Multiform Grammar and the Sense of Belonging

On August 4, I’ll be giving an online hands-on workshop at the Learning Enrichment Foundation titled “The Artist in Me: Using Art to Build a Sense of Belonging.” In it, I will show my art projects at York University and the University of Toronto and explain how they have helped me develop a positive outlook on my experience as an international student and newcomer in Canada. I believe that the ability to use the arts as a tool to increase positive feelings can benefit everyone. Therefore, although I designed the workshop for newcomers, it’s open to all. In it, we’ll also have a drawing exercise and discussion, and I’m hoping to open an online exhibition on LinkedIn to share our artworks.

Here I like to ponder the connection between the multiform grammar (MFG) and the sense of belonging. It’s not a coincidence that I developed the MFG while I was an international student, although my passion for combinations of words and images started at a much younger age. During my studies, the attempt to create meaningful connections with my new social and cultural environment inspired me to conceptualize a framework that analyzes combinations of words and images and fosters the intentional use of them. The attention I paid to social commonalities advanced my sensitivity to the space and the time that elapses between words and images. Consequently, I developed a perception of those space and time as resources.

Noa Yaari, Multiform Grammer and the Sense of Belonging. 2020. Ink and Acrylic on Paper. Toronto.

It’s our choice whether to see words and images as signs that belong to two different systems of communication, or as rhetorical means that share a verbal-visual spectrum. Perceiving them as utterly different signs implies seeing the space between them as an “uncertain, foggy region” as Michel Foucault described it (This Is Not a Pipe, 1982). On the other hand, holding them as signs on a single spectrum requires us to recognize the space between them as full of content that manifests a gradual change. This content is neither words nor images, but an invisible, verbal-visual hybrid. Considering it as such is to acquire proficiency in MFG, which enables us to express ourselves effectively and creatively through combinations of words and images.

What is the connection between the capacity to use MFG and a sense of belonging? If you train yourself to see invisible content between visible – traditionally different – signs, then several processes take place. First, you ask significant questions about communication, which may lead to insightful answers, as well as to new and meaningful social connections. Second, you develop a communication skill that uses both imagination and systematic thinking. The integration of these two can create an engaging, long-term professional journey. And third, you produce something valuable to contribute to society, which is a primary factor in increasing a sense of belonging.

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