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a brown/risd visual & literary arts magazine

ISIO N

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vol 13 issue 1 | fall 2012


trapeze

estella ng, risd ’14 mixed media

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letter from the EDITORS Dear Readers, Thank you for picking up this magazine. What you are holding in your hands is the culmination of months of dedicated work from a fantastic staff comprised of editors, copyeditors, and publicity officers. Of course, the real stars of any issue of VISIONS are our contributors. They include writers, sculptors, photographers, painters, illustrators, and designers of the highest caliber. We are immensely grateful to them for their decision to submit works to our magazine. What’s contained in this issue of VISIONS will give you glimpses of our contributors’ narratives and experiences that are all part of the kaleidoscope that is Asia/Asian America. And so, the project that VISIONS embarked on 12 years ago was such: to weave together the threads of commonality that binds us to the fabric of our diverse community. This semester, we worked with the Ivy Film Festival and the Watson Institute to bring in Alison Klayman ’06, director of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, to screen her documentary and talk about her work. Fall 2012 also marks an important step in further integrating the two communities on College Hill that this magazine serves, as the magazine took steps to officially register as a student

organization at RISD. Our blog continues to grow strong with a fantastic web staff, all of who are unwavering in their commitment in furthering our mission in the digital realm. In addition to this, the magazine has launched a strategic review process in order to identify potential areas of growth for VISIONS. Last but not least, the magazine board would also like to take this opportunity to thank Celia Chung, our Art and Photography Editor, for her tremendous contribution to the development of this magazine these past few years as she leaves us for greener pastures. Yours Truly,

Larry, James, Celia, Christina & Katherine

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editor-in-chief larry au ’14 art & photography editor celia chung, risd ’13 layout & design editor katherine ng ’14 managing editors james eng ’14 / christina pan ’13 associate managing editor tiffany t. chen ’13 associate art & photography editor phuc anh tran ’16 publicity mabel fung ’15 / lauren tsai ’16 networking carol kim ’15 / sharon sun ’14 risd representatives yidan zeng, brown/risd ’17 / amy chen, brown/risd ’17 freshman representative winnie shao ’16 webmaster winnie wang ’14 editor-in-chief emeritus susie ahn ’13 copy editors sienna bates ’16 / gabrielle hick ’16 / carol kim ’15 / heeso kim ’15 / julie kwon ’16 / anny li ’15 / karwai ng ’13 / angus ning ’14 / angell shi ’13 / brandon wang, risd ’15 blog jenny li ’14 / ningfei ou ’15 / grace yoon, brown/ risd ’17 photographer alan shan ’14 printer brown graphic services a very special thanks to kisa takesue ’88 the asian/asian american heritage series the third world center the office of student life the office of international affairs modern culture and media undergraduate finance board contributors and staff mission statement VISIONS is a publication that highlights and celebrates the diversity of brown and risd’s asian/asian-american community. we are committed to being an open literary and artistic forum for asians and asian americans, as well as other members of the university community, to freely express and address issues relating to both the asian and asian-american experience. VISIONS further serves as a forum for issues that cannot find a voice in other campus publications. as a collaborative initiative, VISIONS attempts to strengthen and actively engage brown and risd’s vibrant community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as the larger providence community. email visions.brown@gmail.com website http://visions-magazine.org ON THE COVER

lotus

saad moosajee, risd ‘16 cinema 4d

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disclaimer the opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of our sponsors.


ART 02 TRAPEZE estella ng 07 HOPSCOTCH sue kwon 08 PIZZA PLATE jess x. chen 10 BEDAZZLE diane zhou 12 ALIEN BALL catherine seabrook 15 LIKE HELL IT IS. THIS IS A PEOPLE-SHOOTING HAT. lily jen

35 FACES pathikrit bhattacharyya

08 PIZZA PLATE jess x. chen

32 ZURICH - TANGO philip leiberman

09 AN ALMOST SYMMETRIC POEM ayoosh pareek

34 OOM SAM + IBU ian garrity

11 GAMSOL SPIRITS sarina mitchel

35 FABRIC PLAY julee woo jin chung

13 A CONTRACT BETWEEN LIGHT AND DARK christina pan

38 DEAR HOLLYWOOD ji hyun yeo 40 ALONE larry au 43 UNTITLED jennifer hou 43 ELMINA takeru nagayoshi

44 YOUNG MONKS IN A TIBETAN COURTYARD 16 THE PAST + SPLINTERED ROOTS rebecca carrol jane kim 45 YAWN 18 NIGHT STALL michael chua hyerin park 46 15% OFF 19 REACHING FOR THE SKY! dianna xu ravi kumar 48 HER LOVELIEST DREAM 19 TAIWAN annie swihart jonathan hsiung 50 PATTERN SERIES 20 FIRING SQUAD sue kwon clifton yeo 51 INNER MATRYOSHKA POSTCARD 21 MUSテ右 DU LOUVRE yj nicole im zung nguyen vu 51 QUARTERS POSTCARD 23 CANDLES estella ng yebin so 53 BRANCHING VEINS 25 FREEDOM andrテゥ wee sarah cheung 26 CHILDREN OF THE 90S AND 60S meihua (tina) zang

WORDS

27 TAXI aashna mansharamani

06 FREEDOM meia geddes

14 ARTIST cia mathew 17 SPRING CLEANING ayla walter 20 TOO BEIJING julie yue 22 RED jess x. chen 24 ON TRAYVON MARTIN AND DANNY CHEN rob ren-pang 28 MY COUSIN VINAY sandeep nayak 32 2AM. rexy josh dorado 33 ALBATROSS ayla walter 36 SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT signe christensen 39 PHAETON CHOICES jaemun park 41 WILD meia geddes 42 MOTHER stephanie anne canlas 47 LITTLE marcy huang 49 WHAT EARLY BIRDS CATCH tiffany phu

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freedom

BY MEIA GEDDES I give you leave to write of any thing and all— the grass and the wind and the dirt and the way your mama talks and the way your shoe squeezes your little toe as you walk. Meia Geddes ’14 wants to never stop wondering.

