06/26/16

a quick reflection on my 28th year

Since I was little, I thought being 28 years old would feel momentous. It’d be the year that I’d finally be a Big Proud Adult that Knows What She Wants and Is Comfortable in Her Skin and Her Voice. I turned 29 last weekend, and I’ll just say that… I’m still working on all that. Though the fact of my age did compel me to do some big things.

I took an intense 6 month art class that challenged me to push my aesthetic sensibilities and taught me how to play and experiment with visual media.

I quit my job. I left EFF after four and a half years of working on international policy work, mostly advocating for the public interest in the copyright/access to knowledge domain. The timing all happened to align perfectly so that I felt good about leaving—the TPP, the thing I was fighting for most of my time there, got finalized and signed, but it was finally in a political rut that made it seem unlikely to get passed and binding on the signing countries (long story short, because of the presidential elections). I was sick of fighting the symptoms of a broken system, and wanted to pursue a different, more productive path towards change-making.

I realized that I’m already an “adult”, in the sense that I feel a level of responsibility for things that feel intrinsically tied to my identity. Though I have no fucking idea what I want, I know how I’d like to grow. My goal is to reconcile these feelings of responsibility with my hope to do and try more.

I had a set vision for what I might be like when I was 28. Though it was wrong in a lot of ways, it was right in that I’d finally be comfortable with myself. I can at least be proud of that.

 

06/12/16

the rot that was there all along.

This past week, the digital security community had to confront the fact that a major figurehead in the movement is a rapist, after about a dozen people came out with stories of his sexual assault. I’d heard vague stories about him for a while. Mainly that he’d push people’s boundaries and disregard their consent. Even given what I knew, it was still horrifying to read what he had done to women.

What gets me the most is how he violated these individuals’ bodies, along with their trust, and the trust of an entire community who looked to him as a strong leader who spoke truth to power. He raped and assaulted people between public speeches advocating for transparency, democracy, and human rights. He did it, as he spoke out against other rapists and perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment.

It makes me wonder where else this rot lives. Who else in the social justice community is in fact themselves the embodiment of the social decay they publicly stand against? I wasn’t personally affected by him, but what he did and who he turned out to be shakes me to the core. The harsh contradiction between what he claimed to fight for and what he did to these women makes me feel vulnerable, the paranoid kind that makes me want to roll into a ball in my bed under the covers and never trust anyone ever again.  It also makes me ANGRY. Red-in-the-face, spit-spraying, crying, shaking, anger.

But in the torrent of these feelings, I try to dig out and hold up the third: an immense pride and relief that these women spoke out. *They are heroes.* Despite so much fear and shame that this horrible scum-of-a-man subjected them to all this time, they managed to push it aside to speak out. It’s not even a question whether they did it for some self-serving purpose. It’s horrible to have to dig up those memories—even remembering my own minor incidents of sexual assault make me want to cave into myself. I can’t imagine how much emotional work it took to share them with the world.

Since the silence was broken, people I respect have stood by and denied the allegations. But so many more have stood with the victims. I can let the despair over the existence of rampant rape and sexual assault get to me—or, I can be inspired by these victims’ actions and honor their heroism by doing more to speak out against the violent force of patriarchy in my community as soon as I see it.

 

06/5/16

cracking open my creative blocks

Last weekend I went to the final meeting of my 6-month art class. It was an intense experience, and the best, most challenging instruction on creativity and visual art I’ve ever had.

I went into the class pretty lost about what my motivations were for making art, and how I’d find my style and voice in the craft. Going to art classes all throughout high school and college, it always felt like I was being pushed to make things look more realistic. Whatever personal flavor happened to manifest in the final works sorta felt accidental. After a while, I realized that making things look accurate was a waste of time given how you can use any number of digital tools to do it for you. I loved getting sucked into a project, but the objective of art—which seemed to coming at me suggestively from all sides socially—to make cool, somewhat realistic looking shit, began to feel hallow and stupid.

Anyway, this class really helped to drag me out of this rut. More than anything, it gave me the tools to experiment so I could continue to explore what my aesthetic voice is. I’m really excited to use these new methods and try it on some other kinds of media besides charcoal on newsprint.

