On the week coming up to winter solstice last year I joined East Asian Ticket Club’s artist residency at Hawkwood College in Stroud, with a cohort of 10 other artists of East Asian and South East Asian heritage (ESEA).
There was an invitation to rest, as well as exchange knowledge, and seed collaborations in the future. I decided to bring my night-time ancestral practice to the residency. I figured it would be a perfect environment, to experiment with 24 hours of time for work or rest, and the possibility of gathering our ancestors together. In this flexible time and space set up, I also could better tend to my chronic pain.
Since the pandemic, I have sometimes not been able to sleep. During these restless nights, I’ve developed a practice of moving and writing (in the darkness) that has invited in my ancestors and the non-human energies that are present – or should I say they have invited me in. The practice has helped me rest and process what wasn’t given the space to be seen, heard or felt in much of the spaces I am in during the waking hours.
As I arrived at Hawkwood College, I was greeted by a 250 year old Sycamore tree, and a spring that flowed at its roots. There was a palpable stillness in the air, rhythms stretched themselves out.
During the week, my project became alive. It had a body and personality, it was shy and needed time to show itself. I dug out sentences from my poems that I’d written during my sleepless nights. I wrote them on bits of paper, and planted them all over the space, in every corner, high up or underneath things. The studio became a spatial poem that could be understood, only if you took the time to explore and move through it. I let myself be open and flexible about whether I would be working at 6am, midnight, dawn or sunset. I prepared the practice space, knowing that I may meet the night-time and darkness yet again; I may not rest.
As each day and night passed together, my body began to synchronise itself with the patterns of resting, gathering and interactions of the other artists, as well as the movements of the sun. I noticed the different textures of the time and space. I enjoyed sharing the studio with other artists, having conversations about what they were reading, working on. Some of the themes that came up: the differences of 1st, 1.5 and 2nd generation diaspora (facilitated by Lucas Chih-Peng Kao*). The difficulties imposed onto artists by institutions; Intimate ways to protest (initiated by Youngsook Choi*). Recipes from our roots.
Within the group of artists, it felt clear we all had a desire to listen, and offer collective holding for each other, while continuing to delve into our own creative worlds or resting process. There was a kind of osmosis happening, parallel resonances. I brought my somatic and body-based processes to mix with other’s research.
The effect was nuanced, with beautiful pockets of silence and listening, in a way that at first was strange because I had never spent this much time with ESEA artists so intimately, and realised it was actually something that I could naturally relax into.
“I’m interested in, specifically, that which lives with us in our body space and that mingle with each other’s body space when we are not always knowing…”
I led a winter solstice ritual in the studio for the artists; at 4:15pm when the sun was setting and we were slowly met by darkness. I haven’t offered my personal movement practices to an all ESEA affinity space before; and I became aware that I don’t need to default to a creative language that only caters for Eurocentric perspectives. I wondered what this means for my future work as an ESEA diaspora artist?
At solstice we burnt words at the fire, letting them die and return, like the stretch of darkness that would make way for the light to grow again.
as we get into the darkness
really feel how your body can expand into the space
rather than withdraw
so we often think that the darkness is a space of withdrawal
but maybe its not
maybe its an opening space
you can expand even further in the darkness
Gratitude to Moi Tran for preparing the ground so generously and all the artists for their heartfull-ness and listening; *Youngsook Choi, Jessica Wan Ka Po (@jesswan__), Eye Suriyanon, *Lucas Chih – Peng Kao, CARÔ GERVAY (@carogervay), Jasmine Shigemura Lee (@jasmineshigemuralee), Christy Ku, Sun Park, and Angela Wai-Nok Hui (@huiwainokk) ~ I’m looking forward to watering the seeds we planted together, and continuing to tend to the collective soil.
Thank you to Hawkwood College (@hawkwood_cft) for the beautiful spaces, for feeding us with nourishing food and care.