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hopscotch

sue kwon, risd ’14 pen and collage

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“have you ever seen the milky way before?” “i don’t know.” i tell you, “how can you see a galaxy if the earth is lying on top of it?” so you: rearrange the crumbs of the pizza we ate, beneath a trail of crumbs, one large pepperoni at the tip of a plate you say: “this is the earth and above here, one arm of the milky way. it curves around us.“ and the galaxy’s arm eavesdropping from above must have pointed to the silent spark erupting between us a spark so quiet, i wonder... did you feel it? Jess X. Chen, RISD ’13 lives her films by day and tends her hedgehog by night.

pizza plate BY JESS X. CHEN

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an almost symmetric poem BY AYOOSH PAREEK

I. Back to old days, back to old ways, nights as bright as the sun. I was never the one to be perfect. I was close though, when I was close to you, but I was closed to you. Bookmarking only the parts I liked, I thought I was a good skimmer. Sparknoting relationships, I thought I had it figured out. It doesn’t need to take days to be best friends, hours to be lovers. Two beings under covers, I never felt so naked my whole life, Needed to figure things out, that’s why I was undercover. I want to write, let’s get lost, on your back, and drink on benches from plastic bottles. Graffiti your eyelashes on the tallest high rises so you cry every time it rains. I want to write, we’ll get there, on my palms, and get lost in Central Park. But nights only last so long and tomorrow the sun will come out, then, there will be time for morning. II. Tonight, I met a girl I once loved. I haven’t seen you in the longest. Hope things are going well. She said. Tonight, a girl who once loved met me. I have always been a fan of symmetry. Ayoosh Pareek ’12 knows that even Kobe misses sometimes. #medschool

pizza plate

jess x chen, risd ’13 pen and ink 09


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bedazzle

diane zhou ’14 photoshop

gamsol spirits

BY SARINA MITCHEL

T

he expectation—the genuine belief that I could lay down a panoply of striking colors and depth just by setting my eyes down very carefully—is always the hardest part. More trying is the small hope I might come back. Standing for five hours in a dirty-floored studio, breathing in fumes of solvent and doubt, gazing at sagging parts and flagging hearts, I pick my colors. I shuffle through bent and twisted tubes for that hue, for that reason, for the right resonance that will rearrange my chaotic world into a logical locanda. Guessing with my back to the wall, I pray for clean Gamsol— transpicuous, toxic, beautiful—but with each flick of my color-infected brushes, the liquid clouds into a deep purple—no, red matter—no, dirt gray conglomeration. Read the signs, know the lines. Hear the handshakes, the comments, the always advice—“It’s lovely to have you here; we hope to see you again next week.” Coated with stray splotches of sienna, these rows of wooden cross-shapes—our painted pews—envelop my consciousness. My body was unsure in the cushioned cubicles; my mind rebelled at the Sansodor speech; my mouth recited words that slurred through my alizarin lips like boiling vinegar. I wanted to become the shadows, to melt into dull burnt umber paneling beneath my fidgeting feet, to dissolve into the drone of the dust motes hovering in the well-preserved air. The high ceiling spoke softly, and I wondered if my solvent was any different from theirs. The modern colors—how unnecessary! the pastor explained. Manganese blue hue? Quinacridone red? Hansa yellow? Life is chaotic enough already. We so concern ourselves

with fleeing from the inevitable, with running from the harsh barrage of liquid amber as it blasts from between black bristles. But the iridescent death elixir is rushing rapidly toward us, filling the basin. We think of clever plans of escape only to be trapped—flagged and fallen down—by rusted cadmium red walls reaching up to infinity. The saffron events of our lives pour onto and into us, static clinging to skin, deluging and devouring whatever is left of the pieces we spent so long assembling. I sat quietly, trying to be an anonymous dab of verdant paint on their untainted palette. But blending in has never been my specialty, especially not in the form of a color as intrusive as sap green. Tell me now: Did you believe that I was a red pigment in your warm palette? Or did you catch onto the little-known fact that I am that speck of that gross dark yellow-green infecting the glorious red, making its radiating warmth grayer, more neutral, less divine? Did you notice that despite so many friendly handshakes and greetings, I just couldn’t cling to the pristine palette? That I ran off of the white plastic as soon as the Gamsol started pooling? I know the eyes staring like spotlights say that their cleaner is always clean. Their solvent, because it is pure and true, is always clear. Even after thousands of voices plucked and voices heard, their Sansodor never has clumps of brown mud-paint at the bottom, or flakes of unknown debris floating on the top. No dirty pigments settle at the bottom and cake up around the edges of the one-dollar jar. I have tried to clean my palette, to make it pure. I have scrubbed the ridges of paint and scraped the cheap plastic surface again and again, but it never truly loses those slight, soiling Gamsol hues. My palette manages to duck underneath the transcendent and transmute to the lowly, every single time. But none of that matters. Because when I run like liquid Gamsol, I know its scraped-in grooves will be there to catch the whirlpool of solvent. Sarina Mitchel ’15 wishes she had giant feathered wings that glittered dioxazine purple in the sunlight. 11


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a contract between light and dark

BY CHRISTINA PAN Remember death a forgotten promise emblem of life reflected in the mirror broken time’s indifference is strength. Christina Pan ’13: let’s count time in friends with friends.

