Participant's Experience at Artist Residency With Fisher & Bickel

I asked one of the participants who came to the artist residency "Slowing Down, Turning Up: Parallel Journeys" at ABR this past week to reflect on her experience with us. Here's what she (Madelainne K. Joss) wrote: 

I wanted to know what happens when a not-your-average middle-age husband and wife: SHE, a particular kind of feminist-artist-educator (Barbara Bickel) and HE (R. Michael Fisher), a fearless specialist-researcher and artist, take several months from their lives of study, education, writing and research to venture out on separate journeys of art-making juxtaposed with spiritual inquiry.  
17+ years ago as student, community member and partner in the ISOF (In Search of Fearlessness) Calgary project,  I'd introduced myself to the concept and practice of Spontaneous Creation Making(SCM)---an off-the(fear)wall exploration and just one ‘fear vaccine’ fashioned and offered by Fisher and Bickel.  
 "Opening Doors” ---a  little book of the same name compliments this process---as an approach, offered me consciousness in a body-mind kind of way . I didn’t even know back then that I was looking for ways of working with what was arriving on my doorstep from the deep process of meditation I’d been engaged in for years prior.  
Who else but a Found Object Artist (yours truly) gradually revealed him/herself in the process and I began being more aware of---noticing what was showing up in my life. This kind of improvisation eventually migrated to people,   situations and tunes and now I recognize it as the many ways Spirit manifests in my life.  
Now an Elder------and curious what Bickel and Fisher had been up to in their 6-month sabbatical but also to check-in on the inner promptings of a part of me lurking in the shadows---a Socially Engaged Artist ready for action? I Red-Arrowed-it up to Edmonton's U of A Education’s Arts Based Research Studio. 
Much gratitude to the foresight, devotion and administrative engineering of Dr. Diane Conrad. Walking into the remarkable ABRS --complete with everything one might require to hold the tension of a living, breathing art-piece in progress, I felt into the energy. Surrounded by black walls and floor, a one-of-a-kind dog’s-breakfast (not foreign to me because of my experiences in SCM and Pet-care) grabbed my attention.       
I  know life works better when time is taken for aesthetic practice, when 2 or more think for one and when witness--observing along with free-attention is offered and received. Within 5 minutes I was aware what was on the floor was just a part of me learning a new language and being presented with extra-ordinary ways of thinking about the use of space, disruption, "Nap-ins”, curating and so on—all in the context of two passionate Aries-types collaborating in relationship. This was not your average art gallery. 
 To use a new term from that afternoon, I had the sense I was re-‘embedding’ myself in an old-but new culture of communal learning—where exploration, integration and transformation is messy, uncomfortable and joyful all at the same time---------and this was just the Artists Talk! 
I returned the next day with the possibility of discovering how this full-meal-deal was going to be digested AND for the opportunity--the possibility that I too might share my 'parallel journey' at the time. I was not disappointed. 
Visual images and collages from natural areas in B.C., Alberta and around the world-mixed-media and photography  the artists had accumulated on their travels--- complete with soundings and readings from their personal journals graced the space: it was a goldmine of personal and collective experience, information and knowledge. Now what to do with it---how to make sense of what had presented itself without mind-fucking it all to death I thought. 
With a palette of leading edge human technology, Yoga  and various Animal Communication and Companion Care Practices informing my earlier Fearlessness Research, teachings and information I found myself engaged, able to dis-arm my inner terrorists who sometimes get in the way of wearing the hat of Artist-in-Many-Residences: all the places I've consciously lived.
Fisher and Bickell lead my participation in their process first by pointing out the areas already--- literally taped down while other features were still unknown and soliciting direction. I was encouraged to add my voice and felt enthused,  more than ready to suggest and collaborate. The horse was already out of the barn so to speak -----and I had all I could do to hang onto the reins. I felt competent offering direction as the artists deliberated, dug-into and intuited their own separate and each other’s merging journeys .  
Just four hours of taking-in this fearless-two-some in action -----well what can I say? I was more than ready to free-up the simmering, skeleton of ideas and props I’d brought with me and after a short break with my favourite ‘farmers’   attention, I stepped onto the already tilled and partially seeded land and began planting a crop of my own. I discovered I knew more than I knew!
Later that evening back at the ranch of the friends I was staying with in Edmonton, I found myself rooting around my assigned space locating various items—handcuffs, the top of a crystal bowl, various dolls and  other interesting and squeaky things. A crazy little art-piece presented itself in a few moments and I realized I’d bring forward what I’d learned that day. My hosts eventually discovered the quirky little installation and were moved by the freedom brought to their home from my hours in the ' black box'. 
I realize that parallel journeys occur all the time in life. However when consciously undertaken, intentionally explored and shared experience  in a sacred/special place they can be catalysts for liberation----paradigm shifts——change………...  and hey, maybe even for  fame and fortune!
At  least---- the happening I participated in rests in my back pocket as a reminder and guide for further explorations of my own particular brand of art-making and spiritual practice . 
Many thanks to all the Forces in place for this most valuable and timely learning experience.   -MKJ

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