On Conclusion and Findings: A Conversation Between Yanyi and Catalina Ouyang
Wide angle photograph of the Conclusions and Findings exhibition space. Numerous decorated paddles bearing poems hang from the ceiling on red ribbons by the handles. The floor below them is scattered with petals.
Installation shot from garden of love, an interactive physical manifestation of Conclusion and Findings, 2017-ongoing.

Catalina Ouyang‘s ongoing project Conclusion and Findings (working title) is a participatory event that takes various material forms. The artist invites writers to create poetic translations of the final section of the 2016 Title IX report generated by a disciplinary panel at her undergraduate university, which found her ex-partner “not responsible” for raping her at the end of 2015. By working with translation, the project seeks to excavate the failures and weaponized potential of language, as well as the possibilities of its liberation. It is also a response against exploitative modes of appropriation practiced by predominantly white, male artists, not unlike the artist’s ex-partner and his creative idols. Contributors’ responses have ranged from direct erasure, free verse and lyric prose to letters addressed to the artist, appropriated documents,  short stories, documented performance, and a sonnet. The artist then responds to the material created by contributors in varying physical/interactive iterations. So far it has been embodied in an online anti-monument, viewable at anotherdocument.info. The artist is now at work on an immersive installation where each contributor’s text will take the form of a hornbook, a paddle-shaped object that was used historically throughout Europe and the colonial Americas to teach children how to read, by way of the Lord’s prayer.


Yanyi: How’s your day been?

Catalina: It’s been all right. I’ve been cutting out and sanding about eighty paddles—

Yanyi: Oh my God, the paddles that you’re doing!

Catalina: Yeah, individually, by hand, so… that’s been taking over my life.

Yanyi: Are you really going to make eighty? When you wrote to me about those, I was like, maybe you should like do, like, ten…

Catalina: No, I’m, like, fully committed. I just finished cutting out… I guess I have seventy texts so far and I’ve cut those out so far. I’m hoping to get at least a hundred for the end of March when I put this installation on. But we’ll see what it ends up being.

Yanyi: And the installation is going to be in New Haven?

Catalina: Yeah, for this round.

Yanyi: Very nice. What made you decide to do the paddles in particular? What made you choose that form?

Catalina: I’ve been thinking about various ways that this content can live. The paddles are only one iteration. The two avenues you might immediately think of are, okay, have a reading, some kind of durational performance where I just read through eighty things, or have various people read them, or have videos of people reading them—something time-based. And the other approach would be to print each of them on pieces of paper and stick them on the wall. But I really wanted them to be things that can be handled, a little more tactile. I used to read a lot of historical fiction when I was younger because I was a lonely geek, so that’s how I knew of hornbooks, from reading, like, historical fiction set in colonial America. Something about the paddle form being both pedagogical and disciplinary, and being tied into Greek life or fraternity rush culture, and also the general idea of corporal punishment, all seemed right to me. I also liked that the object could grow or shrink to accommodate the very diverse lengths of the texts.

Yanyi: The punishment aspect is really interesting to me. I don’t know a lot of the history of hornbooks, but it makes me immediately think about Christianity and this idea of the soul and the body being separate things, and the question of salvation and what that could look like. But also, are the texts themselves somehow related to those ideas around the body? Do you see them as little monuments to you as you were writing in your NARS writeup?

Catalina: I don’t know if I would think of them as little monuments, but… The paddles have a certain relation to the body because as objects they’re designed to be handled as such. And of course the content of text has so much to do with bodies and violations of bodies. Also, voices, which are attached to bodies, and every text is a voice with an incredibly far-reaching range. With the original hornbooks you were learning the alphabet while also learning the Lord’s prayer, and there was this serendipity of designing an object that was both toy and textbook and disciplinary tool. And it was used for all three purposes. This is reflected in this project, the original document being somehow both disciplinary, as a verdict, but also perversely educational, in terms of what I walked away from that experience with. Part of even my original impulse to go through the entire torrid process of reporting was that I wanted to know. Like, there was no other way I could know other than to really know it. And now I do. So in such a way, I learned. Which in a way is tantamount to having the Lord’s prayer engraved and smacked into your ass.

