Between January and March of 2021, my Monday to Friday ritual went a little bit like this:
I’m sitting on Zoom, and a grid of familiar strangers looks back at me. I see myself in the top left corner next to my professor. My hair is slightly unkempt after my daily pilates workout, and I hadn’t cared to look in the mirror—a regular occurrence these days. After some awkward virtual small talk (“How’s the weather in California, Andrew?” and “How is everyone coping?”), the professor clears his throat to begin class. He begins with a reading of the Archibald Lampman poem “Heat:”
“Beyond me in the fields of sun
Soaks in the grass and hath his will;
I count the marguerites one by one;
Even the buttercups are still.”
I walk over to the stove to stir my oatmeal, carrying my professor’s voice to the kitchen through Airpods.
When I moved into my new apartment this past November, I started hanging up the bits of ephemera I’ve collected along the way: a framed, embroidered bouquet of pink flowers, two large nude monochrome prints I made in that one elective at university, and a certificate. It’s printed on thick paper, feeling substantial enough to be of some importance. At the top, in gold text, it reads “The Department of Optimism is Proud to Honour” with my name italicized and underlined, all in red (my favourite colour). It then reads, “In recognition of your helpfulness, selflessness, excitability and meekness. You are a wondrous listener and your soft nature makes all around feel comforted. You’ve been likened to Anna Wintour and Jackie Kennedy. You are graceful.” The certificate is officiated with a gold sticker, embossed with the text, “DEPARTMENT OF OPTIMISM”. There’s a space at the bottom of the document stating who nominated me. It’s anonymous, although there is only one person who would liken me to Jackie Kennedy. I think about them, and the complexities and history of our relationship. I find it strange that they’ve also likened me to Anna Wintour, unsure to feel insulted or complimented, but overall, it’s amusing. After sharing this tender moment with the piece of paper in my hands, I then put it up on the wall next to my degree, and chuckle at their similarity in appearance.
DIGITAL FOLK, a three year project created by the artist collective Plastic Orchid Factory, was a costume party, video game and dance extravaganza, an intersection of technology and the physicality of dance, and exemplified how communities gather to play music, dance and tell stories. Read More