Behind the Scenes: Infinite Beginnings
Infinite Beginnings is Wing on Wo’s interactive printed matter that immerses the viewer in a mythical journey of self transformation. Illustrated by Singha Hon and inspired by K-Ming Chang’s very own mythical narrative written for Wing on Wo’s second artist line, Infinite Beginnings, the viewer is shown the breadth of self-survival in the world of water, fire, earth, and sky, and the ways we find glimmers of power and strength through moments of struggle and doubt, expansion and collapse much like how we move in our everyday. This visual publication prompts the viewer to place themselves in a mythical world where possibilities of the self are infinite.
About the Artists
Singha Hon is an illustrator and designer based in Brooklyn, NY.
K-Ming Chang is a Kundiman fellow, a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree. She is the author of the New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice novel BESTIARY (One World/Random House, 2020), which was longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award. In 2021, her chapbook BONE HOUSE was published by Bull City Press. Her most recent book is GODS OF WANT (One World/Random House, 2022). Her next book is a novel titled ORGAN MEATS. She lives in California.
Can you tell us the origin story of Infinite Beginnings?
KC: I was so excited to hear about all the Artist Line pieces and the idea of a mythological narrative threading all of them together. Mythology for me is a space of infinite transformation and ripe possibility, a space where there are no boundaries between the self/other and the self/community. I returned to some of my favorite myths, such as Meng Jiang Nu and the story of Nuwa creating humanity, and thought about the queer possibilities and collective voices that these stories contained. Each object in the Artist Line became cosmic and malleable, forming touchstones for the narrator throughout their interior/exterior journey. The idea of "infinite beginnings" arose from thinking about the potency and potential of creation myths and the many times throughout our lives that we begin. I wanted the story to feel as boundless and inviting as myth, welcoming the reader into its world and directing their gaze both inward and outward.
What drew you both to the thangka as inspiration? What would you like your viewers to understand about the thangka and its capacity for self-transformation?
SH: I was really inspired by the format of thangka, which is a Tibetan Buddhist painting that often depicts the life of the Buddha or deities or bodhisattvas. I first learned more about thangka paintings through a summer art class at the Rubin Museum, which offered the ability to learn about the history and practice of the thangka paintings in their collection. Reflecting on these objects, I loved how this style can move through narratives and different events, the way beginnings, middle, and end all connect to one another. You can look at the thangka and move through time, your eyes following along in a spiraling motion and seeing how all the small parts create the large story. For me, that felt true to the experience of reading Kristin's work, the way the protagonist explores each place searching for where they belong, only to realize that they belong everywhere, sea, sky, and earth. The thangka feels both like an internal and external map -- like Kristin said, a place for your gaze to be directed both inward and outward.
Progress Photos by Singha Hon
When it came to sketching out the format for the illustration to accompany Kristin's writing, I wanted to honor the way the elements (sea, sky, earth) weave together and return to one another and form a sort of map of heaven, human, and earth together. It felt true to the story to create one image inspired by the style of thangka painting and allow the viewer to return to and move through the different scenes and stories in one image.
How did you both envision the publication taking on a new form in public space?
KC: I hope that people continue to reflect on the prompt questions and that the publication can serve as a kind of talisman. I hope that it becomes a grounding tool and a place for imagination to play. To me, myths are so beautiful and life-giving because they're stories that you can return to again and again throughout your life, each time with a renewed perspective. There are so many stories I heard as a child that I view differently every time I revisit them - it's like glass refracting in the light, full of facets that are influenced by what you bring to it. And I hope that the publication can similarly be seen from many different angles and serve many different needs throughout a person's journey.SH: For our launch, we wanted to bring these prompts into a larger format for viewers to engage with in a communal public setting, so we printed them out and displayed them throughout the space. The prompts and images, which were floating throughout felt as though they were questions to be asked both on an individual and communal level. The artists that Mei and Vivian brought into the launch – Lingji Hon and Cathy Lu – also both offered beautiful and accessible ways to connect these questions. For me, the experience of Lingji's Qigong workshop and Cathy's Collective Dreaming installation were both beyond what I could have envisioned at the start but felt like an absolutely beautiful and fitting way to come together.
Photo by Aurola Wedman Alfaro
What were the most important elements to consider in cultivating the interactions between the viewers and the art?
SH: We started this process talking about a journey - thinking about ways we had read books and zines that felt like they encouraged exploration and self-reflection. It felt important for viewers to understand the myth as something that could include questions and prompts for themselves. As the protagonist explores, how too, might they explore this search for belonging, for transformation, in their own life?
Photo by Aurola Wedman Alfaro
In the physical material, we also wanted to cultivate a sense of both exploration and intimacy. By creating the larger print, we felt that it could give the viewer space to explore like a map or a board game, something you could look up and have your eye travel through and around. For the booklet, we wanted to create a sense of intimacy and personal exploration, so the small hand-held size of the booklet and cards which are tucked in the back felt more personal, something you could carry with you like a talisman or tarot deck.
Can you tell us more about your collaboration across mediums and how it has shaped the publication?
SH: Collaborating on this project was an incredible experience. The richness of Kristin’s writing and getting to tap into the mythologies that she wove together just gave me an incredible universe of material, sensations, imagery and magic. Being able to share and discuss so much from the start– drafts, sketches, long conversations about the themes that inspired this project– gave me so much space to explore and play when it came down to creating the illustration.
From there, I learned a lot about risograph and the process of creating and printing interactive booklets and zines. We worked with Amanda from lucky risograph early on; I wasn't sure about the process of translating a watercolor and gouache piece into a risograph print but she really encouraged me to go with my gut on painting the final illustration in that medium rather than creating it digitally. Lucky risograph's expertise also brought incredible format, color, texture, and luminosity that connected the print, booklet, and prompt cards as a precious set of items.
Progress Photos by Vivian Sangsukwirasathien
The final piece of the collaboration was the launch event. I shared the myth and illustration with Lingji in preparation for her Qigong workshop at the Infinite Beginnings launch, and it was exciting to see so many elements that resonated with her teaching that she wished to explore further. She was particularly interested in the image of the double spiral - shown on the first prompt card where a snail shell spirals out into the milky way. This was an image I was inspired to create from the opening paragraphs of Infinite Beginnings, which describes Nuwa's creation and initial form. When I had created the illustration, I was not aware of the significance of the double spiral as an ancient symbol but was thinking more about the grandiosity of the milky way juxtaposed with the intimacy of a small snail shell. It was so cool to learn from Lingji about the double spiral as a path that connects the inner and outer worlds of self and universe, a balance of creation and destruction, which resonated so much with what Kristin and I had already been exploring of the internal and external gaze, and to finally see how it inspired the movement and themes within Lingji's workshop at the launch event.
Looking back, I think all these different mediums, conversations, and processes shaped the publication and experience into something even more universal and explorative and communal. It was beautiful to see the way the narrative and illustrations flowed into the Qigong workshop and ceramic installation at the launch and to see these themes of transformation, grounding, and communal dreaming made real.
KC: It was so, so thrilling to see Singha's sketches and to witness parts of her process - she is such a visionary and a genius and it was so exciting to see how the vibrancy and abundance of the thangka came into being. It was also so much fun to get to work collaboratively on the narrative and share first drafts and early versions of the myth, which is not something I usually get to do with my solo writing projects. To have people so on board from the very beginning is truly a gift, and I loved that the narrative got to be directly inspired by our conversations and collective ideas/goals. It just makes the project feel very communal and very loved.