Clara Yang

I carry around objects and ponder, sound, and decipher them; see people’s responses to them; and use them in performance interventions. They often carry potent sensory qualities. They often have personal symbolic meaning, but there is a process of opening up that personal meaning outwards—to find shared experience somewhere in the folded and unfolded narratives of that object. This happens in informal settings: in public or encounters with friends and community members. And on occasion, a performance or sharing with these objects may follow, influenced by these experiences, in a tangential, or inside, or explicit manner.

These objects act on multiple layers. The object in space is a political act-- the unusualness of bringing the personal into the public. The performance intervention with the object is a call or demand to engage with the individual performer or the object in a sea of anonymous faces or objects, a sea powered by society’s tendency to reduce. The sensory qualities of the object speak to universality of the senses and plurality of sensory experience.

Concepts that influence my work include power, hierarchy, violence, control, silence, difference, and transformation.

For the Joshua Tree project, what I’d like to offer are pieces of text or reflections, bytes of recorded sound, visual renderings of objects or imagined spaces, and/or projections of interventional instructions, all of which come from an intuitive place of connecting with the material made in Joshua Tree.

For the month of November, I am rotating as a medical student on the neurology service of Massachusetts General Hospital, where human bodies enter various forms of exile, through processes both organic and natural as well as traumatic and unexpected. I hope to draw on the Joshua Tree project, my witnessing as people encounter loss and adaptation on the neurology service, and the embodied knowledge of the immigrant, to explore the materiality of exile.


November 25, 2019. 

Eleven-task 7, reflections. (I had to break my commitment to all of my eleven-tasks being done in my remaining days of neurology.)

Munching on a large apple brought to me by my mom who visited a few days ago, to "feed me." Throughout this time, she commented on how I've put on a little bit of weight and that I look better (and of course, with the silent eyes an understanding of the actual emotional state of her daughter). Here I am, eating slices of apple, with peel still attached. My mind shoots into the past for the slices of apples, pears, Korean melons, that never, ever had peels attached, for the work of the hands of all the women peeling with utmost dexterity into long strands of peel, so that the fruit became peel and flesh, or white flesh with twirling ornaments of red dangles.

As I 'meet' these women at Joshua Tree through the materials of the performance/installation, why do I keep feeling surprised at the fact that my heart and body resonate so deeply? I should not be at this point, yet it is in the constant pull, constant questioning and need for resolution to this story of home and crossing and exile and dislocation, in essence the dynamics of such probing, that the emotion avoids fixation.

I need to thank Ana for her recent audio response to Damaris, Amber, and me, regarding objects-- their agency and my agency, and the interconnectedness of the two. The spatialization via object. And I suppose, as relating to the paragraph above, the unfixability, lack of melancholy, of a way of being.

And finally, the recording below of a few lines of spoken text. I sent it to a friend this morning, but I think... in the spirit of fluidity, in a sure belief that everything informs everything, I'm attaching it here.

November 21, 2019.

I sound one note alongside opened, devoured clams, seagulls, waves. The bamboo enjoys the company. Harmony, a word quite yucky and even tacky in English, has a different energy in the Korean sense— 조화.

November 17, 2019. 

My offering to the women in Joshua Tree and the women here on this blog, as I find myself acutely needing to reconnect to my "original where." A Korean traditional piece of music. 

November 16, 2019. Listening to the audio scores


What a gift it is to have listened to this on a Saturday morning. I am in tears. 

Transcription of my thoughts throughout the score as I listen on production headphones: 

The sense that I get from the voice recordings (of Guadalupe)-- is the gritty; there are layers of sonic qualities (the voice that is recorded intentionally, the voice that is recorded via conversation, the sounds of natural Earth and the constructed sounds). I love the overlap between Ana's voice and the sounds. There is a noise there, it feels like golden fibers that attach themselves at two points and the web in the middle... I love the cuts of train sounds-- beautiful. They are truly cuts, collage texture. Spatialization is so clear. I wonder about the dynamics-- what is the role of quiet and loud (versus the close and far). At "cinco, five" I'm beginning to wonder about the sound cue (it almost sounds like a chapter cue from an audio book), because it has now dawned on me that it is a sound cue. What is the function of it? Is there a need to change the quality or play with register?

I love that I can't understand what she is saying. 
                    I love 8- thank you for the silence of voice/voice of sounds until she speaks again. 
I love that I don't understand because I pay attention to the quality of her voice and what it reveals, and what is hidden. 

You are from where you choose to stay. Thank you. Something about the Woman's voice... 


Waterfall it is! I picked up the sounds of paper (?), flipping, like a book, like a memory, like a scratch. 

There is (I drew it first, but I'll translate into words as best as I can), a person (not stuck) firmly in place, in position between two large static/dynamic/?viscous sources of sound. 

Pacing of the male voices (2:20), rapid, like pace setters for the marathon of Olga's voice (or are the roles reversed?) 

I love the disappearing of her voice. For some reason, the disappearing is more compelling than the appearing-- is it because there are so many other voices in the background? There are moments when her voice disappears versus when the voice is taken-- and there is a difference. What is that about? By 5:30 I'm craving a Cut in the two large static/dynamic/?viscous sources of sound. Looped laughter-- it transports me from some place curious and wanting to participate to a sadistic place. At 8:11, I'm overjoyed to hear one moment of English, the comprehension-- could this possibly be the switch for a Cut, or a component of a Cut? Overall, I am feeling that the the sonic backdrop transforms from the mysteriously energetic to heavy, old skin, and the same question appears about the 'audio cue' as from Guadalupe. Is there room for a scene change? P.S. I realize that sound is only one component of the whole installation, and that these Cuts I'm longing for may happen visually/performatively, and that the constant nature of the sound may be a holding ground. 

