I set out to compile this book because I was sick of believing that I could control my future and the world around me. Labouring under this assumption was getting me nowhere; it was only getting me sick of myself. Six months ago then, I decided that I wasn’t going to be this way anymore. I decided to let go of the future, which was one of the best (and hardest) things I’ve ever done. Giving up on the future is not the same as giving up: it’s acknowledging that we live in a world of constant change. These days, I have as much real ‘Self’ control as I ever did before but I’m able to respond to, and even rejoice in, the daily transformations taking place in me, others and the world we live in. Transform is a testimony to the fact that the only price of letting go is letting new things in – and it’s a price worth paying.
Transformation is slippery, escapist, romanticised metamorphosis – Thetis changing shape in Ovid’s poem, as she eludes Peleus’ grasp, from a bird to a tree to a tigress. But it is also the unchanging object or finite event that is re-witnessed, re-remembered, or observed through time – like a statue imperceptibly changing colour in the sunlight.
I am scared of transformation. I like things the way they are. I hold on to my habits and treat them like an integral part of me – like a scare you got used to. The scare might not be pretty but, somehow, it’s a part of you. I know I shouldn’t behave like that; not just because it’s a very unfashionable approach to life these days but, even worse, because avoiding transformation means avoiding progress. Nevertheless, both I and my work transform. I don’t want to know how and why; it is a process happening somewhere in my brain. I am not questioning it or investigating it because things of true beauty can only be beyond comprehension.
Transformation, to me, is a given and a comfort. From subtle changes we make in everyday life to momentous transitions, it represents growth both individually and collectively. Brunch With An Ex-Prostituting Performance Artist reflects upon how the subject’s transformation differs to that of its spectator. Our history exists with or without documentation; its own transformations rejecting it, yet somehow relying on it too. I see the essence of a person and their environment as being the constant through continual transformation; we’re left with what we started with.
For me, transformation is about the potential of things, the surprises of being. The man that the child becomes. The wrinkled arm that once was smooth and firm. The sunlight that suddenly appears before the rain has even stopped. The golden leaf that whirls down from the tree right in your path. The unexpected phone call that changes your life. The chance meeting with a stranger who becomes your friend, your lover, the father of your children. Each moment of life is quivering with change, pregnant with transformation.
trans-from – noun (in mathematics and linguistics): the product of a transformation.
Any transformation is necessarily a temporal event: even an instantaneous transformation – alive to dead – is shaped by our sense of the before and the after. The easy divisions ‘before’ and ‘after’, however, often lead us to draw neat binaries where we shouldn’t. The binaries I am particularly interested in problematising – even dissolving – are between past and present, East and West. In a sense, these binaries are the same, for the ideological division of the globe into these hemispheres is rooted in the Western notion of a disjointed global time. The West defines itself as progress and the East as history, as if some heavenly Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen had appeared to do a make-over on the world and we were living in its split-screened finale: East and West, before and after.
Just as the persistence of the East/West binary threatens to sink the entire globe into violent conflict, so the dissolution of the Past/Present binary offers a reprieve. My work reads against the grain of the prevalent historiographies of East/West conflict, finding historical precedents for contemporary ideals of inter-cultural understanding between East and West, and recommending them as a passport to a peaceful global future.