What happens when interior and exterior realities are collapsed? What if a #house reenacted and embodied your psyche? I immediately think of the #Winchester Mystery House in San Jose California, a site where #architecture meets the #pathological. In my notebooks, I’ve come to call it “manic architecture” as a kind of shorthand.
#architectural #psychology The legend goes something like this: Sarah Winchester was a haunted woman devastated by the loss of her husband and child. What’s more, as the heiress to the vast Winchester rifle fortune, it was rumored that her heartbreak transformed into guilt, and she felt tormented by all the vengeful ghosts killed by her family’s rifles. When a spiritual medium channeling her deceased husband advised her to continuously build a #home to shelter her and all the spirits wronged by her family, she built like her life depended on it. For the next 38 years until her death (1884–1922), Winchester added to her house day and night until it became a 7 story 160 room mansion. Carpenters worked around the clock: it didn’t matter what or how they built, as long as they kept building. Sarah was its sole designer, and her mansion came to be filled with structural contradictions: windows that look out to other rooms, doors and staircases that lead nowhere, labyrinthine floor plans intended to confuse both human and ghosts alike. It was as if her house became a psychosomatic manifestation of her bottomless grief. Architecture was Winchester's form of #escapology – build exits and rooms for your demons and traumas. Architect your own salvation.
Studio diary: Perhaps Sarah Winchester’s life has been embellished to match the absurdity of her house. But I’ve always seen her as a misunderstood recluse who chose to live life on her own terms, a woman ahead and outside of her time. She enjoyed architecture but didn’t follow its rules. Unabashedly, she built her own world and decided to stay there. Sarah's #labyrinth had intentions and meanings that she kept private during her lifetime, and I’ve come to see her work as a lifelong study in the art of escape.
I feel porous right now. Ideas are drifting in and out of my head and I want to explore everything. Aesthetically, people as a subject matter has completely ceased to interest me. Instead, defining our inner spaces and landscapes has become a furious obsession, and I begin by studying and locating portals in things I’m familiar with from daily life – #rooms, corners, ceilings, basements, attics, caves, tunnels, city streets and buildings, doors, staircases, windows, etc.
“In case of emergency, draw a door.”
Impossible desires: If time travel was possible, what would you want to see? I bet artists and scientists will have some similar answers: the Big Bang and the origins of the universe, the universe before time itself, how life began, the future fate of mankind, how the universe will end. There are spaces where art and science intersect– we study weight, lines, space, density, scale, distance, gravity. We want to hunt for wormholes, build alternate universes from scratch, build portals metaphorically and literally. Scientists and artists share the mutual fundamental desire to see into the darkness and look at it closely, to access the unknown and the irrational.
#home I feel like I have returned from the land of the dead #summer #2018 #moving I did it, I finally moved out on my own. After years of growing up under my parents’ roof, volatile shared apartments, and never feeling quite “at home” anywhere, I can finally read a book by the window, set up a proper studio space, and call a place my own.
#interiors What is home? I have unfairly attached utopic ideals to this place, but it’s the most porous and intimate space I know. Architecturally, the first homes in human history were womb-like caves. Cave dwellers carried out their daily lives near the entrance by daylight and reserved the innermost sanctums for sacred private rituals, including the first human creations before language (Lascaux cave paintings, c. 17,000 BCE, France). Artists and writers have always implicitly understood that the boundaries between architectural interiors and our inner lives are highly permeable, at times indistinguishable (Edward Hopper, Virginia Woolf, the Surrealists). Homes can be a secret world, hidden from view (Martin Wong “My Secret World, acrylic on canvas, 1978-81). It can be a space of healing solitude, a protective barrier against the disappointments of the world (Van Gogh “Bedroom in Arles”, oil on canvas, 1888). Ultimately, a home can also be a site of infinite transformation, where inside, outside, alternate dimensions, and underworlds can collapse and hidden portals are revealed (Tim Burton “Beetlejuice", David Lynch “Twin Peaks”). #Inner space is the place, and as my summer of turmoil finally comes to an end, I can feel my senses and interiorities returning. It’s becoming clear what my personal, aesthetic, and professional interests are converging toward – defining interior realities to their fullest.
East Village Books, November 19th, 11:54 p.m. The bookstore/library as site of interiority and anti-imperialist stronghold.
Lately, out of restlessness and anxiety I’ve been wandering around the city at night, carving out whatever time I can to escape the tyrannical clock of capitalism and build up energy to resist the impending apocalyptic world order. One Saturday night around midnight a couple of weeks ago, I was sulking around Tompkins Square Park and The Alphabets, trying to evade the weekend East Village crowd whose idea of existence is to drink their pathologies and scream them at each other, when I passed by East Village Books on St. Marks Place glowing warmly past 12, so I dodged in looking for an exit from the annoying exteriors. “Immensity is within ourselves”, Gaston Bachelard wrote in “The Poetics of Space” (1958), and the moment you step into a bookstore, you feel your inner architecture expand infinitely as your inner spaces join a kind of collective “memory hole”, where different ideas, temporalities, and cartographies coexist with each other and cross paths as readers activate them. I also felt a convergence of conviction; being around so many voices from past and present you realize there are too many extraordinary people in this fight to not start the next revolution and usher in a truly radical and progressive future – in fact we ARE the majority.
