Breakwater (Youngsook Choi and Taey Iohe) and Cường Phạm: Becoming Forest: Spring
Artist Broadcast

A sonic diasporic space, featuring birdsong, buzzing bees, weather and Southeast and East Asian folk song and folk tale.

Becoming Forest is a collaborative endeavour between the artist duo Breakwater (Youngsook Choi and Taey Iohe) and the radio producer, curator, activist Cường Phạm. Breakwater make installations combining performance, film, sound, photography, and text to explore postcolonial and intersectional identities.

The project considers mental wellbeing as a collective responsibility, focusing on the detrimental impact of Covid-19 and the spike of anti-Asian racism upon the mental health of Southeast and East Asian diasporas, refugees, and precarious migrants in the UK. Drawing upon Frantz Fanon’s seminal observation on the relationship between colonial oppression/violence and mental illness, this project conceptualises collective healing as performing justice.

In the second of four radio episodes that aim to provide and hold a space of solidarity and communal comfort, the artists invite listeners to join them for a polyphonic spring day, featuring birdsong, buzzing bees, weather, and Southeast and East Asian folk song and folk tale. There are also recorded messages of support for Violeta who recently lost her newborn granddaughter to Covid-19 from participants of the IRL Becoming Forest workshop. As well as an interview with Jack Shieh, the director of Vietnamese Mental Health Services, who has dedicated almost 40 years to community work.

Our special thanks to the generosity of – Arianna Mercado, who sang a children’s song ‘Magtanim Ay Di Bir (Rice Planting is Fun)’, Almira Farid and her sister who sang ‘Burung Kutilang’, a song about birds that her grandmother used to sing for her and her sister, and Samboleap Tol for ‘Sneha Knong Pel Reatrey (Lover by Night)’ that reminds her a particular memory when she lived in Cambodia. Another thanks to Almira for guitar improvisation under a moonless sky. Plus the reading of bánh chưng bánh dày as voiced by Hana Le: a folk story about the origins of two glutinous rice cakes, one circle, bánh dày, eaten during festive occasions and one square, the bánh chưng, eaten during tết, the spring festival. And our very own Youngsook who sings a Korean folk song about rice planting.”

Copyright Yussef Agbo-Ola & Arts Catalyst.
Produced by Kitty Turner.
Sound design by Lori E Allen.
Graphic Design by An Endless Supply.

Radio Arts Catalyst is supported by Arts Council England with Art Fund and Sheffield Church Burgesses Trust.