AYESHA TAN JONES & ANDREW THOMAS HUANGIN CONVERSATION
Ayesha Tan Jones: hello! Welcome
Andrew Huang: hiii!
ATJ: ur sitting on me
AH: is there audio? I am lol
ATJ: u look AMAAZZIIINGG
AH: thanks you too! How do I move around?
ATJ: no sound 🙁 just the soothing sound of our tapping keys
AH: haha ok
ATJ: you can click the diff arrows
ATJ: omg tell me about this fit!
AH: haha omg I got so deep in the shop lool
ATJ: its a portal! So many ways to transform yourself
AH: felt like leopard cowboy hat was first instinct
I saw you singing on IG, was that in a pool?
ATJ: I just did a live stream from my solo show, went really well, yes an old pool
AH: oh wow, it sounded beautiful
ATJ: I have a solo show in there rn but its closed cos we are still in lockdown. Thank you, it felt so good to sing again, I have missed using my voice like that. I feel like your avatar looks like a character that has come straight out of one of your films
ATJ: the spines razor tail is sick!
AH: yeah the tail was a nice find 🙂 I couldn’t help the devil instinct just happend. I like this environment its cute
ATJ: its so cute here. Kinda wanna live here / at least go on holiday here. The lanterns are to honour yesterdays lantern festival
AH: yeah I live the lanterns
ATJ: did you do anything to celebrate? I just cried all day (full moon lockdown feels haha! needed)
AH: yeah I hear you its been intense. Didn’t do anything to celebrate. Btw I realize we have a mutual contact - do you know Sing J Lee?
- FKA TWIGS - "CELLOPHANE" (STILLS)
ATJ: honestly im sooo grateful that this connection was made, we haven’t spoken in like 15 years or something its wildd!
AH: wow that’s crazy, such a small world
ATJ: we grew up together, out mums were really close as there weren’t that many other Chinese people in my hometown
AH: wow yea that’s so cool
ATJ: I learnt to bike in their front drive way
AH: !!! Aww amazing
ATJ: and their mum was the first person to give me a proper British cup of tea, which is ironic tbh seeing as the British stole tea from china
AH: haha . Yea omg the Opium Awars and the lengths they went for tea, instance
ATJ: honestly and its wild because we don’t learn any of that in British education, yet tea is such a staple of ‘british culture’. But the history books are warped and we need to burn them all and rewrite them!!
AH: 100% true
ATJ: you could stamp on them with your fiery devices foot
AH: haha totally, a good satanic mashup
ATJ: yes they deserve it haha!
AH: how have you been fairing in general through the pandemic?
ATJ: mm so I have some questions about your enthralling, incredible mind bending work. Im literally a huge admirer not only of the worlds you build and create, your story lines, but also your work ethic
O0o0o0o question clash ehehe
AH: haha sure! Fire away. Curious about yourself as well, we can trade back and forth
ATJ: to answer yours - tbh its been a while ride, and im grateful for the ups and downs. Bc I’ve really shed a lot of skins, laters and masks, and getting to know my shadows and the places that need more light!
AH: yea I hear you. So much self work required to survive this
- QUEER ASIAN FAMILY PORTRAIT SERIES
ATJ: I thought I had the preparedness to handle it, but there was so much more work needed
AH: yea wow ugh
ATJ: its a process… my work/art/world visioning has kept me a float
AH: yea im glad to hear that its been transformative
ATJ: and how about yourself? And how’s the situation in la?
AH: LA is always and weird cognitive dissonance between the beautiful weather and the dystopian reality of the city as a very segregated place with oppressive history.
During the winter surge we were the epicentre of the world with the highest cases
And I think the institutional dysfunction, chaos and death here is emblematic of the structural problems we have here in the states in general
ATJ: wow I didn’t know it got so bad there. I hope your loved ones are safe
AH: yea we are ok thank you! Things are better here not that cases are down, but yea Ive just been at home for a whole year
ATJ: did you manage to cultivate some coping mechanisms to help endure? I feel as artists we are really blessed to have our imaginations to roam free in
AH: putting my head down to write more and like you said its been a lot of self work
Good question… I was already an introvert homebody before this so yea I felt kind of designed for this. I’d say exercise has become more of a priority than it ever has in my life. Umm a lot of boring walks lol. And yea just reading and watching lots of things that were on my list that I never got to til now. How ‘bout you any coping mechanisms in particular?
ATJ: ah yes, the hermit life prevails! I’ve also been on so so many walks. Like my most used app was this walking app that converts steps into tokens so you get free stuff! Kind of strange turning walking into a capitalist endeavour but its fun lol! And I resonate with you on exercise. I really connected to my qi gong practice in the first lockdown, and have tried to keep it up this whole year
AH: haha yea! I think developing our own rewards systems is key. Oh wow! I tried to learn some qi gong in the past, what’s your routine?