So thank god East Village Books has open ended hours on Saturdays (1 pm – late), I spent the rest of the night there feeling like I was suspended in a warm womb …
The Gothic Revival church near Union Square is hard to miss, not only because its 19th century architectural style separates it from the rest of the modern Broadway landscape, but it’s also due to their dramatic exterior lighting tableau at night, staged to look as if they’re awaiting the arrival of an exorcist indefinitely. The other night, I walked in to take a closer look at this light, and finally began to see how architects of sacred spaces were trying to transcend the weight of our material world. I wasn't interested in this light in terms of its originally intended “divine” context and good/evil dichotomies, yet I couldn't help but get sucked into this gothic romantic time warp – back to a time in architectural history when space, light, shadow, and silence were used to produce a specific kind of sacred experiential interiority, where structures were erected to be larger than life to dramatically separate the daily quotidian from an “inner sanctum”. Church architecture is one of the few man-made structures that actively tries to surpass its earthly roots and create a relationship with the universe. In the same way that the sheer enormity of an ocean or a forest elicits awe and dislocation, I felt like I was somewhere far, far away, living in a mythic movie.
For a while now, I’ve been searching for those emotional spatial experiences (both architectural or natural) that is most closely aligned with the pursuits of the 19th century Romantic movement, when in reaction to the rationalism of the Enlightenment the Romantics passionately rebelled by searching for a “language of the interior”, the affective, the overwhelming and unnameable – in other words, I've been hunting for the sublime.
The most obvious site and your “first universe” – the home.
“Don’t even say his name,” my mother yelled from the kitchen. I had just walked through the door of my parent’s house in Maryland for Christmas break, and the holidays were a couple weeks after the election. “He's dead to us," she half-jokingly said, implying that as of right now, behind the closed doors of our home, we will try to live in an alternate universe where trump doesn't exist, and the act of speaking his name out loud would be akin to conjuring the true name of a demon. For the rest of the holidays, we turned off the news, and in my childhood bedroom I began adding underground tunnels to those inner labyrinths that I've been building in my head for years.
The current political darkness fuels my obsession with everything interior, so I return to the academic studies on intimate space and interior lives – topophilia and our affective relationships to space; Gaston Bachelard’s topoanalysis and his poetic ideas of the home as a collection of nests and caves to nurse our daydreams; Walter Benjamin’s critique of the 19th century home as a series of closets and cellars to hide dirty bourgeois secrets; or the privatization of space and the increasing need for interiority in the modern world, as individuals lost control of the public sphere and began to retreat inward to focus on what they can have complete dominion over – their interior spaces and inner lives. Interiority is one of the most pervasive and beloved preoccupations not just among philosophers but throughout human history, and the home has become our very own “corner of the world”. And it’s at home where many of us dare to dream, now more than ever before; because dreaming of seemingly impossible futures and pursuing the mysteries in life (whether they be scientific, artistic, or the affective) are worth living for. So building interiors that they can’t take away is a part of resistance, it’s how one keeps the chaos at bay and realize the full possibilities in ourselves and our futures.
Studio to do’s. My #studio to do list is sort of an open ended idea bank that I quickly jot down in my diaries, with tasks ranging from the tangible (collecting materials) to the impossibly poetic.
– Travel to 5 billion years in the future and watch the last sunset on earth.
– Make a vessel to contain something and bury it in the Mariana Trench 17.7500° N, 142.5000° E
– Make an object containing your secrets and send it into a black hole.
– Travel to the opposite side of the earth everyday to run away from the sun. Live with the moon in a world of permanent night.
– Kill every lover you’ve ever had, then compress their bodies into the smallest volume possible until the pressure is so great that it collapses into a black hole.
– Infinite #abstraction: make daily recordings of the descent and ascent to and from the Mariana Trench. Observe the color shift from blue to black and make work in any medium.
– Fantasy supply list: surface material from darkest known planet TrEs-2b, water from river Styx, Borges’ mirror, steal Vantablack from asshole artist Anish Kapoor.
“A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness.” – Jean Genet
IMG_1945.mov: 11/09/2017, 6:40 pm. Atlantic Ocean, black horizon. Disappearance experiment #1.
