A New Dawn: Morning Song

In 1989 a monumental event shaped me and everything I believed in, that event was the Tiananmen Square massacre. Even though I was only 13 years old, my whole worldview shifted and I understood Democracy to be a fight that we must each take up the fight for. It wasn’t a given, it wasn’t a “right” in the traditional sense of the word, it was a privilege that many fight and die for.

Since then I’ve been a protest person. I protested with my fellow Hong Kong people for Tiananmen and I continued to do so in Canada when I moved back at 16 for many years. Even with disability I have tried to continue protesting in various movements like the Idle No More movement.

I used to think I was the odd one out. My family steadfastly loyal to the motherland and the partyline, I thought something was different about me but when I saw the sea of people around me with candles and lights… I knew that the passion of protest was in my blood as someone of Hong Kong heritage. I have always seen my people as fierce fighters.

Flash forward to the various Hong Kong protest movements such as the umbrella movement, the anti extradition protests and so forth going well into 2020. It makes me swell with pride that we have this solid tradition of standing up for what we believe to be right.

Originally Mourning Song was a complicated installation tableau with layering and multiple channels. As we built this piece around the education to the width and depth of accessibility in mind it organically became something different. As I continued to approach the project in a prayerful and ceremonial way, a different project slowly manifested into and installation portrayed through a short film.

What started as a “mourning song” as I felt the grief and sadness of watching the HK Protests become marginalized by history as Tiananmen Square massacre was, I continued to research and clarify to myself the ideology around the project. One of the questions that surfaced was what was the core message of this piece and I realized it was rooted in the feelings of hope not grief. I found sounds I captured and birds to enable a natural flow for background, communicating the hopefulness of this piece. The soundscape is punctuated by a winter soundscape barely noticeable during the protest sign tableau.

While I feel helpless and mournful about the state of the affairs in Hong Kong, especially as a Hong Konger in Canada, especially with the serious allegations coming out of Hong Kong, such as suicide cover ups for police murders/blinding of medics/journalists; elicit a state of mourning for the future of Hong Kong and our youth. At the same time, I am steadfast in this being hopeful and the stirrings of new beginnings, the fire lit from decades ago in Tiananmen Square. From the thousands of Tiananmen Square Protests there has blossomed millions who came to the Hong Kong Protests. And while tyranny may have it’s moment in history, there is always a hopeful future as the younger generation continue to fight for the people’s liberty.

These prayers I encapsulated by recreating an Ancestor Altar featuring a serene Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy), trying to mimic the street altars I grew up with my Grandmother in Hong Kong. Like the festival of Ching Ming I offer a feast to my Ancestors honoring theses prayers of hope, resilience and protection. Joss sticks, candles, offerings of meats, sweets and rice wine show my reverence for tradition of these prayers.

Thinking about the mantra from Turtle Island’s Indigenous uprising “Water is Life” and the Hong Protests mantra “Be Water” I am reminded of the resilience and the strength of Hong Kongers, like water, can overcome anything. I created a tableau of Hong Kong Protest signs that were dearest to me to document this monumental moment in history as someone who believes fervently in the new future. The youth have shown us that they are capable of leading us to the future and as long as our youth live, then hope never dies and like water we continue to flow into a future free of tyranny, free of walls and surveillance and assimilation. A future where our diversity is celebrated. Until then I present to you “Morning Songs” a celebration of hope and new beginnings while honoring the heart of Hong Kongers across the globe.


Working with Tangled Art + Disability

I was nominated for Vital Capacities via Tangled Art + Disability. My journey with them started with the exhibition Thaumaturgy. I believe it was our 2nd or 3rd meeting that accessibility training was conducted, in depth instruction was provided so that our exhibition was developed on a foundation of accessibility grounding our direction from day one to be accessible to people of different abilities.

Here is a list of documents they shared with me to help me understand accessibility needs of people living with disabilities:

– Audio Description – 3 Core Skills by The Audio Description Coalition

– AEB’S Guidelines for Verbal Description by Elisabeth Salzhauer Axel, Virgina Hooper, Teresa Kardoulias, Sarah Stephenson Keyes, and Francesca Rosenberg

– Fundamental of Audio Description by Joel Snyder

– Basic Steps to Describing Works of Art (reprinted with permission: Gerson, Making Visual Art Accessible to People Who are Blind and Visually Impaired)

– Interpreting Works of Art by The Audio Description Coalition

– Reading A Painting by The Audio Description Coalition

– Audio Description for Exhibits by Bill Patterson Audio Description Solutions

Here’s a resource list from Tangled Arts Training – Toronto, March 2017

LIST OF RESOURCES

Axel, Elizabeth Salzhauer and Nina Sobol Levent, eds. Art Beyond Sight: A Resource Guide to Art, Creativity, and Visual Impairment. New York: AFB Press, 2003.