Yanyi: Yeah. I’m setting up a type of psychological framework under which your experience did not exist. One of the things that was very interesting to me as I was reading the text again and again was how much your body existed but not so much your spirit or your emotional or psychological experience.

Catalina: There’s something about the way that, if we want to call it my spirit, it’s very intentionally erased from that original document. So I had an impulse to invite all these hundreds of hundreds of people to reinsert a voice, which I see as connected to a spirit, back into that content. After I went through that whole process, I stopped writing. I used to have a writing practice and I haven’t since. So there was a kind of muting, or silencing, happening on multiple levels. One being the literal confidentiality clause, but also the wreckage that was done to my creative productivity. So in a way, I thought, okay, if I can no longer write, I still want to find a way to put language back into my work, and specifically into this project—and maybe other people can do that, and arrive at some sort of a collective… I don’t want to call it a truth because one thing this project is trying to do is bring out the inherent treachery of the notion of truth…  but a collective sort of understanding.

Yanyi: So, I have a few questions. First of which is: what about this experience caused you to stop writing? What did it convince you of, or what maybe did it block off for you that you once had? Also, if you stopped writing, then there was something that changed about your relationship to writing. Right? So what was the turning point for you to decide to include writers in helping you interpret this text and to exchange this text with writers?

Catalina: I stopped writing because after the rape, and then through the whole investigation…  well, for one, I stopped sleeping. So I was in a manic and really unhealthy state, physically and otherwise. My headspace became incredibly cyclical. I would dwell on same thoughts and feelings over and over. It felt like I had nothing to write about except for something that was, in my view, inherently very boring: my rage and heartbreak, let’s say, over what is essentially a common experience. Which is the horrifying part of it. I didn’t think that I could write anything… not just interesting, but of creative value, whatever that means. I was okay with that for a while, and I still am.

Last spring, I created a body of work in a similar participatory vein. I was working then with other artists, at a smaller scale. I invited fifteen of my artist friends to each build a weapon of their choosing, out of any material of their choosing, to contribute to collective arsenal. So I collected all of their objects and created these little demon hands to hold the weapons and then installed them in a space with a handmade, a epoxy clay chain connecting all of them. I also had each contributor take a video of their fabrication process, and each of those videos became the eyes of these big masks I made, and they were playing on iPhones… Anyway, this whole process was very interesting to me because one, there’s this exchange that happened where I received weapons which they made and the deal was that they would receive the weapon back along with its attendant hand in the end. Unless something sold, in which case we would split the price 50/50… but nothing sold. Anyway, I was really excited by the amount of control that I ended up relinquishing, with delivering a very loose prompt and then handling the material that was generated from it. And of course, in that case there was a material subjectivity and individual strangeness that each object held. I was interested, for this, how that process would translate in writing. I think one thing I have learned through this process is how little I actually know about writing or the writing world, if you want to call it that…

Yanyi: It’s another planet.

Catalina: Yeah, and apparently everybody in the writing world knows each other.

Yanyi: Oh my God, we all know each other, yes. I was going through your list and I was like, oh, that person, ah, that person!

Catalina: Yeah, it’s really stunning. I have been thinking a lot about Kenneth Goldsmith, for a long time, and how much I hate him! I wanted to do something to refuse that predominantly white male feeling of entitlement to touch other people’s lives, experiences and cultural, creative property. This goes back to Paul Gauguin and Picasso. So things just kind of fell into place. I finally felt comfortable and sane enough to get my hands deep into this material again, to unearth that document. I was really interested in inviting this process of appropriation, consensually, of an experience I can truly claim as my own. I take a hard-line approach about really only working with that in my own practice. So, it’s like the planets aligned.

Yanyi: I really like a lot of what you talked about in terms of thinking about collaboration and wanting to invite truly strangers to look at and experience in their own ways this text that has a very visceral and personal attachment to your life. When you talked about relinquishing control to these other artists in your other project and how you’re doing a similar thing for this, it does make me think that this project is almost a reparation to yourself around trust and how that might be possible with even this experience that sounds like it was horrific for you and psychologically and emotionally damaging to the point where your physical body was bearing the brunt of it. Not to mention your creative pursuits at the time.