alien ball

catherine seabrook, risd ’13 pen and ink 13


artist

like hell it is. this is a people-shooting hat. lily jen, risd ’13 oil on canvas

BY CIA MATHEW

H

e must have been an artist. She watched him paint lines on the walls of her uterus as stretch marks slowly streaked across her belly. They started at the height of her navel and ran down her curved middle: a collection of reddish-purple lines that hugged the bottom half of her stomach. She’d gently trace over the lines, hoping to run over his hands. When she’d go over two bumps, though she knew his joints were barely defining, she’d imagine they were his knuckles. “Will he crack them when he’s nervous? How many times will they get bruised in a fight? Will they find their movement over a keyboard or a piano?” She wanted to teach him how to remember which months had thirtyone days and which ones did not with the knucklecounting trick. She wanted to ask him after his first date if his and her knuckles clasped. She wanted him to know she was the first one to trace his knuckles for hours over the thick skin of her belly. In mid-September, five months into her pregnancy, she was still in the awkward stage when new friends questioned if she had a beer belly or if she was pregnant. She’d smile to herself as strangers and familiar faces glanced at her stomach when talking to her, as if she didn’t notice. She’d joke and act insulted if someone asked her when she was due, only to follow with hearty laughs and beaming smiles as she said, “He’s a winter baby. Due in January.” She hoped her chuckles and laughs would travel down to her uterus, and wrap her baby boy in a rocking embrace. She wanted his developing lungs to breathe in her joy and believed his funny bones would grow with her humor. 14

On the first cool night of September, she wore her new maternity sweater. It was a beige, cable-knit sweater that gently flowed over her inflating stomach. That night, she woke up in the middle of the darkness to debilitating cramps. Cramps that clawed the interior of her uterus, and split open her insides. His red paint spilled down the inside of her thighs. She screamed as her baby artist desperately scratched the walls of her womb, struggling to hold onto something. His little fingers scraped off his paintings and tore open her gut. Covered in his own paint and with pieces of her uterus wall stuck under his fingernails, he slipped down as she went into premature labor. Her baby boy never painted anything else. She sits and remembers that night in an unused rocking chair. Her fingers trace the few faded stretch marks that remain: her uterus remembers its artist. Today was supposed to be her baby boy’s birthday, the anticipated “due-date” the doctors gave her. She sits with her hands over an empty womb and watches specks of snow fall from the trees. The trees are deceived into thinking the snow is melting off, only to be awakened by a fresh layer in the morning. For the past four months she’s woken up with the same deceived feeling. Her once plump womb left abandoned and cheated, filled with an emptiness that groans from the depths of her torn gut. She sits in the rocking chair, but does not rock. The sweater was her first piece of maternity wear, and she still wears it. She uses the knuckle-counting trick to affirm that January has thirty-one slow days. Winter drags on. The nights remain long and the days stay cold. Nature hears her cry and mourns with her. She’s quietly grateful for her extra time to grieve. Spring will be a little late this year. Cia Mathew ’14 believes in something greater.


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BOTTOM

TOP the past splintered roots

jane kim, risd ’13 oil on canvas

spring cleaning BY AYLA WALTER

I brush the dust from my life ‘Neath the hem of my soul, For I must be presentable. I shall iron my laughter, I’ll wash out my faith, Polish my speech, And sew up my taste, Bleach my beliefs till they glow brilliant white And brush ‘way the dust that collects from my life Because nobody wants such an old tarnished thing With rust from old tears And the mark of a ring, With broken possessions Like promises, Or old-fashioned obsessions Like love. So I clean myself up and brush off my past I get a blank slate A fresh start A free pass— But still find myself alone at last; Working who I am from scratch. Ayla Walter, RISD ’15 will answer to any way you wish to pronounce her first name, provided she is listening.

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OPPOSITE TOP

reaching for the sky! ravi kumar, gs ’16 digital photography OPPOSITE BOTTOM

taiwan

jonathan hsiung, risd ’15 digital photography

night stall

hyerin park ’14 digital photography 18


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too beijing BY JULIE YUE

i hate the way your smell decapitates smog and fermented claustrophobia stringing the air i’ve pushed my nose into too many armpits in your buses i hate the way you all of a sudden turned painted wood into metal ground and slabs it’s not as promising as you imagine i hate the way you cut my hair (i said i wanted a trim, not a mushroom cloud, damn it.) in rooms too small, too muddy, too illiterate. we have both forgotten a little of each other, but i’m glad we both know neither of us are the paragon of beauty i, too, am too nosy too ambitious too small too muddy too illiterate. Julie Yue ’15 is growing out her hair again.

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LEFT

firing squad

clifton yeo ’14 digital photography RIGHT

musée du louvre

zung nguyen vu ’12.5 digital photography

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red

candles

yebin so ’16 photography

BY JESS X CHEN

dedicated to the people affected by the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989 They were twenty years old when it happened. A gunshot orchestra of ending lives washing up through television sets, into the eyes of faraway family. A mother falls to her knees at the sight of her children, picked clean, like debris, off the crimson streets. This is her heartbeat. This is my country. This is the soil of the garden where a billion people planted their family trees. This is the past of me. I lie here with the ghosts of thousands of bodies, in this ruin of a square, our hearts still flickering, but not yet dead. In 1989 the government painted the Beijing streets red. A soft river of scholar’s blood rushing through the deafening crescendo of 10,000 simultaneous tank and gunshot wounds. A generation of protesting college students takes its final breath. That same year, my Chinese father takes his first breath in a safe country overseas. He attends the University of Toronto for free, or perhaps a scholarship paid with the currency of international sympathy. Entering the American first grade. One morning recess, another student points a water gun at my heart.

