Becoming Forest is a collaborative endeavour between the artist duo Breakwater and the radio producer, curator, activist Cường Phạm.
Breakwater is a London-based Korean diaspora artist duo of cross-disciplinary artist and researcher Youngsook Choi and Taey Iohe, who make installations combining performance, film, sound, photography and text to explore postcolonial and intersectional identities. Their collaborative practice centres around ideas of postcolonialism, climate justice and migrants’ lived experiences as well as their mutual interest in excavating counter-narratives through an exploration of spiritual knowledge, folklore, and queer methodologies.
Cường Phạm is a cultural producer, community activist and curator based in London. He has co-curated ‘Record, Retrieve, Reactivate’ (An Viet Foundation) and ‘Resettled Spaces’ (Lien Viet) which explored the history, memory, and language of the Southeast and East Asian migration experience. He holds a MA in Southeast Asia Studies at SOAS. Under the handle phạmbinho 范悲儒, he hosts an NTS online radio show, to musically reframe ‘Asia’ as a contested paradigm.
This 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 Franz Fanon’s seminal observation on the relationship between colonial oppression/violence and mental illness, this project conceptualises collective healing as performing justice. Four radio episodes will be developed during the residency that aim to provide and hold a space of solidarity and communal comfort.
Project Update – February 2021
Breakwater held three workshops of Becoming Forest with their regular participants over December and January (workshops are set up as closed, intimate sessions to build up collective healing and solidarity among participants who are vulnerable).
As part of the process, they interviewed Michaele Nagac, a mental health support officer at Kanlungan Filipino Consortium to discuss the colonial implication of mental health problems and how we associate sound and memory for the healing process.
In the second of four radio episodes, 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.