My Worst Nightmare (Not Really)

 
Dream sketch 011919.jpg
 

Last night I had a stress dream about my new piece. I was workshopping with Laura and Hajnal, who are in my piece in real life. Laura is on her side, playing flute and trying things out. Then Hajnal’s husband, Dorian, comes to rehearsal too with small percussion equipment so I think, All right, guess I’m writing for that too. More people appear, because it turns out that Hajnal thought it they’d dig what we’re doing and would possibly take part.  

Then I see tables set up for brunch, staff bustling around in my periphery, a dance floor, some guests cheering, some dancing. I assume Hajnal had planned this as well. It turns out to be a wedding reception. I do not see a bride and groom; it simply becomes fact. We are standing next to each other, looking at the scene, and she says something that implies she is as surprised as I am. I say, You didn’t plan this? And it turns out she did not.  

I start to panic because I REALLY need to work. My friend Jay appears with an envelope that looks like one of the bank statements I actually receive in the mail and says he will go downstairs to the admin office to sort it out, since he needs to drop off a payment (which is in that envelope). Luckily, time moves by extremely slowly. I look at my phone and what was ten minutes normally was only three minutes. I don’t know how; I just know it was true in this dream. So I think, Okay cool, I have time.

Hajnal and I are talking (where the hell did Laura go?) and I tell her that some bratty girl we know, who does not exist in real life, I think her name was CJ, got put in her place.  

Right before this dream was another dream, that there was an Urban Outfitters closeout sale at the top of a mountain. This is really random, because I have not shopped there in several years. The company was bussing people back and forth at regular intervals and CJ was a diva and asking to be picked up at a specific time. She was told no (this was apparently her being put in her place). At some point, my cousin and I are on the bus but we had not gotten off, so we were going back up the mountain.  

There’s a little more, but I’ll stop there. To anyone who knows what my day was like yesterday, or knows me extremely well, this would make almost perfect sense. Psychologists theorize that dreams serve a role in memory processing, and this was absolutely a bizarre culmination of my Friday. Although it was cut short by an invasive wedding reception, I did receive one creative idea during my dream workshop.

I have felt stuck this month, but yesterday, I was able to sketch two tiny ideas. It did not make me feel like I had any more momentum, but perhaps just starting at least sparked a little bit of imagination that was able to manifest itself during sleep. Taking something from concept to creation sometimes seems nearly impossible: having to manifest all my research, personal stories, and the ways I think about life into a piece feels like trying to create a meal where nearly all of it is made from secret ingredients and no one in the world knows what they are.

I guess I should end with something cheesy like, perhaps the secret ingredients of my creativity will reveal themselves in my deepest dreams or some shit like that. I am not a writer and I need to start composing today. I just really want to make something good.

Grace Face

 
This is not my cat Coco; it’s a pillow

This is not my cat Coco; it’s a pillow

 

I just got back to New York a couple of days ago from Singapore, a clean, safe city where I had zero unpleasant interactions with strangers on the gum-free sidewalks…although I did encounter a rude saleswoman at the Far East Shopping Centre (I guess that’s the deal behind “it” bags? $1500 on a wallet/phone receptacle to earn some basic-ass respect?!). My favorite parts were the Singapore Zoo, which is massive and animals roam free in their natural habitats, Haji Lane, and most of all, spending time with friends I’ve known for nearly the amount of time I’ve lived in New York. Speaking of which, I sorely missed the city and my tortie, Coco. Believe it or not, I even missed the strangers—high-strung, sometimes friendly, often on edge—fellow New Yorkers that pass by in a blur on a daily basis. In fact, I often do miss them when I leave.

My city welcomed me with bagels, strong coffee, cold weather (missed that too because it only makes the spring even better), and I was extra welcomed by an asshole on the train who called me a cunt. Here’s what went down… 

Someone touches my arm, placing it in such a way that makes me think I am about to run into a friend saying hello. Instead, it is some guy offering a seat on an uncrowded train to me, a woman carrying only a handbag, and I say, “No thanks.” Then he asks me if I am a skater. I make a confused, quite annoyed face, because clearly he is trying to talk more, and say, “No,” because I do not want to have a conversation. I, like many, if not most women, have been in this situation enough times where a man tries to speak to you when you just want to…not talk to him.