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Shot dead, the wet stain would fade away in minutes, but the sound will enter my bloodstream, tunnel through the roots of my family tree and land on the bloody portrait the government’s army painted on their own city streets. This painting is a portrait of me! A portrait of 100,000 injured. 200 dead. 1000 dead. 7000 dead— No one really knows. A portrait of Chinese-American ancestry spilled on the canvas of our mother country. We lie here together. We were twenty years old when it happened. We placed a Statue of Liberty in the center of our country’s heart. For five days she stood up, overlooking a sea of 100,000 men, women, students, professors, united as one. Then a tank’s first flame sears the torch from her hands, her body, quickly reduced to rubble at our feet. But still we marched onwards with starving stomachs and hearts aflame, held each other’s hands so tight— that even when the students next to us were bayonetted to the ground, we kept walking on using the blades of our voices to carve a canyon to the other side of the world.


They can try a thousand times to threaten us with their loaded guns and firing tanks, chop off the stems of our country’s memory, erase the names of the dead from the pages of history, but they will never beat the love out of us.

When it fired a sea of 100,000 protesters’ hearts liquefied into an oil to burn a torch as bright as the sun

Our voices only resurface above the wreckage of our country’s body, as she struggles to tie all the broken pieces of herself back together, the same way I am trying to tie the pieces of my past into one.

Look at that sky. We are birds in her palms.

Look at that gun.

Lit up, forever, with an onrush of RED.

Jess X. Chen, RISD ’13 thinks constantly about the politics of our inner worlds. 23


on trayvon martin and danny chen BY ROB REN-PANG

F

or 45 days now, America and a good part of the world have gone from shock to building anger as George Zimmerman walked free. Now, finally, he has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. I’m watching Piers Morgan interview George Zimmerman’s brother, Robert Jr., in the wake of this case. Although I suppose a more accurate term is “completely grill Robert Jr.” Morgan is not letting anything go—from the fact that George Zimmerman could have left Trayvon Martin alone and both could have walked away, to the fact that Zimmerman ignored police instructions, that he was a self-appointed neighbourhood watchman, that he claims self-defense but appeared at the police station virtually unharmed (even lacking difficulty breathing from the copious amounts of blood he is supposed to have swallowed at that point). And I am glad. That we are not letting this go. But then I have to wonder... about Private Danny Chen who was tormented by his fellow armymen, while on tour in Afghanistan, until he was driven to take his own life six months ago. I have to wonder why that event was covered in the news for a week or two at most, and then… nothing. Was the issue resolved? Were the men responsible exonerated? Justice served? Only today did the army announce that the trials would take place in the U.S. This has taken a period of time four times as long as that in which George Zimmerman was called to court. Why? What is the difference? Why were the only people in my Facebook feed talking about this other minorities? Why is the murder yesterday of two Chinese graduate students at USC not garnering the full length of a news programme like Piers Morgan Tonight? And upon talking to many well-meaning people, I have come to the conclusion that the silence is because of Private Chen’s race. That the U.S. Army is preparing, really, for the event of a conflict with China. That the U.S.’s sliding world position and China’s rise has caused a wary disregard. That you cannot entirely blame the soldiers. That a large part of the problem is a lack of dialogue. That racism is not openly talked about in China. That in order for progress to take place, the Chinese people must take it upon themselves to gain respect. That the U.S.

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freedom

sarah cheung ’16 charcoal and graphite pencil

has democracy, and China does not, and that is why the Chinese are not respected, and will not be until they earn it. I love America. I am 100% born and raised. Boston, birthplace of democracy, to New York, centre of America. And I have always felt a part of this society. So why are there people who don’t? I am not arguing about Chinese national policies versus American national policies. I am not arguing about representation or self-actualization. I am asking about a basic human right to live, and the lack of outrage in people over the suppression of a man’s life. I am wondering why other Americans are not furious that a man born and raised in America, who was serving his country, was driven to the point of suicide by his fellow soldiers. When his parents left China, they left not just their country, their family, and their culture; they left the old ideology entirely. So why is Private Chen not entitled to the same protection that Trayvon Martin is? Why are his tormentors not receiving their due process, as George Zimmerman is? And why is nobody talking about this? It has been explained to me that there is no representation for the Asian-American community. That there is no political drive in the community. That ultimately, Martin Luther King, Jr. and a million men marched to Washington, and that Asian-Americans did not. Except that we did march. On Washington. In 1989, to protest the Tiananmen Square Massacre. I know somebody who was there while his wife was pregnant. And we are represented in several states now. Why is this not enough for us to receive the same justice as other Americans? As other humans? Are we too far shy of a million? Are we not reproducing quickly enough to counteract the effect of several anti-immigration laws (the earliest targeting Chinese in 1882)? Has it not been long enough since the poorly treated labourers on the Transcontinental Railroad? Since Japanese internment camps? Since Vincent Chin? Why are these not good enough reasons? Private Danny Chen was born and raised in New York City to immigrants from the south of China. He loved his country, enough to serve in its defense. He died at age 19. He could have been me. Rob Ren-Pang ’?? is easily swept away, Sandy.


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LEFT

children of the 90s and 60s

meihua (tina) zang, risd ’16 watercolor on acrylic canvas RIGHT

taxi

aashna mansharamani, risd ’16 acrylic, gold leaf, charcoal on canvas

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my cousin vinay BY SANDEEP NAYAK