I thought these three drawings from the last session do a good job of reflecting my evolving approach to and thinking around my visual aesthetics. Each one was made in < 7 minutes.

final_class_I

 

final_class_II

 

final_class_III

04/20/16

exploration of aesthetic judgment

So I’m taking this art class in my neighborhood involving a lot of intense concentration on the craft, feeling, and experience of making visual art. We’re now in the middle of the term, and we’ve only just started being allowed to look at the page we’re drawing on.

These are the some results from last night’s exercises. None of these feel complete, but there are parts of each I like. The first two were drawn just by me, and the latter two collaboratively, each with five other classmates. The first one is the one I started, andothers built on top. The last one is the one I finished after four others.

There are way more parts I don’t like than like so I’m just gonna point out the latter.

Parts I like: the fleshy middle curve of the folded thigh, the weightiness of the hand on the right, the zig-zag of the inner fold lines (is that what they’re called?) of the arm on the right.

alone_charcoal_1

 

Parts I like: How the face looks doubled, the weightiness of the foot on the right, the breadth of the shoulders, the scribbly outline. 

alone_charcoal_2

 

 

Parts I like: The ghostliness of the whole thing, the fullness of both thighs and butt, the random fire explosion coming out of the shoulder.  collab_charcoal_2

 

Parts I like: the white outline around the nipple, the squiggly happy trail line, the shadow of the arm over the abdomen, the curve of the waist, and the motion lines.

collab_charcoal_1

03/14/16

is this what a revolution looks like?

I don’t want to pile on to the huge op-ed-fest regarding the phenomenon that is the rise of Trump and Sanders’ sudden rise in popularity in the presidential race, but I blog on my website for my own sake and I need to jot down some quick thoughts and reflect on what’s going on in this country for the sake of my own sanity.

(For the hands down best piece on Trump and his popularity, you should read this piece by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone if you haven’t.)

We’ve already been this frail…all that’s happening now is that the symptoms of our disorders are finally appearing.

Our political and economic institutions have failed the U.S. majority for so long. It might’ve been only a matter of time before something like this would happen.

The masses hitting back at the wealthy elite and their establishment that have ruled through their a puppet democracy for at least a generation. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are catalysts for the latent frustration and despair among the low- to middle-classes that are finally fed up with watching this charade.

There’s obviously major ideological differences between the movements growing behind these two candidates, but central to both is a drastic re-questioning of the economy, government, and the relationship between the two. All the mainstream political discussions about wealth inequality, corporate money in politics, trade agreements, etc. to me signals a beginning of a popular movement to upend entrenched systems of power.

Whatever ends up happening with the presidential race, I don’t think this popular rage and discontent could ever be bottled back up. People—both left and right, bigot or moderate—are starting to articulate widespread problems in a way that is going to make it almost impossible for establishment officials to try and sell their current scheme of governance to the public. Only people who feel comfortable within this current paradigm could say that the current system is fine. Most people are NOT fine, and enough people have now realized that they’re not alone in this, that this is a systemic failure.

So this feels to me like the beginning of a revolution. Trump’s brand of it is horrifying and bigoted, but alongside that is Sanders’ fiercely optimistic and cooperative vision for America. So who knows what’s going to happen, but at least these long overdue conversations about our society and how we want the government to work people is finally happening. That’s gotta mean power in this country is going to shift in a huge way, and very soon.

 

02/21/16

some of my “extracurriculars”

I’ve been spending most of my non-work time on classes and projects lately. It feels great and fulfilling and they’re each activating different skills n interests of mine. Here are the main ones:

* art class *

The first, major thing is my art class. I’m a third of the way through the course (it goes til June) and it continues to be enlightening, sometimes frustrating, and intense overall. The main thing I’m getting out of it is the practice of reflecting on personal habits and patterns of behavior, and allowing myself to be curious about whether they hinder richer experiences in my life. It’s all done through the lens of “mark making,” but it’s affecting even the smallest things about my daily activities– whether it’s to change up my bike route to/from work, my cooking, or the style of my writing. If I have a lull at any point, I sometimes force myself to resist reaching for my phone, and instead try and observe the environment and things around me so I’m more present.

