The art installation for my CreateSpace Public Art Residency took place over the Culture Days weekend on September 24 and 25, 2022.
I have learned a lot during this residency.
At times, I felt fun and excitement because I got to try new things, such as working with sound and light.
At times, I felt stressed and asked why I wanted to do such a complicated project with so many moving parts. Then I have to remind myself to choose empowering thoughts just like the purpose of this project. Instead of saying “why, this is so hard”, I changed my self-talk to “I am happy that I get to try something new. Just do my best and don’t worry about the results now. Whatever happens, it’s all good. I can do it!”
I tested the installation at my parent’s backyard before the official installation weekend. Originally, I wanted the lights to be on top as if looking at the stars at night. I wasn’t very happy with the result so after having dinner I played with other ideas and options. You can see a glimpse of the inside (picture below) but stay tuned for a video of the installation.
There are a lot of improvisations along the way. My original idea of hanging the ribbons at the site of the installation didn’t work because the trees there were huge with no branches low enough for anyone to reach. We ended up hanging the ribbons around the installation and around the white tent for the art activities.
On the second day, we tied a yarn from the installation to the activity tent so people can hang the ribbons themselves.
We also decided to put chairs inside the installation for people to hear the audios. The site I’ve chosen was very important to the installation so I decided to put some chairs outside the exit to let people know that I want them to feel the difference between the noisy mind chatter (the installation) with the spaciousness and quietness of nature.
I am so happy to see and hear people enjoying this project. At first we were a bit worried that kids would be afraid of the fear-based thoughts but I saw children playing and laughing inside the installation as if it were a maze.
I also saw children playing with and chasing the ribbons flying in the wind.
A young woman told me she needed this as she was currently facing a problem.
A young man said he didn’t know what he wanted and sat there pondering this question before writing on his ribbon.
At the end of the first day, I counted 99 ribbons. At the end of the second day, we moved all the ribbons to the “wishing trees” where they are going to stay for about a month. Then I am going to weave them into a “Tapestry of Hope.”
I am so happy that I get to do this project. Isn’t life just like this? We have an idea and we work on making it a reality. We don’t know what we will get at the end. There are many twists and turns and lots of improvisations along the way. At the end if we get to share what’s meaningful to us with people and touch someone in a positive way, isn’t it all worth it?
Thank you to all the brave people for sending me audio recordings of their fears and/or worries!
***(Please see how you can experience this art installation here.)
I am surprised by how many people said similar or exactly the same things!
I also think and feel a lot of the things people are saying on these audio recordings. I am also learning about some of my hidden worries and fears!
Although the purpose of my project is to become more aware of our thoughts and to pivot them into more constructive ways of thinking, I now hope people experiencing this art installation will realize that you are not alone! You are not the only one who feels this way. It also made me question where did we get those thoughts and believes from? Are we all brainwashed by mass media? Our society?
I tried to get recordings from a diverse group of people, from different age groups, genders and cultural backgrounds with different languages spoken at home (see the list of languages I have below). Shouldn’t I get a wide array of different fears and worries as we have different life experience? It’s probably not diverse enough but still, why do I keep getting the same fears and worries? Who’s been feeding us these disempowering thoughts?
For example: I was having tea time with other moms, one of them said she felt guilty for leaving the kids to her husband for a couple of hours. Why do women feel guilty when they spend time for themselves? Why do women feel like they have to do everything, take care of the kids and build their careers?
Another mom said she’s afraid any wrong words and/or actions will negatively impact her children’s life forever. She’s one of the most loving moms I know and why does she feel this pressure to be perfect? I know for sure she’s not alone in feeling this way.
As I am working on this project, I am reading Matthieu Ricard’s A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill: Happiness.
In this book, he said we spent time on getting a degree, building a career, raising a family, exercising our bodies but we don’t spend time on developing the skill of being happy.
It starts with going inward, becoming aware of our thoughts and managing those thoughts: knowing which ones lead to pain and which ones contribute to well-being.
Matthieu Ricard is a genetic scientist turned Buddhist monk. I like how he references scientific studies like an actual scientist. And scientists believe positive thoughts have an evolutionary advantage because they help us “build resilience and influence the ways people cope with adversity.”
I made a booklet that explains the project to people. I was planning to hand them out during BC Culture Days but it took me seven minutes to print, fold and staple each booklet. I’ve since then made my booklet into a single sheet (double-sided) that you can read below or download here (Chinese version 中文版):
Here is a list of the languages I have in the audio recordings so far:
I am making a booklet to go with my CreateSpace public art installation. It’s a way for me to explain the purpose of the project. Since there will be lots of kids during the BC Culture Days weekend when my installation will be up, I made the booklet with kids in mind. I am trying to make it easy to read with lots of illustrations.
