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Devora Neumark

Residency Sites: Plainfield, VT

Born in shadow of the Shoah, the stories about home repeatedly told within the culture of my youth emphasized the losses incurred during the Polish pogroms and the forced displacements of the Soviet Gulag era. In attempting to make sense of these intergenerational narratives, I have come to identify three separate yet interconnected loci where home is imagined and experienced: within the body, amidst sentient relationships, and in association with place. At the center of this inquiry into the ontology of home is a series of reflections about home’s properties, associations and manifestations (or lack thereof) in the political, cultural, emotional, and embodied realms.

Once the fracture of home becomes part of individual and communal history, how can a new connection to dwelling be cultivated and affirmed in wellness? This question is both pressing for me personally and I believe central to the ethos of the 21st century: My history is not very different from many peoples’ histories around the world whose internal sense of home has been fragmented and whose houses have been destroyed through domicide. To effectively catalyze and support wellness relative to forced dislocation is a question of some urgency as more than 22 million people are living as refugees or internally displaced persons.

As a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) funded Humanities PhD Candidate at Concordia University’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture my project entitled Radical Beauty for Troubled Times: the (un)making of home examines the role that beauty plays in the process of homemaking in the aftermath of forced displacement. More specifically, this work entails a critical reflection about the ambivalent role of beauty in identity politics: how beauty, while vital in sustaining communities, can also be used to perpetuate fixed identity reflexes stemming from the need to survive dislocation. Working with a variety of research/creation methodologies – including live art community performance and oral history – my analysis involved an examination of how the narratives of home created by cultural projects such as the “Jewish Home Beautiful” community pageant (written in the 1930s and performed ever since in Jewish congregations across the United States and Canada) have shaped the settling at home of Jews in the “Promised Land” and the ways in which this settling has led to the uprooting of the Palestinian people and the destruction of their way of life.

Along with Johanne Chagnon and Louise Lachapelle, I co-edited Affirming Collaboration: Community and Humanist Activist Art in Québec and Elsewhere (Engrenage Noir / LEVIER, LUX Éditeur and Detselig Enterprises Ltd., 2011). I have co-directed LEVIER from its inception in 2001 through its closure in 2012. For the past ten years LEVIER has been funding community art and activist art collaborations while developing pedagogical material aimed at supporting socio-politically engaged art practitioners and the communities with whom they collaborate while moving the field further with respect to critical thinking and theoretical analysis about this practice.

Other recent publications include: “Close Proximity” (in Performing Ethos: An International Journal of Ethics in Theatre and Performance, 2010); “Performing Beauty, Practicing Home: Collaborative Live Art and the Transformation of Displacement”  (in Creative Arts in Interdisciplinary Practice, Inquiries for Hope and Change, 2010); “Performing Aesthetics, Performing Politics: ‘The Jewish Home Beautiful’ and the Re-shaping of the Jewish Exile Narrative” (in Crossings: Journal of Migration and Culture, 2010); “The Sensuous is Political: Live Art Performance and the Palestinian Resistance Movement” (in Somatic Engagement, 2011); and “Once a Russian, Always a Jew: (Auto)biographical Storytelling and the Legacy of Dislocation” (in Storytelling, Self, Society: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Storytelling Studies, 2012); “Too Many Aboriginal Women ‘At Home’ in Canadian Prisons” (in À Bâbord, 2012); and “Co-Activating Beauty, Co-Narrating Home: Dialogic Live Art Performance and the Practice of Inclusiveness” (in Creating Together: Participatory, Community-Based and Collaborative Arts Practices and Scholarship Across Canada, forthcoming).

My involvement with the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy NETWORK began in 2008 and has continued ever since. Currently I am a member of the NETWORK’s Steering Committee, the ART ∙ CULTURE Committee, and the Ad hoc Committee working to establish an Aboriginal community, cultural, art venue in Montreal.
In April 2011, I assumed a two-year appointment as a member of the Visual Arts, Media Arts and Arts and Crafts Advisory Board for the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.
In addition to the SSHRC Graduate Fellowship, I have been the recipient of grants and awards from Goddard College’s Faculty Development Fund; the Wetstein Fellowship, Concordia University Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies; The Franklin Furnace Performance Art Fund; the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec; and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Visit My Website: www.devoraneumark.com

Educational Background:

PhD in Humanities (Fine Arts), Concordia University (Montreal); MFA equivalency confirmed by Goddard College, August 2010; BFA with Distinction, Concordia University (Montreal).