Monday, April 26, 2010

Mission Estranges de Paris and McDonald’s- Part II

Above photo of Maru and Catherine by Alz Ng.

I started off this week wondering about the rituals that brought comfort. I wondered what would make me feel like Hong Kong like “home” again. I also pondered how the missionaries who’d inhabited Bethanie dealt with adapting to a new place.

The answer finally came, not from McDonald’s take out coffee (though I admit it certainly helped), but when I stepped into the studio on the first day of the workshop. I found that, as soon as I started doing what I loved, my feelings of displacement disappeared. For me, perhaps it’s doing what you do that makes a place home.

I was reminded of our last trip here, when I also felt decidedly like a fish out of water the first couple days. Then, once we’d started working I felt more eased into the city’s flow. For me, I think it has to do with the difference between passively relating to a place’s sights and sounds and actively, purposefully throwing yourself into the mix.

This shouldn’t have surprised me. So much of our artistic practice is about creating action-based/task-based structures to create articulate, focused and grounded performance. No surprise then that I feel more at home when I have something that I’m actively invested in doing.

I wonder if Bethanie’s missionaries found themselves in a similar situation, where their practice and their activities helped to ground them in an unfamiliar context.

So now, I’m contemplating the whole idea of "home." Is it where you’re from? Is it where you know people? Is it where you find yourself enmeshed within the fabric of a community?

I’m back in New York now. It’s familiar, but somehow I feel at sea. I’ve been gone for over a month (first in Tucson and then Hong Kong). I’m having to refamiliarize myself with this place. How do Metrocards work? Why is all the money the same color? Which sponge do I use for the dishes, the green one or the blue one?

Then there’s of course the old adage that home is where the heart is. That’s also problematic. Where does my heart live? Certainly here. But also in other places…and I’m feeling like part of it stayed in Hong Kong.

Maru, a new friend and one of the workshop participants told Tom and I about a performance piece he did. It was based on a poem, where the writer gave half of his heart to someone, who consequently threw it away. The writer proceeded to bisect his heart again and again, each time keeping a smaller and smaller part.

I feel like I’ve divided my heart several times in my life. This most recent one still feels a bit raw. But I don’t feel like any of my heart has been thrown away. Nor do I feel like the heart I have remaining is any smaller. If anything, if feels like each of its divided parts have regenerated. Is it possible that I have several hearts? Are they scattered across this country? If so, there’s certainly another one that’s now waiting for me halfway around the world.

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