#11: things to be
an endless poem in progress
to be creating effortlessly, with you
It’s been entirely too long since I’ve posted. I was hoping to keep regular updates on my time off, but writing legibly about it never seemed like the thing I wanted to do most at any moment, which I think I feel very grateful for. Something about these updates on Substack never settled on my skin — it keeps sliding off. You read my updates. I read yours. My writing feels redundant, for everything I want to say I’ve already said to my journal and friends.
The other night I hosted a zine making night with friends. Zines With Friends! It took 30 minutes to set the vibe and create the content, and another 30 to share. And in a way, this is how I want to be shown what is happening in everyone’s lives, creating alongside them, maybe leaving an artifact. What they are thinking about comes out in their art.
to be formless, genreless, and a little slower
I take my days a little slower now and have been told it’s refreshing to see me be able to explore my curiosities outside the confines of deadlines. I make art. I’m learning how to make physical things. I make computational poems. I cook a lot, at least once a day. Every curiosity is a string that could be pulled. I’ve found many new artist friends, many that would be at the age of retirement if they weren’t artists. I’m in awe seeing what a lifetime of art does to a person, and the types of people who choose to walk that path. It gives a solidity to saying I’m on a lifelong journey.
I originally saw this break as the last chance to have a unique form of creative freedom before starting grad school but in it I have found a better sense of the flavor of research and art I want to do. Sometimes I feel that I live too slowly for research, not that academic research is particularly known to be fast paced. But I like to chew on my questions, have them with a cup of tea, and maybe forget about them for a bit while I pick up another hobby. And yet, much of my full-time art endeavors felt too slow, too fragmented. A project could be finished while the tea’s still hot. I’ve noticed that the projects that I’m most excited about are the ones born out of the in-between and that’s incredibly relieving to me. There was always a tiny worry that I was entering into grad school because I didn’t have enough courage to try becoming a full time artist, but now it feels completely right to give it a shot with a stronger sense of what I want to shape my experience to become.
I’m helping one of the in-between artists out on a cosmic-ray detector/spark chamber/light installation (I’m just manual labor and learning:) ) and when I asked how he came up with the idea, of course he used to be a quantum physicist. In these past few months, I’ve also come to love Boston more, for the unique flavor of art it engenders. Somehow every artist knows an MIT researcher/student/prof that they’ve collaborated with, which leads to incredibly stunning and technically wondrous projects. The type that I want to make. I wonder if it’s because I found my way back to art while at school here, the place where I took my first creative coding class, if this city has seasoned my taste.
to be obsessed
There’s an amazing collection of kinetic sculptures by Arthur Ganson at the MIT Museum. They’re humorous and charismatic — words you wouldn’t expect to describe a bunch of gears and mechanical parts. I fell in love. At first sight. I understand the book clichés, it doesn’t happen for another person. It happens when you look at a robotic arm that scoops machine oil and dumps it over itself, repeatedly. The next day I walked into a campus makerspace and for the next few weeks spent hours each day learning how to make things with wood and metal and electronics. The guy who runs the makerspace told me that I probably hold the record for most consecutive trainings and asked if I had a thesis I was supposed to be working on. I used to envy the people who seemed to be able to get Obsessed with a topic. The can’t-stop-talking-about-it/diving-all-in/spend- 100%-of-their-time-on-it type of obsession. The people who I admire the most all have a shared sense of getting lost down rabbitholes, a consumption that I never felt strongly. But the back to back trainings and midnight soldering sessions do say something, which I needed another person spell out to me. It felt weird to learn that obsession feels no different than the drive to keep breathing. To learn that obsession can happen slowly, over a lifetime, in regards to the practice of art.
to be a beginner
I’ve never been a better beginner than I am now, learning in the realm of EE/MechE. I’m relieved of the burden of being expected to know anything for having been a CS (pure beepboop) major (accompanied by many sympathetic looks). Freely asking questions like I’m five has unlocked a level of living in this world that I didn’t know existed. I’ve observed friends who operate like this in everyday contexts, often grateful to be able to benefit from their questions. Now I know they’ve been living in a different mode.
I’m also very lucky to have such wonderful mentors. I would describe them all as amazing teachers and the one oddly specific thing they all do is ask me if I’m having fun. Or if something has gone off plan or not working, if I’m still having fun. At least once every time I see them! Which is very different from the phrasings of “is this still interesting”/”are you learning”/”are you enjoying this.” It’s so simple to answer.
to be miraculously lucky
Maybe it is the three red bracelets I have on for my 本命年, but I feel extremely lucky. For the people I’ve met these few months, the projects I’ve been able to do, the making and hacking, to be able to cook every day. I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t get funding this semester and was able to try out this alternative life.
Other updates & things I’ve made:
I committed to UW and will be doing a PhD (HCI)! I’ll be moving to Seattle in the fall (if you have Seattle friends looking for a roommate/friends I would love to meet them)
Notes on Love: made for an exhibit recently and now thinking that I would like to maintain this and keep it going.
Morning Pages: I hate journaling digitally and this made it less painful for me
To Be a Poem: an infinite poem generated from a context-free grammar
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