There is a lot going on in my geographical, cultural and professional communities at the moment. I live and work in the United States, most recently splitting time between New York and Detroit. I identify both as a Korean and an American who has family and cultural ties to South Korea. I’m working with arts organizations in Japan and Hong Kong at the moment. The disputes between Korea and Japan, Hong Kong and China, the US and the region are a few of concerning issues I face with my friends and colleagues on a daily basis. I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful collaborators and friends who’ve been transparent about their experiences and thoughts. In order to focus on my intentions while not disengaging from the important and time-sensitive issues, I’m writing in my diary. Here’s an excerpt.
To set my intention as an artist, organizer, and activist who enters various spaces and communities as an outsider, I return to Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne maree brown. On page 69 of Emergent Strategy, she suggests “Intentional adaptation is the heart of the emergent strategy. How we live and grow and stay purposeful in the face of constant change actually does determine both the quality of our lives, and the impact that we can have when we move into action together.” brown’s suggestion for adaptation is not about being ‘flexible’ or ‘nonstop reaction” that leads to exhaustion. Instead, her idea of ‘intentional adaptation’ is more like being ‘plastic’ or ‘to give and receive form’ as Catherine Malabou uses the term in What should we do with our brain? Plasticity of our brain, our heart and our bodies are the hidden code for transformative within.
brown’s call to take ‘action together’ is not a solitary transformation. She’s explicit about the strategies for decentralizations. She responds to the common sufferings of leaders, who have a hard time trusting their collaborators and struggle to find resources to pay them. Her suggestion is not a financial strategy or better decision-making tool. She suggests building deeper relationships between the members of the group. “Decentralized work requires more trust building on the front end, but ultimately it is easier, more fluid.”
What does an emergent, adaptive, transformative movement, creative practice and life look like? brown writes “My dream is a movement with such deep trust that we move as a murmuration.” I am reminded of my friend Nic Annette Miller’s artwork of birds in the natural algorithm. There is nothing quite beautiful like noticing generative patterns in nature. When I see birds or trees in motion, I feel grateful to be alive, to have a chance to be part of the living system. I feel similar kind of humbleness when I see a large group of people protesting, taking collective action and making a statement. I feel grateful to witness and contribute to a moment of transformation. I would not be who I am, if I didn’t participate and witness the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. I would not have a vision of who I want to be as a Korean, if my friends did not show up to protest against the previous South Korean president, impeaching her and changing the history of oppression and complicity.
The change we can initiate will be small, but it will open larger opportunities. “As an individual, developing your capacity for adaptation can mean assessing your default reactions to change, and whether those reactions create space for opportunity, possibility, and continuing to move towards your vision.” Transformation does not always mean a struggle. Instead, it can be a form of active life, ways of being, ways of seeing and ways of making. When I see a masterful artist or seasoned facilitator, I get so much energy by being near them, in in their elements and their true self. As brown writes in Emergent Strategy, “What is easy is sustainable. Birds coast when they can.” It’s a nice to find a quote by Tawana Petty, poet and anti-racist social justice organizer of Detroit Community Technology Project, who offered a lecture at the Poetic Computation: Detroit, on page 72.
“Nature has taught me that if humans don’t figure out what revolution really means, nature will make the revolution despite us.” — Tawana Petty
Listen to nature. Notice the birds and dandelions. Notice yourself changing.
- Thanks to Nic Annette Miller for giving me permission to use her images. Read her interview on being mindful on your needs.
- Thanks to Tawana Petty, Janice Gates and all the people I met in Detroit last week. Read Poetic Computation: Detroit Day 1 blog with Tawana patty.
- Thanks to adrienne maree brown for writing the book Emergent Strategy.
- Thanks to Kristin Rose of Book Suey for bringing the book to Poetic Computation: Detroit.