Catalina: The idea of it being a reparation is interesting and strikes true to me. In almost everything I work on, there’s some underlying impulse for revenge… which is a word that as an artist I sometimes think I should probably shy away from—

A closer shot photograph of the Conclusions and Findings exhibition. Several paddles can be scene with decorated backs and one front facing poem. Hung from their handles by red ribbons. Flower petals are scattered beneath them on the exhibit space floor.
Installation shot from garden of love, an interactive physical manifestation of Conclusion and Findings, 2017-ongoing.

Yanyi: Like, why?

Catalina: Yeah! Cause that’s just what it is. The basic act of sharing the document itself with, going on 500 strangers, now, I mean, it’s sitting in 500 different inboxes, right? This thing that was supposed to be confidential, and it’s confidential for this institution to protect its own financial interests… I think that’s a basic and obvious act of resistance or transgression. Maybe illegal? I’m actually not really sure.

Yanyi: It’s not the actual text, it’s just translations of the text. It’s creative! But yes, maybe you should talk to a lawyer about it.

Catalina: I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. In all iterations of the project that I’ll actually show, I’m only including translations, not the original document. But it’s that original document that I’m sharing with each contributor that was never supposed to be shared. So that’s my little act of rebellion. Regarding the idea of trust, I was nervous in the beginning when I sent out the first round of maybe fifty emails—

Yanyi: Why?

Catalina: I wasn’t really sure what the response would be. On a creative level, I have a lot of guilt about soliciting work that I can’t immediately pay for. It’s a really big ask. And I thought about possibilities of the content being triggering, which is why I try to be really accommodating when people don’t want to participate, you know, that’s cool. I also wasn’t sure… So, I always tend to expect the worst. Right? If you think it can be bad, it probably is going to be so much worse. So I wasn’t sure if I would receive some angry, horrified email back about how this project is disgusting and I should go rot in hell with Emma Sulkowicz—you know?

Yanyi: Emma! Go Emma.

Catalina: Go Emma! One of the other contributors, Claire Donato, actually included a photo of Emma in their translation, doing the mattress performance, which is cool.

Yanyi: That’s awesome. Yeah. I have to read through all of them, still, so I’m excited to get to that one.

Catalina: Yeah, I think I might actually keep the website for another month. I feel like I’m not ready for it to end.

Yanyi: Yeah, that could be cool. I think this particular framing of it is going to be awesome and I’m really excited that the pieces are going to get to exist in the literary world—as much as they’ve been existing in the literary world email.

Catalina: Yeah, and like… Facebook posts. As I’ve been thinking about different ways that the project can live… The sensibility of how content is disseminated in the literary world in some ways has crossovers with the art world, maybe in the form of a poetry reading, but otherwise it’s so different. And I definitely want to honor both sensibilities. Eventually, some anthology would be really nice. Even though, like, fuck capitalism. I would love to be able to pay everyone a contributor fee. But I’m not sure when I’ll call it quits on soliciting more pieces. Some people who I got in touch with six months ago are still working on theirs, which is cool. Maybe it will never end. Maybe it will be, like, 2050 by the time… I’m not really sure.

Yanyi: It really depends on what you want out of the project. You can obviously make a physical object like a book and I think there are ways you could apply for grants, for example, to pay the artists who are contributing. I will say there’s not that much money in poetry, period. So people are used to being solicited without getting paid. I’m not saying that it’s right. But also, kind of, fuck capitalism! Like, why is it that money is the only value of art and why is it, I mean, it’s not just the only value of art. Speaking from a place of privilege, I have a really nice job, so I can afford to not be paid for my work. It’s not easy a to pay people for art, period, unless you’re one of those visual artists who are, I don’t know, selling something for a million dollars or whatever.

But you can really do anything with it. I’m really impressed and happy with how many people you have solicited and have already contributed. It’s contributing to a much larger cultural conversation that forces people to dwell on the language itself, to dwell on the aspects of the violence as they are occurring. And that really reminds me of how these conversations can always end up being circular and violent in their rationality. One of the things that you wrote about was on understanding, how this person was very… not obsessed, but interested only in having a conversation instead of apologizing. For me, as someone who’s been asked many times, why don’t you like it when I ask questions? It’s like, please fucking Google that. Where and how can accountability happen if people don’t understand exactly what they did wrong? There isn’t actually much of a framework around consent, outside of like, you raped me or you didn’t rape me.

