in sight of the glacier - groundings / by Jay Brown

Grounding is a process of identifying context, of beginning the never-ending process of understanding that makes a location possible, and the stories that describe it’s emergence: a world in formation, when things move(d) into being.

Here, in and around Jixiang Village, the necessities that emerge(d) from these movements were once re-enacted annually in the name of the earth spirit. They were chanted rather than physically re-traced. In a spiraling fashion, the chanted journey swept all the good toward this location, the body of the village. In such a chant, "the cadence walks where the entity it leads walks and rests where it rests." (Mueggler; 2001; p.247)

Arriving in Increments

Sheryl Cheung - scores

‘What does it mean, the location as our curator?’ What is required for the process of curing: A vessel? A twinkle in a locals’ eye? A channelling of energy? All of these help to alter, to solidify, to gel.

What questions are better asked from here than elsewhere?’ What is it about this location that alters as it contributes to sensation, to affect, to life, to thought, and to a deeper politics?

Or to ask differently, what nooks and crannies; which niche of the artistic imagination can flourish here, where rhythm and timescales are of a different order? What does it mean to become present in a world in which objects and daily life pose a challenge to the very logic and contemporary reasoning of the functioning of the world

Bruce 丁博 pulling together a fantastic lunch

During the time of landing, like a body just pregnant, there are moments of repulsion, there is discomfort, there is a visceral sense of disorientation. The urban body needs time to adjust.

By contrast, the second week of our stay is a time of rhythmic alignments; different modes of engagement with the location emerge. What is it that keeps one of us in the compound and another traversing the village in circles, and yet another to-ing and fro-ing in a star-shaped configuration from one end to the other of the farm, to the lake, to the local village shop. Is it simply that these forms of movements serve our different practices?

Moving through and along local buildings, past multi-crop fields, bulging haystacks and bundles of twigs by the wayside - sticks that shine bright red in the rain and return to a dull grey-brown once dry – we are embedded in craftsmanship and a confident aesthetics, a dramatic textural difference from the urban context. These line any of the passages either of us move along, no matter how and for what purpose.

Photograph (draft) by Lucy Rogers

What is necessary to be here, ’to be present?

What is our relationship to necessity?

In pre-Socratic times, chaos was understood as the source from which things moved into being out of necessity, out of having to be used. Here the story goes 'When trees could walk, when stone cracks could talk, when the earth rumbled, when the everything was still one, the shadows of heaven and earth slowly emerged’.[1]

In dongba culture the village is perceived as a body. Traditionally, at the beginning of the new lunar year, the elders (men only) would gather at a high point overlooking the village and chant a spiraling route. The route would set off from a city further afield, and as the chant circled toward the body that is the village, it would sweep all the good things toward it.

image: He Xiudong

Within this body/village, every space is being used and there are no formal boundaries. The things/objects within and of this space have a distinctive quality: they carry a tactile memory. At this time of grounding there is enough familiarity to look and dig deeper, a time when things have not yet become so invisible that they cannot be separated from the self.

 

A Peach and a Pumpkin

Here dinner is determined by what is growing outdoors, the weather, the mood. Likewise tools are adapted to the (human) body and the body locates places of rest indoors as well as outdoors, in furrows as well as by the fire or simply in the company of another crouching by the wheel of a car.

Any thing made can and is re-made or re-built. Even if the materials are different in the re-building, it will be considered to be the same, i.e. it serves the same neccessity. Everything around us is working according to a wide variety of life spans and lifetimes. It takes time and skill to tune into them: multi crop fields growing peaches and pumkins, being but one example.

-----

At the close of a pig roasting day last Thursday, 28th May, Er Ge proposed a toast ’The earth belongs to us’. Here, at the table outside the studio kitchen, in such diverse company, of lives lived in Beijing, Tacheng, Shaanxi Province, Jixiang Village, Taipei, Hongkong, Guangzhou, Lijiang, London, New York, Haidong Village and Shanghai, the sentence struck like an evanescent discovery.

Lijiang Studio, Jixiang Village, 4th June 2018

[1] Translation by Sheryl Cheung

References:

Lepecki, A. (2017) Decolonizing the Curatorial, avalaible at https://read.dukeupress.edu/theater/article-pdf/47/1/101/478963/THE_471_09Lepeck_FF.pdf

Mueggler, E. (2001) The Age of Wild Ghosts  University of California Press

Kagis-McEwan, I. (1993) Socrates’ Ancestors  MIT Press