Arts & International Affairs: Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2018 - Page 46

THE ARTS, PARTICIPATION, AND GLOBAL INTERESTS Reem’s decision to use theatre as medium for expression certainly suggests that artists are predisposed to bear witness. Xenia Hanusiak contended that witnessing is point of activation for the actor, which she applied to Mikael Löfgren’s comparison between the male lead’s revolutionary politics in August Strindberg’s Miss Julie and Farber’s adaptation set in post-apartheid South Africa. Löfgren also challenged everyone to think of the difference between first hand or “real” and fictional witnessing. The collaboration needed to stage The Queens of Syria, but also Mies Julie and Ramy: In the frontline, resonated with Marika’s small-group discussion on platforms. Groupmember Eona Craig advocated for connectivity and greater awareness for the “here and now,” which Ellen Heyward described as necessary building-blocks for “making people protagonists in the narratives in their own story.” In the context of today’s theme, Ellen’s comments were certainly applicable to artists and non-artists. Debating the role of the artist enhanced the conversation, but also compelled the Fellows to reel in the discussion and focus on defining the act of witnessing. An exchange between Reem and Jumana expanded on Asif Majid’s provocation on the difference between being a witness and being an observer. For the Fellows, the premise that witnessing is a productive action led them to describe observing as passive. Jumana articulated this difference by stating that the news exists to learn what happened, but theatre takes reality and draws out the underlying truth from those events and conflicts. The recognition that theatre has the ability to bear witness initiated a subsequent exchange on Essam’s interactive production, which defies the customary rules for traditional theatrical performances. Asif implored the group to examine the effects Essam had on audiences rather than the production’s form; the latter, Asif cautioned, would trap the Fellows in the same high-low dichotomy they resisted on Day 2. Asif ’s comments were met with murmurs of approval, capping off a spirited string of disagreements. The Fellows were visibly moved to have the opportunity to air and listen to numerous competing perspectives on the power of witness. Day 4: Empathy Empathy describes the ability to relate to another individual’s point of view and understand his or her emotional response. Artists often express the human condition in terms that the audience will recognise. Empathy allows the artist to execute this task. How do the arts humanise or dehumanise? In general, how do we empathise and represent the individual and human condition? Zach Marschall and Prof J.P. Singh summarise the discussion on Empathy, reflecting on the show “Flight.” 45