He does not go away. He asks why I have to say it like that, why do I have to come at him. I say I’m not “coming at him.” And he tells me I should be nice, and I assertively say, “What?” And he asks why I have to talk like that, it’s as if I want bad things “said again” to me and that I should be nice. I tell him he is not entitled to my niceness. He says, “You’re a cunt.” I put my hand under my chin (aka “Grace Face”) and I say, “Thanks…[I’m] proud.” And he says it again and I go, “Yeah!” Then I take a picture of him. As he walks away, I walk after him and admittedly, my voice shakes a little from the adrenaline as I say, “You fucked with the wrong person!”

 As in, me: a New Yorker of 17+ years. Happy to be home!

Arts Letters & Numbers & Keyboards

I just got back from a productive and inspiring week with fellow pianists and composers, Melinda Faylor and Mary Prescott. We visited a residency upstate called Arts Letters & Numbers where we were graciously taken care of by Frida Foberg and Rikke Jørgenson. Rikke picked us up from the bus station and took us to the grocery store. In addition to Frida and Rikke, there was a lovely community of friends surrounding the residency: a ping-pong group that consistently meets once a week, and regular ALN folks Farmer Adam (moniker courtesy of mua) and John, who were great company, not to mention they generously gave us rides to the store and bus station.

Every day we hit the studio to work on a new multidisciplinary piece. Not going to say too much about that since it's very early in the process, but I will say that Mary and Melinda rock. Our work was intense, we were physically sore every day from all our moving around, and it was fun. We danced, sang rounds, played little pianos that were not of the grand variety. When we weren't working, we were either eating, practicing on the 9-foot Baldwin (however, after a couple of days I simply didn't feel like touching the piano), talking a walk, or relaxing. We all forgot to bring a nail clipper, so being the pianists we are, we were sad to leave but eager to get home to trim our nails. I'll remember to do so at our next intensive week, which I am already very much looking forward to. 

Melinda, me, and Mary at the House on the Hill

Melinda, me, and Mary at the House on the Hill

Love this vegetarian chili recipe I found on epicurious. Leftovers for days!

Love this vegetarian chili recipe I found on epicurious. Leftovers for days!

Inside the Mill

Inside the Mill

I wore this exact same outfit EVERY SINGLE DAY minus the additional sweatshirt around the waist

I wore this exact same outfit EVERY SINGLE DAY minus the additional sweatshirt around the waist

I liked working on the large surface area of the kitchen island

I liked working on the large surface area of the kitchen island

Can you remember who's who? The answers are above! :-P

Can you remember who's who? The answers are above! :-P

Thumb piano; a Casio tone from the 80s we nicknamed "Gene," as in Gene Belcher; melodica; Melinda's accordion; and some cow bells that were hanging out at the mill

Thumb piano; a Casio tone from the 80s we nicknamed "Gene," as in Gene Belcher; melodica; Melinda's accordion; and some cow bells that were hanging out at the mill

Ping-Pong set up

Ping-Pong set up

Our new buddy, Gary, who brought some delicious posole

Our new buddy, Gary, who brought some delicious posole

Outside the Mill. Can you tell we really loved the Mill?

Outside the Mill. Can you tell we really loved the Mill?

Steps from the Hill to the Mill

Steps from the Hill to the Mill

Mary called me "Kenny G"

Mary called me "Kenny G"

Working on movement

Working on movement

Working on the porch because the weather was beautiful

Working on the porch because the weather was beautiful

Leaf imprint in the snow

Leaf imprint in the snow

Mary was stoked for the moss on this leaf

Mary was stoked for the moss on this leaf

We're starting a Go-go's cover band called S & M's.

We're starting a Go-go's cover band called S & M's.

I wish I swung more on the swing

I wish I swung more on the swing

Working

Working

5 seconds later

5 seconds later

View from the house

View from the house

Sculpture in the house

Sculpture in the house

Heading back

Heading back

Women's March on NYC

There was so much positive energy at the Women's March on NYC. People were friendly and courteous even though it was crowded. When we started marching it got really tight, but no one got physically agressive; we just moved slowly and huddled together like penguins keeping each other warm (although thanks to global warming, it wasn't very cold). There was one dude who was smoking a cigarette in the middle of the march, which those of us around him thought was très rude (PSA: please do not smoke a cigarette at a march) but that was the only small annoyance of the day and was ultimately NBD, as it was immensely inspiring to see so many people rally for equality and human rights. Anyway...photos!

#popthebubble

This post is imageless, due to the fact that all public domain bubble images are cheesy and I can't find the photo of me with my bubble gun that makes giant bubbles the size of my head.