Catalina: Yeah, exactly. This whole idea about accountability and people who are obsessed with the rational argument, right? Or dictionary definitions. All of that, what pisses me off about it, is that those are really just deflection tactics. It’s a way to not talk about—I mean, one, not apologize. And two, not learn. You’re treading water while holding the other person underwater. And in terms of language itself… The project is so much about the failure of language and the weaponized potential of language and all the ways that language can just go wrong.

But also…  the project itself, I didn’t originally conceptualize it as a piece about advocacy, but if somebody needs to call it a project about rape or something that is advocacy, I am happy for it to be that. Because it’s not something that ends at having an activist bent, or not having that. I think in parts of the art world there’s this thing where you don’t want your work to be too direct in advocating for a political position, but I don’t really care—the work is about what it’s about. So with particular respect to the language that surrounds rape and sexual violence, and domestic violence, the inherent problem is that, yeah, as you said it’s like you either raped me or you didn’t rape me. Or, you know, rape is this criminal offense which gets into the whole contradiction where—okay, people have radical views about sexual violence where it’s like, all rapists should be jailed. But we also tend to be people who have radical views about prison abolition. So we’re inhabiting both positions. What can happen with rapists that isn’t just locking them up? Or how can this dialogue shift where… I don’t know if I particularly like using the word “rehabilitation” here, for instance—but yes, that. What are possibilities for that? Because the thing about not just sexual violence but violence itself is that it’s as common as the weather, it’s like having somebody cut you off in traffic. It happens to almost all women. And yet it’s treated as something as serious as murder, which in some ways it is. But the immediate link to the criminal justice system as the only possible form of retribution, I think it really puts up this wall.

Yanyi: I read something on Facebook or something about this idea that right now our idea of accountability is punishment. And if a person is not punished enough then they have not been accountable enough to something that happened. I feel like there is work being done on accountability and community rehabilitative justice, in a sense, that includes how to take the person who was accused and who did something really horrible and genuinely hold them accountable to a community. How does that happen? Or is it going to be a situation where that person is accused of something, and a group of people thinks that person is wrong, and then another group of people think that they aren’t wrong, and basically what happens is that that person sets up a wall between the people who think they’re right and who think they’re wrong. And they obviously go with the people who think they’re right. So they never ended up actually changing their behavior, changing or doing honestly anything for the person who actually ends up as collateral damage or with collateral damage for what had happened. Sometimes that damage is done because we live in a patriarchal society and our ideas of romance and sexuality are ingrained with violence that is largely directed towards women, femmes, and nonbinary people.

Catalina: Yeah, totally. There’s always the people who think the perpetrator is in the clear and those who disagree and a side is drawn and then nothing happens. But I think also it’s so tied to the idea that… the language you always hear is, an accusation like this could ruin someone’s life! Which is why people end up taking the hard line position that the perpetrator actually didn’t do anything wrong. That they are totally innocent, like nothing happened. Right? But what if it was something that wouldn’t ruin someone’s life? And what if there were a productive or generative way to hold a person accountable for committing something that is very common? What wounded me most, from my own experience… the document, my report, was actually somehow surprising to me in the end. I had gone into it expecting that in the end they would be like: look, we just don’t have enough evidence to come to a conclusion, we don’t know, we can’t do anything. But in fact they went the totalizing other route, like, we know for sure that this exchange was totally consensual, that the Complainant is lying, she’s not credible, etcetera. They took a really extreme position of certainty, and that was surprising to me. I think that has to do with a liability on the institution’s part, but also this notion that somebody’s life could be ruined. And that is such an inhibitor to any kind of progress.

Close up photograph of a pink decorated paddle with gold squiggle designs, lying poem-side up on a plaster platform. The poem is titled Misery. A lone cluster of flower petals lies off to the side of it.
Installation shot from garden of love, an interactive physical manifestation of Conclusion and Findings, 2017-ongoing.

Yanyi: But in a sense, your life was ruined. It was not so much about somebody, it was… I can’t speak for you in terms of if your life was actually ruined, I’m sure you gained power from what happened. But it sounds like it was horrible in damaging ways obviously.

