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Reflection on our event

han yu's picture

( I'm sorry for being that ahead of time, but I really want to document my feelings and thoughts as they are still fresh )


In Jody’s class Thursday after the opening of our exhibition, I critiqued on my own work in the group project that I didn’t feel it is accessible enough to the viewers although I kind of intentionally created some ambiguity. However, my views started to change after hearing people’s opinions on “Freedom” in Friday’s Socrates Café.


Feeling free is very subjective and it can mean anything to different people. And Abby said that, citing her friend, freedom is people having equal limitations.

I’ve been thinking about those conversations over and over again and gradually seeing some connections with my feelings about my project and about “Arts of Resistance”. It feels that there is a tension between Accessibility/Objectivity and Subjectivity.


In certain settings with objective rules and expectations, people’s subjectivity may be compromised. It is related to people feeling silenced in academic (or generally oppressive) space. It also reminds me of how disabled/underprivileged artists challenge those social norms and restrictions, such as Jack L. Morris (in Pelican Bay State Prison having contact with Sheila Pinkel) who initially used peanut butter to make oil paintings in prison, and two deaf artists, Peter Cook who refused to learn how abled people speak and started to perform sign language poetry instead, and Christine Sun Kim who explores different ways to visualize and perform how she defines and understands sound.


Of course silence/subjectivity/refusing to conform is related to power and resistance, but for now I really want to talk about the other more artistic side of it. Silence/subjectivity/refusing to conform is related to originality, creativity, clearing the frameworks and freeing people’s thoughts. Drawing back to “freedom is people having equal limitations”, I interpret the equal limitations as that we are all equal in our humanities. From a negative perspective, we, as human beings, are all vulnerable in some ways and we are all subject to making mistakes (especially in criminal justice context). From a positive perspective, since feeling free is very subjective, we can make our own meanings and make the best of all the situations we are in. In our last lesson, one of the women said that she read the comic about a Syrian Refugee we brought in from previous week three or four times herself even though the lesson was over. I didn’t say anything at that point but in fact I was very surprised and curious and wanted to ask what different thoughts or feelings emerged through her repeated reading of that comic.


Having been introduced to the women in our literacy group this semester and all the underprivileged artists as I mentioned above, I start to realize that being “physically” or “conventionally” free is also very limiting. Many “privileged” people can only see a fantasized, one-dimensional, monotonous world. And indeed many splendid cultures enriching this world are created by minority groups or are born in unsettling eras. It feels that human capacity (such as in arts and cultures) can be remarkably provoked in certain circumstances and situations. Any maybe that’s also why a proper degree of discomfort may push people achieve more. By pouring those thoughts above, I am not encouraging people to totally ignore the unequal treatments and systematic oppressions those artists and incarcerated individuals faced or facing, but at this point of the semester I really want to give us back some hope. The hope in our humanities, in our subjectivities, in anticipating more and more people stop conforming to existing rules, formats, disciplines, rhetorics, oppressions, the hope in seeing a more diverse, inclusive and colorful world.