ATJ: I do the 8 brocades daily, which was the silk brocades all inspired by the movement of silk in the air. Its so0o0o0 grounding and makes me feel like a magician like I can move energy with my hands
AH: amazing wow
ATJ: they’re super simple and help regulate your temperature, heart rate and blood
AH: yea the little I’ve done it felt invigorating
ATJ: I like to find a tree and practice under them. For ages I couldn’t connect with qi gong as my add brain was always distracted
- KISS OF THE RABBIT GOD (STILLS)
AH: same I think my attention span is biggest problem
ATJ: but maybe its as I’ve matured like fine wine lol
AH: omg I love that youre reclining in a floating jelly haha
ATJ: ( im still so scatty haha ) oh yes!! The slime cloud! Come join, we can dance
ATJ: I wanna talk about utopia!!! So0o0 In my work I don’t use the term utopia
AH: yes lets talk utopia
ATJ: I talk about optimystic dystopia as a framework for acknowledging the perpetual mess we are in, and finding routes to connect spiritually and magically to a more brighter vision
I wonder what your visions of a utopia/optimystic dystopia might look like, and how this manifests through the work you make
AH: yea I like optimystic dystopia as a term . Utopia is often thrown around but there’s so much to unpack. I think about how many times people have tried and failed to create utopias for basically the entirety of human history and I think the first step is eliminate the idea of ‘utopia’ as a fixed system
ATJ: yea I don’t resonate so much because I feel like everyone’s utopian vision would be different so it would inevitably require dictatorship which we all know won’t work haha
AH: totally lol
I think about how many times people have tried and failed to create utopias for basically the entirety of human history and I think the first step is eliminate the idea of ‘utopia’ as a fixed system.
ANDREW THOMAS HUANG
ATJ: lol I stopped dancing on the head and leaving you to recline in peace
AH: ive been thinking about the Polybius cycle, where governments inevitably cycle from monarchy to public rule (democracies) to oligarchies, to mob rule, to dictatorships, etc repeat repeat over and over. And I feel like, nature moves in cycles, the body uses allostasis to achieve homeostasis. So why shouldn’t a governing body behave similarly as an adaptive system? Like, I feel like our primary goal should be to create an adaptive system that doesn’t involve massive violence every time we slide into a diff governing system
The polybius cycle moves in cycles beyond a human life span, and often does through war, revolution. So to answer your question, I’ve been wondering about how we could envision a society that accounts for these natural cycles.
ATJ: I love the way you connected this to nature, because honestly if our governing bodies sat with nature to listen and understand the cycles and the teachings, and based our selves on that, then we may not be in this mess!
AH: yea absooolutlley
ATJ: we are an extension of the nature world… wait no we are the natural world
ATJ: only makes sense to.. this idea gives me goosebumps. Imagine being the president and looking at mycelium and being like… ima be more like you
AH: yea totally, we live in a system that refuses this kind of insight
ATJ: that sees nature as dirty/ soil as something to wash away..not as the very soil from which we came and will go back to
AH: not to sound too simplistic but I do think many solutions start with the body and examining other biorhythms. yea. I mean, you can trace this shit back to Kant and the Enlightenment
ATJ: it may seem simplistic but for so many ppl in the modern world, even listening or sitting with the bodies a task they don’t undertake
AH: separation from human consciousness / body or humanity/ other biological organisms , yea totally
ATJ: I kind of had a huge awakening even reconnecting to my body through qi gong… I could feel the energy again, running through my meridians
AH: oh yea, qi gong, yoga. These were designed to create functioning societies. Not to make gentrifying Brooklyn moms feel good about themselves.
ATJ: truth! They are forms of martial arts, and martial arts are for the protection of society
AH: I just think a lot of “new age” spiritualism is Western Commodification of these practices that were originally designed to create social harmony, not fast-food egocentric gratification
Any way that’s my hot take lol
ATJ: I agree fully
- BJORK - "THE GATE" (STILLS)
AH: and yes I wish I did martial arts lol. I only got to yellow belt in karate at like age 6
ATJ: u can doo! I practice kung fu at my local Shaolin temple and they have amazing online classes
AH: oh cool!
ATJ: my shigi is amazing, but v strict haha
AH: maybe one day, so much to learn
ATJ: that’s also something I think about…. Martial arts, in relation to what you were saying about the commodification. So many martial arts have been serrated from the spiritual lineage… there are so many clubs that are all about machines
AH: oh yeah
ATJ: or levelling up on belts, but the true warrior knows how to be still, to meditate
AH: masculinity issues in artist arts, that’s the main reason I stopped. Yea totally.
