Ezekiel Sales


It first occurred to me in an oneiric state on the night of my arrival: my body would not get its REM phase for 35 hours, due to prepping and traveling. I snoozed ’til half-an hour to Yaksan. I was greeted by an inflated darkness, a darkness as if older than the firmament and not so distant to the time of the logos, when the first specks of light I saw in the landscape were levitating crosses, crimson red, as if to say that the blood of Christ had been poured before the foundations of the world. Only half-awake, through the backseat, the lobes of my ears received the smooth humdrum of tire and engine but, despite this reverb-chamber, unexpectedly seeping from noise canceling windshields were the cascading songs of insects. For a moment it made me wonder if loneliness too is a social, or perhaps a self-inflicted anthropogenic construct. I was ready to spend the next 24-hours alone. The fridge was stuffed with drips of my pocket-money converted into foodstuffs from the supermarket in Mokpo. Cool place. I set myself to bed and wished the camellia tree in the front window good night. The whole garden lusters with the canopy of warm-colored street lamps. A ginger cat appears at one side, noticing a new scent; a youthful presence; southern-city stress. Is he among the next aliens? We looked each other in the eye for about 10 seconds. I grabbed my phone to record the face-off. The cat turned back, then looked again, reassuring itself about what’s new … somehow friendly. My eyes spun into bed to sleep. As I lay, the diffracted lights bouncing from camellia leaves armor the room in gold. The shadows eclipse the static noise, scattered by insects and storage refrigerators, strobing with dreams of tired and ageing bodies.

The Days

The days went by like a dream. It settles you at first and then once you’re out, the reverse happens.

Writing this in retrospect gives a phantasmagoric weight, like grasping a sea slug that has settled in the ocean floor: the slug being my first residency experience.

I notice the adoption of certain themes of my residency experience to become more enmeshed with each other: walking, foraging, climbing and mediating through sound. I also learned a few folk songs from the 70s and got to interact with the locals through singing. Learning songs from a certain era helped keep the political and socioeconomic context at bay while doing my research on forests and Korean shamanism.

Like a cross or manja 만자 having four hands, this text will spindle my musings about dreams, music, gardening and seaweeds, into four parts. This holds the first first part, which introduces such a cross-pollination through arriving and then writing this after the residency; criss-crossing timescapes

Harmonice Mundi

The ceilings of Korean temples are laden with figures such as beasts, fantastical creatures and heavenly beings, some carrying musical instruments, all looking down, and ensconced within enough space to buffer the dancheong hues. I look up into one of the structures that houses a bell in Daeheungsa, Haenam. I see it, yet also wait to hear it from afar, as if to confirm if thunder really comes after lighting. I do not think I hear, but have not heard, like the lyrical trope of the apostrophe which addresses something absent but still communes with it as if it were here. What did the gods play during the creation and catastrophe of the world? how did it groan to its irruptions? what symphony was to surface today? 

I woke up to my solar orbit. September 6. The first time I’m not in my home country’s hemisphere as such. There was a scheduled music lesson with the elders that Wednesday morning. Someone was to pick me up, along with Wan, to go to the venue. We were greeted by Yukyung, an artist and mom who does community work with elders and school-kids. We were brought to Gogeum-myeon to attend our first music class. Inside the venue were women elders, singing their Ari Arirang with the guidance of Hyeon, a local youth who had just finished her degree in Traditional Korean Music in Gwanju. Everyone was curious about our whereabouts and reputations. Luckily, Siyeon, who could speak English, was there to translate for us. She was the person Dr. Sunyoung Oh was supposed to introduce me to the day before, so that I could collaborate with her daughters who sing Pansori. Introducing myself as a musician might not have been the best route for one with a frail heart, so when the elders told me to sing a Filipino song, the first thing that came to mind was Bahay Kubo, which is a song about a simple hut surrounded by vegetables. Afterwards Wan would mention (or maybe it was me? I do not exactly remember) that it is my birthday.

