Action 7-8: Self-Rescue Guide for Online Classes 2020

Stand at the time frame

ten years later

My confusion

I have found that the difficulties I encountered after 25 years of life began to increase. I could admit that my ability to solve some problems has improved. But at the same time, it seems that I gradually lose confidence in life and motivation for the future. 

I knew all of our class members have been going through a difficult time when we are taking online classes. For me, at the very beginning of this semester I have huge passion about our classes and believe studying can change my life.  But as time went by, I felt like it is really difficult for me to catch the pace of our class. And it was becoming increasingly impossible for me to concentrate on studying and homework. I have been surrounded by feelings of self-blame and self-doubt. For a long time, until now I am still trapped in this kind of emptiness, anxiety and helplessness. 

Where my confusion come out

It was also in this semester; I began my online psychological counseling. As a beginner of counseling, the content of it is very extensive, including willpower instinct, intimate relationship, schools of psychology and so on. And my counselor used Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to deconstruct my confusion that I met when I was studying, which I think made a lot of sense. 

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been widely used in different fields, and I know it has been challenged all the time after it was initially put forward. But I still think it is quite reasonable in explaining the hierarchy of needs of most people. 

In Maslow’s later clarification, he stated that the deficiency needs must not be 100 percent met before the higher needs emerges. But we habitually directed towards the needs that we have yet to satisfy. Thereby affecting us to realizing higher level of needs. 

Take myself for example. 

Self-actualization needs is one of the higher needs that people have. And for me, studying in our program is realizing my self-actualization needs because I am doing things that I really want to do and try to realize the self-fulfillment by studying. But I have to admit, there are several basic needs that have not been satisfied. So my desire to achieve higher needs is more or less blocked.

The third level of needs are love and belonging needs or social needs. This is the needs for us to communicate and have relationship with others. It is about family, friends and intimate relationships.  But for me, every day I stay in my home alone. I do not have any friends that I can meet in this city. And because of the limitation of online classes, I also lost the touch with our classmates. Therefore, that is the level of needs that is not met, so I always feel isolated and depressed. 

In the fourth level of esteem needs, Maslow made two categories of it, which are our desire for reputation and our self-respect. I believe that for most people, there is a difference between the strongness and weakness of these two needs. For me, self-respect will take up a larger portion, but I also value a lot of other people’s views of me. And I think these two needs interact with each other. But during the online classes period, it is hard for me to get feedback of my works from other classmates and professors. So it would be not easy to get encouragement and compliment and my self-confidence would be challenged or if I got a powerful ego so i do not need other people’s views. 

Those explanation help me acknowledge why and how my confusion came out. 

In fact, what psychological counseling can help me is not to heal my wounds, nor to change some of my own defects, but to teach me how to look at the problems correctly, including telling me how and why these problems arise. The aim and the function of counseling is not to make me feel much better but is to make me feel not that worse. We could not foresee what will happen in the future, therefore we could not solve the future problems using current methods. But the thing we can manage ourselves currently, is our emotion. That is the most important part I think I have learned about psychological counseling.

My Actions

In the beginning, based on my trust of psychological counseling, I was thinking about to design an online planform for students who take online classes to gather together. They can both exchange their online class experience and talk about their difficulties and confusion to professional psychological counselors. I thought this kind of planform could gather a group of students who feel alone during the online semester and make them not feel lost. 

However, when I began to build this planform, I found that this is just a normal idea that everyone could think of. But how true or effective it could be?

So I changed my way of thinking. I think as an outcome of an action, if it expresses its personal style more, maybe it will have a stronger appeal. So, I abandoned my former idea, and started to do something that explicit more about “myself”.  

Therefore, I began to use visual to express my confusion when I have difficulties, and try to use my own words to explain how to deal with those difficulties. 

I hope that this is not a bible to solve the confusion caused by online classes, but it can be used as a direct and strong way to let everyone know that they can look at the difficulties in a relax way. This is one of the reason why I did not choose my original thought to build a online psychological counseling planform, because I think it was too serious. 