Grambs, David. The Describer’s Dictionary: A Treasury of Terms and Literary Quotations. New York: WW Norton and Co., 1993.

Horowitz, Alexandra. On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation. New York: Scribner, 2013

Howell, Busser. 20/20 Blindsight. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.

Levent, Nina and Alvaro Pascual-Leone. The Multisensory Museum: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Touch, Sound, Smell, Memory and Space. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Mendelsund, Peter. What We See When We Read. New York: First Vintage Books, 2014.

Snyder, Joel. The Visual Made Verbal: A Comprehensive Training Manual and Guide to the History and Applications of Audio Description. Arlington VA: American Council of the Blind, 2014.

ONLINE

artbeyondsight.org

audiodescriptionsolutions.com

vocaleyes.co.uk

cnib.ca

perkins.org

Charge

The symbol that represents the physical concept of ‘Charge’ from the Dutil-Dumas message.
A peaceful herd of cows gather near the symbol of 'charge'. This is a top aerial view. The black sign is seen on grey concrete ground. On the top left corner of the image are some brown granite and a metal fence, hinting that Cattle Depot is on the left side of the image.
The symbol of ‘Charge’ outside the virtual space of Cattle Depot. A peaceful herd of cows gather near the symbol.

CHARGE: an official claim made by the police that somebody has committed a crime (Cambridge Dictionary)

Example sentence:
• Peaceful protesters were charged with rioting.

So, what’s this risograph thing?

Outline image of risograph printed in pink.
An outline image of a risograph machine

As the work I’m developing moves towards the print stage, it’s time to explain a little more about the risograph process.

My print and printmaking experience started with etching (particularly photo-etching), letterpress, and developed to include screenprinting, and various relief processes, before the transition to digital. Last year, I got the opportunity to develop some work with my friend and collaborator Ruth Jones, who suggested we learn to use the risograph process. This post uses images from developing that work.

Risograph is sometimes described as a hybrid of photocopying and screenprinting.  Like a photocopier, the image you are printing is placed on the glass bed at the top of the machine; paper feeds in from one side and comes out printed on the other. Inside the machine however, the printing process involves creating a type of stencil (referred to as the master). The stencil leaves gaps where the ink is pushed through creating the image. Risographs can also hold two colours of ink and the cartridges can be swapped, so it’s possible to print in one colour, then reload the paper and overprint in a second colour.

An orange repeated pattern printed on white card
Single colour print, waiting for the second print process

Riso uses soy oil-based ink and is low energy, so has some strong green credentials. Like many print processes, it’s possible to create very simple or much more complex prints, meaning it appeals to a broad range of artists who might create their source imagery in many different ways.  Because you’re using limited ink colours, colour mix becomes a bigger part of the creative process – for example, what might be blue in your original image could be printed as pink. The way the stencils and paper feed mechanisms work means that there’s always a degree of variation between prints, something printmakers are used to, but which is avoided in commercial print processes. You also get the sense of the way different machines operate, and the variations – something that printers and printmakers work with.

The machine I will be using at TOW currently contains two colours – black and orange – so I’m developing my imagery with this in mind. What I have to do is create a black and white positive for each colour layer – one that will print out black, and one that will print out orange.  Digital techniques can make producing these colour separations a bit easier, but a physical print process will always produce a different outcome to how something looks on a screen. Again, working with these variations becomes part of the creative process.

A stack of white cards printed with orange image and black text
A duotone print example

Using the space safely at the moment means minimising my time in the TOW print space, so I’ll be producing my colour separation positives at home, and I’ll only have short print runs. But I’ve got hold of a really nice paper recommended for riso printing, so am looking forward to some hands-on printing again!

