by Tatum Dooley, Ivetta S.Y. Kang, and Philip Leonard Ocampo
Dear C Mag,
The season has come again with a cold, sandy wind that disables me from breathing well. I have had mild chronic asthma since I was 21, and the freezing wind in Canada that dries out each of my breaths has worsened the illness. When I cough excessively, I realize I am living matter. Then, my negative spaces hiding in my body and mind are finally revealed and recognized by my pain and the extreme loneliness in the struggle with the shortness of breath. It is bizarre that each confrontation of negative space entails an individual’s agony and solitude.
This is probably why “Evaporative Losses” in your latest issue grasped my eyes. When Jenna Swift brought up an image of the negative space depict ed in the text, I breathed in and out, thinking of my negative space lingering in between the outside and myself as a lonely insider, or the insiders and myself as an utterly tongueless outsider. Since I was becoming aware of my own negative space hurt by underlying tints of imperialism and westernization, my inner voice has cried out to share what has hurt my friends and me throughout the consecutive hollers in my work. This holler ignited re-examination on the realistic boundaries and their possible approachableness, and more importantly, re-imaginability.
The pandemic has subjugated everyone into confronting their negative spaces. Some lost their jobs, some got respiratory diseases, some felt suffocated while stuck at home, some lost loved ones, and some people died. It may be the time for us to open the doors of our negative spaces and let yours stay in my room and vice versa. These considerate movements for internal and external accessibilities can bring fresh air and ease my—and your—breathing problems, even if we sometimes find “crip hope” in the exchange.
Ivetta S.Y. Kang
Hi C Mag,
As an arts administrator and arts practitioner, I have a conflicted relationship with the word “timely.” Used to describe something that bears significance to a certain moment in time, the term reiterates that the decisions we make are tethered to the world around us, emblematic of the cultural zeitgeist of right now. Moving through the world with a racialized, queer identity, I constantly witness the term’s tokenizing qualities when wielded by those with power. It renders the involvement of marginalized communities as useful and productive rather than valuable and generative, entirely governed by dangerous opportunism. I’ve grown somewhat distrustful after all the times my own involvement in projects has been wielded like this.
Inversely: in my work within arts organizations and collectives, I’m constantly having to reconcile with the paradox of tokenization and holding space, especially when opportunities for emerging artists are scarce, and exist within a sector that basically operates with little to no money. When “space” itself is so precarious. This is the inherent failure: institutions have harmed marginalized people for so long (and still do) that the line between meaningful support and optics may not and cannot be so easily navigated.
I recognize how important C147 is. The theme of “Gather” is glaringly relevant to this pandemic we’re living through, as our ability to gather (at least physically) has been halted by it. As both a collaborator and an organizer, I cannot help but think of the back end considerations that went into composing this issue: the ethics of representation in unprecedented times and the responsibility that comes with providing opportunities to writers and artists on the margins. As a reader, I’m also thinking about how I perceive these editorial decisions versus what voices I want and need to read right now.
Though I won’t congratulate any institution for doing the necessary work, it is edifying to read Su-Ying Lee’s words on the need for image and media literacy in “Reading Images Against Racism,” Mercedes Webb’s in-depth exploration of Christina Battle’s ongoing seed redistribution project, seeds are meant to disperse, in “To Reciprocate All They Freely Offer,” and the many other insightful works that have been brought together in this issue. Though this collection of texts will inevitably be seen as “timely” regardless, I’m grateful to C147 for allowing me the space to ruminate about what this term can really mean.
Philip Leonard Ocampo
Hi C Magazine,
If the “Gather” issue of C Magazine was a party— compiled of its writers and their subjects—I’m happy to note I wouldn’t be out of place, having a few direct or twice-removed connections that I could saddle up to and make conversation with while sipping a soda and snacking on a communal chip bowl. After a year in lockdown, why does the simplest gathering sound illicit?
A magazine issue is a bit like a party. You need a balance of personalities and tones, some to compliment each other, others to counter the energy in the room. I’ve been known to throw awful parties for my inability to curate a guest list: I invite everyone I know and let my friends, from vastly different areas of my life, fend for themselves. I tend to leave parties early, even when I’m the one throwing them, retreating to my room and into comfortable clothes.
I guess what I’m saying is I don’t miss parties, I have magazines. And Zoom. And also other places to gather, as articulated by the “Gather” issue of C Magazine: in recipe swaps with my aunt, a monthly library meetup to discuss art, a performance streamed online by Lex Brown, internet rabbit holes and comment sections, taking photos of birds to identify, studio visits where the artist lets me make art alongside them, and in gathering wildflowers from the side of the road. I ordered Anne Boyer’s book after reading Lauren Fournier’s review, the act a kind of cross-medium book club that goes one way—a form of gathering that doesn’t depend on anyone else, but me, doing the work.
Gathering as a form to connect—in spite of difficulties born from either accessibility or circumstance— can be achieved through magazines, especially within the relatively small community of the Canadian art world. No opening party needed.
I guess this turned into a bit of a love letter.