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KNACK’S ULTIMATE AIM IS TO CONNE


we are dedicated to showcasing the work of new artists of all mediums and to discussing trends and ideas within art communities

ECT & INSPIRE EMERGING ARTISTS we strive to create a place for artist writers designers thinkers + innovators to collaborate and produce a unique, informative, and unprecedented web-based magazine each month


submit

www.theknackmagazine.com


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acceptable formats

10-12 high resolution images of your work. All should include pertinent caption information (name, date, medium, year).

PDF TIFF JPG

writers You may submit up to 5,000 words and as little as one. .doc We accept simultaneous submissions. No cover letter .docx necessary. All submissions must be 12pt, Times New RTF Roman, single or double-spaced with page numbers and include your name, e-mail, phone number, and genre. KNACK seeks writing of all kinds. We will even consider recipes, reviews, and essays. We seek writers whose work has a distinct voice, is character driven, and is subversive but tasteful. all submissions

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

photographers, graphic designers & studio artists

KNACK encourages all submitters to include a portrait, brief biography including name, age, current location, awards, contact info (no more than 200 words), as well as an artist statement, with their submission (no more than 500 words). We believe that your perspective of your work and process is as lucrative as the work itself. This may range from your upbringing and/or education as an artist, what type of work you produce, inspirations, etc. If there are specifications or preferences concerning the way in which your work is to be displayed please include them. Please title files for submission with the name of the piece. This applies for both writing and visual submissions.

KNACKMAGAZINE1 @ GMAIL.COM subject: Submission Photography / Studio Art Creative Writing / Graphic Design


is requesting material to be reviewed. Reviews extend to any culture-related event that

@ = at

KNACK

may be happening in the community in which you live. Do you know of an exciting show or exhibition opening? Is there an art collective in your city that deserves some press? Are you a musician, have a band, or are a filmmaker? Send us your CD,

All review material can be sent to knackmagazine1@gmail.com. Please send a copy of CDs and films to 4319 North Greenview Ave, Chicago, IL 60613.

movie, or titles of upcoming releases which you’d like to see reviewed in KNACK. We believe that reviews are essential to creating a dialogue about the arts. If something thrills you, we want to know about it and share it with the KNACK community—no matter if you live in the New York or Los Angeles, Montreal or Mexico.

If you would like review material returned to you include return postage and packaging. Entries should contain pertinent details such as name, year, release date, websites and links (if applicable). For community events we ask that information be sent up to two months in advance to allow proper time for assignment and review.

We look forward to seeing and hearing your work.


andrea catalina vaca co-founder, publisher, director, photo editor, subscriptions, artist coordinator, marketing, advertising, digital operations jonathon duarte co-founder, design director, artist coordinator ariana lombardi co-founder, executive editor, writer, artist coordinator fernando gaverd designer, digital operations chelsey alden editor, writer jake goodman designer bfrank designer juraj gagne proofreader rufino medrano design intern


submission guidelines TA L E N T

women of the world map I bfrank

spreads I andrea catalina vaca

cover design I paul thompson

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F E AT U R E S

yidan xie 13

women of the world

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connor fenwick 21

emily markwiese

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oscar solis 27 seigar 33 roland santana 41 franz samsa 47


FORTY - EIGHT 16

yidan xie Focusing on Dynamic Imaging, Yidan Xie is a multimedia artist whose work includes video, animation, illustration, sound, and graphic design. In her work, a mysterious and fantastic visual experience is presented. Xie has been experimenting with the artistic presentation of narrative space, and enjoys exploring the relationship among women, nature, and mythology.

