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Life Lately No. 10

Things have been very different from the last update here, which was more or less a month ago. I wasn’t self-isolating then. I wasn’t terrified of going outside either. I wasn’t stewing in rage and unrest and anxiety that I don’t know where to channel. Not every single day, anyway.

For transparency’s sake: I took a shower this morning for the first time in four days. I changed my sheets. I did a load of laundry and did work I owed my dad for a press feature for the gallery. In many ways, life goes on. Truthfully, I feel very lucky that this is true for me. There is guilt that it isn’t true for everyone else. There’s frustration that I can’t do much about it besides stay home and not put others in danger as a transmitter of this virus.

I’m lucky I enjoy the company of my flatmate, and that there are people back home (and here) who care for me and look out for me. I’m lucky that even though it’s been really, really hard for me to find work here, I have the support of my parents and of people who believe in the work I do. It sucks, though, that the difficulty of finding employment or projects or something — anything — to do that will help support me has increased tenfold, and there seems to be no end in sight.

I can’t do anything. The small things that have helped curbed panic and anxiety (knitting, and games, and T.V.) are helping, sometimes, and even then, but not by much. It is alarming how much my body and my brain resist movement, but to give in to this stillness is not an option I’m ready to take. I hope I can do it. I know I can be very angry online, because I find so many things I believe to be unjust and unfair, but truthfully, these days, I’m mostly sad. I’m trying very hard to not let that consume me, and I distract myself enough most days, but I don’t know how much more I can put up this front. How much longer I can claim to be “fine” when everything around me is going up in flames.

Three Things No. 7

I have been a bit of a busy bee, although I’m technically still unemployed. What I have been busy with are a) filing job applications, b) painting for shows in Manila (which I’m super fucking grateful that I still get to do even though I live here now, for now), c) planning for a film which I’m not going to talk about until we have wrapped and/or maybe not even then, and d) attempting to abate the pervasive, overwhelming sense of dread that wraps itself around me every day. So, technically unemployed, but a lot on my plate, I think. Maybe I’m just a chump who’s bad at managing stress and time and resources.

But wow, yeah, I was here to talk about three things that have become staples in my life. I’ve stopped watching mukbangs, lol, but I’ve carried on knitting and gorging on K-pop and K-drama and the occasional meal, though I’ve yet to find a decent Korean BBQ place here.

It’s been quite amusing to realise that I can now watch things with subtitles while knitting, muscle memory and that. Speaking of subtitles…

01 Crash Landing on You

Holyyyyyyyyy shit, this was so entertaining. It’s so good? Like indulgent good. I’m tired of everything being prestige~ to be frank, so sometimes I really look for things that are just fun and substantial, period.

Anyway, I’ve been watching quite a few K-dramas since finishing this, and while the ones I’ve seen are more or less good, they do not hold a candle up to Crash Landing on You. (Dunno what that means if this is the only K-drama you’ve seen and you hate it.)

What do I like about it? First of all, just because the current one I’m watching is very not this: the score of CLOY is very not distracting. The pivotal or emotional moments are carried by the acting and like, a situational drama, if that makes sense.

Then, there’s the supporting cast of characters, which in some ways, you become more invested in. Because they are endearing and shows a perspective that’s quite unlike the dramas I’ve watched and am watching, given that a lot of the supporting characters are North Korean. Given all this, of course the setting is not something you see often, which makes it all the more fascinating to me. As much as I was rooting for the South Korean protagonist, Yoon Se-ri, to find her way back to Seoul, I really, really missed all the scenes set in North Korea.

I guess the main draw of the series has been the chemistry between Captain Ri Jeong-hyeok (who is a top-notch tsundere who is also a snacc) and Se-ri (who is sort of an atypical female protagonist, based on my limited experience of the genre), which honestly made the series. I think it’s really refreshing for me also to see a story like this unfold between an older couple. So far, I’ve been watching college-age dramas, and while those were cute, too, this felt like it had more depth. I definitely appreciated the lack of aegyo in this series, I’ll say that.

Look, I didn’t anticipate to be laughing and bawling and being invested in this, but I was, and I can’t stop talking about it. It’s piqued my interest in the K-drama world and has, so far, not been surpassed just yet.

02 Winsor & Newton Liquin™ Oleopasto

Lately, I’ve been trying to add more texture to my paintings and have them be even more gestural, teetering on abstraction. It’s been amazing. I’ve always been more or less polished when it comes to my work. Or, at least, I started out like that, but now, I think that with muscle memory (again!) and just a general sense of reckless abandon, it’s been easier to kind of let loose and connect what I want to be on the canvas with what’s in my head. I’m a shit copier, truth be told, and it’s partly because I’m impatient, but also because I always try and make it look exactly like what I am seeing from the source image. It doesn’t work because, as has been established, I’m a shit copier, and then I feel bad because I’ve made something horrendous which makes me feel like a shit artist.

I don’t usually copy images anyway, but lately, I’ve been playing around with different painting mediums and just letting loose a little bit more, and it’s quite gratifying to see what sort of textural variety I get. Can’t wait to get a hang of it more.

