Yang Yeung 楊陽 (independent curator and writer) received an ACC Fellowship in 2012 to participate in a residency program at the International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York. She received further support to speak and present awards at the 2018 AICA (International Association of Art Critics) Congress in Taiwan.
Yang Yeung is the Founding Member & Artistic Director of soundpocket, a nonprofit art organization focused on sound, art, and culture. Among their recent projects is The Library, a space for active listening and sound collecting “to promote listening as a way of being and being with others.” In March, The Library released an open call for sounds of “usual” life during the pandemic. Here, Yang Yeung sends her own narrative sound bites–short revelations and rhythms from everyday life. Take a moment, not just to read, but to listen. The text below was written May 2, 2020.
“If you are not there, I am not here”*
or, when you are, I am
day 1, maybe
Many came to my neighbourhood – older villages, fewer fenced sidewalks, farther from the density of ultra-modern high-rises.
Masked bodies move in different ways. I had a brisk, agile elbow-hug with a dancer. I had a rounded, ballerina-like aerial-hug with a curator. I realize mouths and cheekbones have not been my registers in human communication. I see and seek other moves. I notice we carry varying confidence indexes in different body parts – skin, brows, turn of the neck, roll of shoulders left or right, distance between knees when sitting, angle between feet when standing…Some parts are untapped; other parts keep inviting. The task is to find that part that brings the best of ourselves out for others. A friendly challenge.
a February day
A little boy with a little body. He wore a bike helmet half as big as his torso, braving the wind. A bubble of jovial energy. He half-pedalled and half-walked that wheeled toy up the slope, all the while his baggy pants becoming more baggy. He was a bundle of balloons wobbling.
March, one night
E introduced himself. It was late. He just made a one-hour bike ride home from work. A few days later, I saw him hanging both his arms around the shoulders of my neighbours. Even the grocery shop owner came down the street to help. E had a bad fall from the bike. He had too much beer to drink.
G from upstairs told me her 7-year-old daughter K has been having online Physical Education classes for swimming. She had to learn how to breathe in water without the water. My students at the university had to make videos of themselves tapping a basketball without the basketball. Bitter sweet. Hearty laughs.
K skips rope after dinner. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. I had been there: stomping for not yet mastering the skill of landing with control.
The family’s new four-seat sofa had to rest at my porch overnight after they tried but failed to lift it to the third floor. They tried again with the help of other family members from other neighbourhoods. Gloved hands, watchful gazes, division of labour, “heave and ho”. There we go!
He rides a Maserati toy car. He announces to the world what he sees: A butterfly! Beautiful birds! Grandma, look! See how I run!
One morning, he was crying his lungs out. He didn’t want mom to leave for work. So loud that I thought I heard echoes across the pond. I remember crying a lot at his age, too, but never so loud. Crying for me was more like sobbing, air caving into my lungs to the point of almost choking. A “crying bag” I was. Mom did everything to make me feel guilty for crying – which meant doing nothing. Everything that had been happening before I started crying would have to stop: my sisters playing, enjoying ice-cream, having a good time... All these had to stop because I was crying. I never ever felt guilty for crying though. Tears still come when they come. I survived.
She goes by the name Cindy. Last time we met was when I held up a piece of A3 paper with the words "Proud and Humbled to be Walking with You" at the university campus. Six months ago, perhaps. Numbers were monuments back then – still now, for similar but also different reasons. Today, she called me by my name when I was washing my hands in a public toilet. Aren't you? she said. Yes I am, I said. Between face masks, she did the same - telling me about herbs that heal tear gas afflictions then, and herbs that heal virus infections now. I am hopeless with the herbs' names, but Cindy is all the same - offering herself up, whenever whatever, so we are on the same page and can move beyond it.
Done: a piece on the “just-in-case,” just in case today is the last. I washed my hands again, just in case.
Read one more chapter. Read up to the end of another section. My books, my immediate neighbours. If I could choose which public facility to self-quarantine for 14 days in, it would be a library – the Spencer Collection, New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, please. To revisit the anarchy of John Cage. Manuscripts to touch, books too dangerous to open.
What do you have on your bookshelves? Which one(s) did you just leaf through? I will tell you a few titles at my arm’s length. To my right, I must say a word about fear by Fatma Bucak and On the Existence of Digital Objects by Yuk Hui. To my left, The Unreal and the Real by Ursula le Guin, The Life of the Mind by Hannah Arendt, and The Power of the Powerless by Vaclav Havel. Farther away, Hannah Arendt again, On Revolution. Have I finished them all? Are you kidding me?
Just now, she had a staff in her right hand, pacing her steps. Her bike was nowhere to be seen. The same black dog walked ahead of her but in sync. In the summer mornings, she dances to bright tunes played-back in a portable hi-fi kit. Quite a dancer she is. I can imagine her singing along, but she never does. All these before she begins bundling up the cardboards and organising the garbage into bag piles. Her short hair is elegantly curled. The brim of her hat, when she needs it, gives her face just enough secrecy it needs. I wonder what she had for dinner tonight. I wonder if she ever enjoys cooking and being near the stove.
I chose two of Peter Suart’s illustrated books on the adventures of Tik and Tok for my best friends – one in Paris, for her birthday, and another in Hove, so she gets to read it to her little son by the sea.
Silhouette of a majestic tree, tall and alone, braving sunset. I wrote on Facebook: “May we all keep breathing, following the light, and embracing the shadows it brings. Tomorrow is another day to live fully in - we'll never stop trying, right?”
Three days before
The sea is especially calm. Human voices somewhere. Bullfrog choruses everywhere. Gutters are their resonance boxes. NGWANNGGGG. nnngwannngg. Elastic steel ropes, tugging, towing, back and forth. I see an occasional loner on the sidewalk, staring, not moving. Perhaps saving himself from being drowned by his own roar.
May 2, 2020
Tai Mei Tuk, Hong Kong
**from The Other Shore: A New Translation of the Heart Sutra with Commentaries by Thich Nhat Hanh. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press. 2017.
Grantee Reflections is a platform for ACC alumni to share their collective voice as an international community of artists, scholars, and cultural ambassadors. This is a cultural exchange of words, image, video, and sound from around the world. While our bodies cannot travel, our minds can still meet.