I

t was today that I sat down to have a chat with my longtime cousin, Vinay, who, if nothing else might be said about him, is an interesting figure. Given that he’s now lived more than two decades of varied experiences, much of which I’ve been there to witness, a chronological catch-up will be near impossible. Instead, dear reader, be permissive waters—make yourself hot for the essence of Vinay with which I will steep you. Of course, we’ll remember that the anecdotal shreds to come cannot satisfactorily convey this grand personage. Perhaps the only genre able to capture Vinay is the long-form epic poem. Place him in another epoch past, and Vinay might have become the stuff of legend, but pinched on all sides by modern ennui, he has become a dried husk emptied of all its juices. Occasionally, the priests of our day rifle through their reference books and diagnose this individual (as if the ill were not society’s). There are men of genius whose striving to overcome themselves and every obstacle set in their way is a result of pathology. Vinay has this creative pathology, but sees the constraints of the two alternatives of prodigy and delinquency which are given him and all people like him all too well to be enticed by either. Imagine a rat in a Skinner box, electrocuted for bad behavior and fed for good. These idiot rodents become addicted to themselves and swallow whole every morsel placed in front of their way. In human terms, geniuses are either chastised into mediocrity or exert themselves to surpass all known levels of humanity only to be fed the admiration of their inferiors and be caged forever in a box of their own brilliance. For Vinay, Beethoven is a chump. Vinay is the rat who lies down and allows himself to starve while being shocked to death. His commitment to futility is such that he does not even bother to think about, and probably could not articulate, these things. Vinay is no philosopher, but he has a sort of internal coherency. He spoke to me of the human condition, completely oblivious that thinkers of all stripes have engaged this term, using it to interrogate the unique state of being a live human, with all the inevitable qualities entailed. It is a term that hints at a universality of experience, and one that even in its most pessimistic usages suggests a kind of hope that meaning might be found, or at least that its search is worthwhile. Vinay

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is caught up with none of these illusions. For him, “condition” is more akin to the word “disease”. He told me once that he’s unsure as to whether we’re animals or something else. That is the human disease. We are ambiguous compromises between the animals we came from and the deities we can just glimpse. The human condition is something to be treated. It is a virus planted in our genes by serendipity whose symptoms we can occasionally ward off but can never cure. The human condition is the inability to overcome instincts and the incapacity to fully abide by them. I remember a period of Vinay’s life where he did nothing but sleep and sleep, waking up only to eat and masturbate. Of course, residual patterns of humanity were still there, but this was the general idea. He was trying to treat the human condition. Looking back on that, he called it his wolf period. So Vinay lived for a period as a human animal. It failed, partly because he’s human. Clothes and shelter do ruin the noble savage. Yet during this bestial stage, apart from the effects of quotidian human affairs (to which Vinay is strongly resistant), I’m sure he experienced occasional bursts of divinity which tore apart his animal shell and departed, leaving him once again merely a human, and not a particularly good one. So the wolf was slain, and being human sucks. Children are not emotionally stable enough for relationships, and Vinay isn’t1 either. But he doesn’t experience the anonymous wonder that pervades the world of a child, nor is he a child. He combines many of the disabilities of childhood with the cynicism of a dead man. Vinay enjoys video games and breakfast cereals and always has. But he enjoys them simultaneously with puerile delight and an overmature (even desiccated) sensibility that regards them as about equivalent to any other thing in the damn world. I said Vinay’s no philosopher, but his entire life is a philosophical quest. It is the result of a philosophical experiment, and a kind of laziness. One time, leaning over the shoulder of a friend who was reading a book, I saw a heading in bold that said “Philosophical Suicide.” I didn’t see the text below it which explained the idea. Nor did I want to, because I had a very clear idea of what it meant immediately on seeing it. And it is this:2 attacking the only actually relevant philosophical question—Life, yea or nay?—and coming up negative, yet not killing yourself. Why does Vinay spare himself the knife? For one, he lacks the discipline to lift it. But two, as a worst case scenario, treating life as death’s waiting room does allow 1 Imagining “isn’t” as a spontaneous corruption of “is not” is

maddeningly difficult. I cannot begin to fathom won’t from will not. 2 It is actually not.


the possibility for something to happen. Every day of his life under the steady drum of dissatisfaction, Vinay lives knowing that his certainties might be incomplete, and that one day everything might reveal itself in a different light. He knows that perhaps by some means, currently inexplicable and seemingly impossible, life, which he doesn’t doubt will remain meaningless, might become worth living. He lives on the smallest of threads, on the strength of the one in a million, on the “you never know.” His living hinges on the undeniability of the potential for uncertainty. But he doesn’t hope for or expect a better outcome, just as we don’t expect a meteorite to smack us in the face on our way to work, or expect to develop a malignant tumor. It might be more accurate to say that Vinay remains alive because he’s got nothing better to do. “When we were children,” he told me, “life had philosophical purpose. If we do have any meaning, it’s probably that. To have children so that they can have purpose until they rot as they get older.” I’ve mentioned that Vinay’s been handed over to psychologists and psychiatrists, so that he might be categorized and fixed. I mean fixed in the mechanical sense, not in any way relating to pets, but dear reader, your potential confusion has raised a good point. What of Vinay’s potential for passing on his seed, which so often wastes itself in a terribly unbiblical fashion in clockwise swirls of bathroom water?3 Probably, his psychological condition renders him effectively sterile. Thus his own modest purpose is unattainable. He was brought before the psych people and examined, and as with all children with pathology, he was given the mental panacea of amphetamine. Or speed, as it no longer seems to be called. Now, while I may have described Vinay as composed of irreconcilable contradictions, this doesn’t mean that he contains multiple personalities. Even when he was the wolf, he was still Vinay, the wolf. This next stage of existence was a different matter entirely. Addies, as Vinay affectionately called his pills, jacked his regular humdrum existence into god mode.4 Popping his legally acquired stimulants,5 he rose above the human and looked down on himself with condescension. He waxed and waned godly in bell curves that closely mapped the half-life of the drug. The pills were his ambrosia, and at rare times when the body abstained, the god’s wings melted and he plummeted to the earth and died, leaving Vinay the human. 3 The reader will glean that Vinay resides in the Northern

hemisphere, though I’ve been told that the Coriolis effect as it applies to toilets is actually a myth. I don’t know. In my one sojourn south of the equator, I failed to pay attention to this. 4 Vinay likes using gaming terminology. 5 I asked Vinay what his relationship with the psychs is. “They’re drug bazaars.”

