Thursday, December 17, 2020

This place I am

With the end of certain prescribed duties, I thought I'd be relatively gleeful about a brief freedom. But knowing I won't be able to see my family and how that imbalances our collective sanity + the dread of the next obligation being taken away from me (a grant that hinges on a visa that hinges on seemingly endless demands for paperwork that I've done already but have to do again) = a return to overeating, listlessness, and lack-of-purpose malaise. Fortunately, I have glorious friends who don't ride the same waves of depression as me, so when Karin mentioned how stunning My Octopus Teacher was, I indulged. I'm so glad I did, because it was quite gorgeous and moving. The cold and fear you feel when imagining free diving into a frigid and wild ocean made me think of Lisa See's The Island of Sea Women, though Korea and South Africa are far from each other.

But this direct contact with wildness, and Craig Foster's instinct to return to that source and be activated as yet another creature of nature, was excellent medicine. I was so incredibly struck by the bricolage of shells, the sound of them as they fall away, and the undeniable fact that wild animals are exquisite artists. This story of an octopus-human relationship began with observation of curious phenomenon, and I've returned to watch that moment again and again.

Today I listened to the first of a three part series on the importance of Mauna Kea and the movement to prevent further desecration of this sacred mountain, a place well above the sea in Hawaii that has a unique alpine desert ecosystem that exists pretty much nowhere else in the world. The sounds of the protestors and their songs had me in tears as I sat on the floor trying to get through another round of visa paperwork (of course, in my swirl of emotions around this app and all of the hurdles in getting back to Korea that the country itself has placed in front of me, I forgot one form, so this process is going to take even longer).

[I did some hand sewing of gwi jumeoni using silk and a pattern by Youngmin, and they are hanging out with so very many reminders of past travel, friends, art, and experiments.]

To recover, I drove out to get Korean groceries and paused to chat with the owner because I was so lonely for people in my parents' generation, immigrants who somehow got here after racist legislation was changed to allow certain non-white folks to enter. They missed home, and that's what I was looking for when ordering food from a nearby Korean hole in the wall. While Korean cuisine has evolved and continues to change on the peninsula, this disapora of a certain age continues to cook and serve food of their childhoods, of what they remember. Younger movers and shakers may complain about them being trapped in the past, but it's actually an incredible time capsule, and a temporary one as well.

After watching a brilliant concert last night by Zenas Hsu through Open Space Music (he'll perform once again tonight! I highly recommend!), I stayed to chat with a dear diaspora friend and met another, as we talked about how gangster Korean women of a certain generation are. And they had to be, to survive wars and famine in a country that was almost entirely bombed to bits. If old fashioned food gives them comfort, go for it. While feeling jerked around by their country's bureaucracy, I try to remember that that is exactly why I do the hanji work that I do: to create a place for myself that isn't unkind, a place that can celebrate all that I am and not freak out that the American name on my birth certificate doesn't match the Korean name on my family register in Seoul, a place that doesn't care about my flaunting of social norms expected of women who look like me, a place that looks instead at my relationship with the world through materials. To learn more, watch the artist talk from my show here.

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