The Self-Isolation Project

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We had plans of making things bigger. Life was super speed. We had images flying out, online platforms to scream out loud on and couldn’t be more grateful for the Internet. The world began turning it’s wheels faster with every second and it almost felt unstoppable. Caught in this whirlwind of discoveries, we entertained this culture of fast-paced hustling. To zap back and forth efficiently and bounce to the next. The world was churning and we found ourselves crashing. We wanted to keep up and it was exciting but our flames were burning low. 

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This pandemic has shaken the world. Hugs are no longer a thing anymore. We elbow-bumped until we had to completely shun ourselves away from the outside world. The framework so intrinsically built over the years plummeted and we found ourselves economically crumbling. 

Do we dare slow down? 

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Do we dare observe what’s within? To face our demons and angels, to find sorrow springing out of the blue only to find ourselves caving into habits we loved doing when we had the time to do so?

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We’ve got one thing that so many of us never believed would come in plenty time.

We have the time to return to ourselves, to build what we truly wanted to see, and to unite through all that we have made. We have the time to recognize that all that we shoved down in order to keep up with the world. We recognize that we are the world. 

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We’re scared, and lonely. And we’re fighting so many battles that are unseen. We’re rubbing our hands raw with sanitizer, with mixed feelings of hope and restlessness. 

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But we are together. 

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So, do we dare let ourselves realise the privilege so many of us have within us?

Do we dare be present, and understand that some of us can connect with one another. Technology has made it possible to be curious and alive even when we’re torn apart. The Internet encourages our oddities, allowing us to find people who see life the way we do. Our connections are strong. And right now, it’s stronger than ever.

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Like trees, we warn each other of devastation’s that occur in the world and unite to walk against it. We build new structures that enable freedom. We’re pursuing dreams that we put in the back burner, or we choose to do nothing at all. We can while our days away and still be valued just because we exist. We endorse the fact that we’re inherently valued even if we’re just breathing. 

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We live in a time and space where so many of us have the liberty to do what we want to do. And be what we want to be. We have choices. We’ve had the freedom to fight for these choices. 

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All this, brought down by decades of evolution. Decades of growth and fight and commitment. To unravel to become. To notice our dedication to create, to love, to be. 

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Do we dare return to ourselves?

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Do we dare slow down and appreciate our gifted generation?

Do we dare realise what a time to be alive.

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We created this series by asking a few people to take pictures of themselves doing what they love. We’ve received images of people painting, dancing, climbing, writing, praying and more activities that have helped them feel alive.It has been truly an honor to work with all of them — to have them display their vulnerable sides at a time like this is crucial. Grateful to everyone who participated in this series. What a time to be alive. 

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Individuals photographed with respective Instagram handles 
1. Tina Krüger  (@tinakrueger.art)

2. Damien Nicholls (@niemadde)

3. Pooja (Jo) (@karmicdev)

4. Mélanie Jacobin (@melaniejfree)

5. Gregory Roche (@gregorymichaelroche)

6. Lisa Gregory (@polemamma)

7. Prerna Dangi (@thepahadigirl)

8. Zahra Fathima (@zahraaa.fathima)

9. Kiran Mohanan (@kiran_mohann)

10. Christina Yang (@christ.ywn)

11. Rahil Sayed (@rahil_sayed01)

12. Milo Hartill (@milohartill)

13. Bijan Davani (@I_the_void_I)

14. Jacqueline Mazloum (@jackiemaz94)

15. Aravindh Ramesh (@arav._.ndh)

16. Gabriella Lee Sudyatmiko (@pebble.exe)

17. Nayantara Shetty (@nayantara.shetty)

 

EBB AND FLUX

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We are almost kaleidoscopic if not more. Evolution granted us a chance to build this repertoire of multifaceted functions that enable us to explore, move, love, and be. To learn every bit takes so much of us and we take so much from it. It’s how we’ve come to birth this composition of what we call – the self. We choose how to identify ourselves externally; with our hair, the way we dress, the way we present ourselves. We make sure to bottle a few things up, or let a few things out, and follow this continuum of performance with the same rhythm and flow, that we forget or more so, turn away from anything new. Anything that seems unlike us. 

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The structure of identity is a constant struggle amongst all of us. The need to identify as something or someone brings recognition, a sense of security. A deeply embedded notion that we learn is to find a solid base to grow from. We work years to build on this collection of our personality through traits, strengths, weaknesses and perks of what makes us us. It’s wanted and necessary to find oneself. In the midst of sculpting our character, we may fall prey to finding this arrangement of who we are is what we should stick to our entire lives. That anything beyond this composition is too much of a risk and must not be subsumed. 