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cargocollective.com/yidanxie itdoneyidan@gmail.com

connor fenwick Connor Fenwick is a Chicago-based visual artist and freelance connorfenwick.com photographer. He sculpts with language and light. He fills the space. His art practice questions authenticity, identity, and human nature. Connor believes that people are art and that everything else is adornment. He seeks to augment, document, and represent various people and their individual histories and identities, in addition to his own. Recently, he completed an internship with artist Oli Rodriguez, and focused on assisting him with his studio practice, photo shoots, and gallery installations. Connor currently studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


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oscar solis With beginnings as a basic scientist at the University of Chicago in the Dept. of Clinical Neuroscience & Psychopharmacology, Oscar learned the fundamentals of scientific inquiry, data manipulation, and brain imaging, but most importantly: the power of storytelling. In his mid-twenties, he quit the scientific track and went on to explore visual and literary art. He started a community-based micro-cinema, Filmfront, in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, where he launched a pilot educational series and tried his hand at experimental curation. (After a year of development, Filmfront received the Propeller Fund, an Illinois-based grant.) Years later, at the School of the Art Institute Chicago (SAIC), Oscar collaborated with digital designer, Timothy Gaull, on several smallscale digital projects, and eventually co-founded a boutique design studio, Semiosis. Semiosis is currently based in Brooklyn, NY.

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seigar Seigar is a multifaceted artist, English philologist, high school teacher, and a curious, urban and travel photographer. He is a selfdescribed fetishist of reflections, plastic people (mannequins), and other living creatures, details, saturated colors and religious icons, with a passion for pop culture.

Instagram- @jseigar Facebook - @jseigar


FORTY - EIGHT

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roland santana Roland Santana is a Latino American artist based out of Lower West Town in Chicago, IL. Born and raised in the Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area (DMV), he discovered his muse by exposure to the electronic music scene and album art of his favorite musicians. He is entering his final year at Columbia College Chicago, where he studies Arts Management. During his institutional experience, Roland immersed himself in the Chicago art scene, starting with his first gallery showcase curated by an online magazine, Prime Fortune. Since then, he has worked at a number of art events and galleries throughout the city. As a result of his work, Santana discovered his own style and technique and now continues to experiment with different media and canvases.

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franz samsa Mirko Pugliara, working under the name Franz Samsa, is an Italian collage artist. Born in Syracuse, Italy, he studied at Bologna’s Academy of Fine Arts in 2002, before beginning to paint. He began working in the medium of paint in 2014 and it quickly became his signature technique. At the end of 2015, he joined the Italian Oltre Collage collective. By 2016, his work was exhibited at the international Collagism: a Survey of Contemporary Collage, organized by Kolaj Magazine, held at the Museum Strathroy Caradoc in Canada. He has also collaborated with some of the great collage artists, such as Andrè Bergamin (Brazil), Martin Carri (Argentina), Bill Noir (France), and Fred Free (USA).

franzsamsa@gmail.com Instagram- @franz_samsa Tumblr- Franz Samsa Collage Facebook- Franz Samsa Collage


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women of the world

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emily markwiese Emily Markweise is a writer and performance artist living and working in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


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KNACK

yidan xie

ISSUE 48

is a sound collection that consists of four works: Fox, Ghost Whisper, Ghost Poem and Ghost Dancing. Luanyang Summer Note is the title of an ancient Chinese storybook. The writer of this work ends the story in the summer season in Luanyang City, hence the title. I’ve used four of the stories from this written work as inspiration and have used sound to represent the text. In these sound pieces, I try to craft narratives with sounds to make an independently narrative language, to develop the space, and to push the story, instead of catering to the image. L UA N YA N G S U M M E R N O T E

Luanyang Summer Note Fox soundcloud.com/itdoneyidan/fox The fox spirt falls in love with a human then leaves. Ghost Whisper soundcloud.com/itdoneyidan/ghost-talking-1 A traveler comes upon an abandoned temple. He prepares to sleep and hears two voices upstairs. The next morning, the traveler looks to find the people attached to the voices he had heard, but there is no one upstairs. Ghost Poem soundcloud.com/itdoneyidan/ghost-poem A man buys a book from the bookstore. He opens the book to find a bookmark with a short poem. The scene described in the poem is eerie and powerful. He thinks the poem had to have been written by a ghost. Ghost Dancing soundcloud.com/itdoneyidan/ghost-dancing A ghost dances in the wilderness and runs away when it is seen by human eyes.

visit the links above to listen and experience Yidan’s sound work


VIDEO / SOUND ART

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YIDAN XIE

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FISHY experimental animation


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VIDEO / SOUND ART

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YIDAN XIE

C L A S S I C o f M O U N TA I N S a n d S E A S experimental animation

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VIDEO / SOUND ART

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YIDAN XIE

INNISFREE experimental animation and video

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FISHY

C L A S S I C o f M O U N TA I N S a n d S E A S

cargocollective.com/yidanxie/Fishy

vimeo.com/193271409

T h i s i s a v e r y s h o r t a n i m a t i o n o r G I F.