People in the majority, not realizing they are tenuous ropes between contradictions, comfort themselves with the quality of their twine. And if dissatisfactions of the kind that are fundamental to Vinay ever arise, they might drown it out with reality TV or emotional inebriation. Vinay’s body is stretched over an abyss and gnawed by the wolf at one end and pulled by the god at the other. His coils are strained, his fibers begin to tear apart from each other, and when this infinite tug of war seems to reach the point that the rope will snap, he swallows ambrosia. The wolf vanishes, leaving the god holding a length of rope which dangles over a cliff. While temporary deification cannot be considered a cure for the human condition, it is a reprieve, and so he had the complicity of the doctor/drug pushers. Vinay the god (or Vinayaka, as he fashioned himself after his divine namesake) hated the human, and in his neglect for its flesh-and-blood casing revealed it bodily for what it actually was—diseased. Vinay entered realms of pure thought in which the body and its needs were forgotten. Often, he’d go days without sleeping, and eat only enough to stave off mental exhaustion. His masturbation dramatically reduced. It was here, in heaven, that Vinay’s thought and mood dislodged itself from physical circumstance. Apart from this, Vinay’s observed existence did not alter very much. He still gamed day in and out and spoke to his brother about whatever things people talk about. But one thing was clear. Vinay was functional. Ah, yes, the psychmen-and-women scribbled, “improved mood.” Vinay entered every day into the realm of the gods and performed his dance of serenity. Swallowing his addies, he would envelop himself in the holiest of holies, cache himself into divine mystery, and traverse worlds beyond. Exultation followed Vinayaka like a halo, and he walked as if composed of balls of fire. The Lord abided day by day in knowledge, free of doubts, worries and agitations. One day, buoyed along by this aura, Vinay was taking an exam at his local community college. By now, he acknowledged that forces beyond his control imposed such mechanical contrivances on him, and that he could do little else but reconcile himself to necessity. He knew that even he did not have the power to overturn society. So he compromised by running through the necessary motions while preserving himself. Hence, he enrolled in local computer engineering courses. He had put in the requisite period of study and arrived on time to begin scribbling in graphite bubbles in compliance with the paper interrogation.

29


30


He was as a farmer who had been a farm apprentice and previous to that the son of a farmer, soliciting from the teats of post-expectant cattle nurturing milk with expertise gained from decades of toil. Vinayaka responded with such grace, ease and accuracy that those cheating spectators who gazed from behind ‘tween Vinay’s armpits discovered a Scantron most ripe for the sincerest form of flattery. No matter. matter. Vinayaka continued his task, dutifully scribing what certitude dictated him. Knowledge flowed from him and onto the page effortlessly via Adderall-aided attention and retention. Though the knowledge itself was largely meaningless, his mastery of it thrilled him. Scanning the page of descending gray circles, a sense of certainty overwhelmed him and filled his mind and heart with a dazzling light. Vinay witnessed glimmers of some Grand Object, the end of all searches. Truth itself in all its grandeur flickered and fulgurated, revealing itself to Vinay in tantalizing snatches. Like streaks of lightning, it pounced into view and disappeared.

OPPOSITE

faces

pathikrit bhattacharyya ’14 collage and ink

An electric jerk spasmed Vinayaka’s hand and dragged a grey line across the page. For the first time that day, Vinayaka flipped his writing tool over to erase. Minutes later, again. A jolt brought his fist down and crunched the sharpened point of his pencil on the desk. The tip snapped. He retrieved another from his bag, but his fist disobeyed his command and let it slip to the floor. He did too shortly after. The next thing he remembered was being lifted onto a stretcher by a pair of burly-armed paramedics. An audience of onlookers watched, some faces contorted in genuine worry, others secretly overjoyed by the unexpected cancellation of the exam. So died the deity. Nowadays, Vinay bides his time in compromise. From the entrapments of a bestial existence he witnessed the possibility of perfection and he leapt towards it. For several moments he soared, believing himself to have learned flight. And then he landed, not quite where he came from and not where he was going to. He found himself on top of the fence which separated the one mode of existence from another, tangled in barbed wire which wrapped itself tighter around him the more he struggled. And then he realized that he had always been there. So he gave up. He quit. And this brings us to the present moment, where we see Vinay gazing into the bathroom mirror with haggard eyes, snipping idly at his locks with a pair of industrial scissors. He considers the jugular. His emergency exit. There is a long, reflective pause after which he suicides not, and decides instead to masturbate.

Feb 6: me: hey Vinay: sup me: I’m writing about you Vinay: Well ive been through alot in the last 3 wks me: shit really? Vinay: nothing that would cause you to write about a previous me though me: what kind of stuff? rough stuff? Vinay: grass me: oh. So I’ve had a mistaken image here... Vinay: opposite yea im still fighting wars in my head tho but im like a veteran so i always know what to do

Sandeep Nayak ’12 let the dogs out. 31


2AM.

BY REXY JOSH DORADO

There are quiet moments in the night when you can almost hear the world breathe. When the streetlights die out and the cicadas kill their chorus, you’re left with the pulse of the evening that ticks against the hours. The glow of ivory that sticks to your windowpanes and your silhouette edges and the inside of your eyelids. In that soft darkness, in the beautiful, slanted, stubborn asymmetry of it all, for the first time, you just let yourself fall. There are those moments in the night when you forget, for a second, the turn of the earth the ground pushing against your feet and the weight of the sky. Rexy Josh Dorado ’14 doesn’t want to forget.