Actually I think the process of making the booklet is relaxed. I even found that using mixed material to draw and collage itself is a stress relieving thing. 

Action 6: Envelope–An Effective Communication Design

And a time preservation

My action6 is about the old envelopes and letters that from my grandfather. And I think it is also a very good example that shows time extension.

When my grandfather passed away. He left us a lot of old books, albums and other old stuff. My grandmother said we can preserve whatever we like. Then I found these letters. Most of them are letters which are from my grandfather’s home town. What I know is he still kept this very traditional way to keep in touch with his nephews in his homeland. And I also found some envelopes that are in very different format, which, my grandma said to me, are from his classmate in Taiwan. Because the China mainland has very sensitive relationship with Taiwan. It is still a rare thing for people in this two parts of China to have intimate communication. So I’m very curious about this letter correspondence.

When I opened and read these letters one by one, I can even smell a kind of burning smell of the letters which you can easily smell it in vintage store. I’m really excited, it’s like doing archaeological research. 

I found some of the letters from Taiwan are already taken out of the envelopes. My grandmother said she felt anxious to keep these Taiwan letters. Because she has experienced a series of movements that occurred in the early days of the founding of New China. People in that era were not only afraid to save politically sensitive things, but also unable to discuss political things even in their dreams. Actually the freedom of speech in today’s society is very much open than before. But it seems the nightmire left to my grandmother sixty years ago are still at work.

And go back to the letter. 

Letter is a very sentimental thing in our today’s life. I believed that if a modern person is still writing letters, his primary purpose is probably not to convey information but to satisfy his own retro feelings. But for my grandfather, it’s the opposite. In his whole life, he used letter to connect with his relatives in homeland and his classmates in different parts in the world. I still remember, after he passed away, I was at my grandparents’ place, I unexpectly saw a letter written by my grandma, it is written for my grandpa’ nephews in his homeland, it is said “he went to the heaven peaceful” . 

Then I think, there should be difficult to have a way of communication in the world, that is soft like this. I believe, it should be difficult to speak out this sorrow thing for my grandmother, or anyone of us, if we used phone call. 

Envelope is also a very effective communication way.

The postage shows how much you paid for mailing the letter. The recipient in the center shows what is in people’s first attention. And the sender tells your audience who you are. 

And your envelope is also about your personality, integrity and humanity. 

This is the envelope which is from my grandfather’s nephew in his homeland.
This is the letter written by my grandfather which was about to send to his hometown but was retrieved in the end.

Action 5: Video Sketching A——Time Curation

Time, Mysterious, Amorphous,   Infinite, Eternal Time

An Inspiration

In this summer, I went to an exhibition held in Shanghai West Bund Museum. The museum corporates with Musée National d’art Moderne, Centre Pompidou to exhibit selections of 

Modern and contemporary Pompidou masterpieces, to introduce the public the important relationship between the artworks and their historical background in Europe from industrial revolution, two world wars, post-colonialism to globalization. And the title of the exhibtion is The Shape of Time

Source: http://www.westbund.com/en/index/EVENTS/detail_699A9Q.html

I know time is not an uncommon theme for artists. From ancient time to the present, whatever the perspective the artists stand, and whatever the technique or material they use, their aim is to portray time. 

Vanitas – Still Life with Books and Manuscripts and a Skull, Edwaert Collier, 1663, National Museum of Western Art , Tokyo

For example, in Dutch Golden Age still-life painter Edwaert Collier’s Vanitas-Still Life with Books and Manuscripts and a Skull, the audience can easily tell the relationship between time and each object in this painting. The oil lamp that was just extinguished and was still smoking, the open pocket watch, the vines, and the skull, they all represent the shortness of life, the passage of time and the necessity of death for people at that time. 

The Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dalí, 1931, Museum of Modern Art, © 2020 Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In the famous The Persistence of Memory, Dali painted clocks as  melting cheese. The emptiness and amorphousness of time had been fully demostrated by him. British art historian and academic Dawn Ades wrote, “The soft watches are an unconscious symbol of the relativity of space and time, a Surrealist meditation on the collapse of our notions of a fixed cosmic order”.

