New York-based HK artist Cici Wu returned to Hong Kong last November on transit for her next stop, but has remained in town still waiting. The prolonged waiting period extended from her quarantine has turned out to be artistic-creative-writing moments impregnated by the past, half dream half memory. Her journal, alongside her paper-cutting, will be shared on Floating Teatime in several episodes in a series.
| Cici Wu 武雨濛
Flying back from New York in mid November 2021, I started writing diaries in my quarantine. To be more precise, I started writing again in my mother tongue.
It has been almost two months since I came out from a real liminal space that was a hotel room with a window view of airplanes rising and landing. The scenery was very much like what I had imagined. I covered all furnitures in white, including myself. I had brought a wind chime with me, a gift from a close friend. I hanged the wind chime in front of my window — a window never to be opened and, therefore, the wind would never come in, and would remain the imaginary, which is a perfect state for me to exercise the touching power of my breath.
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Soon after, the wind chime became one of the most important objects in my meditation. Here, the wind chime enacted the restoration of my temporarily lost sight in the beginning of this journey. A yet to be named journey. Everything seems to be carrying extra weight and meaning this time.
也許 我需要重新建構一個故事給自己 把那些過去發生了的事情以虛構的語句寫下來
An image-extract, a page from The Spiritual Teaching of Ramana Maharshi by Ramana Maharshi, Shambhala, 2004
A close friend sent this photo to me one day. Maharshi interestingly compares cinema to the self whereby if one confirms one’s cosmic identity and meaning, one also accepts the possibility of being one’s own beholder. Then latent tendencies would be manifested through the light of the self. This is so beautifully imagined. I wonder how Memory would fit in this chart for Maharshi’s?
If I imagine Maharshi to be on the same horizon with Kant, Maharshi’s awareness and understanding of the “self” and “I” could be a reference to refresh one’s mind. The absence of the self or the absence of “I” was very real to me before coming back to Hong Kong. Even friends started to ask what had happened to me since they had never seen me as confused and “not there.” In Disaffected by Xine Yao, she used Denise Ferrira da Silva’s study of Enlightenment and affectability to support her argument that unfeeling is a broad term for a range of affective modes that fall outside of the dominant regimes of expression: the “transparent I” has the agency to know and affect, while the “affectable I” is the susceptible, which is the “scientific construction of non-European minds.” Da Silva’s definition of affectability points to “the inextricability of ‘affect’ from power.”
Disaffect threatens a break from affectability, Yao suggests. I want to relate this to what Maharshi describes to be the self reaching the state of “the supreme Self” which is close to “the personal God,” and for me it can be an imaginative alternative to the “affectable I,” the former bearing greater potential to reach spiritual enlightenment. A personal God, according to Maharshi, can also be translated into “awakened intellect.” When one reaches the “awakening” state, disturbing emotions and desires will be blown out. Therefore, one also reaches a kind of unfeeling state. However, such a point of view on the cause and the consequence of disaffect is different from what Yao sees in her book. For Yao, unfeeling is a negation of feelings, which include those that are not commonly recognized as feelings, such as withholding, disregard, refusing to care, opacity, numbness, dissociation, insensibility, coldness, and so on. When one uses unfeeling to challenge the totalizing system, one is disaffected.
I came to understand that I will not be able to dwell in unfeeling, or disaffect, in Yao’s way. Sympathy is never a feeling that’s primarily about how white Western subjects relate to me — because in my growing up process, the white Western subject has never been at the center of my activities of analyzing, challenging, or criticizing. Being turned nonhuman has never meant anything absolutely negative to me as I have come to believe that human has never been the center, and is never the most powerful being in the world. After reading the first chapter of Disaffect, I become sympathetic toward the way she approaches feelings in general. Why has the memory of Enlightenment became more important than the memory from her ancestors? When I speak of ancestors, I think of my maternal grandma first. She passed away when I was a teenager. She was a war orphan and a young bride. We used to share the same bed, and she would pat me to sleep with a very unforgettable rhythm. We held hands when we slept. I learned who I was from her. She selected some of her memories and shared with me, later those memories became mine. I connect with my ancestors through thinking of them quietly. Although I couldn’t see the older ones, I knew they were there before my grandma and my great great grandma. I also know that they were there before the arrival of the idea of a nation. Sometimes I connect to them through touching the same soil of the land, or seeing the same mountains and rivers, and yet for most of the time, I don’t think of specific individuals. I only connect with them through the wind, weather and stars. To think of our ancestors is to draw from resources that are culturally, geographically, historically and empirically entrenched — what provides us with more authentic paths to greet the unknown.
Speaking of cinema, self, and affect, they all came together to my mind in one of those days during my quarantine.
我看著站在眼前的朋友 穿過她的臉 向左上方慢慢看過去 就找到了你
If distance gives clarity, I’m seeing things that I could not see when I was inside.
The emergence of an unfamiliar identity
I’m still on a journey to understand your pain
My pain that’s caused by your pain
But in a world that centers on the problems of appropriation and fetishization of pain, and competitively confronting ourselves that we are not as one, where am I? Can we have broader understandings and imaginations for empathy and pain among the non-West ‘other’?
“The unity is submarine”
— Kamau Brathwaite