Research

To Bring Into Being an Optimistic Future

Recent points of reference about psychology, anxiety, and the need to be intentional about optimism and humor. Plus artworks made when I was first learned about positive psychology at the beginning of the Obama presidency.

 

Christine Wong Yap. Stars and Stripes from the Pounds of Happiness installation, 2009, mixed media.

Christine Wong Yap. Stars and Stripes from the Pounds of Happiness installation, 2009, mixed media.

We live in a world where there is a constant feed from social media, the news, etc., of things that can scare us, and we become so anxious because human beings are designed to be sensitized to dangerous stuff. You get a bad review as a writer, you remember it for 10 years. You get 100 good reviews, you forget them all. You say hello to 100 people in a city, and it doesn’t mean anything to you. One racist comment passes by, it sticks with you a decade. We keep the negative stuff because it’s the negative stuff that’s going to—potentially—kill us. That fin in the water—maybe it is a shark. That yellow thing behind a tree—maybe it is a lion. You need to be scared. But contemporary culture in Pakistan, just like in America, is continuously hitting us with scary stuff, and so we are utterly anxious.

I think that it’s very important to resist that anxiety, to think of ways of resisting the constant inflow of negative feelings—not to become depoliticized as a result, but to actually work actively to bring into being an optimistic future. For me, writing books and being someone who is politically active is part of that. I don’t want to be anxious in my day-to-day life; I want to try to imagine a future I’d like to live in and then write books and do things that, in my own small way, make it more likely that that future will come to exist.

—Author Mohsin Hamid (“Pakistani Author Mohsin Hamid And His Roving ‘Discontent’,’ Fresh Air, March 9, 2017)

 

Christine Wong Yap, Cheap and Cheerful #3, 2009, gel pen on paper, A4.

Christine Wong Yap, Cheap and Cheerful #3, 2009, gel pen on paper, A4.

…one of the offshoots of the rise of Trump has been to rob many liberals of their sense of humor. To pay close attention to the news is to trap oneself in a daily cycle of outrage, self-righteousness, a pained recognition of the inelegance of that self-righteousness, and, finally, a feeling of futility. Part of what made the Women’s March so powerful was its scenes of comedy, not simply the signs that mocked the President but those that recognized the joyousness in the very of act of protest.

…Constant vigilant outrage is not only exhausting, and eventually deflating, but it’s ill suited to liberal culture, which is suffused with a healthy dose of self-awareness, self-mockery, and even self-loathing. There’s a reason conservatives control talk radio, with all its grim certitude, and liberals run comedy, which is characterized by, among others things, ambivalence.

—Ian Crouch, “This Is The Future That Liberals Want” Is The Joke That Liberals Need, NewYorker.com, March 3, 2017

 

Christine Wong Yap, Unlimited Promise, 2009/2010, installation.

Christine Wong Yap, Unlimited Promise, 2009/2010, installation.

 

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Values

Life’s Too Short for Poor Habits of Mind

Recommended: an essay on freeing oneself from energy-sapping forces. It’s inspired by turning 60, but the call to preserve one’s attention for the truly worthwhile and to care for one’s emotional well-being applies at any age.

“Young(er) women, take this to heart: Why waste time and energy on insecurity? … I’m happy to have a body that is healthy, that gets me where I want to go…

What matters most is the work. Does it give you pleasure, or hope? Does it sustain your soul? …I’m too old for the dark forces, for hopelessness and despair…

Toxic people? Sour, spoiled people? I’m simply walking away… Take a pass on bad manners, on thoughtlessness, on unreliability, on carelessness and on all the other ways people distinguish themselves as unappealing specimens. Take a pass on your own unappealing behavior, too: the pining, yearning, longing and otherwise frittering away of valuable brainwaves…

My new mantra is liberating… I spare myself a great deal of suffering… goodbye to all that has done nothing but hold us back.”

Dominique Browning, “I’m Too Old for This” (NY Times, August 8, 2015)
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Citizenship

Welcome the New: Bay Area Society for Art and Activism is here

My dear friend ET has been collaborating with genius Bay Area artists and activists to lay the groundwork for a new, optimistic organization. And they’re launching now!

Check out their Arts & Activism Quarterly; it features an interview with moi about the nineties, activism, and art, and includes tons of orgs and people that have inspired me.

It also hosts the beautifully-shot, poignant trailer for “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” by Joe Talbot.

Talbot is among the many artists that will be featured in the Society’s kickoff party this Saturday night. It’s where I’d be, if I were in SF this weekend.

for more info see http://artandactivism.org/overnight-strange/

Overnight Strange Flyer

Sue me; I’m feeling optimistic, too. Before we dive into the season of gluttony and shopping mayhem, here’s where I’ve put my money, and if you are able, maybe you can too:

  • The Lab’s triumphant return spearheaded by Dena Beard. Keeping SF weird, loud, and experimental.
  • May Day Space, a cultural worker/education/organiging space led by a diverse crew in Bushwick.
  • The Society, of course! Become a member! We won’t concede SF so easily!
  • W.A.G.E. for Work. Six days left to go in their campaign to bring justice for all artists!
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Bob and Roberta Smith, Art Does Real and Permanent Good 2011, enamel on found material, 8.5 x 12 x 1 inches

Bob and Roberta Smith, Art Does Real and Permanent Good, 2011, enamel on found material, 8.5 x 12 x 1 inches // Source: Pierogi2000.com.

Works

Bob and Roberta Smith, Art Does Real and Permanent Good, 2011

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Art & Development

Dream a little group show for you

The Bronx AIM program has started and I am enjoying the first assignment immensely. We were asked to present the artists who would be in our dream group show–to convey the ideal context for showing one’s own works. I started thinking of all the artists I love, all the projects that share sympatico with my practice, and the potential of new site-specific commissions. I imagined very established artists in dialogue with less recognized but completely worthy friends. I envisioned an exhibition copy of a high value seminal work of a blue chip artist made as a public sculpture. Then I situated it all at a local non-art  site brimming with potential. This exercise made me think of many people, actions, and possibilities that make art seem like an expansive, generous realm. It provided me with welcome hope and enthusiasm. Try it!

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Values

Author and museum director Tom Finklepearl in conversation with artist Rick Lowe:

“Rick, quite frankly, you may look at things ten or fifteen times a day and see potential, but that is a tremendously optimistic outlook. Others might look ten times a day at the problems… and get depressed. But even for the most optimistic and active person, as you say, there is a difference between seeing potential and activating it.”

Tom Finklepearl, What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Collaboration (2013)

Optimistic thoughts and actions

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