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IT SOUNDS SILLY… BUT ITS NOT.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to stumble upon a pop up performance happening at ‘Signal’ - an outdoor performance area/fine arts studio for youths situated behind Flinders St station on Northbank. Supported by Chunky Move, “It Sounds Silly” is a contemporary dance show, performed by a large group of dancers ranging from 13-23. It basically explores the world we knew as kids, pulls apart our once naive impressions of the world, machines, bodies, relationships and especially considers all the things youths worry about.


We’ve all experienced fear in some way, shape or form, and know how debilitating it can be. Yet sometimes it takes a little reminder or personal discovery to drive home some important realities. Fears so often isolate us, and leave us feeling helpless or alone when it seems no one else shares these sentiments.

So much of the choreography in “It Sounds Silly” looked into this, especially this one specific sequence which hit home for me (on a side note: Adam Wheeler, you are a genius) : each of the dancers formed one long line across the outdoor space. One by one they introduced themselves and publicly declared a fear, before passing the microphone along. The whole concept was so incredibly simple, yet so effective. Confessions ranged from humorous and trivial (“I’m scared my parents are going to see my phone bill”) to the deadly serious (“I’m scared of telling my brother that I’m gay”).

It drove home significant  just how easily our everyday fears can leave us feeling unusual or isolated - when in reality, so many others share these experiences, and needn’t feel like outsiders.The large audience watching the performance could definitely relate to these confessions, which made the somewhat overwhelming task (like dancing isn’t enough!?) rewarding and liberating.Perhaps this is a little too cheesy for some, but it was all very familiar. I at least walked away realising that I shared similar thoughts and fears to others. 

The following video is a short segment recorded from the performance - the quality isn’t great, but the notion of fear (and aggression/bullying  vs childs play) is being explored through dance. Enjoy and have a think… What is it you’re scared of? 

Outside Music - Yo La Tengo

Not everyone aspires to achieve mainstream success and this week on Outside Music we take a look at one of the more prominent alternative bands who’ve attained a global cult following and carved a brilliant career for themselves by working outside the realms of the commercial music industry.

Yo La Tengo are a three-piece from New Jersey who have been kicking around since 1984. Led by Ira Kaplan - a former music writer who stuck to his guns and made his dreams a reality with a lot of hard work and constant innovations and re-inventions of their sound. 

I spoke to Kaplan back in 2009 ahead of their last Australian tour and gained some insight into the band’s process “as far as song writing is concerned I think it’s a mix of the conscious and sitting back and seeing what comes out…it’s fun to have a room full of instruments and gadgets and see what they do. We just want to enjoy what we’re doing at the moment and appreciate the moments as they happen”. 

Words to live by. Check out the video for Yo La Tengo’s track Sugarcube below. It’s an oldie, but a goodie. 

Outside Music - Daniel Johnston

This week at Outside In we’re delving into the mindset of the outsider’s. At varying stages in life all of us have at times felt segregated from mainstream society in one way or another. US artist Daniel Johnston captures these emotions perfectly with his integral, heartbreakingly honest tunes. I first stumbled across Johnston when a hero of mine - Kurt Cobain - wore a t-shirt printed with one of Johnston’s artworks and have been slowly delving into the world that Johnston inhabits. For the uninitiated, Johnston is a musician and artist who suffers from Bipolar which has been a recurring obstacle throughout his life. 

Johnston has inspired people the world over with his struggle against adversity which has been documented through his massive back catalogue of work. Below is a clip of “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievances” from his 1983 album Yip Jump Music. The raw emotion that shines through is both unsettling and comforting. His expressive powers never cease to amaze me.

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE?

Here at Outside In we’re pretty damn committed to generating some much needed inclusion in communities – whoever you are and wherever you are, you should not be made to feel isolated or rejected. And hey, we’ve all been there, for one reason or another. Its time these all-too-common experiences were exposed and explored. 

 For us, social media is the key, the force which makes it possible for us to create and share new info with you – content which is both relevant, powerful and thought-provoking. But we’ve gotta come right back to the building blocks with these things to ask the big questions and reap some bigger answers:

Is social media actually helping marginalized individuals to combat social exclusion? Or is it in fact, a hindrance? 

 Like any juicy question, there is no one answer. We thought it’d be worthwhile exploring both sides, and opening up the debate to the experts: you!

 On one hand, studies conducted by AbilityNet, a charity organization connecting disabled individuals with computer technology, are indicating that the most popular social networking sites are often prone to excluding disabled users. Sites and services such as Facebook, YouTube, Bebo and Yahoo are often relying on verification code images for security purposes and log ins. Yet this ‘Captcha’ system poses serious problems for visually impaired users. 

Smells like irony. The very services that are attempting to encourage connectedness and inclusion are in fact achieving the opposite. AbilityNet’s Senior accessibility consultant sums it up nicely: 
"the ‘technological lock-out’ [restricts]… those who have most to gain from social networking – arguably, the most socially excluded members of the community.”

Thankfully, gigantic corporations like Google are now discovering these shortcomings and are working towards more accessible services, yet how successful their attempts will be remains to be seen.

On the flip side, the power of technology in improving mental health became a hot topic last week at the National Press Club. Jane Burns, Chief Executive of the Co-operative Research Centre for Young People, Technology and Wellbeing, shed light on a confronting fact that 70 per cent of young people experiencing mental health problems are not seeking care in our society – therefore, the internet, as a potential “vaccine” could be the ultimate support resource to those experiencing mental health difficulties.