As I was listening to Oprah’s conversation with Panache Desai, I thought this is exactly what my project is about. I found Desai’s book in our library and borrowed it immediately. Once again, Oprah has introduced me to another must-read author.
One of the big takeaways is the practice of non-judgment. I first learned about this concept of non-judgment from Deepak Chopra. I tried it on my mother-in-law and miraculously turned our hostile relationship into a harmonious one. I am a believer of this kind of teaching ever since. In Desai’s book, he talks about acceptance of ourselves without judgment. Can you imagine if we have a hostile relationship with ourselves? No wonder people are suffering mentally and emotionally.
In this video, Dr. Joe Dispenza said “Our thoughts can make us sick. We can think about our problems, imagine the worst case scenario in our life, and turn on that stress response just by thought alone. The science says that stress can push the genetic buttons that create disease. If our thoughts can make us sick, is it possible then our thoughts can make us well?”
If yes, I would want to think thoughts that “make us well.” The purpose of my project is to pivot the voice in our head to better feeling thoughts. “To dispel the mental toxins that cause unhappiness” as Matthieu Ricard said in his book A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill: Happiness.
Matthieu Ricard said we spend a lot of time and effort on studying in school, building a career, exercising our body, building relationships but we do very little to improve our inner state which determines the quality of our life!
In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental illness.
By the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, 1 in 2 have – or have had – a mental illness.
Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.
Johnathan Haidt, a social psychologist and professor at NYU said in this video that there is a spike in anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide amongst preteens and young teens. Because of social media, kids are now facing bullying and peer pressure at a whole new level.
Shouldn’t we also teach kids the skills to better mental health?
Dr. Libby Weaver talked about this “Rushing Woman’s Syndrome” and how even “perceive” stress plays an important role in woman’s health and weight. She said when we are under stress (perceived or real threat), our body runs the Sympathetic Nervous System where we burn glucose for fight or flight. When we are calm, our body runs on the Parasympathetic Nervous System where it is digesting, repairing, growing, creative and burning fat!
After meeting with people from the Richmond Art Gallery about this project, they gave me some really good ideas. Because I already have this concept of what I wanted to do in my mind, I am thinking strictly on how to make that concept into a reality. I didn’t really consider other options. After talking with other artists, I realized that I had such narrow focused thinking, even on a creative project!
During one of the workshops of the residency, the guest artist speaker also suggested talking with other people and other artists. Sometimes, great ideas are from these discussions which could happen any point during the process. Listening to others help us see different perspective and open our focus to more possibilities.
Maybe that’s why we should talk to people when we are stuck in a mental rut. I know I felt better after venting my frustrations and troubles to trusted family and friends. Especially if I couldn’t get out of the downward negative spiral by myself. They help me reaffirm and gave more strength to the better feeling thoughts.
It’s so interesting that as I am working on this project, I started reading Matthieu Ricard’s A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill: Happiness. On page 38 he said: “happiness is a skill, a manner of being, but skills must be learned.”
I am so grateful for this opportunity to share my learning through art with others.
Hopefully, after people have experience my temporary public art installation, they can take away something to add to their toolbox for better mental health.
One of the many benefits of having mentors is that they share ideas that you’ve not thought of. Collin, a mentor from the CreateSpace residency suggested that I try the ribbons now and see how they weather in the elements (please see previous posts for project descriptions).
I am trying different markers and just by trying, I learned the nuances of things:
From left to right:
Sharpies work well as long as I write big and in capital letters. The alphabets bled together and were illegible when I write in lower case (done in orange Sharpie).
Get wider ribbons
Fabric marker is very smooth to write with on the ribbon. Although it bled a little bit, it’s still legible and acceptable.
Water-based acrylic marker did not work well because it bled, dried up fast on the surface of the ribbon and when I reload the paint, it created blobs of paint on the ribbon.
Posca markers work pretty well. The tip is very fine so it kind of scratches and get stuck on the ribbons but if I write slanted like italic, it is smooth.
Oil-based paint markers are harder to use because they dry up as I write. I have to press down on the tip to get more paint and it smells. The white one didn’t work at all.
I was surprise that the roll of ribbon ran out after making 6 strips or 5.5 strips as one is very short. The roll is 18 feet long and has smooth looking surface.
As I tie the ribbons on the tree, I want to make sure it’s secure but also easy to take down. Need to ask my boy-scout husband about different knot options.
When I was taking pictures of the ribbons on the tree, the writing with the neon green Posca marker kind of shined and it looks nice. It was mentioned that it kind of blend in with the trees and leaves.
Buy different colour ribbons so they are more visible on the trees. I bought the lighter colour ribbon so I know the writing will show. I will try if the markers work on darker ribbons.
In this video, Dr. Joe said think about a problem that you have right now in your life. On a piece of paper, write down the thoughts and feeling associated with the problem. Write down how you speak and act if you are trapped in a box with this problem. Then imagine you are out of the box and the problem is resolved. How would you think, act and feel then? I like Dr. Joe because everything he taught is science based. If you like science and how it relates to human potential, it’s interesting to read his books.
Esther Hicks also wrote about many tools to train our brain to think empowering thoughts. I believe our brain is a powerful tool if we can learn how to use it. It requires practice as I find myself going back to the old habitual ways (Dr. Joe talk about this too and it’s because habits are energy efficient but limiting when you want to create something new).
As I think about what to write on the ribbon, I used Esther Hicks’ idea to “think better feeling thoughts”.
Take one problem I have for example: I hate losing money (because of the bear stock market).
This led to me think about that time long ago when I sold my condo too early and lost on the “potential” of making more money (how funny my brain works to hate losing “potential” money) and that I don’t know how to make more money, etc. On and on and on and it felt terrible.
As Esther Hicks suggested, try to think better, even slightly better feeling thoughts:
“It’s all in the past now. I am doing alright right now. I am learning and getting better and better. I have control over my own thoughts and point of view. It would be nice if I have more money than I can spend. I would feel secure, free, fun, relaxed, adventurous, joy. I am taken care of. I don’t have to get there right now. I can just relax and enjoy this moment right now. Right now at this moment, everything is well. I love my life. I appreciate having my family. I am happy that I can sleep in. I enjoy good food, a cup of hot tea and reading a good book. I am happy that I am doing what I love and what brings me joy…”
Then I felt excited and I started working on my ribbons.
Wherever you are in your life, you can move tiny step by tiny step toward where you want to be. I think one of my biggest problem is that I want to get there right now, at this instant!
I am really starting to believe the power of our mind.
Before my picture book was published, I didn’t have much going on in my art career and one day sitting on the couch, reading a book with my family by my side, I felt this genuine appreciation. I felt that there’s nothing more I could ask for in my life. Shortly after (maybe several months to half a year), I got the publishing contract!
There are several examples that I can think of in my life that when I start to appreciate the simple things in life, more was given to me.
I want to mention my list of good feeling words on my wall behind my monitor (again). It’s there as a reminder. Even if I don’t know what I want, I know the feeling that I want. Maybe I will ask people to help me add to my list of good feeling words.
During the pandemic, I see a lot of divisiveness in our society and if I look at the root causes, I find thoughts and emotions rooted in fear which are common to all human beings, regardless of age, race, identity, physical ability, etc.
As part of my CreateSpace public art residency, I am inviting people to observe the voices in their heads and pivot those voices into more empowering thoughts.
During the BC Culture Days weekend (September 24-25, 2022), I will cover a tent with dark fabrics and play audio recordings of a collection of people’s worries and fears inside the tent. My idea is to magnify what goes on in our mind and invite people to become more aware of the voices in our head.
I am looking for volunteers of different age, race, identity, language spoken, religion, etc to record audios of their fears and/or worries. The audio recordings will be anonymous. You can also write them down and we will read/record it. To see some of Jeni’s mind chatters, check out this blog post. If you are interested, please contact me at email@example.com
Part 2: Outside of Richmond Cultural Centre During BC Culture Days Weekend (September 24-25, 2022)
During the BC Culture Days weekend, the public are invited to walk through the tent that represents the mind chatters. As they leave the tent, they will face a tree-lined green space which represents opening our heart to the spaciousness of our true-being. People are invited to move to that new space where they will write down the thoughts and emotions they would like to replace their fears with on strings of ribbons and tie these ribbons to a wishing tree.
Part 3: Tapestry of Hope
At the end of the project, I will weave these ribbons into a Tapestry of Hope that represent the choices that we have every moment by choosing to think and act based on love rather than fear.
I love Anita Moorjani’s idea that each of us is a thread in a huge beautiful tapestry and we have the choice to touch another person in a positive way, even in a small way (which could multiply!)
As part of my life journey, I want to learn how to be my most authentic self and live a fulfilling life. As I read books and learn about the teachings of wise people, I found (regardless of the authors’ race, religion or approach to life, etc) this basic common thread:
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi*
Purpose of the project:
Matthieu Ricard, a French scientist turned monk (and artist) said:
“Happiness is a skill… they need to be developed. That’s what education is about.”
“It involves understanding which thoughts, words, and actions inevitably lead to pain and which contribute to well being.”
Through this project, I hope to practice and bring awareness to the fear based thinking that divide people. I truly believe that if we can choose to think and act out of love (rather than fear) or just be reminded to appreciate the simple things in our lives, we can be happier with not only ourselves but with each other.
Here’s a list of authors that talk about the voices in our head and how to transform them into more empowering thoughts that contribute to deep and lasting well-being.
This public art project, as with many of my artworks, was inspired by the books that I kept by my bedside table. Many of these authors I’ve learned from Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. As I am trying to figure out this life on earth and learning from these “thought leaders” and visionaries” as Oprah calls them, I get inspirations for my art. Some of these spiritual teachers include Eckhart Tolle and Michael Singer, both of which talked about the “voices in our heads.”
Michael Singer said in this Super Soul Sunday interview, the voice in your head is not the real you. You are the consciousness that is aware of this voice. I’ve heard some names for this voice: mind chatter, mind freak, ego, mini me and it’s based on fear. Our true self is much bigger and rooted in love.
As I became more aware of this voice in my head, I am trying to listen to what it is saying. Here are some of the common thoughts that I’ve observed in myself:
Replay of things that happened in the past (this person said this and I should’ve have said that)
Things I worry about (too many to list here but I will give an example later)
Fears (usually felt as emotions and I tried to avoid thinking about it)
The funniest thing I observe is that I would actually imagine in my mind how I would do some of the things on my to-do-list, even mundane things like mopping the floor. But this is pretty useful when I think about how I would create my art or work out each panel of my comics.
I think the mind is a very powerful tool if we can learn how to use it correctly. When it is rooted in love or from our true self it is an amazing tool. But when it is rooted in fear or what Eckhart Tolle called the ego, all hell breaks loose and we see people fighting or even killing each other.
As Tolle said in this interview, we can choose to take our attention away from our incessant thinking and try to feel the energy inside our body. Can you feel your hands right now without touching anything?
Another spiritual teacher I love is Esther Hicks. She said often times, it is difficult to stop a train of thought when the momentum is too strong. She recommended meditation to quiet our mind. Just sit comfortably and listen to the air conditioner or something like that. She also said if you want to jump to a positive place from a negative place, it could be difficult because the gap is too big. But we can take baby steps.
In her book, Ask and It’s Given, there’s an exercise called “Which thoughts feel better?”
Right now, I am waiting for a shipment of my picture book Emet’s Box to arrive and I have to deliver them to the schools that I visited. The estimated arrival date is between June 20 – June 28 and the last day of school is June 29!
I know it’s a small worry compare to a lot of problems out there in the world right now but I just can’t stop thinking about it because I really want the students who have ordered my book to get it before the end of the school year.
Last night, I couldn’t hold it in anymore and I spilled my guts to my husband about my worries. He said it’s out of my control and the books could arrive any day now. But my mind won’t shut up with more worries such what if the estimation was wrong? What if they changed the estimated date of arrival?
Instead of thinking “my books have not arrive yet”
I feel better when I think “my books can arrive any day now.”
If this doesn’t work, I tell myself “whatever happens, it’s all good” or “I will figure it out when the time comes.”
On the other hand, if I keep thinking along the line of “my books have not arrive yet,” then I would add to that thought and started blaming: why didn’t I order them earlier, why did my publisher not get back to me right away, is there something wrong, etc.
If I think my publisher is probably very busy with two new books coming out and I feel better because that is a better feeling thought.
I also have a list of good feeling words on my wall. I think about the feeling that I want instead of going down the negative spiral. Or I can do something else to distract myself, meditate, take a nap, go for a walk, read some inspiring books, watch comedies, etc.
“It is out of my control now, there’s no point struggling against it and suffer.”
“We’ll know in a few days if I make the deadline of delivery of not. No big deal.”
My thoughts go up and down but when I am aware of it, I can do something about it.
Oprah said: What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Many other spiritual teachers said similar things and from my personal experience I am learning to believe it more and more.
In this public art project, I am inviting participants to become aware of the voices in their heads. What are they saying? Are they judging, critical, blaming, encouraging or empowering? What if we have the choice to pivot our thoughts step by step to ones that help us rather than harm us (and everyone around us)? What if we are able to break out of our past conditioning and choose to use our amazing mind to empower us?
