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shimmer 01:25
the space 02:03
the space is hard to find because it exists between the places we go on purpose less a destination than a place I found myself have I been before...or is it new each time? what is an old experience, but a new one with expectations? I want to be here, and then the wanting takes me out intention can really spoil things, huh - no wonder then, that play should be taken playfully rhyming words, riding alongside an unteachable moment that they may outlive an explanation is the property of life, cherished or not. where then is the space for anything else?
The name of this poem is “Here” The name of this poem is Haiti The name of this poem is Palestine The name of this poem is America The name is Flint, Michigan The name is China The name is South Central The name is Italy The name is Johannesburg The name is Panama The name is Belize El Salvador The name is Here Here is a strategy Here we can’t run away from we Here needs new imagination There’s nothing performative about Here Here has no guestlist or RSVP We are here whether we want to be or not Since I been here I’ve been reminded that freedom is health now Freedom is breathing now Freedom is not hating your roommate You know the simple shit Like a good meal Here is the re-examining The doing of the deep work of the unavoidable Here is An everyday choreography of the possible Dwelling in the wounds The deconstruction of fiction of the stable Here in messy entanglements of empathy and apathy an assemblage of a fragmented people Here We water dancer of the mundane We wake up scribble scripture scroll a lil bit like a picture sip a tincture made a smoothie watched a movie and let the stillness really move me we living life through cell phone accept cookies before ourselves though We laugh at meme’s but fear stuck to us like velcro the world is so different the veil has been lifted this show is unscripted but the camera’s are still rolling now who’s hand are you holding Restless in the wreckage We unravel undoing entangled unfolding All in the open now Here we can see what your hairline REALLY look like How much your mouth really do In silence Your whole range and personage Here is a current event Here theory takes place at home This is what we are at play with Imagining new playgrounds Here we move must move the people while staying put The revolution will be collaborative Here the urgency in which one must express themselves, an urge that one must remain artist even without an audience The threat we face is invisible A virus can’t vote Can’t enslave The virus has no race The virus has no borders The virus is here the virus is a mirror The virus is much like vibration Although you can’t hold it you know it’s real You know it’s here When yourself threatens to smother you, You will open your mouth not to yell or to scream, but to find your way to song Some way of breaking Some way to sonic tumult upheaval Some form of magic Some form of music Worth more than the streams you don’t get paid for We have to imagine what we are if we are not producing products If given a break Here we break We find sanctuary in new forms of family kinships used as resistance Here is a form of improvised connectedness New framework in a place of isolation solidarity is a weapon A support immune system if you will If you won’t that’s fine this work necessary as much as it is invisible A chorus, swarm and ensemble, mutual aid society Louder than the endless record of struggle on repeat ready to be sampled, and resampled and resampled over and over meant to be passed on like generational mixtape Here is soundtrack to a history that hurts We are interpolated Intertwined Here we chorus the chorus is a blueprint The chorus increases When we move here we concert We chorus we propel transformation We sit still The best musicians listen more than they play Here we hear the Black noise finding a listening in one another Today is what I have Here is where I am Today is where I am Here is what I have From Here Me and my mother hug from 10 ft away Sighs filled w/ working from home Me and my mother hug from 10 ft away Eyes look like levy’s Hearts weigh glaciers Hunger for touch Me and my mother hug from 10 ft away Letting a smile peek through the uncertainty Me and my mother hug from 10 ft away Mouths miming I miss you’s through facemasks Like words when you don’t poem enough Longing for a time not so long ago Me and my mother hug from 10 ft away Like Like Like last week
I want to think of quietude as an assemblage of bodies. If I were to do that, I would be very much invited to notice that it can happen here. This space of slowing down, this space of achieving rest. This space of critiquing or diffracting modernity, right in the belly of modernity - right in the city. Enchantment is never in short supply. Most of us are caught in the habit of thinking of escape as a way towards the sacred. That is, "the sacred lies in the distance." If we can leave the mundane and the banal behind, then we will find the sacred. But I think the sacred is more pervasive - more fugitive - than just something that is exterior to the conditions we want to live behind.