However, when I was going through this exhibition, I was, for the first time in my life, provided by the notion that time is part of cultural study. With the change of ages and circumstance, people’s perception about time is also changing.  And the view about time is also a reflection of the relationship between people, societies and history, community life and the future. Moreover, the curator uses the concept of ‘time’ to determine the direction of the entire exhibition narrative, and each piece of work can be deconstructed with ‘time’ to make different forms of extension.

For example, Mondrian’s style had undergone a very important change in the quarantine during Spanish flu. His evolution of works had showed the shape of changing time and spaces. 

Another instance is Duchamp’s bicycle wheel. The rotation of the wheel can represent the passage of time. However, using the change of light to show the change of the wheel shadow is also a form of depicting time.

Modern art, as an artistic style that challenges the tradition, is the exactly the product of time changing. The two artists mentioned above, and other modern artists have freshed the nature of material and the functions of art to try to detach themselves from time and history, and to response to the fast change in social structure. 

This exhibition made me realized that time is a theme that never goes out of style. So I decided to use time as a singular point of my online studio. And the video about curating time came into being. 

Action 4: Step Out and Look Wider – Generation

Two “ages” on one building

I live in a city does not have any characteristic municipal construction, and there are also little traces of nature around the neighborhood where I live. Besides that, I am a person who is really fond of human landscape. If I go on a trip, I would like to choose the places that have human trace as my first choice rather than pure nature place. 

So In this action, I decided to go to one of the oldest streets in my hometown when I saw the action’s title “step out and look wider”. As a person who is very much obsessed with architectures during the Republic of China (1921-1949), I think this would be a good opportunity to explore the historical architectures in my hometown. 

Street landscape

The street is called Western Street. In my knowledge, this is an east-west street built at the late Qing dynasty and early Republic of China (1900-1949) which can be dated back to over a hundred years ago. 

The gate of the street which was built around five years ago. It’s not original. I think the reason to build this is to complete the urban planning, but I don’t think it’s a good repair-as-antique gate.

Built in the period when China was colonized by Western countries, the buildings on this street are the combination of the characteristics of both Chinese and Western architecture.

Good thing or bad thing?

In my view, the precious thing about historical buildings is that they are living museums. Compared with the bricks in the glass booth displayed in the museum, the building itself is much closer to people. Whether you browse the overall look of the architecture from a distance, place yourself inside of it, or touch the wall, you can experience the breathing of ancient sounds from brick by brick very Intimately.

I am very grateful that, in the rapid modernization of China today, there is still such a better-preserved street in the city where I live. But there is also a pity. Not only because there are some not-so-detailed or not exquisite renovations, but also because the historical buildings here are not better used as carriers of cultural heritage.

But there might be a good thing.  Modernization has brought about a rapidly expanding tourism industry in China. Many ancient towns and old streets in China have been overwhelmed by commercialization and become homogeneous. The same chain stores were opened in the old streets that had their own unique styles in the very beginning in different parts of the country. The old street colonized by street food are gradually trampled by cooking lampblack and thousands of tourists.

As a street that has not been colonized by tourism, it might be considered a lucky thing for Western Street. 

Two “ages” on one building

What is very interesting is that, when I was looking at the ivy on the wall of one building, a man like my father’s age came to me from the store next to the building. He directly took out his cellphone and said to me, like said to his neighbor he knew very well, “I will show you the ivy at my home”. In his video and photos, the ivy at the garden shed at his home have already turn to bloody red from green. “Because the ivy here is very next to lively human world”, he pointed to the ivy at the wall in front of us, “So it turns red very slowly”. 

I felt very glad to meet the man because I also got some interesting information from our random chatting around the architectures. He said most of the buildings on western street had been restored except this one↓. (the following information I got from that man)

There are two ages on this two-story building.