The drawing below just happens to look like a person, because our mark making is only meant to capture our reaction and feelings in response to the poses the model makes before us. But I like it, and it’s a good example of how far we’re going in this class to deconstruct our creative processes. For the most part it’s enjoyable, but as I said, it can be frustrating at times. It takes a lot of effort to try and resist your habits, and to challenge the comfortableness with new ways of doing and experiencing can be, well, uncomfortable.

FullSizeRender(1)

* everett alumni foundation*

It’s been slow to start, but things are finally rolling forward with the Everett Alumni Foundation, which is a non-profit I incorporated to network the alumni, partners, and friends of the Everett Program at UC Santa Cruz and to give financial grants and mentorship to students. We got out our first newsletter a few days ago and will be fundraising in the coming week. woop!

* dance *

I’ve been getting back into dance. I finally made it to Dance Mission Theater right next to the 24th St. BART and took a West African dance class with live drumming, which has been one of my favorites at other studios. I love the dance from that general region because the movements tend to be big, energetic, somewhat ~sensual~, and feels natural in a way that ballet (for me at least) totally doesn’t.

* flash mob theater *

Then I’ve also started working on choreographing another piece for my protest flashmob group, Get Up Street Theater (GUST). We have one on the environment, called Toxic, and another on militarism/law enforcement/lack of accountability in government, called They Don’t Care About Us. The new one is going to be about surveillance. The common complaint among people has been that there’s too high of a barrier to participate because they need to learn all the choreography, so this time we’re mixing in a good amount of other theatrics with it so anyone who shows up can decide to participate. Pretty excited about this one.

01/24/16

since the last time I was in Brussels

 

onion soup and  fries

late night room service im eating as i write this

 
The last time I was in Belgium was right after high school, when my buddies and I took a euro trip across five countries in three weeks. Now ten years later, I’m here for a work trip—to discuss at some meetings how policies between the EU and U.S. undermine consumer/user interests and to figure out a plan to reform corporate-captured trade deals so they’re more transparent and democratic. I think 18 year old me would be nodding in approval if she knew what I’m up to nowadays. 

Mostly because I was so full of self-conscious despair throughout my teens. I knew that the world was deeply messed up, power-wise, money-wise, gender-wise, race-wise, etc., but it felt so overwhelming to wrap my head around and I didn’t know where to start. There wasn’t anything inconsistent to me about enjoying Ayn Rand’s writing, which I thought was a celebration of unique self-determination, and reading Adbusters and becoming disillusioned by unrestrained capitalism. I didn’t know where to direct my anger or concern, how to articulate my criticism or my own ideology. 

But now I feel like I have a much better handle on things. For one I’m more on top of my shit and so more confident in my own skin and voice than I’ve ever been. I’ve come a long way from the emo days when I could barely contain my anger when someone around me would utter something ignorantly hateful (although I couldn’t a few times, once flipping over my desk about someone’s pro-Iraq war comment in Morality class). When my only outlets were to scrawl my feelings about the world in my journal and rant about “the world” at anyone who would listen when I got drunk at parties.  

I’ve found a way to funnel those anger/despair feels into being an activist. In the decade since I was a confused baby adult, I’ve learned a few things—to be curious and skeptical, to avoid blindly clinging to ideologies, and understand the importance of balancing between idealistic optimism and pragmatic cynicism. 

My 18 year-old self might be surprised to know that I’d travel all the way back here as part of my job. But I’d like to think she’d be more pleased that I’ve been trying what I can to fix some of the injustice in this world that filled her with so much dread, and am constantly challenging myself to get better at making sense of them to myself and others. 

01/18/16

taking apart creativity

so far I’ve been making good ~strides~ on my art making, largely due to the way-more-than figure drawing class I’ve been going to. Besides the intense, weekly three-hour classes that involve a lot of mark making and discussion about expression, reaction, and the meaning of creativity, the instructor has been asking us to do weekly “homeplay.”
The writing component of this homeplay has been really rewarding so far, and has been a great counterweight to the loose, reactive approach to drawing that we do during class. It’s forced me to reflect upon what I find valuable about art and  being creative–actually, much more than reflect, but to define it, put it out in front of me, examine it, and take apart the pieces. As someone who has long had a strained love affair of sorts with art making, it’s felt like therapy. He calls on us to ask ourselves: What does creativity even mean, and why is it important to us?
So far, these have been some of my answers below, followed by questions that I posed myself upon reflecting on my answer to those initial questions:
I understand creativity as an ability that allows a person to be free to experiment in what they make or do, given any number of constraints. There’s an element of unpredictability or resourcefulness that the word connotes, and that usually seems to be related to some kind limitation, such as the available materials, existing rules and expectations (like an aesthetic), or the amount of time given for the activity.