I'm going to start this post with an excerpt of the post-election e-mail I sent out yesterday:  

I hope everyone is doing ok. There's not much to say that hasn't already been said. I'm completely shocked. I went to bed at around 2 am, and although things were already looking bleak and it was apparent that Hillary was going to lose, I still held out the tiniest iota of hope that when I woke up, just maybe things would have turned around...because it ain't over till it's over, right?
After hitting snooze several times and finally getting up at 7:25am, I looked at my phone and just broke into tears. I'm taking this loss personally, as I'm sure many of you are. I could elaborate on my thoughts, but I've been posing status updates throughout the day, and I'm sure you're all seeing messages similar to one another come up on your feeds as well, so I won't go on.
...
The one glimmer of happiness today was spending the morning with my Target Margin fellows in SoHo, where we vented our frustrations, supported one another, and had a discussion with Richard Foreman. We asked him questions about his work, but of course, we could not avoid talking about last night's election, which led to us asking whether or not art has the power to change people.
Richard said no, and I don't blame him. Right now I don't know. 

I still don't know. I just interrupted my practicing to write this because I guess I want to try and see if it's possible to effect change. And I really need to get back to practicing because I have a recital this Saturday and I still need to get Mary's piece up to tempo (getting there!) so this is going to be quick, I'm going to be thinking out loud on (digital) paper, and possibly be a little sloppy. I feel an urgent need for us to come together as artists and figure out how we can engage with people outside of our collective city bubbles. I, for one, live in a city that nurtures outsider art and embraces PoC and LGBTQ folks. But this isn't the case everywhere, and if we're making pieces about race and gender equality, perhaps we should reach those not in the proverbial choir.

Why can't art just be a job like everything else? Art is about engaging with people for many of us. And this election, which has illustrated both the explicit and complicit racism of this country affects all of us. PEOPLE. "...the government of the people, by the people, for the people" is going to be led by a megalomaniac that according to the popular vote, most of us don't want to be our president. 

Something I know I'm capable of doing is organizing the shit out of anything and making things happen. There's strength in numbers and I want to hear from my fellow artists about what we can do to #popthebubble and reach people outside of our current spheres through art.

Or we can just keep making art apart from this, and keep donating, signing petitions, etc....ain't nothing wrong with that. But we need to try. I feel a responsibility as an artist to just step the hell up already. Stay tuned for a meeting in the coming weeks (no more than two because I hate when things lost momentum). In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

I'll be eloquent another day

 
 

I’m currently doing research for a project that I’m going to start digging into later this summer. And I’m aiming to finish this blog post by 3:30 pm, which is in 15 minutes, when I have to head out the door.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been reflecting deeply on race and gender. And not in the general sense, but specifically about being a woman of Asian descent, being Filipino, and a Filipino artist, in America. There are so many contradictions and I’ll be eloquent on another day, but now I’m down to 10 minutes. With the way I’ve been brought up, there’s a mixture of pride (lumpia is THE BEST type of eggroll, #sorrynotsorry; Pacquiao (as an athlete, not as a person!); Boracay is one of the most stunning beaches in the world) and self-loathing (stay out of the sun to avoid getting dark; use skin-bleaching soap; looking more Chinese=better). I’m proud to understand every word of Tagalog, although I do need to brush up on my speaking. I love so much about the country where my parents come from, but it can also be such a sad place. Last night I watched the movie Metro Manila and it pained me to see the slums of the Philippines that are all too real, and the way most of the world sees us.  

Us? I was born in the United States so I’m American...wtf am I even talking about? But as I’ve gotten older I’ve been drawn to investigating how my upbringing as a daughter of Filipino Immigrants have affected my worldview. It’s become undeniable, unavoidable. Being born female and having the natural inclination to prove I can do anything boys do definitely complicated things, as Filipinos still had a “traditional” view of women when I was growing up: I had to beg to play volleyball (luckily I did; I was good and played varsity for 3 years of high school…in fact, I often thought I’d pursue volleyball instead of piano) and when I wanted to skateboard, my dad was resistant and asked if I was a lesbian. (And of course I didn’t back down without a fight. And of course I won. For the record, my dad is actually a really nice, open-minded guy…he’s grown a lot, so please don’t hate on him! Plus I keep him in line. And I’m a shitty skateboarder.)   

I need to finish this up so long story long: I’m creating a piece that incorporates a Filipino dance called the Tinikling. I’ve found a lot of metaphors in the dance itself that I think I can really expand on. This week I've been reading through various texts and I thought I’d try writing this (very rushed) post as part of my process.

If you are also the child or descendant of immigrants and want to share anything related about your own experience, please feel free to comment!