Our last Hatch session on February 10 was really something incredible. We were fortunate to welcome documentary filmmaker and Black Lives Matter activist Katina Parker to work with our Hatch artists. Katina’s unique experience working in a protest environment was an important perspective to present to our students. Working as a documentarian in community presents specific challenges, especially in a highly charged, protest environment.
Katina began the day with a explanation of the need for documenting community based work.
Specifically, pictures and video have the ability to capture a specific moment in time, as well as tell a distinct story. They can voice an unheard narrative that isn’t being depicted elsewhere. With the advent and proliferation of social media as a tool for documentation, our world is shrinking rapidly. Therefore, documentation can be seen and heard faster than ever before.
Because our world is shrinking, it is easy to delve into community work and ignore the importance of inherent biases, privileges or “tools of the colonizer” that we may inadvertently and unintentionally bring with us. In order to take the temperature of their own personal situations, Katina provided several sets of questions for the artists to use to dig deeper. Asking ourselves questions such as “Am I a part of the demographic I am documenting?” “How do I feel about police?” and “What assumptions are you making about the issues you see playing out?” aren’t just good due diligence; they are a critical part of the process of working in community.
Katina’s distinct experience is probably one of the most volatile and potentially dangerous examples of creating artwork in community that we have studied so far.
She has been in situations where she has been shot at and targeted, and it was important to understand that even work with the best of intentions can have very serious consequences. Self care is an important tool to not only maintain good mental health and clarity, but also your safety and humanity. Steps such as eating, taking showers, being around people who love you, and even seeking therapy when needed are necessary for being able to work adequately.
The stories we have to tell travel more quickly now than ever before. While this can be an incredible resource for spreading ideas, awareness of issues, and causes, it can also present very real and dangerous challenges for the artist documenting their work or a movement. Because cameras bring increased visibility, those wanting to detract from the visibility of what they are doing may perceive them as a threat. In protecting both your artistic assets as well as your personal safety, it is vital to be prepared for many different scenarios when documenting your work. Some of the strategies mentioned included: staying in groups, not lingering when it’s time to go, keeping your phone on you and in a secure place, and understanding that you may need to take precautions to prevent danger if you are being watched.
While Katina’s experiences were not always the comfortable, warm fuzzy feelings that one normally associates with working in community, they were a necessary reminder of the precautions, planning and self searching that must be accounted for as part of the process in order to adequately prepare ourselves. Her reminders that we must remember to “turn down so you can turn up” underscores the importance of taking care of ourselves so that we can take care of others.