The formless self
3.29 - 4.10
this is a messy update. the dates (March 29th - April 10th) are framed arbitrarily. time has been slow. days have been unstructured. it also feels weird to do this update because nothing about it is important, while the whole world is suffering from a pandemic. but i’m treating this as merely a humbble record of what one random person’s life is like during this special time of history
I am staying with my friend Alex in a suburb in South Carolina. This means a crash course on being real adults. We have to make all of our meals on our own, which takes SO much time out of every day. And we have fortunately been blessed by a number of household issues like wifi not working and kitchen sink clogging...
The first week and a half, Alex and I self-isolated separately. Most of the time we stayed on different floors. When I went downstairs to cook some food for myself, Alex would stay out of the kitchen. And we would both wipe the surfaces after we finished cooking.
Since we started cooking together the second week, we have been experimenting with different dishes. The first meal we cooked together was pasta, but we added seaweed in the Italian tomato mushroom sauce. Then we made Zhajiangmian together, which was absolutely heaven. Both of us wanted to be so present while eating, that we did not feel like talking anymore.
And sometimes ramen is amazing, too!
2. fixing things!
I don’t want to go into the details anymore, but let me just say, I feel so proud of Alex and I for calling the network service 5 days in a row and eventually getting back our wifi that randomly stopped working due to “the vacation mode.” It was a real test on our patience. Every time we called, we had to wait for 40 minutes to get to speak with a real human before they directed us to another person who could actually help us.
There are only three kinds of places in which human life is happening: the hospital, the slum, and the cyberspace. This is hard to wrap my mind around.
It’s been easy to feel like what I do to occupy my time doesn’t matter at all. But when I think of contributing something during the pandemic, I don’t have any tangible skills to help out.
I don’t like seeing all the emergency funds for artists pop up in my social media feed, because it gives me the feeling that artists are not only useless right now, but also in dire need of help from the society. I don’t like imagining myself in the position of asking people for money because I am an artist, while the world stops running. I want to feel empowering in times of crisis, as an artist and because I am an artist.
Then Ratana sent me a picture:
It has been making me think a lot about short-term and long-term outcomes. So far I would like to choose focusing on long-term outcomes and hone my art skills for now, so that in the future I could create more meaningful art for the world. Even during this pandemic, there are still many issues in the world that deserve attention and help. So technically, I never run out of opportunities to do something for the world with the art I can create.
In the meantime, thank you, for everything and everyone that made it possible for me to not worry about my safety during this special time.
a journal entry about the self
A lot of anxious thought loops are really just there because I am taking myself too seriously.
Why does my identity matter?
I thought about what I could share with Arquetopia for their feature article on me, and I feel that I would appear very confusing to people. *”So what does she do?”* Well, it is complicated! I did the weaving program with Arquetopia. I am currently making a documentary about my friends and college psychedelic clubs. I am starting an internship with a consciousness research group to do illustrations for their blog & book. Before Arquetopia, I did an experimental sound piece through visual programming. Before that, I was studying game art and built two virtual environments in a game engine. And before that, I published an independent research about awe-inspiring space design which combined neuroscience, positive psychology, philosophy and architecture.
”So what does she do?”
She doesn’t even fucking know.
And she wants to say: how does that matter any way?
She knows for each project she successfully completed, she loved what she did and was generally quite satisfied about her work because she did the best she could at that stage of her life. That is all she needs to know. She puts the label “artist” on herself so that she is exempt from giving any more additional labels to herself. She wants to be an artist of life — making her life a sequence of beautiful /meaningful journeys that don’t have to be too causally related. She is not thinking too much about where she will be in the future and she enjoys that uncertainty, which gives her a lot of room to be surprised, and is usually more exciting to her than anxiety-inducing.
Overall as a person, most of the times I feel free form and don’t feel like I have any distinct personalities when I interact with people. My self identity is confusing to myself as I often can’t tell how exactly my emotions respond to certain events after they happen. I see multiple narratives that give me different emotions to feel, so I feel all of them or don’t feel any of them at the same time.
Instead of calling this feeling of not having a very strong character personality-wise something that needs to be fixed, something that is problematic, why don’t I just make use of it to my own advantage? For example, it probably helps quite an amount when I interact with different people because it is rare for me to have clashing opinions with other people, because there aren’t that many thoughts or opinions I vehemently adhere to anyways.