The elders sang to me Happy Birthday in Korean. I suddenly felt like a flower being nourished by voices who have raised at least 2 generations over; by women elders who continue to farm, ferment and commit to fellowship with one another. I may not be able to converse with them through spoken language but this spurred me to do so through learning their music, or sharing my own sounds. Hyeon strikes the gaguk: “bom”. The elders sway in unison while chanting the musical piece. I can’t help but think of the effect these songs evoke to those who have gone through the turbulent history of the country for the past century. Hyeon strikes the middle of the gaguk: “tak,” the wooden pitch it creates travels fast in the room. Sitting on the floor, I feel it from my lumbar. My body starts its new calendar— I have entered my second duodecennial cycle, although I am one year old in the traditional age reckoning of Korea. What this means, I do not know. I am a sucker in treating astrology as a logos, perhaps due to pop cultural mystifications about it, or how it has turned into an individualist pursuit through its cultural appropriations within capitalism. Though I do believe we can still seek the uneroded bedrocks of astrology for collective edification, just as in mystical traditions, or even in a decolonial sense. What made me more curious was what a solar orbit in its annual gestalt might “sound” like, considering the ellipse, or frequencies, like a singing glass rolled by a sphere of weight, warping the blanket of space and time. 

Just before the European Enlightenment began, mathematician Johannes Kepler fortified the copernican heliocentric revolution by formulating the elliptical movements of planets around the sun. These astronomical formulations would eventually lead to the endeavor of finding the origins of harmonic or musical proportions through geometry and astrology in his book Harmonice Mundi. It led me to think of the universality of music as a language. When applied to the self, it manifests in one’s current age, predicaments, one’s histories interceding with celestial pulls, gravitating tides of emotions, trying to dance with harmony despite material randomness, i.e. noise in the world. 

After researching the songs, hearing the Arirang again seems to give a blurring effect - of treating the journey as a place encountered while riding a vehicle, instead of the place as a destination. Like when the lacustrine place Auraji is known to spring forth from the word eoureojida (어우러지다), which means to encounter in a harmonious way. The onomatopoeic toponymies swells for one who least understands the lyrics of a song. Do I have the objective of singing this? What sort of meaning comes from mere phonetics?one that does not reify but rides it through the residency? Yes, I arrived in Korea to experience the last few days of my former age. As I slam to a new one, I am greeted by songs that I will carry forward and will carry me through. But the place, the wind, sea, mountains - what do they sing?

Around two hundred meters above sea level stands the peak of Samun mountain where goat farms and a park with a viewing deck overlook a cluster of islands to the South. This is the park where my performance series called “Ami-han” reaches its summit. There, statues of black goats standing on rocks represent the pride and indigenous delicacy of Yaksan-myeon, along with fence pens in which to conduct the local goat fighting games. Near the two closed pens are three steel poles used to hang flags. Without pieces of cloth, the three upright poles interact more with the ground than with the wind, making sounds that travel below, becoming tail-ends for geomagnetism and attracting lightning. I got to think about what it means to have three poles. Don’t we have polarities for only two? What does it mean to have a third pole? The triune poles compelled me to think of the larger picture with regards to geomagnetic poles, orographics and the climate system that affects such topographies: In geography, a region across the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau is referred to as the third pole, due to its large ice fields, which also serve as a significant source of freshwater. The same area is said to have been a factor in the origin of the monsoon in East Asia, from tens of millions of years ago, to affect rainfall seasons all the way from China, Siberia and Korea to the Philippines. In the Philippines the fabulation of the north-eastern monsoon is known to be Amihan, a primordial avian who was the first to inhabit the universe. Amihan’s winds blow from Siberia, passing Korea, then swerving towards the waters of Southeast Asia. At the Samun mountain I took the site as a rediscovery of the winds coming from the Earth's crest to sea level, the gradual and steep rising of its surface. This is not to disenchant the cosmogenesis of pre-colonial meteorology, but to triangulate its mediation through different locales— as in three poles — the global modeling of climate science, the cultural history of seasons in the Philippines and the contemporary music assembled in South Korea during the residency. The “Ami-han” series sought to bring the avian figure, or natural wind, as a courier of the artist’s thrownness in the residency, whose performances coordinate southwards pointing to Jeju island and to the Pacific archipelagos. It includes in the background the terrestrial experience of colonial occupation, military dictatorship and partition which resulted in the collective emotion known as han (한). Though seemingly essentialized to connote “Koreanness” its roots have been touted to spring from Japanese imperial ideology with the aestheticization of sorrow described by Japanese art theorist Yanagi Muneyoshi.1 Nevertheless, the concept has become an effective way for Koreans to describe their unique historical experience. Likewise, the Korean diaspora popularized what they call “postmemory han '' to connote the intergenerational trauma and internal experience of displacement that cloaked many of the descendants of Korea’s turbulent history.2 It is in this context that I felt such an intense energy, knowing that most of the elders singing to me on my birthday are people who carry clear memories of and proximity to han - those who shape the contexts of their music and my own to them. 

