Meaning to Matter: Authorization in the Here and Now

  • Event

1137 S Cochran Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90019

Co-sponsored by GREX, AKRI, and the MAK Center for Art and Architecture. Organized by Dannielle Kennedy (Director) and Andrea Fraser (Associate Director for Administration).

The MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House and GREX, West Coast Affiliate of the A.K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems presented a three-day intensive experiential group relations conference in the Tavistock tradition. In the spirit of architect R.M. Schindler’s experimentation with social space as well built space, the conference explored social dynamics and authority in a unique architectural structure. Unlike conferences featuring panel discussions and lectures, this conference was structured to create an environment in which participants learned directly from experience. Events involving groups of varying sizes and tasks gave conference members opportunities to experience, examine, and understand powerful group dynamics as they unfolded. Meetings designed for review and application provided further opportunities for understanding and integrating the learning into everyday life.

The title of this conference, Meaning to Matter, carried two connotations. First, it named a process of moving what exists in the mind in the psychological realm into the physical world of material things—to the world of matter. Second, it implied an intention to make a difference and have an impact in a social context. In both of these aspects, transforming meaning to matter involves the authorization of ourselves and others.

In the Tavistock tradition, authority is defined as the right to work on behalf of a group, in relation to a task, to support a collective purpose. While these phrases may seem clear, the actual process of moving an agenda forward is often complicated by covert, out-of-awareness and difficult-to-track dynamics. This weekend conference was designed to bring the process of authorization to light as it developed in the conference itself. Studying how members gave themselves and others the right to participate and influence, to lead, to cast a vote of support, provided powerful and lasting learning. Closely observed, the temporary institution of the conference told a story and revealed the unique underlying meanings and beliefs that drove the group’s dynamic in the here and now. As participant observers, conference members learned experientially, not through traditional didactic instruction, and deepen their awareness of how they together create the world in which they live.

Based on the work of psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion and social scientists A.K.Rice, Eric Miller and others, conferences in the Tavistock tradition combine social systems research with psychoanalytic theory and practice. This model of experiential learning examines unconscious as well as conscious aims that impact the emotional and working lives of groups. It provides opportunities to explore how we authorize ourselves and others to feel, speak, act, lead, and follow; how social identity and role intersect; and how we create and challenge the boundaries of task, time, territory and self. The primary task of the conference is to provide opportunities to experience, examine and understand the exercise of authority and leadership from the group perspective. The primary task of managing and administrative staff is to create and hold the conference structure. The primary task of the consulting staff is to provide members with opportunities to examine the nature of group dynamics and authorization experientially, as they unfold. The primary task of conference members is to learn what they choose to learn in any way they choose to learn it.

About the conference staff

Dannielle Kennedy, LICSW, PhD, Director, Principal, WORKLAB, Organizational and Leadership Consulting; Psychotherapist, Private Practice, Cambridge, MA; Past President and Board Member, Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems, Boston; Associate, AKRI. Andrea Fraser, Associate Director for Administration, Artist; Professor, UCLA Department of Art; Board President, Working Artists and the Greater Economy; Board Member, GREX; Training and Certification Candidate, AKRI. Jasmin K. Montes, MA, Associate Administrator, MA in Clinical Psychology, California State University, Dominguez Hills; Behavior Consultant, California Pediatric and Family Services; Member, GREX. Benjamin Boatright, MFA, Associate Administrator, Artist, MFA UC Irvine; Administrator, Escher GuneWardena Architecture, Los Angeles. Raymond F. Bakaitis, PhD, Consultant, Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Psychology, UCLA; Board President, GREX; Past President, Los Angeles County Psychological Association and Initiator of LACPA Convention; Private Practice, Los Angeles; Associate, AKRI. Leslie Brissett, JP, PhD, MSc, BSc (Hons), Consultant, Company Secretary, The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, UK. Leonard Levis, Ph.D, Consultant, Senior Clinical Supervisor, Westcoast Children’s Clinic, Oakland, CA; Psychotherapy and Organizational Consultation, Private Practice, Berkeley, CA; Member, GREX; Associate, AKRI. John Lundgren, MD, FIPA, Associate Clinical Professor, UCLA Geffen School of Medicine; Training and Supervising Analyst, Psychoanalytic Center of California; Past Co-Director, Group Relations Course, UCLA Department of Psychiatry (1980-1990); Member, GREX; Associate, AKRI. Jaime Romo, EdD, Consultant, Educational Consultant; Trauma Specialist, Private Practice; Minister for Healing and Healthy Environments, United Church of Christ; Associate, AKRI. Chris St. John, MA, Consultant, Organizational Psychologist and Leadership Development Consultant; Doctoral Student, Social-Organizational Psychology, Columbia University; Member, New York Center for the Study of Groups, Organizations and Social Systems; Associate, AKRI. Tara L. Victor, Ph.D, ABPP, Consultant Candidate, Clinical Neuropsychologist; Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, California State University Dominguez Hills; Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA; Board Member, GREX; Consultant Candidate, AKRI.

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