In this independent and experimental

The river fish found in my home coun-

animation, I’ve tried to discover new

t r y a re m y f a v o r i t e f o o d . T h e y h a v e a

forms and have used black space,

l o t o f b o n e s a n d a re e a t e n t h i s w a y,

weird text, narrative sound and the

w h i c h i s d i f f e re n t f ro m o c e a n f i s h i n

construction of mythical creatures,

America. When I came to the States,

a s a r e s u l t . A l t h o u g h i t ’s n o t v e r y d y -

I missed the fish so much, and every-

namic, it looks like a moving image

d a y I c r a v e d t h e r i v e r f i s h f ro m h o m e . I

even though it is moving illustration

d re w t h i s a n i m a t i o n t o m a r k m y o b s e s -

work.

sion with fish and my homesickness

and a fantastic and mysterious world

It

has

peaceful

g r a d u a l ly re v e a l s i t s e l f.

movements,


A IRDTEI S V O T/ S|O UNNAD ME ART

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YIDAN XIE

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INNISFREE vimeo.com/125844399 Innisfree is a work that combines vid-

THE LAKE ISLE of INNISFREE

eo and animation, and I have tried to

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

represent space with a new perspec-

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;

tive. I’ve used a different approach than layering in this animation. Often

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee; And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

we see animations where one layer is

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

for the background, one layer is for

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

the character and one layer is for

There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

other objects. But in my work, I cre -

And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

ated many circle spaces and put the content in accord with images in the circle spaces. These sometimes con n e c t w i t h e a c h o t h e r, b u t a r e s o m e times alienated. The dynamic relationships are shown by the moving of mythical creatures. The Inspiration of Innisfree comes from

W . B . Ye a t s p o e m , “ T h e L a k e

Isle of Innisfree”.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart’s core.


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connor fenwick

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ISSUE 48

My artistic practice is founded on the belief of interdisciplinary study. I have always been drawn to a variety of

fine and performing arts. Primarily a digital photographer, I often search for people and environments that ex-

press their identity and strive to document their progress and habits. I aim to represent the struggles of power and

identity. I do this in order to create safe spaces within my community – locally and globally. Whether I study and

hone my artistic practice through public speaking, acting, photography, sculpture, installation or social justice, I find

it most important to create authentic works that reach

beyond the stereotypes and/or misconceptions surrounding gender, sexuality, wealth, religion, race, and ethnicity.

128 Minutes, the series that follows, is a photo series that

was created in response to obstructions that surround art-making. The obstructions outlined an exploration of

duration, surface, and space/location. The photographs

included in this series represent an excerpt of the project, which amounts to about half of the original project. For

one week, I edited the same four photographs each day; I edited each for one minute per day, steadily increasing

this time by one minute per day. While editing, I would listen to Yoko Ono’s album Yes, I Am a Witch and Yes, I Am a Witch Too, in order to inspire my subconscious.


PHOTOGRAPHY

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6 PM 3 MINUTES

12 PM


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12 PM 1 MINUTE

12 PM 2 MINUTES

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PHOTOGRAPHY

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CONNOR FENWICK

12 PM 3 MINUTES

12 PM 5 MINUTES

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Connor is a member of the National

Art Honor Society. He was a Scho-

lastic Art and Writing “Golden Key” recipient, and his work has been featured online by Ampersand Literary and Insert Shot. He has participated

in many group exhibitions, including

the Compassion Show (SAIC Health & Wellness Department and the University of Helsinki, Curator Ryan Goh, IL, USA); Unite: The Grey Aes-

thetics (Siragusa Gallery, IL, USA); 6 PM

Structures (LoosenArt Mag & Gallery, Cagliari, Italy); and The Creators Deserve To Be Seen (4 Times Square

Gallery, NY, USA). Additionally, Connor was a finalist in Photographer’s Forum’s 2017 Best of College

Photography Contest. In 2015, Con-

nor was accepted into the PlayBuild Youth Acting Intensive at the Goodman Theatre of Chicago, which investigated ensemble skills, storytelling, and personal identity.