The opening for the “Ami-han” performance series commenced after the first two weeks of conducting a study on foraging and salvaging excess materials, trash and so on since my arrival. One of the materials— a perennial vine— blankets the trees and trails, roadsides and electric lines in the mountains of Yaksan. I have since become familiar with this vine, as did the English-speaking world, when kudzu became an invasive species in the Americas. Endemic in both East and Southeast Asia, the name kudzu is derived from the Japanese vernacular for the East Asian arrowroot, kuzu (クズ). While the vine is known in both China(ge, 葛) and Korea (chik, 칡) for culinary or medicinal purposes, it is the Japanese derivative of the vine’s name that it is known by in the English-speaking world. The history of naming species did not come without its politics— from Linnaean taxonomy to the prevalence of the japonica species that could also be found outside of Japan, e.g. the common camellia.

My first performance artwork was a study about spawning memories, with the use of the residency house as an instrument. Chik vines, dried and drizzled, were wrapped around a megaphone structure on the rooftop space of the house. Other elements of the installation were pieces of bottles tuned to the pelog kulintang scale, a chusin of wild berries, seeds, shells and a sickle to resemble the shamanic kut (굿) of the artist, and a piece of rock art, with a dried bird found on the second floor of the residence, to launch the spirit of Amihan facing South.

After the first performance, the rocks, vines and bottles remained as an exhibition trace on the rooftop. This performance, titled Over Half-a-Century Salvage, took place on September 22nd, the day after the 51st anniversary of the declaration of martial law in the Philippines by Ferdinand Marcos. There are parallels between the dictatorship period of the Philippines and the fourth regime in Korea. In fact, it is said that Park Chung Hee took inspiration to devise the Yushin constitution from Ferdinand Marcos, in the same year that he declared martial rule.3 The performance was predicated on the act of salvaging materials, the word for which has a different connotation in the martial law context of the Philippines, where “to be salvaged” means to disappear. International human rights sources give a number of 2500 disappeared people.4 Thus, the first performance work was an ode to desaparecidos, to spawn such memories unto fellow artists, villagers and whoever else. The action involved clanging bells into the megaphone, 51 clangs to mourn, warning against the politics of forgetting. The salvaged materials: bottles, pebbles, and vines from the forest represent grieving for the disappeared, (un)forgotten memories, and the continuing extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. The salvaged weeds and materials conjure up the seeding and sounding of these memories through the beholders and participants of history. The wind may blow the leaves away, weather the rocks, and break the bottles but the memories still orbit recursively.

The following performances took the form of night jamming on the rooftop during the crescent moon, with the last at Samun mountain on the 2nd of October, where I collaborated with a number of artists including choreographer Suh Yeong-Ran, the Bae pansori singers, my fellow Song of the Wind residents Wan and Daniel, videographer Jaehoon Choi, and the beings of the mountain, lichens and mushrooms, to name a few. The performance was an overall “kut” or ritual for Korea, Yaksan island and the Pacific. It factors the ancient semblance of social life found in lichens through the symbiogenesis of fungi and algae. The peasant ghost roams the park to gather its chusin. The three poles were clanged. Varieties of seaweed were offered to the sky with its own asterism, while a land art representation of the big dipper was painted by Wan and the kids to offer to Princess Bari. At the end, Jindo Arirang was played on the viewing deck by the Bae sisters. After the performance, the stains of pokeweed berries remained on my chest for 24 hours, as the heater in the residence did not function for the last few days, and after all those performances, my body felt too tired to take a cold bath. 