I want to meet her! She'd make me laugh. 


The guitar-- what is it? What is the song? Is it hers?? 

Her voice is so lovely. Passing... crossings.
Her voice is like a rosary, like round drops. 
Feels like a conversation over tea. 
Diatonic-- cello?  
Feels like the opposite of Guadalupe.
Feel like it's asking for an additional something- objects // textures // D I M E N S I O N S. At the moment, it very much is two lines. But maybe the third or fourth or fifth or sixth lines are already present in the listening bodies? 
Change in rhythm? 

The story has been kept to keep women in check- more! more! (that's just me) 

Notes (Guadulpe, Olga, Griselda)

November 15, 2019. 

Eleven-task 6, silence. The danso is silent today, or cannot find a place for itself. I was too scared to bring the danso out from my white coat pocket. She looks too tired, sleepy. 

November 14, 2019.

Eleven-task 5, stone. 


November 13, 2019. 

Eleven-task 4, S.

She is a singer. We have cut into her neck and placed a tube into the trachea, right below the vocal cords, so that she can put air into her lungs. Posters of her last two gigs on the walls. I ask her, is that you? She gestures to me to come closer, and we hold hands.

November 12, 2019. 

Eleven-task 3, S

November 11, 2019. 

Eleven-task 2, sounding the danso in the stairwell



November 10, 2019. 

Until this point, I had been struggling with how I would contribute to this beautiful dialogue. I had this number eleven, the stories I am privy to through this blog (of Ana, the women in Joshua Tree, and the other women throughout the world responding to the sand being turned over), and myself. I was playing tag with all of the various selves which were organically responding to the topic of exile, materiality, space, time...

And right now, it seems that I am grappling with the question (or maybe place?) of the "original where" for not only patients but also myself in this context called hospital. I am trying to investigate the relationship between exile and connection here, drawing on what Ana has articulated about exile as connective tissue between material and appearance. In that dynamic, ongoing, unfixable tissue (that organic matter which is always recycling, rejuvenating, dying, growing), there is potential for connection, between me and... Patient? Space? Object? Time? 

The hospital has its own characteristic materiality, and the dimensions of time and space are drenched in nomadism, dislocation, the desire to never return (Yana Meerzon). 

My eleven-task has already started. The first happened before I knew it would be the first of the eleven tasks! Only now that it has overwhelmingly ignited a cascade of the next ten (1+ 10 = 11) contributions am I able to call it the first (and I think I might have to write about it as the last post).

So my commitment is as follows: For the next remaining 10 days I am on the neurology service, I am bringing my danso (Korean bamboo flute) into the hospital, and each day I am engaging in a creative act with those elements. They may be short, under-the-radar, human, organic, and also may very well be confused, improvisatory, impromptu with sense making at a later time.

November 7. 2019. 

The sofa did not exist for me until I was seven. All activities of daily life were done on the floor in my childhood, in Korea, in the small apartment we occupied in Seoul, a family of seven-- grandparents, my aunt, my sister, me, and my parents. 

In nighttime, we rolled out our thick blankets (for the floor) and and thinner blankets (for covering). We were scolded on if we dared to tread upon them with our feet; we always had to walk carefully around the large rectangular carpet we had built. There was a small 요강 or chamber pot at the corner of the room. I remember being so little that I was worried my bottom would fall through that opening.

In the daytime, we would quickly fold up our blankets, place them in the closet. I would run around, up and down that free floor afterwards, gleeful! 

The kitchen's tasks were my grandmother's. I helped pull out the spoons and chopsticks, running back and forth from the living room/dining room and the kitchen to haul back little bowls of rice, 반찬 (ban-chan, or side dishes of radishes, kimchi, spinach), and soup. Then we would all sit on the floor, after having pulled open a dining table and placed it on the ground. And we would eat. Once we were done, we would close the dining table, place it back into the small space between the refrigerator and wall, and clean the floor. And the floor would be free for other activities, like chatting, peeling more garlic, watching tv, having someone over, eating fruit. 

When I moved to the states, all activities of daily life moved up about two feet. Sofas, tables, chairs, 'bar stools...'


November 3, 2019. 

Spikes of EEGs, spikes of cactuses, the spikiness of the desert and the vastness of the journey. 
The silence of pain and the inevitable transformation. 
What is consciousness? What is normal brain activity? What is exiled brain activity? 

The body will seize when the spikes exponentiate. 

We watch. We sleep deprive and wean patients off of their medicines to induce the seizing. For their benefit (of diagnosis). Do we care to know what is happening in their desert? 

I cried when I read Ana's post about la voz criolla. The artistic tongue, sometimes suppressed by this dutiful Korean child of mine, is alive and awakened, grateful for this November ritual, where I can document and respond uncensored to the stories that surround me, in the ether and in myself. 
11 seconds of silence. 

EEG Electroencephalogram


November 1, 2019. 

1 minute 11 seconds of sound. Listen on headphones.

Materiality of sound, opposing spaces, mother tongue.