I noticed last night that certain events are persistent and noteworthy. That certain people make their marks on many circles, and pervade with their stories. It had me feeling that an impactful life may be less about glamour or chance, and more about attentiveness, persistence, and curiosity. In watching "13" and a fungi documentary yesterday, the 70s and all its social and political upheaval were marked as changing times for both the prison industrial complex and research/development of psilocybin. What is changing now? It's rarely just one thing. The ripple effects of our actions and words throughout this time feel more noticeable in the still waters. The changes coming our way too feel more visible from afar. Last night I had a dream of an ambient instrumental performance on a slightly floating cube, above the water that was still in every direction - uninterrupted by the promise of land. The sun shone down from the entire sky evenly - not creating shadows - and the sky was a complete warm yellowish cream, that reflected the same color onto the entirety of the water. I can't grapple with exactly what it means, but in such a space I felt supported, warm, comfortable, and in possession and need of absolutely nothing. In coming out of this incubation slowly, I hope to preserve the feeling of clarity and the capacity for vigilance. I'm wary that in returning to whatever motions come next, we may need it. What changes will this time be marking? What is already creating intersecting ripples and waves, and how much of it will I have an impact on? How much of it will impact me? I'm in effort to shift from thoughts of control - which can be domineering and expectant - towards notions of impact.
grief - I lost that moment of purpose fell off the horse lost sight of my star does not seeing it negate its existence? ego - you will never be enough look at all you've done, it doesn't matter you don't matter, give up! desire for justice, desire to serve, desire to rest desire to break windows and scream desire to escape from myself transcend my structure destroy my safety nets desire to love desire to nurture to be touched, tenderly to be given compassion from an external source, as if feelings come from anywhere besides my body. discomfort unease if I can release my old ways of thinking if I can be still if I can grieve the idea of "enough" maybe I can find liberation no contentment.
I feel everything that I hoped I would, and above all I am thankful. The sky is the same size wherever you go, but here it has a way of reminding me just how small I am. I can already feel the way that our current collective separation has warmed the few I've interacted with, giving me an optimism that this time will allow us to return to a curious and childlike state. This is a place that asks nothing of you, where the past isn't so distant, and time is measured in layers of sediment. I am overwhelmed by the voices of welcome that accompany my homecoming. Trouble does feel further away, though it is not. Home and safety can exist wherever we are. I give myself the freedom to be creature. It brings me joy to water my relationships, which makes me thankful for my own community - which remains strong. Strong and consistent in the present of world-changing times. I'm thankful of each alignment that got me home and in the window of joy and relief. I think about my last quarantine group, and can't believe I'm not waking up there. It's been hard to sleep. I know I spend so much time with you all - and I"ll have more - but being apart makes me wish I'd spent more when I could. You realize how much people mean to you - not that I needed reminding. My biggest fear is that you will all realize how awful I am, or that you feel abandoned by me. Alas I am a scorpion, a sun-child, a dirt baby...a dirt baby who sought out her desert, looking for a place to process, regenerate, and wait out the storm - an instinct in action, and embodiment, which is all I ever wanted to be.
I've been asked about anger a lot this week. I've been asked: "how do I move through this world with this knowing this knowing...through a paradigm that is designed for my destruction?" I believe the knowing that I am not supposed to be here is a daily middle finger to those notions I refuse to put my already vulnerable people in more danger by arming my music with more aimless anger, activating that - activating them - without taking into account that ammunition and violence is not taboo. Anger is one stop on a train that is a range of emotions it can be a start, but not the destination I'm angry I'm angry but what do I need more of to exist? I need love. I was asked what love is this week. and I spoke a maze to an answer that I believe in at this moment that love is a synonym for all things that allow you to see another tomorrow I've been turning sorrows into sonnets like Mos Def said on "Respiration," "my narrative I rose to explain my existence" and to know that explanation isn't for anyone but myself, first. the desire to heal is as strong as the will for a rose that must breathe through the concrete it's an exercise. and I'm learning that I don't have to be the solution, but to know that I have an effect no less. today is not performative, we're showing up for ourselves if nobody else I love to know that all the fungi that I've consumed in my life is still actively activated through me and probably in communication, still in drawing me to my family communicating beneath this soil of the shells that are these bodies which is why I'm here, which is why I'm thankful that I didn't die in my sleep alive in this dream.
