Search

AYESHA TAN JONES IN CONVERSATION WITH ANDREW HUANG

Ayesha Tan Jones:  hello! Welcome

Andrew Huang:  hiii!

ATJ: ur sitting on me

AH: is there audio?  I am lol

ATJ: u look AMAAZZIIINGG

AH: thanks you too! How do I move around?

ATJ: no sound 🙁 just the soothing sound of our tapping keys

AH: haha ok

ATJ: you can click the diff arrows

AH: gotcha

ATJ: omg tell me about this fit!

AH: haha omg I got so deep in the shop lool

ATJ: its a portal! So many ways to transform yourself

AH: felt like leopard cowboy hat was first instinct 

I saw you singing on IG, was that in a pool?

ATJ: I just did a live stream from my solo show, went really well, yes an old pool

AH: oh wow, it sounded beautiful

ATJ: I have a solo show in there rn but its closed cos we are still in lockdown. Thank you, it felt so good to sing again, I have missed using my voice like that. I feel like your avatar looks like a character that has come straight out of one of your films

AH: haha

ATJ: the spines razor tail is sick!

AH: yeah the tail was a nice find 🙂 I couldn’t help the devil instinct just happend. I like this environment its cute

ATJ: its so cute here. Kinda wanna live here / at least go on holiday here. The lanterns are to honour yesterdays lantern festival

AH: yeah I live the lanterns

ATJ: did you do anything to celebrate? I just cried all day (full moon lockdown feels haha! needed)

AH: yeah I hear you its been intense. Didn’t do anything to celebrate. Btw I realize we have a mutual contact - do you know Sing J Lee?

ATJ: honestly im sooo grateful that this connection was made, we haven’t spoken in like 15 years or something its wildd!

AH: wow that’s crazy, such a small world

ATJ: we grew up together, out mums were really close as there weren’t that many other Chinese people in my hometown

AH: wow yea that’s so cool

ATJ: I learnt to bike in their front drive way

AH: !!! Aww amazing

ATJ: and their mum was the first person to give me a proper British cup of tea, which is ironic tbh seeing as the British stole tea from china

AH: haha . Yea omg the Opium Awars and the lengths they went for tea, instance

ATJ: honestly and its wild because we don’t learn any of that in British education, yet tea is such a staple of ‘british culture’. But the history books are warped and we need to burn them all and rewrite them!!

AH: 100% true

ATJ: you could stamp on them with your fiery devices foot

AH: haha totally, a good satanic mashup

ATJ: yes they deserve it haha!

AH: how have you been fairing in general through the pandemic?

ATJ: mm so I have some questions about your enthralling, incredible mind bending work. Im literally a huge admirer not only of the worlds you build and create, your story lines, but also your work ethic

O0o0o0o question clash ehehe

AH: haha sure! Fire away. Curious about yourself as well, we can trade back and forth

ATJ: to answer yours - tbh its been a while ride, and im grateful for the ups and downs. Bc I’ve really shed a lot of skins, laters and masks, and getting to know my shadows and the places that need more light!

AH: yea I hear you. So much self work required to survive this

ATJ: I thought I had the preparedness to handle it, but there was so much more work needed

AH: yea wow ugh

ATJ: its a process… my work/art/world visioning has kept me a float

AH: yea im glad to hear that its been transformative

ATJ: and how about yourself? And how’s the situation in la?

AH: LA is always and weird cognitive dissonance between the beautiful weather and the dystopian reality of the city as a very segregated place with oppressive history. 

During the winter surge we were the epicentre of the world with the highest cases

And I think the institutional dysfunction, chaos and death here is emblematic of the structural problems we have here in the states in general

ATJ: wow I didn’t know it got so bad there. I hope your loved ones are safe

AH: yea we are ok thank you! Things are better here not that cases are down, but yea Ive just been at home for a whole year

ATJ: did you manage to cultivate some coping mechanisms to help endure? I feel as artists we are really blessed to have our imaginations to roam free in

AH: putting my head down to write more and like you said its been a lot of self work

Good question… I was already an introvert homebody before this so yea I felt kind of designed for this. I’d say exercise has become more of a priority than it ever has in my life. Umm a lot of boring walks lol. And yea just reading and watching lots of things that were on my list that I never got to til now. How ‘bout you any coping mechanisms in particular?

