What Comes After(2019)
Participants, 4-channel sound, HD video, raffia strings, water, beer crates, corrugated metal, tungsten lamp, paper instructions, metal door, snacks, dimensions variable.
What Comes After is a participatory-performance created for Understanding Risk Field Lab 2019, an arts and technology un-conference on disaster risk management in Chiang Mai. Invited by co-organiser NTU Earth Observatory Lab, I created a work building off scientific and ethnographic material gathered by other researchers. Made with two other artists, the final work unfolded in two parts: 1) a communal, guided walk with an audio track, done blindfolded, followed by 2) a short workshop on rebuilding a community post-crisis.
Every flood is different, and urban disasters are both natural and social phenomena. Experiences of disasters differ along racial, gender, socioeconomic, geographic lines. When floods happen, informal housing by narrow tributaries are first to be submerged. To walk against surging waters, some used raffia string to tie themselves together, hugging fences and walls to maintain footing. A school of fish washed up into a lady’s house during a flood; she decided to care for them. Elsewhere, researchers visited a temple to learn of Thorani, a female water goddess. When demons approached Bodhisattva to disrupt his meditation, Thorani twisted her long hair to create floods to wash the demons away – so the story goes.
Above are but some accounts, myths, and ethno-fictions incorporated into the final work. But the performance also contains a future-facing turn: participants were tasked with creating a blueprint for rebuilding the community. After tragedy, how should people regroup? What actions and values should they prioritise? Post-rupture, what new possibilities arise?
I worked with research material from different disciplines, each with their own principles of knowledge accumulation, generation, and communication. I learnt that what makes sense, value, and meaning differ across disciplines – and I bear that in mind too when working across artistic mediums. Making the work was also an exercise in trusting the performance as a therapeutic vessel: to contain our collective efforts and contradictions, and provide a headspace for participants to contemplate and make meaning in their own ways. After the work was done, I had the opportunity to speak to several participants, many of whom were researchers whose data we used. In those conversations, I was reminded that the momentum of live works spills beyond the performance, extending into the active engagements and discussions we can actively choose to have thereafter.
Kei Franklin, Jungsuh Sue Lim
Image and footage credits:
Chiang Mai Urban Flooding Field Lab, an arts and technology un-conference exploring design practices in disaster risk management.