32


OPPOSITE

zurich - tango

philip leiberman, george hazard crooker university professor, emeritus digital photography

albatross

BY AYLA WALTER I just want to be close enough to hear you breathe That’s all I need I need from you The sounds of you The rustle when you shuffle, shifting, turning over, creaking the floorboards, The music of your presence. I can hear it Even in silence The air hums, vibrates with your skin, pulses through me, I can feel you in the room Without touching. It is the knowing The knowing of you. I can recognize the way you exhale Like I recognize your voice Like I recognize your handwriting Like I can tell it’s you from a block away because I know the way you walk. I just want to be close enough to see your face Because there is poetry in the way you close your eyes Savoring the taste of a moment There is art in the way your forehead crinkles up When your face cracks And the broken smile shines through between lopsided, trembling cheeks That’s all I need I need from you The weight of you When we sit side by side, thigh to thigh, arm pressed up against arm And your head rests on my shoulder like a bowling ball (I don’t mind at all) Weigh me down Hang around My neck My albatross. You tether me to what I need Just close enough to hear you breathe. Ayla Walter ’15 will answer to anyway you wish to pronounce her first name, provided she is listening.

33


TOP

oom sam ibu

BOTTOM

ian garrity ’16 digital photography

34


fabric play

julee woo jin chung, risd ’13 digital photography

35


something to talk about BY SIGNE CHRISTENSEN 36

A

t the end of a year-long seminar on how to get into the job market, a guest professor had said something like, “It is good to read The New Yorker before you go to a campus interview. That way you have something to talk about. People will want you to have something to talk about.” I remember thinking: OK. I can add that to the long list of things I will do when and if I am invited to a campus for an interview. I will read The New Yorker. And talk about it. “Read New Yorker. Talk about it.” In the margin of my notebook I added, “But will The New Yorker read me???” I followed this with several question marks. When I got home that evening I received a phone call just as I was putting my professional development seminar notes in a file marked “professional development.” My “hello” was met with the “hello” of a New Yorker representative. The very next day I received a hand-delivered letter from The New Yorker. When I opened it the scent of lilacs and success accompanied a pink piece of paper, which I unfolded to read: “Dear Ms. Christensen, We would like to publish your short story in our upcoming issue of The New Yorker. We have never read anything as


enthralling and as revolutionary as your piece.” I was going to keep reading but the phone rang again, and I recognized a New York number. “Hello?” “Hello, Ms. Christensen?” “Yes?” “This is The New Yorker. We hope you have time for an interview. As I told you yesterday, we are going to publish your story and we think our readers will want to know more about you.” “OK,” I said. “Before we begin I just want to say that when the staff and I read the short bio you sent us and found out you were a graduate student, we knew this was going to be good—but we have never read anything as good as this.” “Thank you!” I said. “I put a lot of work into it.” “I can tell,” the New Yorker representative said. “Now tell me a little bit about your writing process. How do you produce such poetic work?” “Well,” I said, knowing exactly where to begin. “The liquor store down the street from where I live has an aisle especially reserved for cheaper wines. They have a ‘buy one get one free’ offer going on year-round. I like to buy two bottles on my way back from school. When I get home I pull the cork out of the first one, slip into my sweat pants and curl up on the couch with a ‘Compositions’ notebook. “I pour my first glass of wine and down it pretty quickly. The second and third glasses go down fast as well. I fill my glass for the fourth time and then I know that I am ready to write. This is where it is harder for me to remember what happens. I usually wake up a few hours later with the notebook tucked under my head like a pillow and the ink of the pen slowly leaking out onto my couch.” “This is fascinating!” said the New Yorker interviewer. “So you drink and that inspires you to write?” “Yes,” I said. “Usually around the fourth glass of wine I feel like I could be the next Stephenie Meyer or Proust.” “I wonder if you could read us a passage from this famous notebook of yours. I know once our readers get a hold of your story in The New Yorker, they are going to want more. We wouldn’t want anyone to get their hands on the rest of your work before we do!”

“Sure,” I said, and grabbed the notebook I’d had since I was a teenager. I turned to a story that I had written one winter night after hanging up the phone from a conversation with a friend of mine. She had said: You are clearly the pretty one, Signe. Your beauty is equaled only by your intellect and you clearly don’t even know how pretty you are. I wish I were you. My life is utterly lousy and you are so much better. Everyone loves you. I really like your new nails and the way you sometimes look kind of mysterious. I skipped over a passage where the ink had been washed from the page by a spilled glass of wine. You should have the last gas mask, Signe. I won’t amount to anything so I don’t deserve it. But you must live! You must show the world your beauty and your talent. You can’t give up! I came to the end of the page and stopped reading. “Wow! I am simply speechless,” said the person calling from The New Yorker. “We have to have this and anything else you have ever written. Name your price and we will triple it. You are clearly the best thing that has ever happened to the literary world as a whole.” “I want 40,000 dollars,” I said. “More like 120,000 dollars!” said the New Yorker representative, after tripling it mentally. When we hung up I poured myself another glass of wine and sat back on the couch to visualize my success. I would surely be asked to speak at the New Yorker October Literary Festival. I would be on a panel about passion and inspiration. When I filled my glass again I felt compelled to practice my acceptance speech for the Pulitzer Prize that was surely coming my way. It was a little challenging to uncork the next bottle and fill my glass again, but when I did, I moved over to the mirror and gave it a dazzling smile. “Thank you New Yorker! Thanks to you I have enough money to feed my passion and continue to write! Thanks to you I don’t have to go on the job market! Thanks to you I don’t have to read The New Yorker.” Signe Christensen, GS ’13 is loving the ride.

37


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT

laia, 90046 anna, 90504 elisabeth, 90046 dear hollywood

ji hyun yeo, risd mfa ’16 digital photography

38


phaeton choices BY JAEMUN PARK

one morning I woke in bed to find the sun had leapt into my arms last night— fluttering, heart-like whispering flames to baring thighs. the runaway star I swiftly swallowed slinking, slinking, slinking searing bone and esophagus fats, filling my lungs with red-tint ash. tell me, please, what should I have done? subsume the sun in open-mouthed kiss (and parch my veins?) or steal the sea, cool and glassed, to chill a face that’s molten flesh. Jaemun Park ’16 likes warm things.

