12 / the space between apologies

As The Seventh Wave's 2020-2021 Artist in Residence, I created "harmer/harmed", an interactive zine. We did a one-time, limited edition print run. What started off as an iPhone note became my first risograph printed zine; this got me thinking about the conception of a project and how that idea manifests. People always ask me, “What inspired xyz project?” It feels straightforward to me. Every project I create is a reflection of the life I’m living. The process is fluid and bleeds into each other: creating and living. Though to be fair, I think in order to actualize a project, you have to be open, curious, and listening both outwardly and inwardly.

“In short, it was perfect, and I learned that sometimes you have to discard all your previous ideas and let life take over to find a solution to a project.” I read this quote by Kai von Rabenau years ago during a critical crossroad in my undergraduate thesis. I questioned, do I continue with my meticulous plan, or follow a new unknown path that felt truer at the moment? I went with the latter and I still believe it changed the trajectory of my creative journey. I was terrified of making that initial leap. For four years I trained as a graphic designer and for my thesis, I basically wrote/painted/drew. Prior to that, I had never seriously painted before.

“harmer/harmed” was my first printed zine and the first time my writing took center stage. Even with some of my previous works that included personal writing, I masked some of that through hand lettering and illustration. Yes, you could read my personal thoughts, but I made you intentionally work for it. Publishing this piece felt like ripping out a page of my journal and framing it. I’m incredibly proud of the writing, design, and provocative themes it dives into AND it still feels vulnerable.

So why did I do it?

With all creative pursuits that scare me (and most of them do), the only times I’ve pushed forward is when I believed the greater purpose outweighed my fears, insecurities, and ego. From a young age, stories have changed my life and now I try to honor those stories by telling my own, in hopes that it reaches someone else who needs to hear them. For me, each project, whether a painting, illustration, or piece of writing is a story I am telling.

The possibility of “harmer/harmed” reaching the right person at the right time kept me grounded and allowed me to move forward despite my anxieties.

And I’m grateful to Bretty (at TSW) for writing this eloquent description for me:

"One part personal essay, one part journal, and one part mirror, "harmer/harmed" is an interactive zine that looks back, in, and at the space that exists between apologies.

Designed by our 2020-2021 Artist in Residence, BIANCA NG, this interactive zine is the featured artwork for Issue 12: Before After. Entitled "harmer/harmed," this zine asks the gentle but difficult questions of the pasts we do and don't remember. It is a visual negotiation about the boundaries of self, interrogating the behaviors, habits, and harm we inherit, as well as pass along. At times, we watch as Bianca picks apart the fragile outer-layer of apologies. At times, we see her picking up the broken pieces of a narrative she once held onto. And at times, we notice that she is looking right at us: Is there a wound you're too afraid to touch?

This zine welcomes you into a space of us, and together, we look at the language of apologies, the way we present (and absent) ourselves to each other, and the words we use to hide from — or parts of — ourselves. It is as visual as it is visceral, walking along the fine line of blame, dragging old memories into the open to look for evidence of fault and forgiveness. In true Bianca fashion, this zine is a work of art on the act of words, showcasing her ability to dig up deep truths, untangle the past from the present, and imagine new ways of being with others. Because if there is one thing harmer/harmed wants you to remember, it's: do not forget yourself."

If you purchased a copy of the zine, post it on your Instagram and tag me or send me a picture of it (if you’re not on Instagram), and I’ll send you a free signed art print. I have only a few prints left. Just a lil thank you from me to you!

What grounds you when you do something outside your comfort zone?

What I’ve been up to

Currently, I’m the 2020-2021 Artist in Residence at The Seventh Wave. What does that mean?!

  • Early fall, I helped design the first-ever printed piece, We Keep Beginning: An Anthology on Process. The goal was to produce a book that felt celebratory, let the contributor's voices breathe, and remind people of art's power. This project reminded me how rewarding it is to work with a team of caring, intelligent collaborators who make me feel creatively confident. You can purchase a copy here.

  • Now, I am co-facilitating workshops for the 5 months long Brainbridge virtual editorial residency. It is an honor to be in community with such badass residents from all over the world. I’ll share more about this process deeper into the residency in a future newsletter.

In the works

  • I’m also making an art piece for TSW’s Issue 13: rebellious joy, which will launch in May. What will it be?! No idea, but I got some shower thoughts going. In this research phase, I’m consuming: Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee and The Nap Ministry.

  • In light of all that’s been going on just this month with Anti-Asian racism, leaning into joy feels inherently rebellious. Here are a few things that have brought me unexpected joy these past 6 mths:

    1. Haikyu!! TLDR; it’s an anime about friendship, personal growth, and volleyball. And unlike other sports-related movies/shows, you actually learn about volleyball (my favorite sport to play). The show is so wholesome, I’m convinced you cannot physically be sad watching it.

    2. Matcha latte with honey and oat milk. I love that I can control the level of sweetness and milk froth at home. Maybe it’s my Cantonese roots, but outside food usually tastes too sweet or salty for me. And somehow, making it myself allows me to appreciate it more than buying it from a shop.

    3. Hunt for the Wilderpeople by Taika Waititi. This movie made me cry from laughing and tenderness. It made me miss farming in NZ (just a tiny bit).

    4. I am not a jewelry type of person. But my sister bought me an Emi Grannis ring and a pair of dangle earrings for Christmas and I love them. I rarely go out nowadays, but wearing the earrings (even just at home) makes me feel fancy and like I don’t just wear the same outfit every single day.

    5. And snail-mail from new and old friends from across the world.

  • What’s been bringing you joy recently?

Three notes on gratitude

  1. I'm thankful for The Seventh Wave. Two things have kept me grounded during a yearlong quarantine: my routines + TSW. I feel honored to be in community with such thoughtful individuals who also give me the confidence to be my best self. Special shout out to Joyce and Bretty. With all my experiences in different industries and relationship dynamics, the best collaborators and mentors I’ve had are the ones who more or less left me alone until I needed their eyes/advice. Creative autonomy is the greatest gift. I can 110% say my best projects came from those relationships and those relationships often became lifelong friendships.

  2. I’m thankful for the person who gifted me this zine, which came to me in such an unexpected, but life-changing way back in 2018. The honesty and tenderness in these collective stories allowed me to feel seen for the first time about my own experiences. It was beyond what I felt even when sharing with my friends. I still think about that chance encounter and how the universe truly looks out for us.

  3. I’m thankful for my AARISE accountability group. After taking this course, a few of us decided to continue uplifting each other’s journey. I generally do not like group settings, but this group always makes me feel so seen and safe.

A curated playlist for you

harmer/harmed by bng - a playlist inspired by my latest zine