The wild berry known as Phytolacca americana, which has a purple-ish dye, reflects the alchemical mix of the red and blue taeguk (태극) and speaks of the dissolution of categories or polarities.  No less esoteric, its natural color is used in the kut to instate a language of blood 5 for recursion of both post-memory and geological han—qua Elizabeth Povinelli.6  It is used in modalities of ritual, of ornamentation, desecration and reincarnation— modalities which compensate for the language constraints of such hans, a dialogue that goes beyond the nation-state’s sovereignty or anthropocentric borders with the use of monsoonal winds.  It represents a perennial seeking of Princess Bari in the wilderness, for both an immanent-transcendent eschatology of liberation for the planet.7 This kut offers the dissolution of categories for naming, yet simultaneously spurs an elation for the perennial translations of birth and rebirth embodied in all biota.

Chuseok (thanksgiving) was coming to an end. I felt that the ancestors of the land gave me quite an experience in doing the whole performance barefoot. Right before the start of my performance one of my rubber slippers expired, leaving me utterly vulnerable to the mountain. Ecstasy comes with both joy and pain, say the thousands of thorny weeds, freshly cut grass and sharp pebbles. I did not just attempt to cover the han of peasant ghosts and rebels who fled to the mountains over the past century, but I was dragged so far back to the hades of sapiens telling me to walk the performance out and in time adapt for the next milieu, reworking a penitence of earthly struggle and its aftermath. To seek the abandoned princess, Yeong-Ran appears in the wilderness with a gourd water container. She releases the ghosts, yet worries for Gaia herself going through another mass extinction event. Everyone marched to face the South, to chart cartographies of rest, and garner strength to pursue what comes next. How to live with the trouble? This, apparently, is not merely a practical question but a teleological one, for which agency and hope are reborn each day.

Gut-Garden Journal

During one of the treks to Samunsan I went berserk over
my carrier bag theory, which I had started since arriving in Yaksan.
Without knowing the language, I had resorted to things such as 
the bright blush of flowers, herbs, dried pine cones, toxic berries,
weeds, mushrooms and bottles to surround myself 
with beings that don’t carry verbal language. In this picture
I carry both nation and cosmos,
trekking to Samunsan.

At the summit, a boletus mushroom appeared. I saw
an empty box for a microphone product. I placed
the boletus in there and put it in my bag.
There were two other mushrooms. I ended up
getting their spore prints. The whole room 
smelled nice with its spores. It looked like a sponge.
It smelled like sponge cake. My fingers too.
It was raining and the days were getting colder.
The mushrooms wilted upon spore printing.
I dried them outside when the sun came out.
The spore prints turned into gooey ink.
The inky material dried up and I placed the boletus cap in 
the terrarium I had made with previously foraged
mushrooms and dead insects. A seed was seen
to be germinating 6 inches deep. I placed an erect rock over
the soil surface to make it seem like a cemetery
and a relic to leave in the residence.

What is a gut-garden?
The residence space is a home, studio, office, instrument and apparatus to explore
our relationship with the land or sea, and where we also get much of our diet.
Embracing the practice of garden-to-table, glitching market logics and taxability
for simply putting food from garden to gut, soil to mouth, and giving back.
Glitching the market logic of endless growth and toxic waste touted as externalities,
a plastic future which only a few robust microorganisms can feed on,
to compost organic waste from the kitchen, and the ambivalence
of getting food from the grocery store, raises a lot of questions and therefore
alternative futures. A gut-garden journal emanates from this embodied work with the land.
Every week: curate kitchen wastes, consider ph scale, rawness, egg shells.
Unlearning: the city-hodgepodge of landfills.
Terrestrial bias? Soluble minerals from organic matter erode and leach through waterways via desorption. 
Composting seaweeds, powdered seashells as a rite or gut 굿 .
Imagining breakdowns, nourishing tummies, sleeping with the scent of soil, what are we doing here? 
Are you a worm breathing through your skin, cut into half and regenerating into two?
Have you felt bliss from the fermented fruit juice?

On my first day a lady knocked and asked in Korean:
“How many people are staying? How many beds?”
I was alone during that time, so I only had myself
to introduce. We meet again the next morning. She walked me through
the garden, pointing to the barren and grassy area,
as if telling me how the plants were once much taller than her before.
I said, “Cool.” Another morning, some days later, we meet again.
She was enacting the same thing about vegetal beings taller than her.
I heaved a great smile because I think I got it.
Imo wants me to trim the weeds off before they grow tall!
Does she know that she’s asking a gardener? She better wait.
I bought a sickle in Wando and started pruning, trimming and drying
cut weeds for mulch.
One of the bushes showed its pink flowers the same afternoon, right after trimming.
She showed me the chamoe when they were still green and small.
After three more weeks, we started harvesting some of them.
She would bring us kimchi sometimes. 
She brought us Cheusok food too during the occasion.
I feel close to her because we speak through the language of gardening.
Most of the agricultural farmers I met in Yaksan were women, I must say.