I have a question for you
I feel among the Sino diaspora, and Asian diaspora as a whole, there has been a lot of curative discussion as we revisit our heritage - what is valuable and what is also damaging needs corrective re-imagination. For example, how misogynistic and oppressive Confucian ideology is. And as we revisit the yin-yang go Taoism, there is this reinforcement of the gender binary
AH: wondering how you navigate this revisiting of heritage? And how do you interpret / re-imagine this lineage from a queer perspective?
ATJ: omg thank you for this question, it is something I def think about a lot…as a person who grew up only knowing bits and pieces of my Chinese heritage, and living in a predominantly white town, I feel like I have been on a journey of learning my history and heritage throughout my adult years. For many years I felt like a lost puppy, and still do, like im a student in my own culture. But with that maturity, I am able to critically question the parts of my ancestral history that is oppressive… I found my route into this re-imagining coming from a place that excites me, which is mythology. And what I love about mythology is that there are so many interpretations, so many different stories, that its almost like you can mould the stories and reshape them. That’s what I am exploring deeply with the myth of pangs and the cosmic egg.
AH: mm yea mythology is the clay isn’t it. Yea I like the depictions of pangs as this feral giant lol
ATJ: who is spoken of as male in most interpretations… but who is obviously genderless… bc they existed before creation… the primordial chaos…
AH: riiiiight omg
- QUEER ASIAN FAMILY PORTRAIT SERIES
ATJ: before we had the human languor and words to put ppl into boxes
ATJ: so if the creator was queer… we all are gay 😉 lol jk
AH: queering Pangu at the root yes yes
I mean .. yeah hahahah
Aye - but yes… the clay! Amia and I spoke about clay a lot in the last imvu chat… its such a potent image
And the yin-yang binary is such a big one for me… but I also like to imagine it not as a static symbol… but as a gif… that is constantly cycling and moving
AH: mmm right, yin and yang are not fixed
ATJ: in my first tai chi class I got put off bc they said men place you right hand over you left, women the other”
and I was like… what about meee? So I kept swapping…but since then, my qi gong teacher says its chill and u can do what feels natural. Its a jarring one when you are trying to reach out to connect to your culture for a sense of belonging, but still feel out of place in the process.
AH: yea totally. I feel that. Have you been in Asia or in asian settings where that disconnect really hit you?
ATJ: - whenever I have visited asia, I think my overwhelm of being ‘home’ takes over… yet of course as a half white person, I am not truly ever seen to belong there anyway. The disconnect that hits usually comes from my lack of cultural reference points, language. And in a queer setting, it almost feels like my queerness takes a back seat bc im grappling with another identity hurdle haha
AH: right right
ATJ: last time I was in Malaysia my uncle found my tarot cards
AH: yea I can relate from language perp as someone who doesn’t speak Chinese
ATJ: and he freaked out bc he’s a devout Christian or s/t… that was a big spiritual clash for me… he ended up saying ‘either you go or the tarot cards go’ and off I didn’t throw my cards away… so I went to stay with my other uncle haha
AH: OMG. Asians and Christianity - whole topic!!!
ATJ: ommmgg literally … tbh christianity and how its ruined so many beautiful spiritual lineages is a whole PHD.
Your film kiss of the rabbit god… you grew up with your family owning a cantonese restaurant right?
AH: (says me dressed as satan in shades)
AH: yea we had a cantonese restaurant for 40 years outside LA
ATJ: that’s amazing. I can only imagine how the smells and sounds have narrated your growing up /tastes
AH: yea I miss the food very much. Mom mom was very unsentimental letting it go. When we closed the restaurant there was outpouring of love from the community bc it was such a staple for people in the neighbourhood. But my mom was held prison there taking care of the family business. So she was ready to close shop. Kiss of the Rabbit god is really in a way inspired by the labour I saw her put in there as the daughter of immigrants trying to maintain their business
ATJ: wow what an incredible mother!
[ chat glitch error! Reloading chat!!]
I feel among the Sino diaspora, and Asian diaspora as a whole, there has been a lot of curative discussion as we revisit our heritage - what is valuable and what is also damaging needs corrective re-imagination.
ANDREW THOMAS HUANG
ATJ: what resonated with me was the way you depicted the rabbit god in a way I’ve never seen Chinese mythology depicted. Like I could actually relate to this character, yet also felt totally transported into mythology and fantasy.
AH: oh haha thanks. Yea I dunno I just felt like… what if the Rabbit God looked like a K-pop star lol. Thank you that means a lot
ATJ: k-pop stars are kinda like nu-deities
AH: 100% nu-deities lol
ATJ: in my opera there’s a whole pop song scene with dance routine inspired by k - pop. And the characters in the opera are all deities.
And - oh amazing! I can’t wait to see the opera
ATJ: yes!! I have all the footage from the big performance in 2019, but life keeps happening and I find it hard to edit. Thats also what I admire about your work, or at least how I perceive your work… your dedication to your craft and your output… do you have any advice for a scatty add virgo who finds project management impossible?