And instead of through personality, I can feel my uniqueness — as all humans have the innate desire to feel unique — through the unpredictable path I carve out for myself as I participate in the world. What I choose to do with my life and what I choose to occupy my time is how I forge uniqueness for myself, to feel that I exist. I am not a character. I am a collection of life experiences, a collection of interactions with shifting environments.
Qualia Research Institute
My collaboration with QRI officially began at the start of this month! I am working with a few people to make a html book of QRI’s work. I will be mainly doing illustrations for QRI’s articles and graphic design for the website.
During the first QRI team call, it occured to me that I am basically living my dream life, already!
For years I have dreamed about working with really smart scientists and/or engineers, as an artist/designer, for something we all believe in and want to dedicate our energy and time to together. Most of the items on my life dream list are artist residencies in STEM organizations.
And here I am, working with QRI as an illustrator and graphic designer! But what makes it even better is that I am already good friends with some of the people in the team.
It is incredible to me how things fell into place here. And I’m really grateful for being able to do what I want to do.
I definitely have some kind of anxiety that isn’t exactly the imposter syndrome, but close. I want to produce really high quality work and I am not at the level yet with my art skills to be able to consistently produce high quality things at my will in time. I also just generally haven’t done enough of the work I am doing for QRI to be able to know how much time it would really take me to do an illustration.
BUT, there has to be a first time and I’m happy it is now!
a bit more thoughts on not feeling a strong sense of self
While doing web design for QRI in the second week, what initially started as a “rough art direction for the coders as a suggestion of what the website could look like” turned out to be “something extremely fun and exciting that I want to spend a lot of time on.” It was a Thursday night and I wanted to do a bit of design while eating dinner. But it didn’t take me too long to enter into a flow state and when I became aware of how much fun I was having, I started to think that perhaps I could do UI/UX design professionally in the future!
When people think about having a steady and relatively significant income as a creative, UI/UX design tends to be the first thing that come up. Just two months ago, when I was having a mental breakdown in LA at 3am (as a result of me being stressed about managing the finance of the documentary), I started considering, for the first time, “selling out”, but still as a creative because my brain automatically shuts down when it comes to finance and economics and such, my friend suggested UI/UX design as an option, and I dismissed it because it didn’t sound interesting at all.
And here I am, two months later, having so much fun playing with Adobe Xd. Just Wendi underestimating how many things she can enjoy, yet again.
At some point this week, I felt like even the “artist” identity doesn’t seem too important for me to hold on to anymore. What I mean is, I don’t feel like repeatedly telling myself I am an artist to feel my identity. Everyone has a narrative about who they are, and a lot of people hold on to their self narratives very tightly. I certainly have held on to my artist self-narrative very tightly in the past.
And at this point in my life, I don’t feel the urge or the need to do so. I could be an artist in the future. I could be something else, too. I don’t really care if what I want to do now doesn’t get fulfilled in the future, as long as in the given specific time in the future, whenever it is, I love what I do. I haven’t felt this free about my identity in a very, very long time. I can’t say I love it so much, but I do feel very peaceful.
- Vidal, brainhood
- mind wandering
- Connectome-Specific Harmonic Waves
- Rabinow - synthetic bio research center
- experimental man project
- “six million dollar man”
- Foucault - The Histoy of Sexuality
- International Cultic Studies Association
- Rose, “Neurochemical Selves”
- Huxley, Island
- Haraway - “Manifesto for Cyborgs”
VaN lIfE & adventures I hope to have in the next few years
At some point I discovered Jannelle Eliana’s youtube channel and I am IN LOVE. It was basically my first exposure to van life, too, and it didn’t take me a full video to be sold on van life. I’d really want to do this for a few months, maybe right after graduation.
So I also started to think about life adventures I want to have, especially when I’m young and family-less (and so, can afford to travel around and experiment with how I live).
I’d like to live in a van and drive through California, Arizona and New Mexico, while learning how to surf and hiking occasionally. Basically like what Jannelle has been doing.
Traveling through Mexico for at least a month or two would be amazing, especially with a few friends. I’d love to participate in some ceremonies in the more magical places.
I also want to camp in the desert mountains with a few friends for at least a week, and I want to project geometric patterns onto the mountain at night (with a huge projector).
I wrote these all down in the first page of my journal (where I also wrote down the more professional dreams I have for my life). Hopefully it won’t take too many years for these to come true <3