I’ve been holding a lot of shame recently. It comes from all different directions, more than I can list. Needless to say, I’ve not been compassionate to myself and it feels like I've been in a downward spiral for the past few months. But that’s not the point. I am here to say that our relationships with ourselves are our relationships with our dead. Or rather, the relationship to our dead lives within ourselves, through ourselves. I’m sure plenty of people have written about this topic before; this fact seems so obvious to me in hindsight that I’m sure many have come to the same shoreline I am sitting on right now. This thought makes me hesitant to write this because in my mind I’m sure I’m being redundant. The cruelty never ceases, it seems. But today I will write it out.
We must go back to the core of the work. The work surrounding the truth that our ancestors live within and through our present selves. Our ancestors, living and dead, blood and non-blood. All as one, one as all, that kind of feeling. We are now, as they all are and were; together in one conscious body. Me, you, us. Every flaw, every perfection, compounded. It’s no wonder my mind can be so crushing some days. I have the compounded anxieties of everyone before. But with that, the compounded joys. A blessing and a curse.
So if our ancestors live through us, what can that look like? How can we navigate through their pasts, us as legacies, carrying everything that has been bestowed? How do we hold their expansive existences within our own? I find myself towards metal and wax to process the inheritance. I find myself opening and chewing my relevant histories, facing them as they are. Feelings will bubble and pour over like an unattended pot of bone broth. Someone will rush to it, lift the lid, lower the heat, clean the mess. Maybe that’s me, here.
Our dead live through us. Or rather, we are our dead. They are ever present, through my mannerisms, reactions and instincts, the cluster of freckles at the corner of my right eye. Or rather, the ball is in my court now. It’s my turn to serve, in this metaphorical game of tennis. I’d like to argue that our relationships with our dead are really just our relationships with ourselves. My mind works in that roundabout way, somehow, to grasp this situation we are all in. I wonder if you are still here with me.
Tending to our dead looks like tending to our living. In hopes to deepen and evolve relationships with my dead, my living, my self. I guess to be honest, as to why I am writing all of this, I am learning to allow my love for my deceased grandmother to be. I always feared her and her abuse. At her funeral ten years ago, I did not understand why I cried. I am not even sad, why am I crying? I will miss her singing and her gray blind eyes. She loved to sing opera.
And I mean learning to love everything about our selves; the mistakes, the cluster of freckles at the corner of my right eye, the anxiety and guilt. I know I am never alone, always together, as one conscious body. I find great solace in that, a true warmth.
Irene June uses sculpture, ritual, and performance to create sites of generational healing and spiritual reverence. The sculptural installations work autobiographically, building their own logics and life energy. The forms present old age and new growth, found and formed, edible and inedible. Using culturally specific materials such as incense, and funerary joss papers, June’s work often invokes animal and geologic forms in relation to their own emotional, spiritual, and psychological landscapes.