“The first step in understanding a diverse culture is taken through language. When we meet people from other cultures their new language is like music. We may not understand the meaning but we can hear the rhythm of speech. Rather than focus on our lack of understanding we should revel in the rhythmic poetry of the other. The moment we encounter a new language can be transformed by the wonder of a diverse culture. This is a discovery and exploration of diverse cultures through the rhythm of language. Knowing cultural diversity begins first with language.”
The Art in Embassies exhibition for the Residence of Ambassador S. Fitzgerald and Mrs. Rabbi Haney, Reflections of Diversity, included an on-site installation as a participatory art event by artist Mark Cameron Boyd. Inspired by the theme of the exhibition, the artist had composed a text about the role that language plays in culture, as a gateway to our comprehension of diversity. The artist’s materials for the participatory art event were created in San Jose in close collaboration with Juan Diego Roldan, the Visual Arts Coordinator at Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano who selected six Costa Rican artists. Those artists—Li Briceno, Audie Rafael Fallas, Karla Herencia, Carolina Parra, Fernando Rubin, and Xavier Villafranca—were split into two teams and assisted Boyd to create two blackboards with the bisected text in English and Spanish. During the process of creating the blackboards, questions on the transcribing of text arose. “This was the first time I had worked with other artists on transcribing text and the ease of our collaboration, and the relevance of my collaborators creative suggestions, had inspired me to alter my process.”
Over two days, Boyd conducted a total of four workshops on social practice art. Each workshop began with a presentation by Boyd on social practice and participatory art. The workshops were well attended and participants included museum educators from San Jose museums, architects, urban planners, community leaders and teachers in Arte por la Paz’s program at women detention centers, professors and students at Universidad de Costa Rica’s Escuela Artes Plásticas, and the National University School of Art and Visual Communication in Heredia.
“As an artist involved with creating participatory art for the past ten years, my installations present an art experience that will take viewers beyond contemplation and encourage social engagement.” The positive response to the hands-on activity in the workshops, using acrylic whiteboards and Spanish-language poems by Pablo Neruda, and the enthusiastic review after the activities had taken place, showed the participants fully engaged with the text and one another. The opening reception at the residence of Ambassador Haney, was one of the highlights of the exchange program and “…I was filled with gratitude to have had this opportunity to meet and engage with the guests at the event, who demonstrated their appreciation for this new art form and my work as an artist.”