6 PM 1 MINUTE


PHOTOGRAPHY

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CONNOR FENWICK

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6 PM 2 MINUTES


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oscar solis

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I try to search for images, stories, and symbols with which

depth magnifies the longer you try to understand them. My work is multidisciplinary, meaning everything I do has a methodical rigor of scientific inquiry. Poetically, I write

visual documentaries. Digital collages are street photography. My design is best described as invisible pragmatism.


WRITING / DESIGN

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OSCAR SOLIS

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Nothing exists but the image1 A flat horizon of blue ripples of time like space preserved in a jar. 2 The Polis is the first reference, a grounding of universal categories.3 Alongside the steel frames and concrete skin a boulevard of mirrors and passive erasure. Thirty years ago the desert is alive and rustling beneath the cacti. The night sky is filled with an orange glow near El Paso, Texas. Coyotes rob my grandmother and her oldest son one-hundred yards from the Mexican border. The old woman hides her wrinkled faced from the streetlamp and heads north away from the heat of the desert. Nothing exists but the image black bodies witnessing the statue of a Confederate general 4 castrated in the South. It becomes the pole star A spinning compass pointing toward the reduction of people as things. Why are we reluctant? When the truth has been made clear We, Us, our Bodies have dissolved historical context. The dual “I� who built the railroads 5 who picked the cotton who lingered too long at the beautiful white women in the South is nascent and rooted in the spectacle of the black body. 6 The only thing that changes is the image. Light dims to a glow, silence becomes the chasm.


WRITING / DESIGN

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OSCAR SOLIS

1 “-Say it, no ideas but in things-” William Carlos Williams, Patterson. It is the Platonic inverse, immanence over transcendence. 2 Conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp created a readymade object titled “50 cc air de Paris” a glass ampoule containing air from Paris. 3 “Polis is this…” Charles Olson wrote extensively about the Universal Polis, the place in which the individual creates spatial/temporal relationships. The understanding of Hellenic Greek culture can only be understood through your own experience of a city. 4 On May 19th, 2017, New Orleans removed a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. 5 In 1965, Civil Rights activist James Baldwin famously debated conservative intellectual William F. Buckley at Cambridge University. The question, “Is the American Dream built on the expense of the American Negro?” 6 Visual artist Dana Schutz painted the funeral of Emmett Till for the 2017 Whitney Biennial. The painting was protested by the Black Lives Matter movement, who obstructed the view of the painting with tshirts that read “Black Spectacle.”

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First Principle The many is7 the first proposition. Say it, the image is a boat at sea. The water fills the edge the sail is pulled downward against the morning fog and mirrored chill. Coney Island is an afterglow. The image is blue because you will it.

7 Plato examines the trolley dilemma in his dialogue, Parmenides. Socrates suggests it might be possible to avoid all previous inconsistencies at the heart of the theory of forms by supposing that forms are thoughts that reside only in minds.


WRITING / DESIGN

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OSCAR SOLIS

Second Principle Consider all images reflexive. Mexico City is Beautiful Tragic and Violent. Perhaps a 7-year-old is singing a ballad about death and dying. 8 Perhaps we are losing time waiting for the sun to set near a fountain of Spanish imperialism. Perhaps, we all waste time thinking until we can’t think anymore.

8 “Quizàs, Quizàs, Quizàs” A popular folk song sang in the streets of Mexico.