On the nearest mountain, just one turn from the residence street and going straight up,
as you go higher the pathway comes to life with the presence of reptiles, snails and grasshoppers.
The wilderness encroaches as the trail gets swallowed by weeds early on.
A few steps to the esophagus, carpet of vines, one can hear a stream
with the birds singing their invites. I thought about the potency held
in the place to be good to conduct one of my performances.
I made a pact to the fraught weeds that grooved the trail under it.
Thus spake joro spiders,
their webs reminding me of the manja 만자 symbol found in temples.
I inscribe its shape on the concrete near the trail’s end to invoke
harmony, balance, a place of rest and company.
I laid down on the concrete facing the sky with slight relief.
On my right lies the mountainous lush. On my left the view of the urbanized sea.
It was nearing the end of the month and the weather was getting cooler at dusk.
Fall is coming.
I think about the things that need pruning, shedding, and release for myself.
I think about the cold stream on the other side, hearing its flow.
I do not cross— let it ripen.
Comeback elsewhere.

The first day 
after getting a whole cycle 
of sleep and taking a shower 
I went out to take a walk.

I grazed on the park, the flowers on the roadside,
taking pictures of that golden hour
yellow cosmos everywhere
I walked for a long time, sometimes even forgetting that I have a flower on my ear
I would pick flowers to know them, smell them while walking.  

Apparently, people can have a different impression about this.

Apparently, there is a figure of a crazy woman who puts flowers on her ear or in her hair. When I was told this by someone at the residence, I shared the figure of Sisa who hails from one of the novels of Jose Rizal. Sisa has become an archetype for a woman gone mad due to colonial and patriarchal violence during the Spanish era in the Philippines. 

Later, I would read that the Korean figure for crazy 미친 woman with a flower also comes from the space of madness during wartime. I wonder how apparent this figure is to the preliminary experience of Korean shamans going through distress as they heed on their calling of becoming a mudang. Indeed, maybe, those who put flowers on themselves may start looking within. Despite all this, I did not bother about being seen as crazy, I took flowers wantonly to welcome nectar-hunting insects.

Seaweed Hearing

I once had a stroll in early September to check the time for Sunday church services in Dangmok village. It was during the golden hour that I went out and the crosses were about to turn red in an hour or so. Having to learn about the schedule for the next morning, I walked to the main road thinking about taking the bus back to the convenience store near the ferry. There were two non-Korean-looking workers waiting at the bus stop. I recognized their diction speaking Ilocano, one of the main languages in the north of the Philippines. I do not speak Ilocano but have an ear for it, having grown up with people around me speaking it. I greeted them with my Tagalog tongue. They looked at me startled and began to ask me where I came from. I told them about my research in farming and that I come from Manila. Apparently, they were only passing by Yaksan to go to another island called Geumil. I asked them where I could find other Filipino migrant workers; they said the same island. I tried to stay in contact but they didn’t get back to me.

I had always thought about finding out where I could interact with Filipino migrant workers. Before landing in Korea I watched a few vlogs about Wando on the experiences of Filipinos and the conditions of work. I imagined doing a workshop with them in the healing forest or creating a Southeast Asian diaspora music event. I seem to not have many intentional interactions in Yaksan with workers, it wouldn’t be that easy to share stories with a stranger out of the blue considering migration statuses and so on. But I do believe I can still get a shot with fellow Filipinos, perhaps not in Yaksan. As we were preparing for our own projects during the residency, I put it to myself that the way I was going to learn about seaweed was through collaborating with my fellow artists and making work with it. I thought that as the residency did not have to include seaweed farming, it would give me more liberty to discover other things about the island. I did get to learn a whole bunch from Daniel and Wan about diving, Atlantic realities and multi-trophic methods. Daniel, whose main project is to create postal art with pressed seaweeds, creating entanglements through mobility and language, already found a community to do it with - the students in Gogeum island. My mind was lit with an idea of adopting the workshop format, but doing it with migrant workers. I told Dr. Sunyoung Oh that  I will also be conducting a workshop like this and will make the most of the rainy week— meaning, the workers wouldn’t have to work and, therefore, I wouldn’t be interfering with anything when I try to approach them in Geumil. But how or where can I find the workers? Hearing…