For me creativity‘s importance lies in both its experimentation and resourcefulness, but also that it can occur within almost everything I do. I’m being creative when I whip up a meal from the random assortment of ingredients I happen to have in my kitchen. I’m being creative when I write a blog post for my job and choose the words and type of sentences I use to explain something. What I love about these regular activities is how I get to express myself in them, that I get to exercise my intuition, judgment, taste, and mood. Creativity is valuable because it’s fun, even when I use it for my day-to-day survival.

~
Does creativity have to be so calculated and backed by intent, or can it be raw and expressive? Does it have to be either/or? Can it lie on various points of the spectrum of these things and be still feel good and fulfilling?

What are my limitations at any given point?

And what are my resources?

How can I learn to play with both?

The way I described creativity and my value of it feels uncomfortably self-indulgent and ego driven. It didn’t capture how much I enjoy collaborating with others or acknowledging how I am influenced by others, whether directly or indirectly. All my judgments, my feelings, and the ideas and resources that affect my work has not come out of thin air and I don’t want to act like they appear in a vacuum. So how do I approach creativity and my artmaking practice as one that’s more of an dialogue with others, rather than as a solitary, egocentric experience?

 

 

01/10/16

nostalgia for the early Web

I just miss it, don’t you? If you’re older than the age of 23 or so and were fortunate enough to have access to the Internet, you’ll remember how magical this new digital frontier felt like, its aesthetic and air of possibility…

There’s a fair criticism that those who feel nostalgia for the early days of the Internet often dwell on how fascinating it was compared to its often polished/siloed interface now, but never think about how very exclusive it really was. It was mostly white, well-off educated people who had access. So in claiming that the Internet ought to somehow be like “the old days,” there’s an implication that it ought be exclusive.

But having said that, I still wish I could browse and interact with the Web from back then. I would pay *good money* to get a copy of what my livejournal or myspace page in its full anigify splendor. I must’ve spent HOURS futzing with their html/css to get it just the way I wanted. Designers would (and probably did) cringe at the thought of everyone designing their own web pages, but there was something endearing about the fact that glamming up your site with flashing buttons and titles wasn’t just accepted, it was freakin celebrated.

So anyway, I got a major pang of this when I came across this museum of old Geocities images called Cameron’s World. It’s just a thematically curated web page of awesome tacky anigifs that once adorned people’s random sites. Check it out and let that wistfulness for the early web wash over you.

hamster

01/3/16

I’ve made a six-month commitment to artmaking

There’s one resolution that I’ve kept on declaring new year after new year: create/draw/paint more. And year after year, I’d largely neglect it. Every time I tried, I’d freeze up, get terrified, and end up torturing myself to make something. The judgey asshole side of my brain made all of it seem too forced, pointless, and lost. I couldn’t escape the grip of it every time. While I managed to sign up for two art classes in the 8 years since taking one in college, drawing/painting had turned into something like taking a shit while constipated. But even though I started to dread that feeling, I kept having an itch to make visual work. It was a ceaseless, awful nagging.

So I finally signed up for a new class. Not just any class. This is, according to the instructor, a “creativity” class. For the next six months, we are going to draw as if our life, the essence and meaning of it, depended on it. It’s all going to happen within the bounds of one subject, a model, and three materials: compressed charcoal and a white eraser on newsprint paper. The instructor has been teaching this class in his home for the last 24 years, and he is intense about shedding and kicking away creative barriers.

I cannot be more excited. >_<

Below are the highlights from my first class from today. All of these poses were less than 30 seconds long and were told not to care at all what ended up on the page.

chacoal_sitting

 

charcoal_facedaway

 

charcoal_crucified

charcoal_butt