In the beginning, I thought the first story would be older than the second story because of the black smoked wall and the uneven bricks. However, the man said to me that the second story is the oldest one and it is original. And the first floor is younger and had been restored. (It could be rebuilt years ago like twenty years and are not distressed, but they are not original.) The wall of first floor is black and smoked because for years it soaked the water on the ground after raining.

And one of the most important point to tell the age of the building is the brick carving decoration on the wall. The original brick decoration which could be dated hundreds of years ago are very exquisite and elegant. However, it is easy to see the rebuilt decorations are rough and perfunctory. 

a. if you observe them carefully, you can see every decoration on the second floor’s wall is in different shapes inspired from different kinds of flowers. And there are air vents on the bricks, so they are not just decorations, but also a good combination of beauty and Practicality. This floor is original and has longer history.

b. Decorations on the wall of first floor are same and just have one layer of carving. And they are no Practicality.  This floor is restored.
Another brick that was restored not so exquisitely and lost its practicality.

Antique is not only a cultural symbol

However, the current situation is that there are not many exquisite antique buildings in China, or for the restoration, utilization and development of many ancient buildings, it is almost impossible to repair the old buildings as they were, or the ancient buildings are not well and reasonably utilized. 

In a developing country, economic development is mostly placed before cultural development. The precious craftsmanship handed down in ancient times and a large amount of funds which are used to repair and develop the national-treasure-level buildings located in “important” cities. Ancient buildings in “relatively unimportant” cities are often ignored. And most people don’t even care about the details and meaning of the ancient buildings and their function.

Action

Actually I am really fond of the flower bricks on the wall, so I decided to make something using that shape.

Action 3: Extending and Seeking

Growing Mask

I started this action by doing some extended thoughts about studio, including what is actually a studio, the functions of studio, to see if there are any interesting points came out. 

Brainstorm of “studio”
Structure of my thought about “studio”

Studio is the curation of time and space

I would like to define “studio” as a very broad term. Generally speaking, it is a space that produce, exhibit products and ideas, but it can be a variety of forms. For instance, when i’m taking shower, I use to think about things in bathroom, think about works, projects, so that could be a studio of me. 

The studio is growing, as time goes by, the ideas, and works accumulate. And for the host of the studio, wherever they go, he carries the personality of the studio. The personality is abstract, but the abstraction creates different and speical time and space. so I think “studio” can extend time and space.

Studio is the intersection of time and space, it is also a presentation which presents space and time that are hard to visualize and express. It is the shape of time, and change of space. It is the collage of preservation of past, the on-going thinkings, and future prediction. 

So I would like to define my online studio as an online exhibition, it is not only the curation of my actions and works, and also the curation of time and space

STUDIO IS NOT A VACUUM SPACE

And then I thought, surely the online studio can be constructed and built at any time and any places, I really don’t want to make the online studio in a vaccum time and space, it should be the reflection of our on-going situation. 

Recently, I’ve read a news that a penguin was found dead on Brazilian beach. It is because malnutrition, and a mask it swallowed .  The local scientists stated that this could be the first animal that was dead because of safety device during cover period. There is also a rough data that during post-covid time, a billion of mask trash are produced all over the world. Generally speaking, if you put the mask in the garbage can, they will go to the incineration and be burned. It is non poisonous. But if the they are abandoned on the street or, because mask is very light has no weight, are easily blown to other places. So they will finally go to the ocean after raining. They will pollute the ocean and the animals will eat them. 

A penguin was found dead on Brazilian beach after swallow a mask.
Source: https://interestingengineering.com/penguin-found-dead-on-beach-after-swallowing-face-mask

So I went out, and just walk around in a few miles around my neighborhood,  I did not imagine I found this amount of abandoned masks.

Abandoned masks in my neighborhood and street in a few miles around my home.

Actually, I felt so powerless standing in front of those abandoned masks, because I did not have any protection, I could not pick them up.

So I decide to put this on my online studio. 

This is a growing stick-skeleton mask. The baby plants will grow and we can see “time” on this mask . 