Catalina: Well, yes. And that’s the inherent injustice of it, which is also, again, very common. The sort of mainstream reaction—and it’s not even conservative—you’d be surprised at the number of liberals who talk about being feminist and standing with victims, yet—some of the people who were cruelest to me, who went out of their way to fuck me over and dig for evidence to support my rapist’s side, et cetera, they have, throughout the whole #MeToo thing, been the most vocal, so [laughs], people are complex beings.

Yanyi: It sounds like what you’re saying too, from the report, is that one of the most dangerous things about what happened to you was this need for certainty necessitated by how we treat and talk about sexual violence.

Catalina: Yeah. Cause it’s like you either were roofied and beaten up and raped behind the dumpster or nothing wrong happened to you.

Yanyi: And there’s no recourse for that. There’s no community way of talking about that or asking a person to be accountable for that because it’s normal.

Catalina: Yeah. Honestly, I don’t know what the alternative looks like or could look like. But with this project, I see it as a very rudimentary first step to, one, sort of excavating the funny, surprising nature of that stance the panel took. Cause you hear about Title IX in the news, or you have an orientation and the coordinator comes and you meet them for the first time, but until you actually are in the position where you are going to report, you don’t realize you actually have no idea how this process works. There are so many layers of opacity and confidentiality clauses.

You don’t have anyone to talk to about their experience going through it. One thing in hindsight that I really wish Title IX offices would do, which of course they can’t, is tell you what your chances are. You know? It’s like, do I even have a shot? Is it even worth going forward with this? I mean, it was the same with the police: I filed the report, I talked to the detective, and I asked her, does it seem worth trying to press charges and, you know, I think she legally or whatever—professionally—could not give me an answer. So all she said was, you know, I always encourage people to press charges. But she could’ve left my apartment and laughed the whole way home over what a lost cause my case was. I mean, there’s so much mystery surrounding this process. It truly was like a—terrible metaphor, but like a baby deer who doesn’t know how to walk. Or—you get what I’m saying. [Laughs]

Yanyi: One of the things you did in creating this project is that you’ve talked about it with 500 people. This project is, in a sense, a creation of a community of people who are talking about it and thinking about it with you. Which is pretty awesome.

Catalina: Yeah. No, totally. And I think in that way, the project is working on several levels where it is about my specific experience which involves rape and domestic abuse. Right? But it’s also about institutional failure. It’s like, how many Title IX cases fail to protect students who’ve been subjected to racist aggression or something else. Anything else. It’s just an instance of the powers that be, the hegemony, things funded by, as I like to call it, White Man Money, looking out for their own interests. And relatively speaking, I’m not even in the most vulnerable position, socially. I have light-skinned privilege, I have some form of financial privilege. This project is just skimming the surface, in a way.

Yanyi: You also said this project is about institutional failure. Do you feel like the project itself—is there an aspect of it— has come out to you as creating or being productive towards new types of systems or new types of institutions? Is this project making anything that would seem generative?

Catalina: Honestly, I’m not sure yet. When I started, I really had no idea how it was going to go. I had no preexisting expectations for the type of content I would get back. The nature of this—I describe it as participation rather than direct collaboration, though I’m also not interested in parsing specific definitions, so we can call it whatever. The level or intensity of the interaction is left up to the individual contributor. Like, with you, we’ve really had a lot of back and forth. I feel like I’ve gotten to know some aspects of you. And that is true for several other contributors as well. But with some people, I send out the email and I don’t hear back until they send me a piece, with no other interaction—which is cool. I have this visual in my mind of some kind of chart that tracks the varying levels of engagement I’ve had in my Gmail inbox. I don’t know if the sum of that creates some new infrastructure; I think it’s a little too volatile. And also, the whole thing hasn’t really crystallized yet. It’s still very much in progress. I don’t know, we’ll have to see.

Yanyi: The uncertainty is what’s exciting to me about being part of the project. That it’s a co-creation in a lot of ways, and people are participating as far as they wanted to participate with you and with the material.

Catalina: Yeah. And it’s also been interesting because as I move forward with every step or idea, I like to check in with like everybody,  which has increasingly been a lot of emails. There’s a… gosh, I keep going to the word contradictory but that’s not exactly the word I’m looking for it, but it’s a double-thing, like two things happening at once—whatever the term for that is—that’s happening where I want to make sure that people are cool with things, but that actually then creates more labor for them to read what I’m saying and think about it. So I keep wanting to gauge the amount of my ask versus having people like… I mean, maybe this is like a direct metaphor for the act of asking for consent, you know, and how to breed better, healthier attitudes about the whole process. This being a strange microcosm for it.