Today, the many support groups, forums and informative sites are proving to be reliable and relevant for tech-savvy generations. The constant availability, the opportunity to connect with like-minded users, and the option of anonymity means the internet can support those in need to reach out at their own pace. The user has complete control, and can progress through important support networks without being overwhelmed or self-conscious. Seems pretty positive when you look at it from this angle, eh? Its an incredibly encouraging thought that modern technology could hold the potential for the prevention of suicide, depression, eating disorders and other mental health concerns.  

So, where does that leave us? Is the effectiveness of social media in relieving exclusion determined on individual contexts? Perhaps the most logical (yet not the most satisfying) answer is that it varies from one person to the next. But surely there must be some way for us to address and eliminate the problems so that user-to-user communication can reach its full potential? Social media is the way forward, and it will continue to grow. But we’ve gotta make it work by responding to constant feedback from you guys.

We want to know your thoughts:
Is modern technology - particularly social media -leaving you feeling more or less included in your surrounding community? What needs to be done?

Contact us in any way, shape or form!

Email: cactus.outside.in@gmail.com

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WAR OF THE WORDS

The powers of words never cease to amaze me. It sounds cheesy, but think about it. We are all assigned identities through language, and I don’t just mean our given names, but the terms describing who we are: our nationality, our health, our beliefs, our physical appearances… the list goes on. Language is the means by which we define one another, and attempt to make sense of human life.

From these terms, stereotypes and stigmas arise, and these ‘blanket’ or generalized ideas end up causing society to misconceive or misunderstand our individualities. Unfortunately it seems that minority groups are so often assigned these stereotypes, targeting common characteristics’ and the whole thing has a ridiculously negative effect on social perceptions.

Ah, stereotypes. 

They do become the butt of so many jokes and gags, and there can be elements of truth scattered amongst them. But the thing is with clichés and stereotypes, is that we end up using humour to as a way of ‘making do’ with their ongoing existence. Thinking perhaps, that if we can’t eliminate them, we just laugh at about it. And sure, it’s not all bad - humour can be a means of relieving tension and frustrations surrounding sensitive issues - but somehow I don’t think we’re really coming to terms with the ways in which stereotypes and language are negatively shaping social perceptions.

We’re well overdue for some shifts in thinking, and I think Aimee Mullins explores this perfectly in her talk at one of the TED conferences. For those of you who haven’t heard of Aimee before, she’s a famous American athlete, actress and model, best known for her incredible sporting achievements in the face of adversity – being born without shinbones, and having both legs amputated below the knee at age 1.

Her talk about her life centers on the idea of redefining these associations and stereotypes that revolve around disability. She’s out to change the way we think of adversity in our lives, and feels that language, in many cases, is becoming outdated and is preventing these shifts in thinking.

Aside from being an amazing woman, this speech is truly inspiring and compelling. Check it out, amigos.

 

 This point is killer: “language isn’t allowing us to evolve into the reality that we would all want…”

It made me think of language as this tough elderly man or woman, stuck in the ways of the past and strongly opposed to change. Ah damn it, I just stereotyped. It really is too easy to do.

So my long-winded point? There needs to be some redefining in our society, which addresses our tendency to over-generalize, pigeonhole and misconceive one another’s “rare and powerful” qualities. It sounds like some great, Utopian initiative, but I think these things start at grass roots level, and then expand – it perhaps starts with individuals “using social media to claim their own descriptions of themselves” as Aimee suggests, and aligning “with global groups of their own choosing.”

Embracing adversity, rather than striving to ‘overcome’ it.

It’s all about perceptions. Altering perceptions with language and thinking, and the way we apply both, I guess.


We at Outside In want to know your thoughts on stereotypes, and the various words and associations which you’re grappling with on a day to day basis. What are your thoughts on Aimee’s ideas about adversity?

or

Submit a photo, a short video, podcast or tweet which explores Aimee’s statement: People can now use “social media to claim their own descriptions of themselves.” We to strip away various stereotypes and associations, and discover who you are.

It could be abstract, literal, or even just a one word statement… as personal or as anonymous as you’d like!

‎”I photoshop all my facebook pictures of myself, my real friends and facebook friends have no idea…”

‎”I photoshop all my facebook pictures of myself, my real friends and facebook friends have no idea…”

WE NEED YOUR HELP.

Dare to be different and join us on the journey from Outside In.  

Outside In is a new participatory online magazine project where your stories are important. Taking inspiration from the work of Grit Media who aim to bring awareness of disability into the forefront and encourage audience’s to see disability as a normal part of life - here at Outside In we are asking the public to share their stories, thoughts and creations of exclusion with us.

We call upon all makers to upload your stories and photos that symbolize your feelings of being excluded, or being on the periphery. We’re keen to discover the powerful works that can be created with such personal themes and stimuli. Abstract, literal, professional or amateur… There are no limits, no restrictions. We want it all!

Each week on the mag we will explore a different theme through our creative works and we ask you to upload your own content to our mag so we can celebrate your stories.  

Through these creative inputs, we hope the Outside In community will be one where common experiences – positive and negative – can unite, bring a little relief and celebrate difference and diversity.

See examples of our work on our website

Upload your own content for publication on Outside In

Join in the discussion on our Facebook and Twitter

We aim to create a harmonious community of creative individuals who are free to express themselves in a safe, social space. You no longer need to feel separate from the whole. Everyone is welcome at Outside In. The media content published on the site will be used to inspire future creative projects of Outside In.

What are you waiting for? Come on in.

email cactus.outside.in@gmail.com for further information