I rode the ferry from Dangmok to Geumil in search of Filipino migrant workers. The clouds were themselves a murky sea. Arriving, and not sure whether to take the bus or go slow and check on the boats, container houses or villages near the coast — I chose the latter. I ended up with a four-and-a-half kilometer walk along the majestic coastal road while it drizzled. Walking really brings a different kind of world, it does justice to a place’s innate beauty. As a few cars passed by, the whole island seemed like a ghost town due to the weather. My phone beeped multiple times with emergency warnings coming from the local weather board. I read from its translation that it was saying “Stay indoors.” I walked through the membrane of the island observing rock outcrops, crabs, surreal benches in a pine grove, taking pictures of banners regarding the nuclear waste in Fukushima. I arrived in the sea farming area at the center-west after an hour of walking, doubting my success for this sonically charged plan. I sat down in a gazebo looking at my surroundings as if in a post-apocalyptic film where humans have been annihilated in this ghost island. How do I now look for the workers when they must all be inside? I gave myself one hour to eat and think whether I go back or continue walking. I threw away the spare apple I had brought from the residency fridge, which I had just finished eating, and got back to walking.

After walking through the center of the neighborhood, with its empty playground and buildings, I went to look at the inner streets when I saw a grave uphill, and finally encountered human presence. Two non-Korean-looking workers were manicuring the grass there. Another person stayed inside a truck, without any shirt, “He must be Korean” I uttered to myself. I looked for the path to get to the place. I reached the end of the road and started walking through the blue-net farmland to approach the truck. I readied my phone to translate and typed, “I am a researcher from the Philippines, I am staying in Yaksan, do you know any Filipino workers nearby?” He grabbed my phone to have a closer look then slid his finger to point to the two workers as if saying “There.” I walked closer to them, not too cocky yet. I was wearing a working class shirt that day and approached them pointing to myself saying “Philippines”. They said the same and we started speaking in Tagalog. I got to befriend the two workers, helping them sweep the cut grass. The rain was about to fall and I still had my laptop in the bag. Once rain started to fall, their boss — coming out from the truck— told me to retreat with them to their barracks and have lunch together.

I found refuge in their place from the heavy rain. They served me with pork sinigang, and marinated Korean chillies. It was good to have a nice warm Filipino soup as it had been a while. It took me time to process how I got here. Dr. Sunyoung Oh once remarked about how living near the sea may have mentally distressing effects which relates to feng shui geomancy. Facing the sea may be coeval with facing death, which is why many graves are located in elevated coastal areas. We had a conversation too about its ramifications for real estate wherein a mountainous view might be more luxurious than one that looks out on the sea. I don’t bother sharing my fantasy of working in cemeteries, digging new plots for the dead, trimming the grass and cleaning up mausoleums. Though I have not thought about this in the context of burial architecture in other countries than the Philippines. Looking from afar, to see migrant workers in a burial area was something that would never have crossed my mind while walking on the island. It turns out such “seasonal” workers here are actually all-around labor for their employers. When the rain makes the sea inaccessible, there are other things to do. Having an all-round type of job is not atypical in the Philippines: when it is not the season for cash-crops in the plantations, people from the provinces migrate to cities, or other islands, to do multi-skilled work. To hear the stories of migrant workers shows how people would rather live far from their loved ones, working seven days a week, early morning to sundown, in order to improve the lives of their families at home, rather than working in their own countries. “Indeed, the home country is a necroscape to the masses.” A Facebook post from a migrant seasonal worker in Wando encourages the working community not to be disheartened by hardships abroad as “in the Philippines you earn 400 pesos (app. 9500 won) a day, while in Korea you get 4000 won an hour.” The two migrant workers shared stories about their day-to-day lives, working in the sea, drying seaweed, tending to agricultural crops, and how they get to help each other learn the techniques of farming. The migrant workers undergo a municipal-to-municipal hiring process through friendships between mayors. The workers I got to interact with came from the provincial part of Tarlac, which has an interesting history with regards to Japanese resistance and the continuing presence of haciendas owned by powerful families, which testifies to the easy circumvention of status-quo agrarian reform laws. The status of inequality when it comes to land and wealth in such places is stark. It is common to think about exported bodies as a fortune for the family’s social mobility, and the influx of remittance to generate a country's growth. Not to mention that this is social reproduction taking place in Wando county with a dwindling population, getting its labor force from the global south. How do we strengthen the voices and ensure the rights of these workers without romanticizing ideas of sacrifice, heroism and subservience as racialized virtues which have long played into the exploitation of overseas workers without addressing the permanent crisis which plagues their homelands? (Given all these thoughts, I too can’t help but think of myself and many other artists in the Philippines living in a state of precarity: a fact I had to live through during the residency having not received my artist fee until three weeks.)