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seigar

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I try to give dignity and humanity to plastic people all

around the world. As a street and travel photographer, I have had the chance to take photos of shop windows in many cities, and there I have found the inspiration

for these images. They tell me tales and stories about life. They always show me their human substance. Every

photo creates a fantasy. Their faces, looks, eyes, clothes, shadows, and reflections portray them as the modern society.


a specific proposal delving into Cracow / deconstrumption, a revolution of love I

MY PL A STIC PEOPLE

37 SEIGAR | PHOTOGRAPHY


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deconstrumption, a revolution of love II / more mountainous / more mountainous


AR P H TOITSOTG R|A PNHAYM E|

SEIGAR

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my doll into a frame / my Edinburgh VIII / Norwegian people


AR P H TOITSOTG R|A PNHAYM E|

SEIGAR

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ARTIST

| NAME

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tale of a city 42 / the recruited outtakes / volunteered outtakes / tale of a city


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roland santana

ISSUE 48

I am an urban contemporary artist, inspired by a mixture

of technology and organic organisms living in a 2D space. I enjoy experimenting with various line work, shapes, and structures. Using both a minimalistic and complex approach, I hope to spark unique interpretations depending on the viewer.


STUDIO ART

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R O L A N D S A N TA N A

DISSOLVE WITH YOUR SYNAPSES

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ON THE JOURNEY

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STUDIO ART

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R O L A N D S A N TA N A

DETACH

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ZEN LUNAMOTH

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STUDIO ART

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R O L A N D S A N TA N A

INORI

UNTITLED

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franz samsa

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I do this because I can’t imagine life without creating, or being involved with music, without helping people

achieve their dreams. I want to see art in the world that people believe in, and I want to be involved with institu-

tions that want the same. It is important to give people

from all walks of life a chance for their voice to be heard, while being among the chorus.


AR S TI O |A R NTA M E| S T TUI D

FRANZ SAMSA

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AR S TI O |A R NTA M E| S T TUI D

FRANZ SAMSA

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AR S TI O |A R NTA M E| S T TUI D

FRANZ SAMSA

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all works

untitled

27.9 x 21 cm

on paper


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ARTIST

| NAME

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Women of the World Travel Series


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“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”


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F E A

Women of the World

T

Western perspectives of the Eastern world

U R

E

—Lao Tzu

Traveling is the physical manifestation of self-exploration and self-transcendence. It takes courage. To truly be in a place, to dance with it, to create newness and art as a result of it - this is one of life’s treasures. One must trust the magnetism of their internal compass, that chord that plays and reverberates within. Here at KNACK, we were interested to find female artists for whom travel has invited and ignited the creation of art. Last year, we showcased women who traveled alone - to Iceland, the Dominican Republic and the United States. Now, we look farther, to see the world through the eyes of Western women who traveled to the Far East.


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Guangzhou, China I

As someone who often f inds myself caught in the throws of memory and neurotic

observation, at times to the detriment of the present,

my writing is an attempt to anchor in the quiet,

contradicting and secretly

powerful mechanics of daily life. I aim to personify the

bizarrely human and often overlooked qualities of the

world around me and how

these qualities interact with and create a person (any person’s) inner world.

Ari and Rowley meet me at Hong Kong Airport. As we wait for our bus, they debate whether or not to smoke underneath a large sign that says, NO SMOKING. Ari pulls a pack of cigarettes with Chinese characters and a drawing of cherry blossoms on the package out of her bag, says we just have to pretend not to understand English. She exchanges looks with an airport employee smoking a few feet away. Our bus arrives and as we board, we scribble our passport information onto small paper forms. Ari says we need these to cross the border. I try to imagine what I must look like to her and Rowley. Thirty hours ago, Ben and I woke up hungover in the dark early Denver morning. I hurriedly threw the rest of what I needed into my bag, and he dropped me off at the airport just as the sun began to rise. I’ve never been good at sleeping on airplanes, and I hadn’t slept more than an hour or two since then. On every bus we take, we are the only foreigners. It’s close to midnight and everyone is quiet except for Ari and I, talking in hushed voices in the back seats. I tell her about leaving Santa Fe, about starting life in Denver—as if we were catching up over breakfast and I looked up to find myself, through some faulty mechanism of time, mistakenly on this bus, not quite willing to admit, or rather, unable to comprehend really being here, and she goes along with it. It takes four hours to get to Guangzhou, and we get on and off of, at least, five different buses. When we reach our stop, the city has appeared out of nowhere. Everything seems geometrically out of alignment—partially constructed glass skyscrapers overlaid atop weathering, tiled apartment buildings, palm trees and prehistoric-sized foliage growing around shops and restaurants, everything caught in a reverberating stillness under peculiar yellow glow, a combination of smog and fluorescent street lights. I follow Ari and Rowley up a flight of stairs that leads to a pedestrian bridge. Looking out from the bridge is somehow even more disorienting. The city seems to have been built using a liquid grid for reference, the varying levels of the ground askew and nonsensical. I find I can’t decipher uphill from downhill, like I am my own miniature in a twisted, constantly morphing diorama. Only a few people pass us as we walk, a group of


