With Claudia - 順其自然

My friendship with Claudia started at a mutual friend’s apartment in the summer of 2018. We bonded over us laughing at a joke I don’t quite remember. The kind of uncontrollable laughter that makes me rock back and forth without making a sound, so everyone else could do nothing more than sit in awkward silence, wondering if we were breathing okay.

In April of 2019, she invited her friends to write a word or a phrase with calligraphy ink on rice paper for her solo art show re(trace) ::: 你會記住我嗎 (Will You Remember Me)?. Claudia photographed the writings in nature with a 35mm film camera, and hand developed each photograph in the darkroom. Through the process of reteaching and relearning Chinese in the intimate sessions with participants, she explored the means to receive and release in her journey of healing through grief and loss.

“… believing that everything goes through a Life/Death/Life Cycle and a continuous circle, the artist documented each piece in nature, hoping to evoke the feeling of being one with the Earth, as to go back to once what we were, are, and will be.”

順其自然 means “to go with the flow; to let things be, as they will be just as they wish to be”. A phrase my mom uses often when she sees me stressed over things I can’t control. Perhaps it’s with this outlook as a constant reminder, that she was able to get through some of the most challenging times in her life thus far. It was intuitive for me to select this as my phrase for Claudia’s exhibition. Despite my best efforts to let go of control, I realized I made a noticeable typo in one of the characters, and ironically had to rewrite the entire phrase another day. 

The final result that Claudia captured and developed.

Fast forward to April of 2020, Claudia shared a link to Zou Mat Je, an Australian-based publication with a title that roughly translates to “What are you doing?” seeking submissions from the Cantonese diaspora. It was the beginning of the pandemic, with a level of intensity and uncertainty that we haven’t experienced on such a global scale in recent years. We combed through our conversations for possible topics of exploration. We talked about the moon, food as nourishments, beautiful sunsets, our routines, friendship, and finding comfort in our processes. Before I could gather my thoughts from our brainstorming session, her Aries self had already started and finished the poem in lightning speed while I ruminated on creating the “right” image for far too long. 

Claudia’s poem tugs on all my heartstrings with lyrical metaphors and comforting visuals that translate our connection with beautifully composed words. The way the writing flows and dances across the page, bookended with a greeting and a declaration of release to illustrate a still, and steady passing of time makes me want to re-read the piece over and over again. In an increasingly hopeless state of reality, may we “always find bellies laughter in ruptured bruises of departing hope.”

Grateful for her for always checking up on me. Grateful for our voice note exchanges, even if I always have to switch between Cantonese and English mid-sentence. Grateful for her Cantopop playlist that brings me back to a distant and vague childhood memory. Grateful for this opportunity for collaboration, and best of all, grateful for our friendship.

Read Our Piece Here!

A photograph of myself and Claudia.

A photograph of Claudia and I, taken in 2019 at a park.

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