For all its worth, I wanted the workshop to focus on what they want to say to their loved ones back home. I wanted to frame the socially collaborative aspect as solidarity to those who carry the economy on their backs: Solidarity which includes macroalgaes that speak of stories from Spain, Portugal and Korea brought by Daniel, and the presence of Wan who writes in Thai, together with the workers who also wrote in Tagalog. It is art insofar as having the capacity to crucially explore work, ensure care and offer an exchange in knowledge production in a creative, non-extractive way. The seaweed used for pressing was Cheonggak (청각) the one available from the ropes that season. The workers wrote their letters and gave them to us to process and deliver. Their travels will be a sequel to this workshop. Seaweed drifts through the currents. We carry the letters caringly, until they reach their destinations, ensuring their timely arrival.

From the first letter writing workshop with the kids we noticed that some who used Google Translate on their phones to write their letters in English had this eerie translation for cheonggak as “hearing.”

“Do you like hearing?”
“This is hearing.”

My last gut-garden compost was the surplus of cheonggak
seaweed from the workshop and there was an oyster shell from Wan
and Daniel’s dive. I impose this image to sum up an astronomical
phenomenon in land of the orbit, the warping of dimensions through
depth and density. The soggy cheonggak attenuates light,
giving it a darker hue— a black hole. The oyster shell reflects 
its royal whiteness to the flash.

Both are hearing in a different way:
cheonggak through (mis)translations and oyster through its seashell resonance.

Placed on the ear, one hears the ocean from its interior ambience.

What impression would it make on the public if we carried seashells to hold to our ears?

a first aid for those who long for the sea yet are distant from it? To those who long for the depths?

Ezekiel Sales (a.k.a. Zeke) is an artist, activist and cultural worker delving on themes of food justice, agroecosystems, and carceral geography. His work involves conducting community gardens and kitchens in the urban poor, and with the visually impaired. He is part of the Halo-Halo Ecologies collective where he wrote a chapter on mutual-aid networks between community pantries, gardens and kitchens between urban, rural and prison sites: participating as a member of the Food justice coalition Food Today, Food Tomorrow. Aside from community work, Zeke is exploring performance art as a form to embody his research practice. He has been invited to stage performances in Germany, South Korea and various places in the Philippines. For the past year he has been working with mothers and feminist collectives in the Philippines doing performances, visiting prisons, cooking and gardening. His ongoing Ami-Han performance series, which started in the Song of the Wind artist residency in South Korea, delves on relations between seaweed, forest histories and shamanism during dictatorship periods in the Asia Pacific region. He is currently artist collaborator of mother-and-child space The O Home, and studying Geography at the University of the Philippines, Diliman.

1 Kang, Minsoo (2022). “Against ‘Han’, or Why Koreans Are Not Defined by Sadness: Aeon Essays.” Aeon, 18 Mar.

2 Chu, Seo-Young (2010). Do metaphors dream of literal sleep? A science-fictional theory of representation. Harvard University Press.

3 Hutchcroft, Paul D (2011). Chapter Nineteen: “Reflections on a Reverse Image: South Korea under Park Chung Hee and the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos." The Park Chung Hee Era: The Transformation of South Korea. Harvard University Press. 542-572.

4 Ibid.

5 Trenka, Jane Jeong (2003). The language of blood: A memoir. Minnesota Historical Society Press.

6 Povinelli, Elizabeth A. (2016). Geontologies: A requiem to late liberalism. Duke University Press.

7 Kaizen, Jane Jin (2020). Community of Parting, Archive Books and The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.