03 Nissin Demae Ramen Hokkaido Miso Tonkotsu Ramen

My favourite soup-based instant ramen so far. Instant ramen typically just feels like a bowl of soup, and although this variant obviously is miles away from a really, really, really good bowl of tonkotsu ramen, curly noodles aside, this stuff tastes so good.

I have recently been adding a bit of frozen veggie dumplings just to add a little bit more nutrients to this admittedly rather unfortunate meal for an adult to have, but IDK. I grew up on sodium-rich quick meals, and that’s what gives me comfort to this day. It’s like a very warm and salty hug, and I try not to eat it as often as I would maybe like.

Anyway, these are three things at the moment, but I think we all know that knitting is still kind of my main new discovery (alongside Red Velvet, which… another time). It’s the perfect social isolation activity, and I’ve had to tear myself away from completely immersing myself in ongoing knitting projects projects on account of me needing to be at my studio to, you know, get actual work done.

Ah, well. I still haven’t completely updated my January knitted projects (first part here), and truthfully, I’ve lost my thread (lol) of progress as I jump from one to the other on account of dumb restless behaviour. In any case, basically, I am still into knitting, thank da Lord.

Knitting things no. 1

Today, I’d like to talk to you about knitting.

I think that we — if you have been a spectator to my online ramblings for a while, at least — have established that I tend to get very, very restless, and in turn, get very, very obsessed with quite a number of new things. Particularly if they prove to keep me occupied so that my brain does not flit about as it is wont to do.

So, enter: knitting.

I learned on 31 December 2019, when I opted to stay home instead of going out because I was too sad and I felt ill. I’ve never tried it before, as crochet seemed to be more useful in tropical climes, and also less scary because you only have one needle instead of two. I know that’s faulty logic, but I was like 12, okay.

Anyway. Here is what I have knitted in January so far:

I… knit quite a bit of things in January. As such, I’ll be talking about the first three things I finished, which are decidedly not very exciting. Mostly because they are all, essentially, rectangular. In any case, I hope this is helpful or entertaining.

WOOL AND THE GANG: GOOD TIMES BLANKET

So, a few things. I didn’t have the correct needles (they didn’t have them in stock) and I didn’t have the patience or thoughtfulness to get them somewhere else. But, my first venture I think was overall a fun one. The pattern is very easy to read and follow, and the stitches (basically a garter stitch all throughout) were easy and therapeutic to make. Why does it look so shit, then, you say? Because it was my first project and I didn’t make a little tension swatch: an important little step that I can see now would have helped me out a lot with this project. Particularly because I had different needles, and so the amount of yarn in the kit, plus the resulting dimensions would have had to have been adjusted accordingly

In any case, it was an enjoyable kit. I was surprised at how much I took to it and how much I enjoyed it. I bought all of this crap on sale, by the way, but if you’re inclined, here’s the link to the kit and the yarn colours I used were Space Cadet and Perfect Peach. I ran out as I was casting off the stitches so I had to use a coral red (?) shade of WATG’s Tina Tape Yarn, which I think ended up looking kind of cool, tbh, but maybe that’s just me.

WOOL AND THE GANG: LIL TAKE ME HOME BLANKET

This woolly yarn went everywhere. All of my clothes and everything now has a little essence of WATG Crazy Sexy Wool in Purple Haze (which it seems like they have discontinued?????). Again, this blanket suffered a case of a few dropped stitches, but overall quite easy to make even with all the additional tassle-y bits. This kit used 25mm circular needles, which I found to be a little bit fiddly, but otherwise, it was an overall an okay project. Found it to be much quicker to knit since the stitches needn’t be quite as tight, plus it covered quite a bit of ground.

It is now my T.V. blanket. What a noble purpose. (Kit can be found here. None of these links are affiliate, worry not.)

RANDOM ASS SCARF I KNITTED IN BRISTOL AND WILL BEQUEATH TO MY BROTHER

Because I’m a little obsessive dummy, I wanted to do a small knitting project on my way to Bristol, when I went to see Pacita Abad’s show at Spike Island. I started knitting this fairly straightforward scarf in WATG (ofc…) Sugar Baby Alpaca (which… lol) in Moss Green. Again, it’s mostly a straight garter stitch all throughout the green part.

In Bristol, I found myself at a small haberdashery at the St. Nicholas Market. (I Google-mapped my way there, okay, so it wasn’t a serendipitous meeting.) So, the tweed bit was from that place. It’s part nylon, wool, and acrylic, so not quite as soft as the baby alpaca wool, but they just look really good together. I think I could have made this a little skinnier, to be honest, but what’s done is done.

The tweed bit I used for stitching practice so there’s a bit of purling and seed stitching, and rib stitch, and stockinette. Which was fun to see kind of unfold over the length of the scarf. I didn’t learn until much later how to tell from how the stitches look which stitch I ought to do for the next row if I’m after a particular pattern, but I figured that out at some point, haha.