WOMEN OF THE WORLD

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men shout in Cantonese at each other in the middle of the street, throwing metal pipes off a truck, wearing sandals and smoking. I ask Ari why they’re doing this at nearly one in the morning, she says, they’re constructing something, that’s how it is here. The night is quiet, but the lack of noise feels misleading, as if the sound of a bustling metropolis was actually occurring just beyond our ability to register it. The wet air rounds the edges of everything, including what little there is to be heard. A pair of birds call back and forth between the trees, every coo a slow drip of water from some far off faucet. I find I have succumb to a similar kind of quite, one akin to the feeling of losing all conception of spacial awareness in the moments just before falling asleep. We’d been walking for minutes, and I hadn’t noticed, concentrating only on keeping the two of them in sight, a robotic autopilot mode of delirium beginning to kick in. Ari tells us to wait and walks across the street to the corner store, a sign with a neon red tomato blinks above it. Rowley and I hardly say a word to each other. We watch as a plainly dressed middle-aged woman across the alley rifles through a pile of garbage, collecting bottles and still-intact boxes. A frail orange cat stares at us from under a rusted metal pipe. It sits disturbingly still, eyes completely absent as its head tilts almost imperceptibly from side to side. Ari returns carrying jugs of drinking water in both hands, we follow her to an apartment building with a locked metal door. She punches in a number on the keypad and the lock clicks open. We walk up the five flights of stairs to the apartment where we’ll be staying for the next week. Through the outlook at the end of the stairs, a sign runs down an under-construction skyscraper. The glowing yellow outlines of Chinese characters, each the size of the entire building to-be, hover in space. The apartment is small. There are colored fabrics draped over the furniture, a sewing machine and a small dressed mannequin are stationed on a table in the corner, a pillow and blanket sprawled out on the couch where Ari has been sleeping. Candace comes out of her room to greet us. She’s tall and wears her hair up in a scarf, her presence is commanding, but attentive. She seems familiar already, in the sense that it’s clear her personality does not change

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in order to fit whatever company is present, that there will be no mistaking her for anyone else, she is completely contained in herself. Candace returns to her room and Ari looks at me with a thoughtful face, but still one that serves as a reflection of how truly tired and out of place I am. Yet, sleep feels like a vague and unattainable concept, and I tell her this. We share a beer and eat noodles out of plastic containers. Soon, a kind of exhaustion mistaken with a total disassociation from self arises unforgivingly. I lay down on the futon underneath the window and for the first time in close to two days, I sleep. In the morning I wake up and turn to the open window beside me. Poised outside the window are green plants tall enough to reach Candace’s fifth story apartment, their fronds swaying occasionally with the breeze. In the daylight I realize all of the apartment windows populating the courtyard have metal cages bolted to them, reaching about an arms length off of the wall. I ask Ari what they’re for, so people can’t jump out and kill themselves, she says. All of them, from the hundreds of apartments surrounding us, have been filled with some arrangement of potted plants, laundry hung out to dry, children’s bicycles and plastic toys that spin in the wind. Before I came here my father told me, while we walked through a forest in Oregon, that China was a dead place, and I had prepared for that, readying myself to come to terms with a dreary, colorless cityscape induced dread. Outside, past the enormous leaves, in windows of the apartments across from us, people have begun to take down their laundry. The sound of morning birds, traffic, a far off bandsaw and the slowly growing conversations of passersby on the street below have formed into one strange cacophony, and I can’t imagine what he had been referring to when we spoke. It is impossibly alive.