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With this neat exterior that we’ve so nicely put together, it’s hard to fathom that we’re way more ambivalent than we seem. We see everyone around us and understand them primarily through their exterior shelves. What they choose to show, how they look like, what they seem like, what they do. And that’s how we incline to look at ourselves too. We understand that we feel, but do we truly understand the nature of our complexity that lies beyond this external skin and bone frame? We may use words to transcend the meaning of our entity. We’d like to think that we are just the way we portray ourselves to be. But often, they may fail to do justice. We may be quite far from what we believe is the existential truth. We long for others to understand us. We try so hard to keep up to that composed, well put exterior, that we forget this nexus that we encompass. 

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Consistency is important. It’s beautiful to be able to tie ourselves to a pattern that helps us balance ourselves. To stick to plans and keep our executive functioning in check. But to stay rigid in that consistency, with the fear of losing who we are when we try something out of that edifice, can lead to us being the dreaded hamster on a wheel that we strive to run away from. It’s essential to some of us to have a routine, to build on strengths and recognize what stands important. But the moment absolutism is brought into the picture, hardening that method as the be all and end all of what we are, it leaves us devoid of anything new to learn from. 

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We crave for safety. It is having that recognition of one self that makes us feel like we do know ourselves. To have that sense of security to function and live. Having that shaken off of us in the slightest can feel like we’re stripped off of our protection. It brings us to places of vulnerability, where we feel lost, confused and sometimes, alone. We’re left not knowing what to do or how to form parts of ourselves, or return to parts that we so skillfully shut off and kept so far away. 

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Exploring is fascinating, but it’s equally challenging. It’s a medley of risk and purity. Taking that path of discovering and being involved in its paving includes letting parts of ourselves go, and inviting new ones in. To believe that we are ever-metamorphosing, with parts of us blooming, parts of us wilting, and parts that stay stagnant all that once is true, but is hard to digest. Because we’ve been told to have a firm identity, a set of what makes us, a category to put ourselves under and to have that speak on our behalf is the norm. It’s the norm to stagnate, and thrive in that stagnation. To not take a tour of ourselves because that’s juvenile. 

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It’s jarring to pressurize ourselves with one beaten path and not let ourselves experiment with the surfeit possibilities of being. We batter and criticize ourselves when we do something that’s “unlike” us, instead of merely being curious as to why we did something of that sort. Not only does that have the potential to lead to lack of growth and exploration, we may also become victims to self-abuse. In order to receive unlikely behaviours and modes of experimentation requires conscious efforts. We are evolving, adapting and learning as every moment in our life passes by. We are a cluster of frequencies at different wavelengths, influenced by anything we come across. 

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We are in passive denial of the infinite dimensions we have to us. To be here, has taken experiments, experiences and several thought processes. So much of falling, so much of dragging and so much of picking up. Reading this article and understanding it took years of practice and learning. It took years of wiggly letters to sink into our brains and enable us to comprehend the pattern of language. To turn the knowledge of words into an article, a poem, or to communicate was all a result of putting ourselves out to experiment with the foundations of language. So imagine only having to stick to language for speaking and nothing else. Poetry would’ve never come to life. Styles of writing would only be a forlorn idea that was never put to the test. The lack of openness to play with what-ifs can curb our capacity to discover ourselves. And personalities are a lot more complex than languages. Imagine having to curb that solely because we feel safe in what you’ve built. To not take the risk of uncertain outcomes is safer, but less burgeoning. 

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This does not mean that we break free from all of what we are and quickly shift to this transcendent journey of life, but to simply look at places where we’ve halted from going further. To question the motives behind that stop and look for possibilities to work with it differently. Boundaries are key in such processes and so is patience. But most of all, to surrender to that discovery. To trust-fall into ourselves and find ourselves catching us. That’s where it’s tender. That’s where it’s safe. That’s the ebb and flux of what we are.

To completely experience ourselves, we must at least, be willing to explore.

What parts of you are untouched? 

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To make this beautiful piece come to life, we collaborated with Kaiya DeBoers, a fascinating artist who painted on Mika Bülow, who depicted every part of this idea wonderfully. 