Yanyi: What’s an example of what you’re talking about? You mean, like, making the hornbooks, for example?

Catalina: Yeah. Or even something like asking, oh, can I share your piece in the Google Drive folder? Some people just don’t like checking their emails. And then saying, oh, can I put your piece on the website? And can I make it into a hornbook? And then me asking people what their dream hornbook might look like. Which is, you know, some people are like, I don’t fucking know, I don’t think visually—which is totally cool. I like the idea of making individual hornbooks, because in the end, with this installation, I’d like to do the same thing with the weapons where each writer gets their paddle back as an offering in exchange for the fruits of your labor.

Yanyi: That’s amazing. I love it so much more than getting paid.

Catalina: Yeah, well actually, when you were talking about how little money there is in the poetry world, you know, it’s similar in the emerging art world. Recently I’ve been reaching out to both tattooists and people who make clothes, and asking if I can trade them art for their goods, rather than payment.

Yanyi: I love it.

Catalina: There’s some part of me that feels like, oh gosh, what if this is insulting to them? But then I think, you know what, no, that’s insulting to me, to think that it would be insulting to them, because that would imply my work isn’t worth anything, which it totally is. So I’m invested in these forms of exchange—for instance, an object that you would get in exchange for writing. One thing I can do and the other I can’t, and maybe vice versa.

Yanyi: I would maybe try to make a hornbook one day, but I can tell you right now I’d probably not be good at it. Woodshop was my worst class in high school.

Catalina: Yeah, so we can trade our skills for now. In terms of finding generative results, or new forms of infrastructure, I think the installation I’m working on right now is the equivalent of a science fiction proposal. It’s maybe not doing the actual thing yet, but it’s taking the topical material and gesturing towards the thing. If you can visualize a forest of these hornbooks hanging in an immersive environment, and creating a sort of scene that might propose a future. It’s sort of hard to investigate, truly, the social possibilities while I’m here in New Haven because the entire community, or a lot of the people I’m working with, are in New York or elsewhere. And the sorts of spaces I could be hosting this work in would actually have meaningful audience engagement are mostly in New York. Here, I’m basically putting on a trial run for now, within this institution. I’m thinking about maybe, over the summer, proposing this to different spaces and then showing the work with some kind of programming while it’s in session.

Yanyi: I have some ideas around that, actually, if you’re interested in talking about them. But I wanted to ask you one last thing before that. I was really interested in what you were talking about with the emailing you’ve been doing with people and how some people participate a lot, while other people are not as participatory. And then how the work of actually adding on new things to the relationship you have with each writer requires time and attention. There is something interesting about that to me, the care and the amount of labor that goes into maintaining and building relationships, and what you both can get out of those relationships. It seems demonstrative.

Wide angle photograph of the Conclusions and Findings exhibition space. Numerous decorated paddles bearing poems hang from the ceiling on red ribbons by the handles. The floor below them is scattered with petals.
Installation shot from garden of love, an interactive physical manifestation of Conclusion and Findings, 2017-ongoing.

Catalina: I was just talking about this with a studio visitor, Kevin Beasley, who’s a really amazing artist. And I was droning on about how I’m not sure what exactly this project is, which is why I keep calling it a “project” because I’m not really sure if it’s a performance, in terms of the initial invitation—I don’t really know what to call that. I think the whole thing takes many forms, but with this initial gesture of reaching out to people, I hesitate to call it a performance …  if I were a different artist, I would maybe call it a performance, and also call all of my emails with everybody also part of the performance, and part of the art. And it is part of the project inherently, it’s part of the work that goes into it. But there’s something about certain kinds practices of that claim everything as the art, that feels somehow not generous to me. Right? Because sometimes, when you’re cooking dinner, that’s not the fucking art, that’s just you cooking for your friends.

