps highlight this disparity; quilts are typical made for and seen as objects of comfort, but jarring colors and the subject matter push back against that assumption and demand to be noticed. Now I'm faced with the final design decisions (backing, quilting, binding), and I'm finding it hard to know how to proceed. Partly because I don't want to mess up four years of work, but also because I'm not sure how to integrate what's been happening into the remaining design and with the materials required.








Dr. Anne Sullivan is an Assistant Professor of Digital Media in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech and is the director of the StoryCraft Research Lab. Her research focuses on playful and storied interactive experiences from a feminist and humanistic perspective, with an emphasis on computational and traditional craft. Dr. Sullivan is an award-winning quilter and the concept designer and producer of Loominary – a digital game system controlled with a loom - which has been shown internationally, including at the SAAM Arcade exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.







Rebecca Rouse

Senior Lecturer, GAME: Game, Art, Media, Experience Research Group, University of Skövde, Sweden





Nassim Parvin

Associate Professor, School of Literature, Media, and Communication, Georgia Institute of Technology

ABOUT THE ARTEFACT ABOUT THE SPEAKERS VIDEO





Building on the history of the Victorian ‘philosophical toy’ Feminist Philosophical Toys presents a re-imagined set of paper machines as feminist materials for readers to think with. Grounded in an understanding of the rhetorical power of materialities, as inspired by thinkers new and old from Maria Montessori to Donna Haraway and Karen Barad, this short volume provides a grounded approach to feminist design and critique through the use of cut-and-fold paper objects, provided to the reader via a downloadable template that accompanies the text.

Whereas traditional philosophical toys were luxury-object apparatuses such as the zoetrope and stereoscope, brought into the Victorian home to teach principles of human perception and disseminate the practices and principles of the scientific method, Feminist Philosophical Toys are flexible and accessible paper-based objects that push back against scientific positivism as it manifests in design, refutes the book as the primary material of the Philosophy discipline at large, and opens up feminist perspectives and methods at the intersection of philosophy, pedagogy, and design practice. As such, feminist philosophical toys are at once a reflection and extension of a feminist epistemological and ethical position: that of situated knowledges and reflexive practice grounded in relational and restorative justice.








Rebecca Rouse


Rebecca Rouse, PhD is a Senior Lecturer in Media Arts, Aesthetics & Narration in the School of Informatics’ Division of Game Development at the University of Skövde, Sweden. Rouse’s research focuses on theoretical, critical, and design production work with storytelling for new technologies, such as augmented and mixed reality. Rouse designs and develops projects across theatrical performance, museums, cultural heritage sites, interactive installations, movable books, and games, all with the thread of investigating and inventing new modes of storytelling. This design work dovetails with Rouse’s research in design methods, media theory, and the history of technology. For more information visit www.rebeccarouse.com.

Nassim Parvin


Nassim Parvin is an Associate Professor at the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Tech. Her research integrates humanistic theoretical scholarship and design-based inquiry in exploring the ethical and political dimensions of design and technology, especially as related to questions of democracy and social justice. Dr. Parvin’s interdisciplinary scholarship has appeared in design, computing, and STS venues; and her designs have received multiple awards and been exhibited in venues such as the Smithsonian Museum. She is on the editorial board of Design Issues, and serves as a Lead Editorial Team member of Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience.