#Practice – Place I Miss

I’m wondering what it would sound like at this moment in Jeanne-Mance Park. Not this moment as 8PM at night but the moment when quietness become so obvious that you don’t need to be quiet to listen to it. But that’s the point, I’ve never heard of a Jeanne-Mance Park without traffic, without crowd, without livelihood, even in an eerie January night. 

I remember the sound of wheels drifting away in that thick winter air, as if the sound waves were liquid bypassing my ear, and the flickering lights of vehicles across my sight. What I also remember is the bilingual gibberish from the mouth of the innocent kids jumping, the sound, sometimes swear, laughter, and the embodiment of the vitality of the city.

I wonder, how it sounds like right now, the Jeanne-Mance Park.

A Dutch town, a mental hospital, two authors, three painters, confinement, and The Triumph of Death.

I was reading an article about a week ago regarding how an art historian settled down an argument over the precise location of a specific scene in a little Dutch town by using tax and residential property records. It was short but an interesting read, as I love art history and am into investigation. At the time I wasn’t paying attention to this painter, however I do like the work very much, a peaceful still scene in a Dutch little town Delft. The painting is called “The Little Street”.

Just a few days later I was reading “Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen, in which she mentioned a painting displayed in the Frick Collection by a Dutch Golden Age Painter, Johannes Vermeer, who happens to be the person who painted “The Little Street” (Vermeer is also the painter who created other more famous works such as “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and “The Milkmaid”). The painting, which is titled “Girl Interrupted at Her Music”, is essentially what Susanna’s half-autobiographic work named after; she dedicates the name of the book to that moment (or moments) when she was in Frick Collection looking at that girl, when the girl seemed to talk to her.

And then I saw a friend sharing an amazing painting on Instagram by, again, such a coincident, a Dutch painter, from the same period of time, whose name is Marseus van Schrieck. I mentioned that I just recently discovered Johannes Vermeer (out of surprise) and she then introduced me to a documentary film called “Tim’s Vermeer”, which is the journey of an entrepreneur Tim Jenison trying to recreate the painting device Vermeer used centuries ago (this is based on a theory that Vermeer used Camera Obscura to create his realistic photo-like works).

Finally, yesterday, I picked up my “The Colossus” by Sylvia Plath, a book I bought a while ago but only started reading because of the confinement. In the second poem “Two Views of a Cadaver Room”, Sylvia used Pieter Brueghel’s panorama painting “The Triumph of Death” as a motif (or a scene) to express her complex understanding/feeling of death and love. While the painting is clearly related to the Black Death, I can’t stop to think that both Susanna Kaysen and Sylvia Plath were confined to the same hospital, McLean Hospital, but 15 years apart, and that I, and actually we, are all in confinement in this pandemic that kills thousands and counting, a real Triumph of Death.

Bodily Emotion

I may not have that a strong intuition to how my body express my emotions since dance is still a relatively new phenomenon to me; this body has been painting for more than thirty years, but moves according to score for only about a year. Express not in the sense of facial expression, but of the complete scheme of movements of my entire body. I’ve originally supposed that movements evoke emotion, or, at least allow certain emotions to emerge, if it, the subject matter even if it is not identifiable, do exist, but I’ve since adjusted my concept, recognizing that it may not always be the movement that “triggers” the emotion, but the emotion chooses the movement, or, at least, certain movements allow certain emotions to be released. They are so fleeting and so not constrained by logos that it is hard to differentiate the cause apart from the result, they arise spontaneously without reasoning thus are difficult to define.


Speed is in my experience not the most provocative quality regarding expressing emotions, it can randomly link to joy and ecstasy, which would be considered positive emotions, or madness and anger, which conventionally would be negative emotions. And a sudden abruption of movement can in a way demonstrate confusion or doubt; at least for me.  But I don’t see it directly suggests specific emotions, it seems that it actually requires other subtle characters, maybe even context, to determine what exact emotion is realizing. That being said, it can hardly be sad when we are moving fast, although we have this sort of collective memories of a specific image that people running away while crying, it doesn’t seem to be the way I experience sadness or grievance. It must be slow; the hearse slowly passes the town, that’s our perception, so when I grieve, I move slowly, as if I need that much time to process the pain. Or maybe in a sense, it’s the pain that slows us down, that we are not capable of moving fast. But is it really that we are dragged by the pain, or rumination, or we are simply taking our time to collect ourselves, when we are processing anything overwhelming, or that this perception is so heavily engraved in our body language that we conform to the reign of steadiness? I do not know.

Giving up control

I recognise the fact that I’m exploring more about grieve and anything regarding atrocity, simply because we see joyfulness and festive emotions all over the place; we know it very well; we experience it without hesitation. They are visible, we don’t hide these emotions that often.

Also, this is maybe not very much about anger, as it is the most instinctive emotion, maybe the most ancient one, that it reacts so fast and is so demonstrative that we don’t need to look at it directly to recognise it. It is there when you hear that pounding, the erupted ones, it is madness. 

But pain can be invisible, maybe fear too. It is not the invisibility that makes them so different, it’s the intention to cover those emotions makes it so crucial, as our body desires an outlet for those emotions. In a sense, to let go of something.

And I am still not certain what to let go of? Is it to let go of the emotion itself, to let go of the obsession, to let go of the desire to do something, to let go of the pain, but how to let the pain go?

I don’t really think we can let go of pain, it’s not like inventory that we can control, being mindful only teaches me that we have no control over our emotion, certainly, not over our pain, physical or psychological. But I somehow have this tendency to, through certain type of movement, release something non-verbal through the act of giving up. There was a period of time I intentionally let my body fall as a distinctive part of my score. Giving it a chance to not care, probably; to not act proactively, but free it from the control of consciousness, to loosen my thighs and knees, to cease the support from the lower body, or to stop the hamstring from being stiff, to allow the spine to bend to ground. A physical way to demonstrate my intention of giving up. 

But giving up is not, in anyway, an emotion, not even desperation an emotion, it is a quasi-intentional act to allow the release of something, something I yet to define, or a complex of multiple objects. 

And there are other forms of giving up, swings and roll. 

There are subtle differences between the swings, and there is this one that I move solely my core, and allows my limbs to swing without directing the arms, the legs; I forget about the tips of the body, I conduct the movement by directing my core. And also, the rolling, which actually consists of two separate but seamlessly connected movements, a pull of body to the point of losing balance, and the release of body by its own weight. The second part is obviously less intentional, although we do intend to roll by initiating the first part of the movement.

But this, the act of giving up, is significantly more cognitive than instinctive. The act is a complex of understanding how reality works and a purposeful reaction to it, a choice to not act in a way.

These two movements, I found, are less intuitive in terms of giving up control, as they require intentional manoeuvres rather than a single, direct action, like lying down, and thus intrigued me to hypothesize that some movements are the representation of the emotions and some intentional movements allows the release of certain emotions. However, I don’t seem to have enough reason to conclude whether this is a universal phenomenon that is consistent on everyone, so it’s only an observation on my own experience. 


I use the term resistance to roughly describe all the movements that require using force to sustain certain positions especially against an existing force, such as weight. As a result in its nature a lot of the movements I’m going to describe are partly static, like plank, overarching the body, but in other cases it can be something more active, such as grabbing and holding any body part, pushing into the wall, etc.

I didn’t pay enough attention to how resistance interact with emotions, but simply recognised that I tend to perform the kind of movements frequently when I’m stuck in my emotional turmoil, the resistance represents naturally my struggle, or, to a certain stand, my reaction to pain, as the very word “struggle” implies an action against an unfavourable condition, and that action can be easily interpreted as resistance. 

So, I am not certain if resistance represent an emotion, but it certainly doesn’t induce emotions. I see it as a reaction to many of the negative emotions that we want to get rid of, the disappointment, grief, sadness, desperate, etc., but then, are those clearly emotions? Or they are more cognitive? 

What is more interesting, is that if we resist emotions through resisting physical force (even simply as metaphor), does that suggest subconsciously we equate the existing force to emotions (or to the source of emotion like pain)? And that emotions are a force to be put upon us unwillingly? And if the metaphor does function as what I just suggested, then should we reconsidering resistance, but to relieve the force instead?

Weight and gravity

It’s interesting to think about what weight and gravity means to us, in the language of body movement, or, dance? In a sense, it is something we always fight, as we cheerfully celebrate dancer’s movement as “light” and “free”, and that elegance always suggests weightless and effortless, at least traditionally. But at the same time, some may use the specific gesture that emphasis the effect of gravity to signal strength and power, which is somehow a confirmation of the overwhelming presence of weight and gravity – the force that exist to challenge us. After all, why do we need strength and power, isn’t it only to counter the force that oppress us? 

I am certain there are many more dimensions and variables, such as muscle contraction, intentional sounds (voice), distance between objects and subjects, etc., that expose unintentionally our emotion, however subtle or intense. But what I don’t know is whether we actually translate all these into our dance language, or if they have a universal scheme, that allows a clear reference to our inner self? Or maybe I just disclosed something so intimate that only reflects my personal history and has nothing to do with the universality of the somatic response?

Read The Metamorphosis

Since Verwandlung does not exclusively mean metamorphosis, it really leaves to the reader to determine what exactly is the subject of the metamorphosis/transformation. By saying that, I almost directly position myself to the side of the “death of the author”, though I have no credential of claiming to be a post-structuralist; what I would like to do is just to keep a record of how I interpret this work. 

The transformation has been suggested to be presented by the physical metamorphosis of Gregor into the insect/beetle/bug, by the transformation of the attitude of Grete, and also, by the altering mental state of Gregor. I have no objection to any of these. Sincerely, the transformation of Grete is distinctly noticeable and the theory itself is very convincing. 

However, instead of asking what the metaphor is about, what is the subject of the metaphor, and which character represents what, I want to know what has been genuinely transformed?

The entire story to me, is actively mourning the vanish of love.

It doesn’t matter what kind of insect, or not insect, he turned into, or that his didn’t even transform to anything at all, the point is that he became a burden. This burden, partly the result of not able to communicate, turns this into a tragedy, rather than a fable. He is not the ugly duckling, and there is no positive insight in it. I believe Kafka simply wrote down what he thought was real, that love, no matter how much you have, as Gregor tried to provide Grete the opportunity to be a musician, will (I would say may) degrade, it will be forgotten. He could simply write a story about how someone got leprosy and his family turned away from him but it can be much scarier than that. Because seeing love turning into nothing is one of the scariest thing ever in its nature, and that we just don’t even want to look at it.

Journal Entry #3 – Notes on Writing

I sincerely am not even trying to write good poems or proses as a mean to express if any, of my inner self. What I am trying is merely to take note of my thought, my suffering, my existence, and wish that years to come I have a realistic account of what happened to me, at this very moment. I thought about naming this blog “Look what love did to me”, as an honest demonstration of exposure, of myself being able to display the most vulnerable part of me, or a way to process my growth in a therapeutic way. However, I realized it will, as the original intention is to process the lose, one day not about a lost relationship anymore, so I decided to use the name “the fleeting moments” to suggest a possible future focus.

That doesn’t mean, however, this is currently anyhow about self-pity, digital mourning, or public bereaving. 
I just want the words that I wrote precisely reflect the flows of my inner dialog, maybe depressed, or maybe angry or even joyful. I have no idea, as she always said, we will see the story unfold.

Journal Entry #2

I somehow have this unease sentiment of not being able to put my feelings of the past few months into words (at the very moment they occurred) as I went through the emotional turmoil. In a sense they became this monolith of sadness and I failed to register the delicate aspects of all the sorrow that possessed me at the time. Failing to solidify and purify the presence of the lowest point of my life. In terms of literature.

And it brings me back to my obsession of capturing the moments, the detailed yet miscellaneous parts of a living life. 

Instead of creating images or movements, poetry and prose, much like photography, provide me with a sense of recording what occurs in that specific fleeting space-time, a rather confessional form that is, documenting not just the events, but the reflection of it. In a much precise and thorough manner, the mental work creates a documentation of all the fragile elements once existed, and that to me, is an epitaph.

I’m constantly mourning the past; so nostalgic and melancholic, that it seems I’m pessimistic about the future and fixate on the wonderful past I’ve ever experienced. But deep down in my yearning heart I found, is my tremendous adoration of life in the current moment, that by looking at the entirety of our immense life experience, I realized that every single moment (those which are happening or happened), even the most heart-breaking ones, deserve to be preserved by virtue of truthfulness and beauty. Ukiyo, the floating world as it is poetically called in Japanese, offers us this image of world being intangible and impermanent, and I truly believe it captures the essence of the existence, and remind us that all, every slice of time, are/is valuable.

We are not omnipresent; I couldn’t experience that moisture on my lips ever again, so I write about it. Being honest to all the thrilling experiences and thoughts I ever had, I choose to turn them into something, and mindfully telling myself that at this moment, no matter how painful it is, it’s a treasure to the completion of my life story.

Because I have no choice, I love them, I love all the moments I ever had. 

Journal Entry #1

I once quoted Virginia Satir for her sorrowful reminder on the subject of creation and regret; “I’ve often wondered how many dreams, and how many possibilities, have died with their owner without expression.” She said.
It makes me think of the meaning that dance has to me.
That in a sense, all my dances end with a desolate notion as it denotes the closing of a series of actions, a sequence of intentions, and perhaps a collection of my obscure emotions. It ceased to exist as I anchored myself into that still state. They were born and I am often time the only witness of the death of the expression.
That I gave birth to those dreams and possibilities yet they were born to be dead. Without being noticed, if I extend the metaphor by Virginia Satir, I became the only griever of the vanished existence.
But they existed.
As I would.