So there’s a certain level of sensitivity I’ve tried to maintain and share with everybody I have corresponded with, which I see as just part of the exchange I initially instigated. I asked for something from people, and I want to honor that dynamic and also just be a fucking person, like, be kind. And make people as comfortable as they can be, because I also know this is a fucking shitty thing to have to think about for my sake, a stranger. There’s been a growing handful of people who were interested in writing something at first, but then told me, look, I can’t, I don’t have the emotional energy to do this, or I just decided I don’t want to do it. And that’s totally cool. I probably wouldn’t want to do it, to be honest, myself.

Yanyi: Yeah. Especially if you have trauma around it, why get deep into something like that?

Catalina: Yeah. I am really grateful for it. This is getting really cheesy now but I am really super grateful for everybody even being willing to… you know, something about it is really amazing. If you look at the numbers, I’ve reached out to 500 people and I have like 70 something responses for, you know, a pretty steep request of people I have never spoken to or met. I think that’s kind of crazy.

Yanyi: It’s really cool. Also… This project is not a singular form of art. It feels very interdisciplinary to me, and it feels as though the project is ongoing. A lot of the reflection will likely take forms outside of the texts that are being generated now. And the conversations you’re having now can be part of a reflective process of this circularity of going back over and over again over the work. That’s my artistic interest: what does it mean to be inside a feedback loop, which is what trauma is? What does it mean to continuously heal, or continuously live inside your own life? So, it’s totally good to me that it doesn’t have a category. What type of art really is only about having one category? I’m pretty much kind of done with the idea of purity.

Catalina: Totally! My other thought, which I lost earlier, is… so, I’m not a spiritual person, or a superstitious person, but maybe in some ways, I am. I have this idea that because I don’t believe in anything, I could very well believe in everything, you know what I mean? So I have this feeling that nobody’s experience is actually their own and there are a million ghosts we share everything with. And that’s maybe part of the spiritual core of this project. I’m inviting all of these voices who, for the most part, are working with only the information I’ve provided them with, and don’t actually know anything about what happened to me. And that’s not important because all of our—this is not going anywhere intelligent—it’s like the, what is it, dark matter? Or whatever, fairy dust, in between all of us, there’s something about the entirety of history coexisting and happening alongside what we’re experiencing now, in the cosmos, let’s say. And periodically that boundary is punctured and we weave into it for a split second, then cut back. I want some part of this project to shoot through that porous moment.



Catalina Ouyang, a woman with long black hair and blunt bangs, looking into her bathroom mirror and taking a photograph with her iPhone. She has two red marks on her cheeks shaped like small letter "c"s, and her expression is resolute.CATALINA OUYANG has had solo and two-person exhibitions at Trestle Projects (Brooklyn, NY), PLUG Projects (Kansas City, MO), the Millitzer Gallery (St. Louis, MO) and fort gondo compound for the arts (St. Louis, MO), with solo exhibitions forthcoming at Make Room (Los Angeles, CA) and Selena Gallery (Brooklyn, NY). Group exhibitions include Mist Wreathed at SPRING/Break 2018 (New York, NY), Make Room (Los Angeles, CA), No Place (Columbus, OH), Rubber Factory (New York, NY), Gallery 400 (Chicago, IL), COOP Gallery (Nashville, TN) and Field Projects (New York, NY). She has attended residencies at the NARS Foundation (Brooklyn, NY), OBRAS (Evoramonte, Portugal), Atlantic Center for the Arts (New Smyrna Beach, FL), Mary Sky (Hancock, VT) and North Mountain (Shanghai, WV), with a residency forthcoming at Palazzo Monti (Brescia, Italy). Her writing has appeared in River Teeth, the Blueshift Journal, and Little Fiction, with two Pushcart Prize nominations. She is an MFA candidate in Sculpture at Yale University.

A black-and-white photograph of Yanyi, who has short dark hair and is wearing glasses. Yanyi is steadying his SLR camera on the top of his, taking the photograph in bathroom mirror. The mirror is triple beveled, a fragment of his face visible in the leftmost section, and a fragment of his wrist is visible in the segment to the right.YANYI is the recipient of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize in Poetry, awarded by Carl Phillips, and his first book, The Year of Blue Water, will be published by Yale University Press in 2019. He is a 2017-2018 Asian American Writers Workshop Margins Fellow and associate editor at Foundry. The recipient of a 2015 Emerging Poets Fellowship from Poets House, Yanyi’s poems and criticism have recently appeared in The Margins, Memorious, and Model View Culture.