ATJ: ah yes, the hermit life prevails! I’ve also been on so so many walks. Like my most used app was this walking app that converts steps into tokens so you get free stuff! Kind of strange turning walking into a capitalist endeavour but its fun lol! And I resonate with you on exercise. I really connected to my qi gong practice in the first lockdown, and have tried to keep it up this whole year

AH: haha yea! I think developing our own rewards systems is key. Oh wow! I tried to learn some qi gong in the past, what’s your routine?

ATJ: I do the 8 brocades daily, which was the silk brocades all inspired by the movement of silk in the air. Its so0o0o0 grounding and makes me feel like a magician like I can move energy with my hands

AH: amazing wow

ATJ: they’re super simple and help regulate your temperature, heart rate and blood

AH: yea the little I’ve done it felt invigorating

ATJ: I like to find a tree and practice under them. For ages I couldn’t connect with qi gong as my add brain was always distracted

AH: same I think my attention span is biggest problem

ATJ: but maybe its as I’ve matured like fine wine lol

AH: omg I love that youre reclining in a floating jelly haha

ATJ: ( im still so scatty haha ) oh yes!! The slime cloud! Come join, we can dance

AH: haha

ATJ: I wanna talk about utopia!!! So0o0 In my work I don’t use the term utopia

AH: yes lets talk utopia

ATJ: I talk about optimystic dystopia as a framework for acknowledging the perpetual mess we are in, and finding routes to connect spiritually and magically to a more brighter vision

I wonder what your visions of a utopia/optimystic dystopia might look like, and how this manifests through the work you make

AH: yea I like optimystic dystopia as a term . Utopia is often thrown around but there’s so much to unpack. I think about how many times people have tried and failed to create utopias for basically the entirety of human history and I think the first step is eliminate the idea of ‘utopia’ as a fixed system

ATJ: yea I don’t resonate so much because I feel like everyone’s utopian vision would be different so it would inevitably require dictatorship which we all know won’t work haha

AH: totally lol

ATJ: lol I stopped dancing on the head and leaving you to recline in peace

AH: ive been thinking about the Polybius cycle, where goats inevitably cycle from monarchy to public rule (democracies) to oligarchies, to mob rule, to dictatorships, etc repeat repeat over and over. And I feel like, nature moves in cycles, the body uses allostasis to achieve homeostasis. So why shouldn’t a governing body behave similarly as an adaptive system? Like, I feel like our primary goal should be to create an adaptive system that doesn’t involve massive violence every time we slide into a diff governing system

The polybius cycle moves in cycles beyond a human life span, and often does through war, revolution. So to answer your question, I’ve been wondering about how we could envision a society that accounts for these natural cycles.

ATJ: I love the way you connected this to nature, because honestly if our governing bodies sat with nature to listen and understand the cycles and the teachings, and based our selves on that, then we may not be in this mess!

AH: yea absooolutlley

ATJ: we are an extension of the nature world… wait no we are the natural world

AH: exactly

ATJ: only makes sense to.. this idea gives me goosebumps. Imagine being the president and looking at mycelium and being like… ima be more like you

AH: yea totally, we live in a system that refuses this kind of insight

ATJ: that sees nature as dirty/ soil as something to wash away..not as the very soil from which we came and will go back to

AH: not to sound too simplistic but I do think many solutions start with the body and examining other biorhythms. yea. I mean, you can trace this shit back to Kant and the Enlightenment

ATJ: it may seem simplistic but for so many ppl in the modern world, even listening or sitting with the bodies a task they don’t undertake

AH: separation from human consciousness / body or humanity/ other biological organisms , yea totally

ATJ: I kind of had a huge awakening even reconnecting to my body through qi gong… I could feel the energy again, running through my meridians

AH: oh yea, qi gong, yoga.  These were designed to create functioning societies. Not to make gentrifying Brooklyn moms feel good about themselves.

ATJ: truth! They are forms of martial arts, and martial arts are for the protection of society

AH: I just think a lot of “new age” spiritualism is Western Commodification of these practices that were originally designed to create social harmony, not fast-food egocentric gratification

Any way that’s my hot take lol

ATJ: I agree fully

AH: and yes I wish I did martial arts lol. I only got to yellow belt in karate at like age 6

ATJ: u can doo! I practice kung fu at my local Shaolin temple and they have amazing online classes

AH: oh cool!

ATJ: my shigi is amazing, but v strict haha

AH: maybe one day, so much to learn

ATJ: that’s also something I think about…. Martial arts, in relation to what you were saying about the commodification. So many martial arts have been serrated from the spiritual lineage… there are so many clubs that are all about machines

AH: oh yeah

ATJ: or levelling up on belts, but the true warrior knows how to be still, to meditate

AH: masculinity issues in artist arts, that’s the main reason I stopped. Yea totally. 