The first part of the project is where I invite people to record their deepest fear or worries like I’ve shared here. During BC Culture Days weekend, I will set up a dark tent where I play these pre-recorded audios to mimic the chatter in our mind.
Participants on BC Culture Days weekend (Sept 24-25, 2022?) can walk through this tent to experience the mind chatters made obvious. The participants then open the blinds of the tent to face an open green space surrounded by trees. It is spacious, quiet and beautiful, representing our true inner being. This is where participant will be invited to write down what they want instead. Wishes, dreams for the future, or simply better feeling thoughts or just feeling they want like I’ve posted on my wall (see below picture).
PS. As I am writing this, and working on my own thoughts, I got a message from my publisher that the package is arriving tomorrow. Thank you!
I haven’t drawn any comics since March 2022. My excuse is that my picture book Emet’s Box was released in April and I was busy working on that. Then, I had a table at VanCAF in May 2022 and I was busy gathering all the EJ Rascal comics that I’ve drawn since 2016 when EJ was 5 years old. I had over 100 comic strips that I compiled into comics books and printed at home to sell at VanCAF. When I was going through all my comics, I felt a sense of accomplishment and wanted to create more comics. At the end of VanCAF on Sunday, I had dinner with some friends who came to visit at VanCAF. One of the kids brought my comics to dinner and two other graphic novels written and illustrated by a well know person and published by the big five. But I noticed the kid would read my comics, put it back into her pocket and took it out to read it again after a while. This happened several times during dinner. My DIY comic book got a little wrinkled but a lot of love. It felt so good to see a kid enjoying reading my comics. This reconfirmed my earlier feeling that I want to make more comics and to get better at making comics.
Last year, I’ve read a book on Zen Buddhism and I wanted to draw comics about KOAN. According to Dictionary.com, a koan is “a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment.”
I love the ideas of contradictions and shattering our logical reasoning. These are something that I see in flowers which inspired my paintings.
This morning I woke up thinking maybe I can draw one comic strip per day. Or one per week so I will get better at it.
I do meditation regularly and I was intrigued by the title of this video. Basically his master said if you want to get something out of your meditation, there is this egoic desire which pulls you away from the now. If we are thinking about achieving enlightenment through meditation, we are thinking about the future. But if we have no desire or wanting during meditation, we can be one with the now and that’s where our power is. I think it’s the same as appreciating the now, be satisfied with whatever we have in our life right now. When I feel overwhelmed or frustrated or not having clarity, I told myself that I don’t have to do anything right now and I feel calmer and more relaxed. I think I was conditioned to do things quickly so I can achieve results quickly and that took out the fun of the doing.
I was going to make this series of KOAN comic black and white only but I ended up colouring just the main characters. I tried so many purples for ZigZag (my son EJ said it’s ZigZagi because he named the characters).
I will see how I feel about my comic style as time goes. I just need to make more comics so I can get better. Another great video I watched recently: THE PRACTICE by Seth Godin | Core Message Basically he says 1. Make more work 2. Commit to sharing your work on a regular basis.
I also bought Scott McCloud’s Making Comics which is a great book. He shows you how to make comics in the form of comics.
I want to set up my temporary public art installation outside of Richmond Cultural Center where there are a lot of trees and enough space for my tent. During BC Culture Days, this area will have a lot of foot traffic and I can invite people to participate. The other day, I went to the site to take some pictures.
(Picture on left): I can set up the “mind chatter tent” on the green space and when people leave the tent, they will come face to face with the trees. I noticed the construction noises coming from across the street and it may interfere with my sound recordings.
(Picture in the middle): I wonder if I can set up the tent on the walk way so it’s easier for people to walk on especially if it’s in the dark tent.
(Picture on right): This is a nice space, further from the noise of the street and construction site, lots of trees in from but the green space is not leveled. It may not be safe to walk here.
I also notice the trees are very tall with no low branches for me to tie the ribbons on. I have to look around for other trees and found this row of trees right beside the entrance to the cultural centre. See pictures below:
The only thing is that the entrance is a bit further from my tent. I may have to ask people to write on the ribbon right after they exit the tent but walk over here to tie their ribbons. I will need someone to help me guide people here. There also may be other tables here during BC Culture Days and access to the trees is a question. The good thing is that the trees are right by the entrance to the Cultural Centre. If I leave the ribbons on for a while (say a week to a month), more people can interact with the ribbons and wonder about what they were. I will make a sign to let know know about this project.