AH: oh gosh. Hmmm I think just setting short term goals, is the way I try to approach everything
ATJ: bite size chunks
AH: yeah. I think the one piece of advice I got was that your most important work will never be your most urgent. Paying your bills, doing short-term gigs will always demand your attention. Time will slide by and you’ll realise you never got to do that thing you always wanted to do. Because its demands are the quietest.
ATJ: ugh needed that
AH: the thing you want to achieve most has to be literally prioritised in your day. Like when you get up, spend at least 30 mins working on that thing that is most important to you. Don’t even check your email or social media first. Its HARD TO DO. Trust me I fail most days but, if you do that, it will at least inch along as opposed to zero progress.
ATJ: to quote an ig therapist…if you fail, at least it means you’ve tried!
AH: yea exactly its about just showing up. You might fail, but at least you set aside the time. The more regularly you do it, the more you’ll have to show for it
ATJ: so I adored your quote from you interview in sinethetamag “the otherness of being queer sometimes feels best represented by things that are other than human”… this also makes me think back to our vision of nature as a framework for society. Bc queerness is so common in nature. Mushrooms literally have hundreds of ways to procreate/have sex lol
AH: mmmm yea totally, yea fungi seem to have it all sorted lol
ATJ: honestly the biggest teachers!
AH: are there any lessons in particular that other non-humans have taught you lately ?
ATJ: and in your animations you seem to use pixels like clay, sculpting these new visions of queerness.
I got taught a lesson from a boat the other day, a boat on the water
AH: oh wow, what did the boat teach you? Where were you? Lol
ATJ: ( I live on a house boat on the river lea in London!) it was my second night on board as im a new boater. It had rained so much overnight, and the river levels rose rapidly.
AH: omg you’re in one of those houseboats! Oh wow
ATJ: I woke up at 5 am to the sound of glugging. I freaked out bc I thought I was sinking.. turns out it wasn’t me, but the boat next to me, but the owner wasn’t in
The boat was at a 45 degree angle, it was about to go under. Me and another person had to untie the ropes that secure it to the land… and after we untied the middle rope, it finally perfectly became stable again…
AH: omg wow
ATJ: what I learnt from that was, holding on so tightly to something can be also what drags you down
AH: woah that’s deep love that
ATJ: if you loosen the ropes and flow with the ebb n flows of the tides, you might stay afloat
AH: and so true, that’s a gem of wisdom right there omg
ATJ: have you had any more than human wisdom downloads?
AH: ummm. My partner is a scientist and has been directing coyote scat. Inside it we found lots of rodent bones, snail shells, trash, seeds, and beautiful iridescent beetle fragments. My partner is going to plant the scat and see what seeds germinate
ATJ: omg I had to google scat
AH: so just a reminder that there are always hidden gems in what we would other wise think is just crap
ATJ: POOP omg yes!
AH: haha moral of the tale: there’s gems in the poop
ATJ: wow that’s amazing.. the stuff that got alchemised thru the body of a coyote! That’s alchemy though, tuning poop to gold
AH: total alchemy
ATJ: please keep me updated on what grows!
AH: definitely 🙂
ATJ: I want to chat to you al niiight! But im aware of the time and wanna honour your time… so maybe just to round off, speaking of seeds, and this full moon energy.. are there any seeds you are planting… intentions, visions, wishes, that you would like to type into existence in this virtual imvu magic space? And we will blow virtual kisses onto it and let them grow!!
AH: yes! Sooo lovely chatting thank you so much for having mee! Mmmm I just want to see queer pangs!
ATJ: ill bring the opera to LA!!
AH: may they be reborn in your vision lol.. yes please! Can’t wait to connect IRL
ATJ: Typing it into existence
AH: amazing!!! TYSM enjoy the rest of your eve!
ATJ: me too! Fertile conversation and world building awaits us! < 3 enjoy the rest of ur day. Thank you so much for your time and words
AH: u 2 blowing kisses!!
- AYESHA TAN JONES IN CONVERSATION WITH ANDREW THOMAS HUANG ON IMVU
ANDREW THOMAS HUANG
Location: Los Angeles
Known for his iconic visual style, writer-director Andrew Thomas Huang crafts hybrid fantasy worlds and mythical dreamscapes. A Grammy-nominated music video director, Huang's collaborators include Bjork, FKA Twigs and Thom Yorke among others. His films have been commissioned by and exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, NY, The Sydney Opera House and the Museum of Contemporary Art, LA. Inspired by his Chinese heritage, queer Asian mythology and folklore, Huang is in late development on his first feature film TIGER GIRL which has received support from Film Independent, SFFILM, Cinereach and the Sundance Institute.
READ MORE FROM AYESHA