pressure 03:09
~ Opening verse ~ I feel inspired again I feel a fire w/in my ancestors FaceTime me talk through my pen they use me as limbs I’m so tired though Kenny I am tired of strength a hundred thousand thoughts a minute spinning in my head like I spit the dream and live the thing my purpose here to spread light This is melanin and moonlight x2 Scrolling through Scrolling through all of lifes misery laugh in a ceilings face I posses inner g came out the other side South and I’m centralized Crenshaw & 54th south of the city be more than just home to me That’s my geography I make the movement move universe listening its enough of be who I am so why just pretend to be we talk about lifes ills but who got the remedies? I know what it is because I know what it isn’t I know what I am I know thats an image I been living my lyrics no limits i get it my life is a limerick I’m growing I’m glowing I’m crying I’m triggered I’m feeling (Time & Pressure) Closing verse:: we cooking w/ thee grease now All the lynchings done by police now Ayyyye I let the truth speak I see the future I read the tea leaves I got no ceiling aye I got a meeting Aye Cancel that meeting Aye board w/ it ojie I’m thinking free today I feel this deeply Wait so I’m fearless w/ this message all My records are reflections so I mirror every session I am here and i am destined I got songs I got theories I’m the glass never empty cuz i’m thee water you feel me? do it for my ppl let em know that they ain't see through I am here and I am with you and I feel you I every chance I get I free em Sparring w/ my demons every single weekend that's on God Morgan Freeman
slippin 02:54
Get up on your tippy toes And yell while you can I know its a lot To understand If everything is frozen are we still droppin sand in the hourglass tied up by the minute’s hand? Slippin Through the finger Tips I Feel it Slowly Losin’ Grip, I’m Slippin Through the finger Tips I Feel it Slowly Losin Grip, I’m . . . Tired of buildin bridges Are ya changin’ your plans? Are ya clankin’ around with bottles and cans? Swallowing your tongue Or is it tied with demands Is it time for us to just expand? Slippin Through the finger Tips I Feel it Slowly Losin’ Grip, I’m Slippin Through the finger Tips I Feel it Slowly Losin Grip, I’m . . .
I tend to notice due to the demands placed on me by my own body that even getting included is a form of violence. Even becoming a citizen - if I were a refugee, like my sisters and brothers are, knocking on the doors of America, or knocking on the doors of Europe - even with all of this, even to get accepted is a form of violence. There is a Procrustean bed dynamic that cuts away the flesh of the refugees and the immigrants, and makes them adapt to a way of being that is not theirs. So I wonder if there are not fugitive justices, fugitive hopes, fugitive spaces - unspeakable apophatic realities that are outside of this performance of power that we can notice, that can be scandalous to the modern ear. Like saying for instance that Esú traveled with the slaves, condoned all that suffering - and yet was using that as a way of ritualizing other bodies into being. And so this is my question, this is the question that animates my work with the Emergence Network: what if the way we respond to crisis is part of the crisis? What if there are other spaces of power? And what if we can touch these spaces of power, and be touched in return? What happens?


companion website - kennyzhao.com/kennysroom

digital download comes with hi-res photos of original pen drawings for cover art, as well as additional artwork, liner notes, and samples.

payments will be split among all artists involved - Kenny Zhao, Annabelle Maginnis, def.sound, Twolips, Jess Joy, and The Emergence Network (on behalf of Dr. Bayo Akomolafe)


released September 4, 2020

produced and arranged by Kenny Zhao

additional voices (in order of appearance)
def.sound, Dr. Bayo Akomolafe, Annabelle Maginnis, Jess Joy, Twolips

special thanks (in no particular order) -
my wife and soulmate SJ, my parents Alice and Kevin, Donna Haraway, Lynn Margulis, Bruno Latour, Joseph Campbell, Adriene Maree Brown, Jen P. Harris and Rachel Kauff, NAVEL, Virtual Care Lab, Frienzone, artist support group, our “third space” Google Drive folder,” Penny and Arthur, our houseplants, weed, funghi, Elektron, pATCHES, the Tao Te Ching and all its translations


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Zhao Los Angeles, California

Kenny Zhao is a composer, artist, and digital tinkerer who is exploring the relationship between compost and creative practice.

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