In a dark room, a participant examines a cardboard mask with a triangular nose and textured tufts of hair standing up. In the background, people try other masks.

Community Memory Enclaves

By Jeffrey Yoo Warren and Ann Chen

Looking through the photos from our week-long workshop series at CultureHub, we are so grateful for the workshop participants and the trust, creativity and thoughtfulness they brought into the space. We knew this was going to be an experimental week and that the outcome would rely on the ideas, stories, images and memories the participants were willing to share with us. It turned out to be an incredible week of discoveries, community building and new networks and connections.

We kicked off the week’s events with an in-person version of the Ancestral Memory Enclaves workshop that Jeff had taught previously as an online workshop (as part of CultureHub’s Re-Fest). For our residency, we adapted it for an in-person experience at CultureHub NYC’s studio space.

People sit on benches, looking at a projected scene of a beach, loosely collaged from photos, where children are playing in the sand.

We asked each person to come with a photograph — a memory to evoke and inhabit — and we spent the evening crafting a 3D space built off of this photograph. The CultureHub team helped us set up a two-wall projection corner where we were able to project participants’ virtual memory enclaves. This allowed us to sit “within” participants’ creations as a group, which encouraged a conversation around each person’s stories. This in person experience was incredibly powerful and highlighted the importance of process over product–the act of building is as important as what is being built.

Participants follow Ann on a NYC sidewalk on a sunny day, walking in a single file in the shade alongside a shop’s windows.

The second day, Ann led a speculative sound workshop based in her work on collecting and crafting historic soundscapes. The workshop included a sound walk around the neighborhood. A sound walk is a listening exercise to open up our ears and attune to the acoustic environment that was pioneered by Hildegard Westerkamp, a Canadian composer and sound ecologist and experimental composer Pauline Oliveros.

A visitor wears a cardboard tiger head mask, holding it steady by reaching into its mouth, while a group in the background sits looking at a projected 3D scene of brick walls and vegetation.

The final workshop was a mask-making workshop where we explored the idea of Memory Portals — the crafting of masks and objects that connect the viewer to the virtual memory enclaves that were constructed in the very first workshop. Many of the participants who joined this one had attended ALL of the previous workshop that week and their enthusiasm and willingness to experiment was deeply rewarding for both of us.

These were really beautiful — they included a washbasin (by Ann) with recordings of baby sounds and splashing, which, when inverted on one’s head, transported the wearer to a quiet alley in Hsinchu. Another, by Brandi Kinard, was built into a parasol embedded into a sandy beach. Jasmine Hwang created a crown echoing traditional Korean royal wear, but covered in shiny Korean snack wrappers, a nostalgic texture from childhood.

A group faces each other in the dark CultureHub studio, one wearing a cardboard washbasin on their head, while another wears a multicolored Korean crown covered with snack wrappers. Ann looks on from the back, wearing a mask.

All of these experiences — building things together, sharing memory and space, crafting and processing ancestral and personal knowledges, and expanding and deepening these techniques — were powerful, and open up so many new possibilities for connecting with and inhabiting memory. CultureHub’s audio-visual tech team was fantastic, and we were able to create an intimate, immersive projection space with a carpeted floor, for people to gather within — and within which we could call up the virtual memory spaces participants created.

We’re always humbled by the ways our thinking is challenged and nourished through working together creatively with people, and we’re excited for where this will lead us!

(Photos by the CultureHub team <3)

A visitor tries on a square-ish cardboard mask from a table of differently shaped masks, while others in the dimly lit room look at projected scenes of different peoples’ “memory enclaves” from the week of workshops.

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