The rest, I will write about in another installment, I think.

I have concluded through this very thorough exercise that I am more likely to learn new things by doing. And that, instead of getting frustrated at my lack of knack, if you will, I either a) throw the towel in and give up, or b) soldier on anyway. As is evidenced by all my dropped stitching, wrong stitching kept for “visual interest” and so on.

Nam June Paik — Tate Modern

One of my favourite pieces of trivia is that Nam June Paik is related to Ali Wong by marriage (a couple of times removed?). It is, admittedly, pitiful that all I knew about him was a piece of lame trivia and that he liked to work with television screens.

I’m the least adept person at trying to make sense of this, and often I find myself just wildly disinterested in the inclusion of new media in art. It perhaps carried on from my easily distracted baby brain, when we’d go around museums before I gave a shit about art, and saw some screens showing nothing I wanted to watch.

The case still stands that I have nothing profound to say about the Nam June Paik show, and it is because my brain is hard pressed to produce anything profound. Which isn’t to say that it carries on over to Paik. On the contrary, I was surprised and amazed and astounded at how far his explorations took him, in the realms of technology and music, the moving image and art.

The Sistine Chapel

I am sorry to have only gone to see this show on its last week on view. I would have very much like to spend time with it a little bit longer before its last day on the 9th of February. I think I’m going to go back there on Sunday, even though the crowds can be awful, just because it feels like he’s talking to you now, with work he’s done in the past, some of which were made 50 years ago.

I’m still stupid when it comes to the marriage of art and technology. I just can’t wrap my brain around it, and how they can coexist in a way that’s not a hard sell or too on the nose or just really fucking corny. Nam June Paik knew, though, and it was a delight to have witnessed it, even if it was in this small way.

Nam June Paik
Tate Modern, London
17 October 2019 — 09 February 2020
More info on Tate.com


Anselm Kiefer — “Superstrings, Runes, The Norns, Gordian Knot”

A major exhibition (IMO anyway) of Anselm Kiefer’s new work is closing next week, so I thought I’d actually write this in time. I have had this on my to-do list for quite a few weeks, but when you haven’t exercised that part of your brain that is required to accomplish particular tasks, these things appear to be more daunting than they were and/or really are.

Bohemia Lies by the Sea (1996)

The first work I ever encountered of Anselm Kiefer’s was Bohemia Lies by the Sea which is on display at the Met. I didn’t really know anything about him (or any other artist at that time, really), but my dad was so obviously moved by this image that both the image of my father (an unexpressive man when it comes to tender or overly serious emotions) and the image of the work itself remained with me for years and years.

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I went to see Superstrings, Runes, The Norns, Gordian Knot at White Cube Bermondsey with my flatmate, Laura, who is also a massive Kiefer fan. This was particularly exciting for me because the space is massive and all the work on view would be new.

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As far as my observations go, Kiefer’s work has always been loaded with meaning and history, and this continues on with Superstrings… with an emphasis on a variety of iterations and thoughts around the notion of, essentially, the string. Right from the entrance, in a large-scale installation that responds to the idea of string theory — a piece comprised of 30 vitrines after which the entire show is named — and the inherent connectedness of everything with everything else. The point is driven very, very obviously, and although on the whole it was compelling with a scale that’s astounding, I can’t really help but feel like this was a bit too on the nose an execution for an idea that could have been handled with a bit more subtlety. It almost feels like handing someone some Cliff Notes that begins with: “This is what this means.”

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Towards the end, I spent a lot of time with this work, Die Sieben Siegel, die geheime Offenbarung des Johannes, which was completed between 2016 and 2018. The title translates to something that is, at the same time, innocuous and terrifying: The seven seals, the secret revelation of John. The red splotches in the distance looks like a row of burning fires.

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This series of paintings reminded me of something W.G. Sebald wrote about in a very early chapter of The Rings of Saturn, which I am only mentioning in passing because I haven’t finished it and don’t want to pretend that I have. But, you know, a bookmark for later expansion, if you will.

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My favourite out of all of the pieces, of which there are many, is Ramanujan Summation — 1/12 which occupies the smallest room by itself. It is titled after a “mathematical technique used to assign value to infinite series,” an attempt at connecting the spiritual and the scientific, enjoining the sky with a field, the past and the present, “the celestial and the terrestrial.”

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I’m not sure if I buy that explanation, but I spent a good 20 minutes, I think, looking at this massive piece. There is a lot of other work on display, but I remember being enraptured by this one the most. Even though it wasn’t the first one we saw, nor was it the last. I remember the way my dad felt about Bohemia Lies By the Sea, and although I absolutely did feel enthralled by the work itself — whether it be because he’s a genius or still going at 74 years old, I very much believe that a part of me felt a little bit closer to my dad, even though right now, we live a thousand miles away from each other.

Anselm Kiefer
Superstrings, Runes, The Norns, Gordian Knot
White Cube Bermondsey, London, U.K.
15 November 2019 — 26 January 2020