The pandemic not only paused or reversed the globalization, but remodeled the relationship between human being and nature. As the symbol of this pandemic, mask brings increasingly violent environmental problem to our world. We will constantly live in this situation for a long lasting time.

Action 2: TERROIR – an offering

Fried Sauce Noodles & Zimtschnecke

My offering for Chiara: Fried Sauce Noodles

I was born and raised in northern plain part of China, here people would like to eat pasta as their staple food: noodles, buns, pancakes…… However, the gene of southern China from my grandfather in my blood led me to my deep love of rice, the main diet of people in south part of China, when I was a child. But for fried sause noodles, I think that could be an exception. It might be my first favorite food from the earlies time of my life as long as I can remember.

Fried sauce noodles (“Jajiangmyun” in English-Chinese, Zhajiangmian in Chinese, and is wirtten like “炸酱面”) is a very commen home-cooked meal in families at nothern China, because it is more convenient to make than most of Chinese dishes. It could be an upgraded version of instant noodle, but it also could be a heavy weight dish on Chinese people’s table. The three parts of Fried sauce noodles are fried sauce, toppings (basically people would like to use cucumber shred, bean sprout, soybeans, carrot shred, but you can decide on your own favorite), and noddles. And the spirit of this meal is the fried soybean sauce with grounded pork in it. Stir up the sauce with noodles and toppings, one bite, you will have all the meat, vegetables, noodles, mixed with the taste of the sauce.

Even if I like fried sauce noodles, I still cannot say I’m a person who are fond of noodles during my teenage period. Until my first time went aboard to the United States for studying. Being very far from home did not trouble me very much on food. Since I always cooked some tasty home meals for me and my friends.

But I gradually realized that I began to love noodles, with no specific reason, just magically started to like it. Afterwards I anaylzed that maybe it was the reason the wheat paste gave me the feeling of fullness and satisfaction that comforted my stomach that was missing home.

After I went back to China, once I had a trip with my friend to a small city in south part of China. Hours of trains and buses journey with an empty stomach made me vey exhausted. At the time I arrived at that city, a thought came up to my mind: I desperately wanted to have a bowl of noodles. Only the noodles can give me power and happiness to counteract the exhaustion and hunger during the travel. However, I could not find any noodles there since people at that small south city did not have the habit of eating noodles.

I lost my bowl of noodles. But I finally found my soul of northern China.

Chiara’s offering for me: Zimtschnecke

In Chiara’s offering, I was so grateful that she provided me her favorite cinnamon bun Zimtschnecke from her family recipe. 

I really adored Chiara’s words. They were so visualized, and I could just feel the smell of autumn and cinnamon roll among the words and between the lines. And that also reminded me of my favorite movie Fantastic Mr. Fox, which made me eagerly to start this food experience. Here I would like to cite one paragraph from her offering and you will find you are immersive in red maple leaves of autumn:

Why don‘t you tune in to some rain sound on YouTube and imagine that it is a cold autumn day in October, you had just cycled home from school, got soaking wet, and overall school was annoying again. But the very moment you open the door, the smell of sugar, butter, and cinnamon streams into your nose.

–Chiara

Yes, the fall is coming.

Zimtschnecke making process

This was a really enjoyable editable experience. And there was another thing that made the offering last a long period. After finished this action, Iris and I even exchanged our excitement by mailing to each other the food we made (very pleased we live so close). I was happy to see she enjoyed the Zimtschnecke from Chiara’s recipe, and I was also very glad to taste the South America sweet from Pablo’s recipe. That strengthened my belief that food is one of the best things that make people know and get close to each other rapidly. 

Fried sauce noodles is a meal that comfort the stomaches of northern Chinese people. There are a thousand bowls of noodles in a thousand families. But no matter how it tastes, it represents the taste of home. From Chiara’s offering, her family has the tradition to have “Kaffe and Kuchen” (Coffee and Cake) together, eating and chatting. There is subtle connection about family reunion between the two dishes. But different families have different ways to get intimacy, I believe this involved with distinguished history and culture of different countries and civilization and is very worthy to deeply research it.