TUNER

Tuner an audiovisual piece originally designed as an experimental live AV project showing initially at Somerset House Londons AGM 2018 festival (since performed at Club Adriatico, L.E.V. Festival, Genot Centre, MK Gall, Xolo,Bleep) and has endured various reincarnations. Now as part of Vital Capacities residency I am developing it to be playable piece as a download and also a recorded showcase! The project has primarily been designed from a solo performance point of view. Programming all the input events and actions via audio instrument protocols with MIDI and OSC. This was to allow a unique haptic setup where I could control multiple elements live and be more at home, as it is part of my music practice also, recsund!
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Interview with Jaene Castrillon

Installation view of an exhibition. On the left of the image is a tree-shaped collage of many, many black and white images (it's not very clear as the images are small, but some are portraits of people) - they are lit in a sunshine yellow light. The floor of what is assumed to be a gallery is chrome, and reflects the rest of the room. 12 TV monitors make a wall on the right of the image, on 2 screens are an animation of a man drinking from a bottle, on another is a hand touching the screen, other screens are whited out or unclear. On a On the wall and written over the photos in large handwriting is written: I don't want to alarm anyone but I think there's a lil alkyhol in the..." unreadable from there.
Jaene F. Castrillon, Perpetual, 2015 (installation) – image courtesy of the artist

Jamie Wyld (Vital Capacities director): Thanks for being part of the Vital Capacities residency programme! Can you say a little about yourself and your work, perhaps in relation to what you’re thinking about doing during the residency?

Jaene Castrillon: I am a 2Spirit interdisciplinary artist, activist, author & award winning filmmaker who explores my relationship to the world through Indigenous teachings, ceremony and the wisdom of the land. I describe myself as a settler to Turtle Island of mixed heritages (indigenous Colombian & Hong Kong Chinese) who was raised on the teachings of Elder Isaac Day of Serpent River First Nations.

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Interview with Damien Robinson

Main image shows a collection of hexagonal and abstract patterns in shades of blue and aqua. To the right are two smaller images showing a wooden, dark lacquered box, with a red panel, in the middle of a panel is a triangle showing an image of blue hexagons.
Damien Robinson, Chimerascope, 2010 – courtesy of the artist

Jamie Wyld (Vital Capacities’ director): Really great to have you as part of the Vital Capacities residency programme! Can you say a little about yourself and your work, perhaps in relation to what you’re thinking about doing during the residency? 

Damien Robinson: Hi Jamie! Thank you for asking me to take part!

I’m Damien, I’m a visual artist working with mixes of digital and non-digital approaches. My practice was originally print-based and I used to make three-dimensional work; over time I began incorporating digital processes, particularly around using discarded technologies and open-source software. I was lucky enough to get the chance to work with Mediashed, which was really forward thinking in terms of artist collaboration and teaching us about free media concepts. As a deaf artist I’d had little access to formal learning; even during my degree I wasn’t allowed to learn about or use huge amounts of equipment because I apparently constituted a health and safety risk, so I went about a lot of things the “wrong way”. The Mediashed experience involved thinking differently about hardware and software, so I began enjoying mis-using processes and technologies, something I still do now.

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Interview with Clifford Sage

CGI image of a sci-fi style landscape designed by the artist. To the left of the image is an enormous wall of rock is in the distance with an archway, through which can be seen further gigantic rock arches. The landscape is orange, like the orange of sunset or an atmosphere that's on fire.  To the right side of the image, closer to the front of the image, is an abstract green object, which could be a vehicle, shaped like a boat. At the back of the vehicle is an orange engine with wires and pipes leading to what might be a fueling station. At the front of the vehicle is a spider-like looking extrusion, above which floats a smoky sphere.
Clifford Sage, Tuner, 2019 (image still) – courtesy of the artist

Jamie Wyld (Vital Capacities’ director): Thanks for being part of the Vital Capacities residency programme! Can you say a little about yourself and your work, perhaps in relation to what you’re thinking about doing during the residency?

Clifford Sage: I’m Clifford, a CGI artist, currently working with moving image through animation and interactive worlds.  My work is often sound-based and audio generative.  I am interested in using game dynamics in my practice and the potential of virtual world building and non- linear narrative through story-telling. My hope is to use game mechanics to generate an immersive audio experience, utilizing and experimenting with alternate timelines. 

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Intro to latest artists in residence

Artists work from top left, clockwise: Damien Robinson, Angela Su, Jaene F. Castrillon and Clifford Sage

Our second residency programme on Vital Capacities brings together artists from the UK, Canada and Hong Kong, taking place between 2 Nov and 10 Dec 2020. Artists will be exploring ideas across the period, sharing work with audiences. Find out more about the artists in this programme…

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Animal genitalia

The models express the myriad of exquisite forms and mating practices found in the animal kingdom which are often invisible to the naked eye. We often imagine what life is like on other planets, other worlds, yet what is present right under our noses is stranger than we can imagine, far more ‘alien’.