Annie Areum Shin and Sophie Lane
7 July - 3 November 2021
As an attempt to restore lost body-to-body intimacies, Tending Distances present two feminist voices in prioritising care as practice. Shin and Lane lean on clay and paper bodies to make through intimate touch, stillness and letter-writing. Tending Distances hope to revalue and centre feminist notions of care and nurture beyond art and into community practices.
Shin invited participants to pause from the routine of rapidly changing living conditions. Beheld, Bestilled is an expanding archive, documenting traces of restored touch and rest in a post-social isolation period. Residuals of bodies and conversations are encased in clay objects through an exchange of heat, moisture, oils and skin cells by participants. Clay holds them in a tight, calming embrace.
In Sophie Lane’s practice, she destructs letters written to loved ones, which are then transformed into paper pulp to create new sheets of paper. These objects embody cathartic writing and meditative art processes, which condense the emotional impact of isolation practices in a global pandemic crisis. Unread and unsent, these letters are stripped of all personal narrative and given a new opportunity to be a further tool of compassion.
Writing Room Project
HEY, I SENT U A KISS, DID YOU RECEIVE IT?
What is the materiality of a phone call with you? Our voices reverberate in the chasm of the slight delay, float on the current of a digital laugh. Tinfoil lag is a music of its own. Can you hear the shape of my smile?
It’s been a few months since I’ve seen you in person and I don’t know when I’ll see you again. The feeling of existing in the same physical space as you is already a blurry dream. It’s odd how the space between us stretches, gossamer egg yolk elastic, imagined borders made real in the glossy hold — you're further now than you were before. What fills the gap between these moving bodies of ours, sweating and fleshy and full of noise? What is the materiality of a virtual touch?
When clay, wet and pliable, takes on the oils of a palm, a whispered intimacy rests in the blue air left behind. Something like a soft/hard, earth coloured embrace. The rising and falling breath of soil, watered with care in the damp shadow of a misty July. Does the clay take on some of that aliveness, a carry-over of intimacies, an archive that might open its mouth? Yeah, the archive cracks a grin here and it’s all gap tooth
three moles on brown skin.
Grip tight to that archive, slip-grasp, full-bodied and fleeting, rough on fingertips, always-changing.
Does sweat drip through your screen, liquid pooling data? Let’s build an archive from our bodies.
Let’s flood the servers with our virtual fluid.
Eat your heart out and put the remains online — bloody red stars, dripping into the digital cosmos.
How do you say “take care” in your mother tongue? Code it for me.
Do waves lap on this digital ocean floor?
I want to italicise my love for you. You’re cyber-mag-netic, baby.
Did we write ourselves into today? Pulp formed into new shapes, rising moon-huge and silent. Papercut skin, fragile linings, the cut-out of a promise, calls itself a memory.
What is the weight of a paper-thin wish, floating down Parramatta Road in the blinkered swell of an orange morning? Does it carry a language of its own, a watery lexicon of its imagining? Try to swallow; feel it in your throat.
Within grey-green echoes of ancestry lie instructions, stored in the scalp and at the base of the spine. A lip split against the grain of wet paper still knows how to write a love letter.
Send it into gaping space warm and fluttering, a bird made of the quiet between people who have said everything, already.
Did you save my timestamp? Download me to the server?
You are a seafoam song and I am Shazam.
Swim in the digital sea with me, I’ll float for us, blue-lit coastal.
In the belly of our data-oceanic prayers, a drip. Suspend me, mucous in our deep-sea dialogue.
Digital incantations and transmutations. Cybernetic cables to my heart.
How do we bridge distances with our unreal bodies? How do we care from afar through the metrics of the online? A year and a half ago you moved to a new city. Now we meet in the digital wasteland and have forgotten how to speak, sift sand instead, please, hold the proof of me in one fist, don’t let it fall like thick rain turning into dust.
The internet ripples across time and space and in my heart. Fast beating to that oceanic rhythm. We reach and reach. So many zeroes, bits, bytes — take a bite and spit it out, electronic current bitter or sickly sweet?
Only a month ago I swam under the full moon, now a distant memory of all our bodies together and that huge orb, cold water, hot touch and fast breathing.
I want to find digital pathways to digital care, the worlds we desire already sea-deep and glowing. Upload “take care” to the mainframe of my cyborg body. How might we build internet archives full to the brim, overflowing, with the kinds of intimacies we need and desire?
In our dreams we’re floating through silver-glassy oceans, slicing air off our backs like water.
Touch your palm to mine in the online.
The materiality of care echoes across distance as processes of reconstruction; clay reshaped into a hand, paper becoming pulp cycling towards paper once more. Show me your love as a living archive, a document. Show me all the forms your love has taken to get here.
Online, the materiality of care collides with the materiality of the internet as violent; surveillance and shadow-banning, algorithmic bias and the physicality of moving data on the backs of black and brown bodies, through underwater cables that follow the well-trodden routes of colonialism. Given the traumas circling online and in the archive, can we love through it all?
Tell me, what is the weight of a cyberspace kiss
Rippling, endless slow-motion through shadowy depths?
Does it rest on islands, griots and stars marking the way forward?
Does it pause
How does a cyberspace kiss make itself heard?
In all that ocean, is there room for it?
Cycles of knee-deep grief
Accumulating, molluscs or callouses
Seeking heat on rocks or hands;
Tell me, how could a cyberspace kiss possibly contend
With all that weight
Burning, still, on the ocean floor,
Still: aren’t we all learning to swim here,
Which is to say learning to hold the weight and love it too,
So tell me, what is the sound of cyberspace joy?
In the cracked-smile archive
It’s like oceanic care could bubble alongside our digital trauma,
It’s like brown hands might reach out into the data sea and find other hands,
It’s like what is the weight of a virtual body resting?
It’s like all of that weight might find its way to you,
Press a kiss on your cheek.
Words by Kiki Amberber