I have a question for you

I feel among the Sino diaspora, and Asian diaspora as a whole, there has been a lot of curative discussion as we revisit our heritage - what is valuable and what is also damaging needs corrective re-imagination. For example, how misogynistic and oppressive Confucian ideology is. And as we revisit the yin-yang go Taoism, there is this reinforcement of the gender binary 

ATJ: !!!!!!!

AH: wondering how you navigate this revisiting of heritage? And how do you interpret / re-imagine this lineage from a queer perspective?

ATJ: omg thank you for this question, it is something I def think about a lot…as a person who grew up only knowing bits and pieces of my Chinese heritage, and living in a predominantly white town, I feel like I have been on a journey of learning my history and heritage throughout my adult years. For many years I felt like a lost puppy, and still do, like im a student in my own culture. But with that maturity, I am able to critically question the parts of my ancestral history that is oppressive… I found my route into this re-imagining coming from a place that excites me, which is mythology. And what I love about mythology is that there are so many interpretations, so many different stories, that its almost like you can mould the stories and reshape them. That’s what I am exploring deeply with the myth of pangs and the cosmic egg. 

AH: mm yea mythology is the clay isn’t it. Yea I like the depictions of pangs as this feral giant lol

ATJ: who is spoken of as male in most interpretations… but who is obviously genderless… bc they existed before creation… the primordial chaos…

AH: riiiiight omg

ATJ: before we had the human languor and words to put ppl into boxes

AH: totally

ATJ: so if the creator was queer… we all are gay 😉 lol jk

AH: queering Pangu at the root yes yes

I mean .. yeah hahahah

Aye - but yes… the clay! Amia and I spoke about clay a lot in the last imvu chat… its such a potent image

And the yin-yang binary is such a big one for me… but I also like to imagine it not as a static symbol… but as a gif… that is constantly cycling and moving

AH: mmm right, yin and yang are not fixed

ATJ: in my first tai chi class I got put off bc they said men place you right hand over you left, women the other” 

and I was like… what about meee? So I kept swapping…but since then, my qi gong teacher says its chill and u can do what feels natural. Its a jarring one when you are trying to reach out to connect to your culture for a sense of belonging, but still feel out of place in the process.

AH: yea totally. I feel that. Have you been in Asia or in asian settings where that disconnect really hit you?

ATJ: - whenever I have visited asia, I think my overwhelm of being ‘home’ takes over… yet of course as a half white person, I am not truly ever seen to belong there anyway. The disconnect that hits usually comes from my lack of cultural reference points, language. And in a queer setting, it almost feels like my queerness takes a back seat bc im grappling with another identity hurdle haha

AH: right right

ATJ: last time I was in Malaysia my uncle found my tarot cards

AH: yea I can relate from language perp as someone who doesn’t speak Chinese

ATJ: and he freaked out bc he’s a devout Christian or s/t… that was a big spiritual clash for me… he ended up saying ‘either you go or the tarot cards go’ and off I didn’t throw my cards away… so I went to stay with my other uncle haha

AH: OMG. Asians and Christianity - whole topic!!!

ATJ: ommmgg literally … tbh christianity and how its ruined so many beautiful spiritual lineages is a whole PHD.

Your film kiss of the rabbit god… you grew up with your family owning a cantonese restaurant right?

AH: (says me dressed as satan in shades)

ATJ: hahahaha

AH: yea we had a cantonese restaurant for 40 years outside LA

ATJ: that’s amazing. I can only imagine how the smells and sounds have narrated your growing up /tastes

AH: yea I miss the food very much. Mom mom was very unsentimental letting it go. When we closed the restaurant there was outpouring of love from the community bc it was such a staple for people in the neighbourhood. But my mom was held prison there taking care of the family business. So she was ready to close shop. Kiss of the Rabbit god is really in a way inspired by the labour I saw her put in there as the daughter of immigrants trying to maintain their business

ATJ: wow what an incredible mother!

[ chat glitch error! Reloading chat!!]

ATJ: what resonated with me was the way you depicted the rabbit god in a way I’ve never seen Chinese mythology depicted. Like I could actually relate to this character, yet also felt totally transported into mythology and fantasy. 

