CREATOR TO CREATOR II

A PROJECT 40 COLLECTIVE’S BLOG SERIES | 2019-PRESENT

Creator to Creator is a blog series featuring Asian.Canadian creators, consisting of an interview section that focuses on the creator’s practice and process, and a handwritten questionnaire where the creator talks about their “favourite” Asian creator who engages in a different artistic medium.

You can view the first series here. I re-started in 2019 because I felt another hunger to learn more about the incredible folks I’ve met and discovered, and to provide a platform for their voices to be heard and their work to be shared. I began with the same format as before, but eventually opened it up for the creators to choose a creator of whichever artistic practice. I also wanted to open up the idea of “artist” to encompass curators and arts organizers who are as vital to the art world as artists themselves. You can read more about why I re-started the series here.

2019 (Ongoing): Meera Sethi, Angela Abrenica, Kevin Matthew Wong, Althea Balmes, Phoebe Wang, Heidi Cho, Mimi Nguyen, Zinnia Naqvi, Amanda Low, Estyr, Jaycee Tu…

 

In your work, I see clothing as holding a significant responsibility, particularly as a method of expression to share, voice, recall histories, and experiences of the South Asian diaspora in North America/Canada. What role does clothing have for you?   Clothing is and has always been a significant point of interest and identity-formation for me. I grew up very much as an outsider in public school and high school, ostracized and rejected. Clothing functioned as my support system. I used clothing to express a sense of pride in my non-conforming self. I changed styles as regularly as I changed clothes and found a voice for my body without realizing that I had one.

In your work, I see clothing as holding a significant responsibility, particularly as a method of expression to share, voice, recall histories, and experiences of the South Asian diaspora in North America/Canada. What role does clothing have for you?

Clothing is and has always been a significant point of interest and identity-formation for me. I grew up very much as an outsider in public school and high school, ostracized and rejected. Clothing functioned as my support system. I used clothing to express a sense of pride in my non-conforming self. I changed styles as regularly as I changed clothes and found a voice for my body without realizing that I had one.

With much of your creative work, including the concert, ‘community’ appears to play an important part. How does community take presence in your work?   The concert definitely taught me about community. The show wouldn’t have been what it was if not for the community who financially, physically, emotionally, and artistically supported me. To be honest, I’ve only recently been able to see and feel “community” in the ones that I’m in. And I’m still exploring where else I feel comfortable to share myself and hold space for others in. I’m learning how to stand tall in a grounded community.

With much of your creative work, including the concert, ‘community’ appears to play an important part. How does community take presence in your work?

The concert definitely taught me about community. The show wouldn’t have been what it was if not for the community who financially, physically, emotionally, and artistically supported me. To be honest, I’ve only recently been able to see and feel “community” in the ones that I’m in. And I’m still exploring where else I feel comfortable to share myself and hold space for others in. I’m learning how to stand tall in a grounded community.

 
What has been your journey in bringing environmental awareness into a theatrical space?   The idea of new possibilities and unexplored paths is essential to creating environmentally-focused work. We are in an era that requires immense creativity and societal shifts to save this planet and make it liveable for generations beyond our own.  I don’t consider my artwork activism. Art is inherently political, but as an artist that works closely with activists, I see my work as something different from what they do.

What has been your journey in bringing environmental awareness into a theatrical space?

The idea of new possibilities and unexplored paths is essential to creating environmentally-focused work. We are in an era that requires immense creativity and societal shifts to save this planet and make it liveable for generations beyond our own.

I don’t consider my artwork activism. Art is inherently political, but as an artist that works closely with activists, I see my work as something different from what they do.

What memorable responses have you received to your work, and have they changed the way you think about making art?   I think the most memorable response is when people take ownership of the art. I love that they can see part of themselves in the work. Whether it is because the drawings look like them or because they helped me paint drawings on the wall or when they can relate to the stories or they want to be part of my workshop. Art doesn’t have to be this isolating, individualist mental exercise. Art making is one way I can connect to other people.

What memorable responses have you received to your work, and have they changed the way you think about making art?

I think the most memorable response is when people take ownership of the art. I love that they can see part of themselves in the work. Whether it is because the drawings look like them or because they helped me paint drawings on the wall or when they can relate to the stories or they want to be part of my workshop. Art doesn’t have to be this isolating, individualist mental exercise. Art making is one way I can connect to other people.