The #lists I keep in my diaries to manage the overwhelming daily information. An #index of ongoing #ideas + sights & sounds + directives + #cusps + #moods
1. A place: RA 17h 45m 40.0409s. Dec −29° 0′ 28.118″. (4.02 ± 0.16) × 10^6
2. #Dream #diary: Hitler (the demon who lived inside him or a demon forged in his image – they’re such expert shapeshifters) appeared in my dream one night and taunted me with extreme glee, “you’re fucked”. I couldn’t contain my laughter.
3. #ABC (American Born #Chinese): I’ve been told (accused) by many people that I don’t act “very asian”. It’s been an endless and perplexing source of identity-related frustrations, but recently I realized there are no multitude “modes of being” allowed or defined in Asian American identity yet.
4. In art (and life), I must be truthful and vulnerable. Eradicate all escapist and evasive tendencies in my work.
5. "Cast the circle thrice about, to keep the evil spirits out”.
6. (repeat #spell ad infinitum) Banish donald trump from space and time now.
7. Gen-X’er: at my core, I’m just a gen-x’er trapped in a #millennial body and generation.
8. John Waters describes his fans as “minorities who can’t even fit in with their own minorities.” #me
9. Post-punk: the narcotic & euphoric sounds of #CocteauTwins – vocalist Elizabeth Fraser once said: "I live in here,” she explains, exasperatedly, pointing at her head. “And it’s difficult. I drift with every sensation.” #same
10. Strangest things we know of (transgressions in physics & reality): black holes can stop time itself by “shifting material out of time”.
11. Voyager 1: current distance 13,140,490,430 mi, 40 years 6 months 23 days.
A #list of ongoing #ideas + #interiors + #landscapes + #moods + in-betweens –
1. A place that’s closer: RA 19h 58m 21.67595s. Dec. +35° 12′ 05.7783″. 15±1.
2. Lists: Umberto Eco – “The list is the origin of culture … What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible.”
3. Strangest things we know of: -57 octaves below middle C – black holes “sing” this sound, which is the lowest note in the universe.
4. “Twin Peaks: The Return”: the magical Lynchian summer of #2017
5. #Firsts: I’m trying to locate primal origins and sites of desire in my internal timeline, first experiences such as first art works, first “sight", first “fall”, first intimacies (cliched).
6. #Diary: “the poor man’s art” and the most democratic form of autobiography. Everyone can write a collection of “books” by the end of their life. But sometimes I wonder whether I’m recording my life or creating one, since the diary might be the only place I’m fully living right now.
7. Looking at art: (historical) art as an act of personal salvation, sanity, survival (or devoid of commercial motivations) – Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama, Frida Kahlo, Agnes Martin, Michelangelo, Bill Traylor, Francis Bacon, Henry Darger.
8a. Octavia Butler: a writer of unapologetic contradictions and multitudes. “I’m … comfortably asocial – a hermit in the middle of Los Angeles – a pessimist if I’m not careful, a feminist, a Black, a former Baptist, an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive.”
8b. Octavia Butler (again): “I began writing about power because I had so little.”
9. #Interiority: my inner life is insatiable and I’m constantly feeding it – “paper architecture”; "non-place” (Marc Auge); “intranauts” of inner voids vs. astronauts of outer space; depictions of rooms and interiors/interiority throughout art history (ex. Van Gogh’s “Bedroom in Arles”)
10. #Dream diary: there’s this blood-bursting-roving-void of RAGE running amok in my dreams that I’ve been trying to understand, but more importantly contain so it doesn’t leak into my waking life.
#rain #palimpsest #house
A couple weeks ago, I finally unpacked everything for my new apartment. I opened the window and sat down in my reading chair to rest. A rainstorm was brewing after days of insufferable summer heat and as the rain poured, the walls became porous and the veils between past and present lifted #escapology The storm brought me back to the best memories of my childhood, a time when I built caves, forests, labyrinths, portals, basements, gardens, and worlds to get lost in. Troubled children choose to either run outward or inward to escape, and as an unhappy child, I chose to burrow deep inside myself. On Saturday afternoons, I built cave forts in my room with the TV running in the background. It was during this period of time that I learned to draw and the art of psychic escape. The syndicated movies and TV reruns became a guidebook. I owe part of my childhood to Tim Burton and his production designer Bo Welch, because their German Expressionist inspired sets (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands) gave me the first hint that reality was not what it seemed. I came to know every detail of the otherworldly Victorian house in “Practical Magic”; the raw streets of 80s East Village New York in “Basquiat”; the chiaroscuro play of light and dark in “Blue Velvet”. Surrounded by inner worlds so dense, I learned to live inside my head for years
#ghosts Escape became a compulsion, and intoxicating habits can become ingrained in one’s character. It took me years as an adult to learn that even “utopias” have their limitations. To forever burrow inward as refuge from betrayal and disappointments is to become estranged from life itself, to live a life unfulfilled. There were cobwebs over these inner labyrinths that I built so many years ago, but as the rain faded into the night, I can feel everything come rushing back …