Writing diaries became an act of survival during the Covid days.
How can these acts of witness be listened to and preserved in an age of forgetfulness?
108 bags of vibrating disquiet filled with whispered secrets, one bag for each day Shanghai was under lockdown.
Listeners are encouraged to listen closely to each bag, amidst the cacophony of collective disquiet.
The installation/performance took place in secret in an underground nightclub in Shanghai-- cloaking the work in allegories upon allegories.
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” writes Joan Didion. “We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the "ideas" with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”
When the outside world comes to a halt, when day and night blurs together and all we have are our four bedroom walls——we find ourselves telling stories in order to go on living, making meaning out of our disparate, on-going moments.
“108 days” began with artist and poet JinJin Xu’s voice diaries recorded during the 108 days she spent at home during the Shanghai lockdown. The audience is reminded of Scheherazade in One Thousand And One Nights, who does not know whether she will live to see the next day, only that by nightfall, she must tell another story.
“108 days” is a poetry installation: part-performance, part-sound poetry, an experiential allegory for the rooms we each find ourselves locked inside. The story goes like this: one day, a girl wakes up and finds herself unable to leave her room. She begins writing diaries——they float up in her room, aglow with her voice.
As the girl writes, the diaries take on a surrealist turn: of birds with a million eyes in Puerto Rico, of clouds inside pillowcases, of battling onion and garlic, of losing one’s shadow and the ability to remember.
This is also a story about losing our memories on a journey into the afterlife, as the 108 days become an allegorical journey between the human realm and the afterlife--it takes 108 days for the body to pass into the afterlife in Hinduism, 108 mantras, 108 prayer beads--- a journey within the girl’s memories and life in suspension.
sound installation + performance
plastic bags, UV light, tonic water, speakers, motors
SYSTEM, Shanghai, China, 2023
SYSTEM, Shanghai, China
“108 Days” was also made into a tearable chapbook/calendar, obliquely documenting the collective memory loss during lockdown.