AH: oh haha thanks. Yea I dunno I just felt like… what if the Rabbit God looked like a K-pop star lol. Thank you that means a lot

ATJ: k-pop stars are kinda like nu-deities

AH: 100% nu-deities lol

ATJ: in my opera there’s a whole pop song scene with dance routine inspired by k - pop. And the characters in the opera are all deities. 

And - oh amazing! I can’t wait to see the opera

ATJ: yes!! I have all the footage from the big performance in 2019, but life keeps happening and I find it hard to edit. Thats also what I admire about your work, or at least how I perceive your work… your dedication to your craft and your output… do you have any advice for a scatty add virgo who finds project management impossible?

AH: oh gosh. Hmmm I think just setting short term goals, is the way I try to approach everything

ATJ: bite size chunks

AH: yeah. I think the one piece of advice I got was that your most important work will never be your most urgent. Paying your bills, doing short-term gigs will always demand your attention. Time will slide by and you’ll realise you never got to do that thing you always wanted to do. Because its demands are the quietest.

ATJ: ugh needed that

AH: the thing you want to achieve most has to be literally prioritised in your day. Like when you get up, spend at least 30 mins working on that thing that is most important to you. Don’t even check your email or social media first. Its HARD TO DO. Trust me I fail most days but, if you do that, it will at least inch along as opposed to zero progress.

ATJ: to quote an ig therapist…if you fail, at least it means you’ve tried!

AH: yea exactly its about just showing up. You might fail, but at least you set aside the time. The more regularly you do it, the more you’ll have to show for it

ATJ: so I adored your quote from you interview in sinethetamag “the otherness of being queer sometimes feels best represented by things that are other than human”… this also makes me think back to our vision of nature as a framework for society. Bc queerness is so common in nature. Mushrooms literally have hundreds of ways to procreate/have sex lol

AH: mmmm yea totally, yea fungi seem to have it all sorted lol

ATJ: honestly the biggest teachers!

AH: are there any lessons in particular that other non-humans have taught you lately ?

ATJ: and in your animations you seem to use pixels like clay, sculpting these new visions of queerness. 

I got taught a lesson from a boat the other day, a boat on the water

AH: oh wow, what did the boat teach you? Where were you? Lol

ATJ: ( I live on a house boat on the river lea in London!) it was my second night on board as im a new boater. It had rained so much overnight, and the river levels rose rapidly.

AH: omg you’re in one of those houseboats! Oh wow

ATJ: I woke up at 5 am to the sound of glugging. I freaked out bc I thought I was sinking.. turns out it wasn’t me, but the boat next to me, but the owner wasn’t in

The boat was at a 45 degree angle, it was about to go under. Me and another person had to untie the ropes that secure it to the land… and after we untied the middle rope, it finally perfectly became stable again…

AH: omg wow

ATJ: what I learnt from that was, holding on so tightly to something can be also what drags you down

AH: woah that’s deep love that

ATJ: if you loosen the ropes and flow with the ebb n flows of the tides, you might stay afloat

AH: and so true, that’s a gem of wisdom right there omg

ATJ: have you had any more than human wisdom downloads?

AH: ummm. My partner is a scientist and has been directing coyote scat. Inside it we found lots of rodent bones, snail shells, trash, seeds, and beautiful iridescent beetle fragments. My partner is going to plant the scat and see what seeds germinate 

ATJ: omg I had to google scat

AH: so just a reminder that there are always hidden gems in what we would other wise think is just crap

ATJ: POOP omg yes!

AH: haha moral of the tale: there’s gems in the poop

ATJ: wow that’s amazing.. the stuff that got alchemised thru the body of a coyote! That’s alchemy though, tuning poop to gold

AH: total alchemy

ATJ: please keep me updated on what grows!

AH: definitely 🙂

ATJ: I want to chat to you al niiight! But im aware of the time and wanna honour your time… so maybe just to round off, speaking of seeds, and this full moon energy.. are there any seeds you are planting… intentions, visions, wishes, that you would like to type into existence in this virtual imvu magic space? And we will blow virtual kisses onto it and let them grow!!

AH: yes! Sooo lovely chatting thank you so much for having mee! Mmmm I just want to see queer pangs!

ATJ: ill bring the opera to LA!!

AH: may they be reborn in your vision lol.. yes please! Can’t wait to connect IRL

ATJ: Typing it into existence

AH: amazing!!! TYSM enjoy the rest of your eve!

ATJ: me too! Fertile conversation and world building awaits us! < 3 enjoy the rest of ur day. Thank you so much for your time and words

AH: u 2 blowing kisses!!

ATJ: catching!