That We Should Be Heirs: A Call to Participants
As an artist whose work encompasses themes of hardship and war and the refugee/immigrant experience, I am naturally led to the indispensable narratives of fight and fear. To resume the course, I humbly invite participants to contribute your handwritten letters to a project that I am calling That We Should Be Heirs, an interactive fine art installation for the San Diego Art Institute (SDAI). To learn more about the details of this project and the inspiration behind its development, view this video.
We have inherited much. We are the inheritors of wars and suffering, spiritual and psychological. We are the inheritors of trauma, physical and emotional. But we, indeed, are also heirs to the mighty will and survival instinct that lengthens our spines as we stand for justice, fighting against the destructive forces that aim to deter us from the freedom that is ours to claim. We are heirs of the generational strength that buoys us in deep waters, and the ancestral resilience that ushers us toward healing and into deeper understanding. This project invites members of the community to share in our inheritance, utilizing art as part of our practice in compassion and restoration of courage as we confront our own personal conflicts and fears with gentleness. During this devastating immigration crisis and time of great conflict, perhaps we can help alleviate our individual and collective burdens by facing our fears and drawing from one another’s strengths. Together.
Who : I have been graciously invited to work with SDAI along with our partners in developing this special project for our community. All are encouraged to contribute handwritten letters; all letters received will be included in the installation. This will be an all-inclusive, multi-voice, multi-language, interactive, self-reflective, community-building project.
Why : That We Should Be Heirs encourages participants to engage in the fading art of letter-writing as a method of relieving burden and promoting empowerment and healing. By putting hand to paper and joining one another in this collective activity of personal letter-writing, we can share in this intimate process of privately documenting the stories, hardships, and triumphs—triumphs experienced, cultivated, and hoped for—that connect us all. In taking part in such activity, we also fill that space with togetherness by offering a quiet support for one another as we attempt to erase our fears.
What : Hand-written letters by all are appreciated and accepted. Handwritings by refugees and immigrants, and families of refugees and immigrants are encouraged. Letters handwritten in participants’ native tongues are welcomed and encouraged. Writings by survivors are encouraged. (Please scroll down for more themes that might spark something in you.) During the residency, I will be facilitating on-site activities and off-site workshops during which participants will be asked to write letters to themselves and/or others to pay respect to those who have shared in our heartaches and about the approaches we’ve found to quiet our pain. Letters can be as long or as short as the author wishes for it to be. It is important that contributors’ hands are involved in the project, and therefore, original handwritten letters are preferred. All writings submitted will be included in the installation. **I respect the privacy of our willing participants and will not read your letters, unless you invite me to do so.
I ask that letters be written in pencil or charcoal pencil. This way, as your scrolls are handled by others at the museum, the particles of graphite and/or charcoal from your writings will leave with them. Concurrently, the oils of their hands will be left upon your scrolls. This physical exchange echoes the emotional exchange that is made when we share our stories with others, as described here. Although pencil and charcoal are preferred, all letters will be included regardless of medium with which they’ve been written.
All writings will be rolled and bound with string, and therefore, will remain private and illegible as part of the installation. That We Should Be Heirs aims to offer a hallowed space for the participants to release their burdens and their fears into the art. As I receive more letters, the installation will continue to evolve. This project focuses on one of the most profound commonalities that we all have—our desire to heal, our constant search for new ways to alleviate burden, our hope to gain victory over fear, and the consistent need to let go of the things that have a way of pressing discouragement upon our hearts.
Where : SDAI and her community partners will host a series of workshops, which may include artists talks and film screenings. All activities pertaining to this project are free and open to the public. Locations and dates for workshops are to be determined. Every letter received will be incorporated into the final installation at SDAI.
When : October - February 2019 : Handwritten letters accepted via postal mail and/or in person during workshops to be part of installation at SDAI
February 16 - March 31, 2019 : That We Should Be Heirs on display at San Diego Art Institute
April - May 2019 : Project travels to Gould Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Presently - Indefinitely : Letters will be continually accepted for inclusion in this traveling project. Thank you for your support in its evolution!
Writings are welcomed for an indefinite time. I’ve envisioned this project as an ever-evolving project that requires the hands, voices, and heart of the People. Thank you for helping to bring this artwork to life through your heart and your words.
How : Participants can send their writings to:
That We Should Be Heirs
c/o Trinh Mai
P.O. Box 1933
Santa Ana, CA 92702
Ideas : The description, “letters” can be loosely interpreted. All forms of writings will be accepted, and might include:
free association writing
Although this project’s aim is to address our fears, your handwritten contributions may include, but are not limited to, your thoughts about :
the loss of freedom
the fight for freedom
letters that confront the things that we fear and testimonies of why fear them
how it feels to fear for others
how the current immigration crisis has caused fear in The People
how fear tries to cripple us
how fear can help motivate us to take action
letters written to fear itself
moments when we’ve overcome fear
why it is important to continue the fight
the power of togetherness
letters that promote healing
the wounds that have been caused by fear, and the fear that we hope to overcome
how we have/can contribute to the healing and empowerment of others
letters to the beautiful people who have ushered us back into our own strengths
letters of encouragement
what it means to face our wars
how war has affected us
how we have triumphed over hardship
the power of faith
the love that prevails
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to address your concerns. We hope you will join us in this experience.
** Peace be unto you **
An immense breath of gratitude to the following institutions for your support and involvement in That We Should Be Heirs: