The Act of Coming Together is the Act of Saying Goodbye

Last time you heard from me I was in Tokyo and getting ready to head to Forest Village in Chiba with an awesome team of men and women to welcome 40 AMAZING high school students, from all over the world to give them an interdisciplinary educational experience. Well, we did the thing. There is no way I can tell you everything that went down, but here are some highlights. 😃  If this isn’t enough, check out a kohai blog post here.
THE NEST was designed by our Artists in Residence Yuta Koga and Laura Hilliard. We built a nest in the trees of Forest Village. It served as our morning meeting place,  housed our flag and where we sang our camp song. The purpose? To remind us daily that THE ACT OF COMING TOGETHER IS ALSO THE ACT OF SAYING GOODBYE.
I KNOW! LET’S DRESS IN DRAG!
What is a SHPILKES? Most summer camp experiences end with a talent show. For the sake of giving the kohai a chance to get their talents out of their system so they could focus one the new and unknown, we held a SHPILKES shortly after their arrival. We had a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, a trickster unicycle show, magic tricks, and song and dance. To join the kohai in the fun, sempai dressed in costumes and drag.
THE SHANTY SHACK
After two of our sempai led conversation and discussion on community, disaster mitigation, and architecture we broke into small groups equipped with a limited amount of basic supplies and instructed kohai to build a shelter that would serve as protection after a natural disaster or emergency. In order to spend the night in their shelters, they had to pass a rigorous Code of Inspection.(My team’s shelter, aka the Shanty Shack, didn’t make the cut). Real world skills here people.  Real world skills.
 CIVIL WAR
 It’s raining. It’s early. Each team is given a colored box that is taped shut and led into the woods where they are left in distant unfamiliar locations. No words are exchanged and teams are left to fend for themselves. In each box is a series of prompts, limited tools and food, instructing teams to build a civilization. Sempai then delivered equipment and prompts to impact the fate of the thriving or struggling civilizations in development. Civil war broke out among one team while peace reigned in another neck of the words. The project served as a great investigation of group dynamics, definitions of society, and communication. It also was another excuse for us to dress up and run around the woods.
SOCIAL CONSTRUCTS & HAIKU PORTRAITS
This particular theme was one of my babies in designing the thematic arc of the camp experience. This was a collaborative workshop series. Together we developed a series of workshops that explored social constructs, identity, gender, culture, historical narratives and mass media communications. In my particular workshop, the idea was to challenge the sempai to think about how they consume, create, and present representations of themselves as well as others.
The outcome my social construct workshops was a collaborative sound collage that was exhibited at the FEASTIVAL in my tatami room, called HAIKU PORTRAITS. The audio collage was the outcome of a series of iterative writing activities, and hours of audio recordings. Click here to listen.
LET US FEAST
Everything that we presented the kohai with essentially served as a tool kit for the FEASTIVAL. The FEASTIVAL asked kohai to ask themselves, WHO ARE YOU, what do you REPRESENT, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SAY. Using their concepts to guide them, we encourged them do work in new materials and explore something they’re never done before. To our amazement, every single kohai created a piece of work and made themselves vulnerable to their mentors and peers. Exhibits ranged from theatrical performance, writings about their childhood experiences, letters to family, photography, animation, music, installation, sculpture and so much more. Then we feasted and burned the nest down. Everyone laughed. Everyone cried. Everyone said goodbye and parted ways.
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