 
What do you think is the responsibility of words and languages, especially for an immigrant?   The responsibility is two-fold. First to one’s mother tongue, not to forget how much it is a part of you, how it colours the way you hear and see and taste and smell things. Then in English, or whatever is the language learned as a result of colonial systems – there is a responsibility to insert that other understandings into language as it’s currently employed. It’s to create fissures, stretch the language, plant quiet bombs within it.

What do you think is the responsibility of words and languages, especially for an immigrant?

The responsibility is two-fold. First to one’s mother tongue, not to forget how much it is a part of you, how it colours the way you hear and see and taste and smell things. Then in English, or whatever is the language learned as a result of colonial systems – there is a responsibility to insert that other understandings into language as it’s currently employed. It’s to create fissures, stretch the language, plant quiet bombs within it.

How do you navigate sharing intimate stories to an audience who are, ultimately, strangers, while ensuring you feel safe?   It has definitely been a growing process to share my intimate stories and experiences with a public audience. Whenever I feel anxious or embarrassed about the vulnerable nature of my work, I ultimately remind myself that the initial impulse to create is rooted in my personal healing process. It’s been really moving, healing and special to connect with other strangers who share the resonance of my work, which are often folks who identify as survivors of violence, sick people and queers of colour.

How do you navigate sharing intimate stories to an audience who are, ultimately, strangers, while ensuring you feel safe?

It has definitely been a growing process to share my intimate stories and experiences with a public audience. Whenever I feel anxious or embarrassed about the vulnerable nature of my work, I ultimately remind myself that the initial impulse to create is rooted in my personal healing process. It’s been really moving, healing and special to connect with other strangers who share the resonance of my work, which are often folks who identify as survivors of violence, sick people and queers of colour.

 
Recently, what themes or questions have you been pondering about?   I think since I have created a lot of films about my own diasporic communities, I wonder if I am focusing on this topic too much. There’s always that dilemma as a person of colour on where you draw the line because you don’t want to only be defined by your heritage and ethnicity. But then again, is there real harm if that’s where your interests lie?

Recently, what themes or questions have you been pondering about?

I think since I have created a lot of films about my own diasporic communities, I wonder if I am focusing on this topic too much. There’s always that dilemma as a person of colour on where you draw the line because you don’t want to only be defined by your heritage and ethnicity. But then again, is there real harm if that’s where your interests lie?

What role does installation have in your work? How does installation allow you to explore nuances of complicated narratives?   I always felt that I would never be able to say everything I had to say in one photo or one single piece, although I think my ideas around that are changing now. But installation allows me to combine a number of mediums to bring in a more complicated reading of my work. I’m always interested in complicating things and not giving clean answers, but rather asking questions.

What role does installation have in your work? How does installation allow you to explore nuances of complicated narratives?

I always felt that I would never be able to say everything I had to say in one photo or one single piece, although I think my ideas around that are changing now. But installation allows me to combine a number of mediums to bring in a more complicated reading of my work. I’m always interested in complicating things and not giving clean answers, but rather asking questions.

 
What philosophy do you carry when interacting with and creating art using the Internet?   I like to imagine that the Internet is an ever-growing, amorphous blob of knowledge and content. Hidden behind the scenes are bots, trackers, and web crawlers, but these aren’t things we usually think about when we’re online. Often, browsing the Internet is a passive action, so I like to make websites that talk to the user in first person, so that the user is aware that their clicks have consequences.

What philosophy do you carry when interacting with and creating art using the Internet?

I like to imagine that the Internet is an ever-growing, amorphous blob of knowledge and content. Hidden behind the scenes are bots, trackers, and web crawlers, but these aren’t things we usually think about when we’re online. Often, browsing the Internet is a passive action, so I like to make websites that talk to the user in first person, so that the user is aware that their clicks have consequences.

How do you navigate between the various musical spaces, including your own solo work?   I like making a lot of music. Each musical project is like a different playground. Practically speaking, it takes a lot of Doodle polls and group chats to make it work. But honestly it’s a treat because I’m figuring out who I am as an artist, and it’s nice to have different spaces to play in.

How do you navigate between the various musical spaces, including your own solo work?

I like making a lot of music. Each musical project is like a different playground. Practically speaking, it takes a lot of Doodle polls and group chats to make it work. But honestly it’s a treat because I’m figuring out who I am as an artist, and it’s nice to have different spaces to play in.