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Guangzhou, China II

I sit on the last metro to the airport. I sift through my bag full of plane and bus tickets, they seem strange now— worthless grotesqueries I’ve collected—not means to get in or out of anywhere. It’s 11:30pm, and I think of the States, how things seem, being a day ahead here, I know something they don’t back at home. I’ve already experienced Monday night, what it holds, no longer wondering what might happen, having already let go of what didn’t. The train is almost empty, a welcome phenomena I have yet to see in Guangzhou. There is usually just enough room to push out of the equally unsympathetic and sturdy crowd just before the doors close. It’s an hour to Jiahewanggang, I close my eyes and attempt to make a list of the details from the past few days here: • Ari standing outside of the bank in Taojin, reciting the name of the neighborhood where her new apartment is—Fenghuang Xincun, Fenghuang Xincun, Fenghuang Xincun • Couple who owns the apartment, both slim, dressed well. They smiled at me whenever our eyes met • Husband holding the fabric of the woman’s shirt between two of his fingers, gently pulling, to get her attention, like a child mindlessly holding a blanket. Ari saw it too, how soft of an exchange it was • Packaged cheesecakes and strawberry goat milk that expired in February which they brought us after the lease was signed • Smiled and pretended to drink the milk. We finished the cake • Underground mall that ran through the entirety of a neighborhood • Red incense sticks outside of every doorway • Nine flights of stairs in the new apartment • Half dismembered duck carcass at Walmart, organs exposed • Balcony window at night, all the lights turning on in perfect lines • Last night; my birthday Ari took us to a bar which she described as a hole-inthe-wall, which I did not take literally enough. She lead us down an empty street, telling us we had to figure out how to get in. We had just passed a number of shops that


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had closed for the night when she told us we’d arrived. We paced back and forth, looking for notches in walls, for any kind of sign. We passed by a convenience store where two men stared out. We exchanged glances with them. We circle back to the conveinenceconvenience store and the men were gone, the desk now empty. We walked inside and began rifling through the fridge, pulling open cabinets, searching in corners. Candace, who had been distracted down the street, strode past us all, walking confidently up to a white rack carrying bags of potato chips and pulled on it. The wall came forward, it was a door, and it opened to a small, smoke-filled bar. Inside we were led to a table in the corner. Everything except for the light was black, the furniture made of stained black wood, the black marble floor and bar top glimmered under red light. Our drinks were made with perfectly square ice cubes the size of a fist, chandeliers hung from the ceiling above us, through the smoke they looked like an ethereal yet distorted canopy. Ari greeted the owner, a tall Swiss man. Candace beckoned to him at the table across from us and after some conversation, he led us into a small separate parlor where a jazz band played to a room full of young Asian couples. Some

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leaned into one another, others back into their chairs, legs kicked out in front of them, occasionally gesturing their drinks forward to salute the band. Everyone inside, guests and servers alike, seemed to have a quiet, playful understanding between one another— a silent agreement that, for the night, we were the sole beholders of some small specific magic only conjured by the knowing that somewhere in the city of Guangzhou, behind the wall of a derelict convenience store, there was a room full of welldressed people, drinking in secret, sharing stories through a faint red fog. Which is all to say, I am hungover now, with eight hours to go until I land in Vietnam.

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Island of Cát Bà, Vietnam

I check-in at my hostel and go to the beach. The ocean is a shifting blue, people sit idly on the sand gazing at the receding tide. The weather is the same it’s been the past three days. Since Monday, every hour of the day right up until dusk has had same light as 7 o’clock in the morning. I walk past a group of giggling business women, taking turns taking pictures of each other on the path overlooking the sea and the boats sailing across it, dwarfed by the triangular cliffs rising in formation around them. The sky starts to lose its light, and I turn around. The walk back feels like an omen. As I walk, I feel that I am slowly wandering out of myself, the way back to the hostel is impossibly long, like it won’t be there when I reach the top of the hill. I’ll just be left here. In the bathroom, I stare at myself like strangers who accidentally make eye contact. I look like a counterfeit version of all the people I have been up until this moment, fabricated out of an unfamiliar material—as if the real me is still back in Denver, watching from the porch; as if I am the people passing by – the dog walkers, the drunks leaving the bar, cars coming and going in and out of parking spaces. I shower, put on new clothes and lay on my bed. This room has two beds, the one I sleep in and the other I’ve quilted with bus tickets, currencies, forms of identification and the clothes I brought here. This somehow felt more appropriate than leaving the perfectly made up bed empty, untouched. I look at everything, half expecting these items to conjure themselves into human form and sit silently beside me on the bed relaying the unremarkable details of their day spent alone in the room. I wait for them to move. They do not, and I leave again, walking until I reach the harbor. I sit on a bench and the reflection of the LED lights from a floating boat restaurant crumple and dismember on the water’s surface. I walk past restaurants full of people until I get back to the hostel, where I sit and order fried fish. An older woman comes from a room upstairs, she walks past me on her way out, but stops. She turns around, I recognize her. She’s the Malaysian woman from Hanoi. We had taken the same bus enroute to the Perfume Pagoda, an old shrine embedded within a cave along the Yen saw River. She had been the only other person traveling alone. Then, I had thought her expression was one of skepticism, specifi-


