Sunday, May 9

“We can still flourish and grow after trauma”: Artist shares survivors’ stories of abuse | Art


PAssersby in Manhattan Meat district You’ll see something quite unusual in one of the many shop windows right now: a cluster of old-fashioned light bulbs next to small internet-connected printers, each triggering an anonymous newsfeed of survivor stories.

It is part of a new project by the artist in public residence in New York City, Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, an installation called Let Us Know Our Own Strength, which highlights the voices of anonymous survivors of racism and sexual violence. It runs until May 15.

“This past summer, we experienced a watershed moment in which Asian and Pacific Islander youth presented their stories of sexual assault and gender-based violence,” said the artist.

“I wanted to create a space where private sadness could see the light of day so that anyone carrying heavy loads could put them down; a reassuring ritual that lets survivors know that their stories will be carried out with dignity and respect. “

With protesters gathered across the country in a protest to the Asian and Pacific Islander community, Phingbodhipakkiya wanted to help break the silence. Anyone can visit the artist’s website, MayWeKnow.NYCand submit your survival story; either for sexual assault or gender violence. She performs a ritual to honor recently murdered Asian women in Atlanta every night at 8 p.m., and viewers can watch the space via a 24-hour live broadcast.

The artwork will grow organically over time depending on the submissions received through the website, which are then printed (there have been 500 submissions so far). “Every week, I harvest armfuls of anger, hope, pain, loss and shame and begin to weave them into the facility,” said Phingbodhipakkiya.

She uses the printed paper as a kind of sculpture or textile, sometimes cutting and weaving them into wire frames or hanging them from above. Sometimes they are placed next to warm-colored lights, candles, and dried flowers (Phingbodhipakkiya used flowers as symbols of solidarity and resistance as part of his recent Time magazine cover, which he also illustrated). It embodies a feeling of loneliness and silence.

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Photograph: Courtesy of New York City

“Much of this work is a meditation on how we can still flourish and grow after trauma,” he said. “Like the unpredictable nature of trauma healing, the finished installation can turn out to be something unexpected.”

Phingbodhipakkiya wanted to pay tribute to the six Asian women who were victims of hate crime in Atlanta, having grown up in the city. “We cannot discuss this tragedy without talking about the deadly intersection of racism and misogyny, and how the fetishization and exoticization of Asian women is not an abstract theory,” she said. “It has violent consequences in the real world.”

Every night, Phingbodhipakkiya visits the space to dim the installation’s light bulbs and print their names: Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Soon Chung Park, Yong Ae Yue, Paul Andre Michels and Delaina Ashley Yaun González. “And the 16 incandescent bulbs shine resolutely in the dark,” he said.

The survivor stories keep coming in, and each time they are submitted through the website, they are printed in real time via one of the 16 internet-connected printers on the site.

One story, which brought Phingbodhipakkiya to tears, reads: “I am a survivor of sexual abuse. My older cousin abused me when I was 12 years old. What makes this even more complicated is that he is on the AAPI side of my family, so I often find myself struggling to accept that the source of my connection to this beautiful community also contains my greatest hurt. I want to believe that there is a greater purpose, an opportunity to turn this pain into something creative and healing for others. I still don’t know what that is. But I look forward to it every day. “

Phingbodhipakkiya has used recycled materials from the city Materials for the arts program, which allows artists to reuse donated second-hand materials. It includes an antique watch, which she says is a nod to the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up. “It’s also a way of acknowledging Rainn’s staggering statistic that every 73 seconds in America, someone is sexually assaulted,” she said. “That is why the clock is always set to 7.30, because it is always the time to believe in the survivors and support their healing.”

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Photograph: Courtesy of New York City

This project, created in partnership with the local Business Improvement District, is what New York City Commissioner for Cultural Affairs Gonzalo Casals calls “transforming the all too often invisible experiences of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. in something that must be recognized and addressed ”.

Presenting an exhibition that uses paper requires a double take: paper can be seen as a material that tears easily. However, Phingbodhipakkiya still sees it as a symbol of strength and endurance.

“A single sheet of paper can be flimsy, but with each fold, it grows in strength, just as we do with support, encouragement and resources,” said the artist. “The paper that has been folded 100 times is almost impossible to tear, just as the survivors who support each other and bear witness to each other’s stories is formidable.”

Phingbodhipakkiya sits on the cold concrete floor to read the presentations, tear them off the roll of paper, and work with them. “I am physically holding someone’s story in my hands, I don’t take it lightly,” he said. “Every time I fold, fold and fold the paper, I feel like I am helping to release a burden that has been carried for a long time. I found that process incredibly cathartic. “

Each story is used as a glimmer of hope. By weaving the stories together, it shows that the survivors are not alone, offering a sense of belonging, if not refuge.

“Art helps us connect with our humanity when we feel that it has been stripped away, it helps us find our power and courage when we feel that we have been violated or silenced,” he said.

“It reminds us that despite the limitations that society can impose on us, despite the difficulties and heartbreak that we have suffered at the hands of others or under oppressive systems, we are worthy of love, healing and freedom,” he said. “And its multifaceted nature allows us to heal our wounds at our own pace and in our own way.”


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