39


40


wild

BY MEIA GEDDES Paralyzed I am over all that is today—wondrous frolicking flipunders of zestiness! I want to shout with ecstatic possibility and rumble cross land and space with time, infinite momentary being of love. Defy all laws of this life and find the solemnity in fun and taste the sweetness of each moment. I want to let the moment catch my breath as a breeze catches a cloud off guard and I hope to flow across the sky like a rainbow. I went out to tell the trees that I am in love with them but I didn’t hear much back, a crackling like laugh. How much distance till we cannot glimpse our reflection anymore? Long wet road like the winter days ahead, we drive, lost as the wind in our hair, to find that our home is here. The water of my body and mind slushes about yearning to join the river at my feet. Wealth is an open window at night and to be lonely is life’s death. Please, do not wait for the world, for it will not wait for you. You know that feeling when the wind blows and breath trips through your body so wild? It is like when a thousand poppies turn their heads and it is like when the branches of leaves shake with an unknown pleasure in the wind, shivering as the sun creeps through the shadows of their little bodies. Meia Geddes ’14 breathes.

OPPOSITE

alone

larry au ’14 digital photography 41


TOP

untitled

jennifer hou, risd ’13 35mm photography BOTTOM

elmina

takeru nagayoshi ’14 digital photography

mother

BY STEPHANIE ANNE CANLAS hands fidgeting massaging her forearms pushing her worries back into follicles. nerve endings. she stares at me. but not directly. crooked communication is honesty. she sees my words, and holds them, inspects them. then grips them, squeezes them until they drip essences, wet and sweet savory, so she can paint images on her wall of a world she’s hoped to see, formed by a collection of stamps maps postcards and newspaper clippings. Stephanie Anne Canlas, RISD ’14 is having epiphanies and revelations over a cup of apple cinnamon tea.

42


43


LEFT

young monks in a tibetan courtyard

rebecca carrol ’15 digital photography RIGHT

yawn

michael chua ’11 digital photography 44


45


46


15% off

dianna xu, risd ’14 oil paint, collage, and roller

little

BY MARCY HUANG i write in small font, in small letters, so i can hide my emotions (because that makes so much sense.) i speak in a small voice, a whispered sentence, so you have to focus to figure out what i’m saying maybe i want to be heard maybe i just want the attention. —i think i just want you to gaze intently at my mouth.— Marcy Huang ’16 sleeps with both eyes shut.

47


her loveliest dream annie swihart, risd ’13 digital 48


what early birds catch BY TIFFANY PHU

E

ven when I was young and prone to playing pretend, I could not fathom exactly how my parents disappeared with the sunrise. They vanished together like seconds on a clock, precise and unerring in their movements. My alarm was always set to the daylight. Daily dinners were stagnant, with the Chinese radio station sending audio waves which fizzled into a quiet static. Chores were the hands and eyes, sweeping away the dusts of another day. Bedtimes were the slap of slippers walking past and the distant click of doors. Everything incoherent, present, and strange happened under a wavering night sky: my dad taking slow steps and dancing with our Rottweiler, who resignedly tottered on her hind legs, the impossibly small figures of me and my sisters remaining unwittingly invisible in the school playground as gates locked shut. Time was always on the cusp of something great during these moments of solace, the drifting night and the burgeoning sky. There were two situations in which I awoke to the same silent blanketed world as they did: fishing excursions, and long road trips. During these instances, the lights we flicked on cast life in higher contrast while we shifted all that was absolutely necessary to our existence into the car. My parents sat in the front, eyes on the everexpanding horizon. My oldest sister sat in the middle row, sprawled out and approaching gangly. My middle sister and I lay stretched opposite one another in the back. And when I fell asleep in the grey mini-van hurdling us all together past tired streetlights and along the empty freeway, I held tenderly the scene which I knew would greet me. The clock’s hands moved on and on, but there we all stayed. Tiffany Phu ’14 is playing hide and seek with something like warm laundry. 49


pattern series

sue kwon, risd ‘14 pen and collage

the family Susie Ahn ’13 misses lethargic afternoons in Barcelona with nothing but a book and a café con leche for company. Larry Au ’14 still finds himself trying to fit mismatched puzzle pieces together. Amy Chen, Brown/RISD ’17 needs a lobotomy. Tiffany T. Chen ’13 left her tibia in Paris! Celia Chung, RISD ’13 is excited to spend her first Christmas in California. James Eng ’14 used to breeze through grassy hills on a midnight bike. Mabel Fung ’15 wants to catch a shooting star. Carol Kim ’15 has shattered her fourth wall. Katherine Ng ’14 is one lorem ipsum away from making less than zero sense. Christina Pan ’13 is colors, exploding, too fast to catch. Winnie Shao ’16 is just beginning to realize the expansiveness of the world. Sharon Sun ’14 devours the grey. Phuc Anh Tran ’16 is an emotions toilet. Lauren Tsai ’16 is trying to reach new heights at Brown... unfortunately she’s not getting any taller. Winnie Wang ’14 is trying to simplify. Yidan Zeng, Brown/RISD ’17 dreams about dreaming. 50


51


VISIONS brown/risd

inner matryoshka yj nicole im, risd ’12 mixed media VISIONS brown/risd

quarters

estella ng, risd ’14 mixed media 52


branching veins

andrÊ wee, risd ’14 digital


VISIONS brown/risd envisioning and building a stronger asian/asian-american community interested in joining visions or submitting your work? please contact: visions.brown@gmail.com or visit: http://visions-magazine.org

FALL 2012  

Volume XIII, Issue I

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