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cally reserved for me, but realized as we talked together over lunch that day that it was a look she always wears, and we both had been observing each. We had taken the same boat to reach the cable cars, and then the same cable car to reach the cave entrance. Lining the path to the cave was a labyrinthine array of vendors. Men stood among bags full of dried corn paste that was covered in sugar and cut into small squares. They wore microphone headsets and shouted in Vietnamese at the passing tourists with all the enthusiasm of sports announcers addressing stadiums full of fans. Beyond them old women sat at plastic folding tables in stalls covered in blue and orange tarps. Stacked behind them were rows of massproduced sacred objects, small plastic statues of deities all wrapped in golden cellophane. Directly in front of the cave’s looming mouth was a vendor apart from all the rest. There were two tables in front of him displaying an assortment of war memorabilia. He wound up toy soldiers fixed in the crawling position, and with gun in hand, they made their way across the table. An old woman and her grandson came up to him, they haggled in Vietnamese. He exhibited a series of fake, life-sized machine guns, of which the woman chose to buy the largest. She handed it to her grandson who ran into the cave, his new toy’s muzzle aimed at the birds hovering overhead. This interaction lingers in my memory more than the cave itself, more than the shrine inside where people were kneeling, praying, singing, their voices intertwining until they were inseparable from the farthest and darkest corners. The Malaysian woman and I exchange surprised greetings, agreeing how strange it is that we’d found ourselves staying down the hall from one another on a remote island six hours away from where we’d first met at the pagoda. She sits down across from me and looks at the menu with her usual expression of general disapproval. She’s hard to please, and seems to be somewhat proud of that. We talk about the way kids grow up in America versus Malaysia, exchanging the briefest versions of our life stories. She tells me I have so much experience already, that it’s good, that kids in Malaysia stay with their parents for too long, in her opinion. I ask her if she has children, she doesn’t. For a moment she’s silent, her eyes travel to her

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hands folded on top of each other on the table, and I worry I’ve offended her or mistakenly brought up a personal tragedy until she says “I’m single. Our parents generation has passed, and now in Asia if you’re a woman and you don’t fall in love, you don’t need to get married, all the good men are married now anyways.” I look at her and wonder why she chose to come here, what kind of man she would fall in love with, if she had ever been in love before. She asks me how much certain things have cost me, tells me about the deals she’s found, about the tours she wants to go on. I listen to her talk about the cheapest way to do everything, how to avoid getting scammed. When the waitress comes over to take her order, she haggles over the cost of her dinner. After we pay, she leaves hurriedly to go find the best price on a day tour from the other hostels on our street. I imagine her walking into each of them in her no bullshit sort of way, finding bargain deals on the day she’ll spend alone and mildly disappointed. I finish the rest of the vegetables she left, the couple who had been sitting at the small table outside had gone too, leaving behind two cups, the tea leaves inside of them beginning to dry.


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Profile for KNACK Magazine

KNACK Magazine #48  

KNACK Magazine is dedicated to showcasing the work of new artists of all mediums, and to discuss trends and ideas of art communities. KNACK'...

KNACK Magazine #48  

KNACK Magazine is dedicated to showcasing the work of new artists of all mediums, and to discuss trends and ideas of art communities. KNACK'...

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