The goal of Mirror/Echo/Tilt is to work with people affected by the criminal justice system to create a visual, performance based curriculum that reframes personal narratives, promotes individual agency, and breaks down the myth of the criminal.
Mirror/Echo/Tilt is a project created in collaboration with people who are court-involved, formerly incarcerated, or otherwise affected by the criminal justice system. Through a curriculum based on visual storytelling, participants translate personal narratives into performance in order to replace a culturally embedded conception of criminality with new language so that the mind and body may think, feel, and move in a way not defined by their previous experience with incarceration. Our goal is to facilitate participants’ agency to tell their own stories and ultimately, reframe existing narratives defining the “criminal.”
It is designed to be a living curriculum, to be modeled and adapted for different publics and implemented in collaboration with diversion, alternatives to incarceration, and other such programs, which actively impact an individual’s case/probation/or court status.
Our aim is to research, develop, document, and archive our curriculum online, expanding the project’s reach by training participants to be mentors in their own communities, and ensuring its continued evolution beyond the scope and timeframe of the original work. Empowering previous participates to be facilitators themselves expands the possibility of reducing recidivism for the instructors as well as those whom they may impact in their own communities.
Through our workshop process we unpack the mechanisms operating behind the criminalization of black and brown bodies. Participants translate personal narratives into performance in order to regain agency in the telling of their own stories. A focus on concepts of aspiration and joy is thus necessary – the radical reimagining of how one sees her/himself within narratives of incarceration, imprisonment, and reentry, and is later able to retell this personal history.
We use performance to strip down personal stories to their emotional core, and to convey the most essential elements with minimal gesture as a way to look for the meanings at heart of their experiences with incarceration. We then perform scenes without spoken language to create space for new interpretations to emerge.
Our objectives do not merely lie in the representation of an issue; we do not attempt to skim the surface of mass incarceration and recidivism. Instead the goal is for participants to see the power they have to create change on a personal level, by working together to reinterpret one another’s stories and exploring how those stories can be transformed.
- Reconfiguring the Hero Figure – Joseph’s Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey as a structure to reimagine the narratives of imprisonment and reentry
- Masculine Identity as Performance – everyday visual posturing vs. the media’s visual codification of the black / brown body as criminal
- Doubling - mirroring or re-inscribing of trauma through another body or scene in order to reveal hidden thoughts, emotions, and realities
- Double Consciousness – the lived, conscious perception of feeling identity as divided into two parts (that which is embodied and that which is perceived / inscribed onto you by others) and the negotiation of this consciousness toward the re-envisioning of existing personal narratives
- Silent, minimal, frozen gesture: the distillation of a story to its most essential elements. Stripping narrative of spoken language allows the event to become “distanced” enough for the group to objectively analyze the forces surrounding the event, whether systemic, environmental, or self-imposed.
- Externalization: the process of interpreting and translating a personal story through another’s body to externalize the memory of a traumatic event. This distances the original storyteller from their remembered narrative, allowing them to more objectively analyze a situation likely to be clouded by emotion.
- Media analysis: especially as related to depicting black and brown Americans in a range of genre, including literature (The Invisible Man), television (The Wire), cultural studies (Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey) and journalism. This brings awareness to the tools used by the media to represent people of color, in comparison with how they choose to represent themselves.
- Media visualization: the framing, recording, and collective discussion of scenes using cameras or cell phones. This facilitates the group to see the larger structure of the narratives anew; increases individual investment in the process; and strengthens self-esteem, by seeing one’s own story reproduced, while incorporating documentation into the learning process itself.