Learning To Love You More




Assignment #40
Heal yourself.

"Culture Jam cure for cancer"
Carly Stasko
Toronto, CANADA




I'm 28 and I live in Toronto.
I'm a culture jammer.
On the same day I was diagnosed with cancer
I read an article in Bust Magazine about Miranda July & Learning to Love you More.
The art project/ assignment described as "heal yourself" really resonated with me.
That night in the hospital I raided the supply room and Used bandage tape and scissors To create collages out of the magazines in the waiting rooms.
I made the models look cool and bald, like they'd had chemotherapy.
I made up songs to keep my spirit strong and left them on my Answering machine so I could listen to them When I got scared.
The following are some excerpts from a draft article I'm writing for a book About feminist youth popular culture. Most of what I've Written about is culture jamming and zines but the parts I've pasted are about how I jammed cancer (please don't publish it) I'd like to write something specifically for you, But I just had to send something right away. The art mission "heal yourself" has been Running through my head for the past 18 months. It's what I did!!!! Yahoooo!
I just remembered now, where it came from.
Wild wishes of gratitude
Carly Stasko
Media tigress
Ps. I'm also attaching a picture of me dressed up as my own immune system.
The broom is to clean stuff up, the sparkly stuff is magic. This was taken mid way through 6 months of chemotherapy.
The other picture is me, just after getting home from hospital (see bracelettes), before I cut my hair short and started chemo. I have two of those "whose in charge around here?" shirts and I wore them all the time in the hospital where I had to stick up for myself a lot to get the proper care. I was feeling scared, but my thoughts were 'fuck that shit I'm going to live".
"I'm a girl with a positive vision, I'm going to laugh myself into remission!"
-Carly Stasko, 2005 Princess Margaret Hospital, announced to friends and health workers the day after diagnosis of cancer
Recently I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a form of cancer, which often effects young people, and which fortunately has a very high success rate in terms of being cured. I am now just emerging from an 18-month healing journey, which called on all my strengths and resources as well as the support of my community.
Upon hearing the news of my diagnosis, my friend Najeem strongly encouraged me to say that I "was already healed" and not to call myself "sick". Something about this resonated with me, and yet how could I contend this bit of mental gymnastics with the world I lived in, one in which things "were as they were, and not as they could be". I wanted to say "I am already healed" as a form of affirmation, rather than denial, and I decided to follow my instinct and try it. I explained to my friends and family that I wanted to claim my power to redefine the situation and that I would refer to myself as "already healed" and that the chemotherapy and radiation treatments and the unknown path ahead of me was "the dance of life".
I carried on in that spirit and deconstructed the military metaphors my doctors used around cancer treatment, and created new metaphors that suited me better. I visualized my immune system like a well-run and loving community where everything is recycled and sustainable. I would not use the word "mine" to describe "the" cancer – it was just passing through. The best part is that eventually my family, friends and doctors began to adopt this new paradigm too! I felt remarkably encouraged as I deconstructed the language around health and disease, using all my creative abilities to jam the situation. I even dressed up in various costumes as the white blood cells in my immune system and did a dance to help me visualize what was happening in my body – talk about do-it-yourself media!
Today, 18 months later, the dance continues. My doctors have declared me cancer-free with excellent prospects for continued health. I have since learned that what I was engaging in, is an ancient, often neglected form or prayer in which we express gratitude for what we hope for, as though it has already occurred. In doing this we form a clear vision of our hopes enacted, giving them the power to become reality. Everyone can be the artist of his or her imagination.
I came to see my journey as a healing journey, one that travels around a wheel, and each time around, as I face a new challenge, I am changed and transformed as I overcome new challenges. I call the final step of this journey "LOVE". This love is expressed as we welcome our new visions of the world, that have been formed by our healing journeys, and the sense of calling that comes with this vision. A calling to take action, to live in action, and feel empowered to heal the self and the world. I've begun to see how our body is like the planet, and the planet is like the body. All of these disparate parts must work together for the greater whole, and although there are many problems, there is a strong spirit, which can carry the injured parts until they heal.
Most recently, at the UNESCO World Urban Festival in Vancouver British Columbia, I had the chance to present my workshop on (r)Evolutionary Healing for the first time. I began the workshop, as I always do, with a go around, where we all finished the sentence "My relationship to media is…" Following this I discussed the ways that I had strived to heal my relationship with media through creativity, play and activism. Then I did a second go around where the sentence began "My relationship to my body is….." I was touched by how authentic and open people were with their answers. Following this I proposed that we do one final go around in the workshop, which would enact the same mode of positive visualization I had used when saying "I'm already healed". This time the sentence would begin with "I healed myself and the planet by…." I assured everyone that we would need all of our collective courage to say something that hopeful aloud. The sentence was passed from person to person, and completed each time. By the end of the round there was a tenable feeling of possibility that filled the space. We weren't naming our fears, our enemies or our challenges. We were not talking about fighting. In that moment, we were imagining a better world, in a way that made it more possible.
As culture jammers, we have learned not only to jam with the environment in order to reclaim public space, but how to jam with our inner environments, right down to the possibilities we imagine, the metaphors we use, and the way we move in this world. We are our environment, and reclaiming, respecting and engaging with the environment is at the same time, personal, public, and political. I've begun to see my exploration of media activism as a form of healing journey. One in which I engaged fully with my environment, using my imagination and creative energy, to shift relationships and power. The spirit of empowerment is only possible when we have a strong community to engage with. I credit the feminists and activists who developed strategies of organization, consciousness raising, and for creating a context where I could carry on in that work, in my own playful way. And I also thank you, in advance for the ways that you will heal yourself and the planet.
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost." -Martha Graham