Alchemy, Arts, & Conflict Transformation
Michelle LeBaron

We need the seachange Seamus Heaney envisioned: 
“So hope for a great sea-change on the far side of revenge,
              Believe that a further shore is reachable from here…”


This course will offer ways to mobilize hope and belief into reflection and action. 


In these unsettled times, particular conflicts carry the valence of wider concerns. By combining reflection on conflict experiences with creative and experiential practices, we will learn and share reliable tools for befriending conflicts, whether personal, interpersonal or collective. We will invite alchemy by sistering experience-honed wisdom with research-informed approaches to engaging conflicts. 

Course Syllabus

Conflict transformation and Alchemy: Water, Earth, Fire and Air as Resources
In this session, we will explore these questions: What is conflict transformation? Why are the arts important in engaging conflict? Where and how do we apply these understandings? (Hint: It’s first of all an inside job) We will also learn how the four elements can inform and enliven our work in transforming conflict.


Dance, Movement and Resilience: The Element of Water
In this session, we will explore body-based practices that increase our repertoires for befriending and engaging conflict. Accenting the fluidity and clarity of water, we will learn from Canadian dancer Margie Gillis about her conflict insights.


Theatre and Improvisation: The Element of Fire
In this session, we will learn how unrightable wrongs can be salved through theatre, inspired by the work of Peruvian artist Augusto Casafranca. We will examine ritual as a resource for transforming conflicts in diverse contexts. The element of fire brings warmth and illumination; we will explore how to work with it to minimize its destructive properties.


Visual Art: The Element of Earth
In this session, we will learn about the inspired work of Kim Berman and other South African artists who use visual and community arts to address social injustice. The element of earth will guide us, with its reliability, fertility and resilience.


Film: The Element of Air
In this concluding session, we will explore film as an inspiring and shaping resource for transforming conflict. Drawing on the element of air, we will examine how film is quick and effective at portraying emotionally-laden experiences in ways that generate empathy and more complex stories, opening new ways forward. We will also reflect on how the four arts modalities and the four elements will inform our processes of befriending conflict in the future.