Special thanks to Ethan J Wright, for capturing the essence of this piece

ACES

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Idiosyncrasy is the new black. Our sense of dynamism as a species has shifted from survival to collective change to individual, personal uniqueness. Things that make us stand out are now looked at more closely. More softly. Nuances of what distinguish us; our personalities, our styles, the things we do, our way of life – are now explored more comprehensively, with our knowledge broadening by acknowledging truths and putting actual, conscious efforts to understand them. 

To not fit into a crowd makes you the crowd

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We understand one-size does not fit all, that a certain career isn’t for everybody, and that our perceptions are subjective. Emotions are now valid and feelings are finally being felt. Mental health is an uprising theme; pushing us to learn more about ourselves through self-love, self-care, empathy and of course – boundaries. This retreat to compassion as a generation has been in full force and we are beginning to understand that our differences are imperative to our development. 

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Amongst all of these discoveries, we’ve been particularly fond of one characteristic – sexual pleasure. A recurring theme that fits into any genre. Be it sorrow, happiness, love, art, biology, or dry humour. The possibilities with love making has always been an overabundant flow.

Sex is glorified. The shame that it was so strongly associated with is wearing thin. It’s no longer something we’re hush-hush about. We profusely rave about it’s significance in our lives. To the point where we’ve begun to merge our differences with the expression of our sexual identities. And with the help of the internet, have successfully managed to channel its awareness all over the world. We are now cognizant of its complexity, its diversity and its fluidity. Sex is an evergreen, inflammable subject that we never seem to get tired of. The pursuit of romance is tightly woven to sex. And the quest to sexual desire has been a phenomenal journey for us as a generation. From secretive kisses snapped on a camera at a concert in the 80’s to now witnessing palpable scenarios of diverse sexualities in our day-to-day life, the outlook of sexuality has broadened to such a massive degree. The world now knows that it’s more than just the binary. There’s the grey, the brown, and the colourful. It’s celebrated, loved and is slowly being welcomed.

(We acknowledge that the hardships these communities face still persist. Through this article, we’re acknowledging the progress of the several identities belonging to the LGBTIQA+ community.)

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Romance. The monumental movement that brought a spring in the steps of a human life. An integral part of so many of our lives. Brought to us through an entire era dedicated to its emergence. And it’s beautiful. It’s dreamy, powerful, soft and hard; juxtaposed but with such simple answers to complex questions. Love is magical. And with this brimming, innocent passion, we created a seal to complete this amorous experience. Sex. The act of immense pleasure. An act of creation and of love. Rightly so. Sex is an avid, intense act that involves movement, presence, mind, body and sometimes, soul. 

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But just like everything romanticizing brings, there lies the reality of it that tags along, unnoticed. A side that is rarely gazed upon and quickly dismissed. The idea to not want to engage in sexual acts. And this antonym is completely disregarded. It’s not normal. It’s a phase. It’s you missing out on so much of the human experience. It’s unhealthy. 

Why would you not want to do something this good?

Too add to the prejudice and pressure, there’s abandonment. There can’t be acceptance when there’s no recognition. And there’s no recognition when there’s no belief in the existence of something. 

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Who would give a damn anyway? When there’s so much of excitement and togetherness in romantic endeavours, in discussing who smooched who, who banged who, giggling about love making, and normalising sex as a way of life that humans have to experience, especially when in love, who cares about  sexual desire not being felt all the time, or at all? The absence is hardly ever recognized when everyone is so absorbed in its presence. Or are at least, striving for that goal – even when we don’t feel it because that is what we’re told to do. We’re told that we’re biologically designed to have sex and must do it the most erotic way possible reaching the ultimate objective of the act – immense sexual pleasure. 

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For some, sex is what they identify and express themselves by. Sex can be truly transformative and enlightening for some. But when we stick to that view as the only perspective – we curb the possibilities that lie beyond that. Our brains were evolved to create abstract thought, to have preferences, to use thought to understand what we feel. There are no dimensions to this. Yes, we’re designed with the capacity to engage in sexual intercourse. To make babies, to care for them, and beyond. But capacity does not equate to want. If we went about thinking everyone blooms with sexual pleasure and the need to have sex, that equates it to everyone having babies after every sexual act as the norm. Why don’t we stick to that? How do we suddenly have preferences of when and where we want a baby? Or if we ever want one at all? It’s because we are also designed with the capacity to expand our thinking. To have babies when and where we want to. To feel and to not feel. To have preferences. To not engage in sexual activity when we don’t want to. To engage in it when we feel emotion only. To engage in it casually. Or to not engage in it at all. Having a reproductive organ doesn’t indicate the obligation to engage in anything. We are allowed to do what we want to do with it. 

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This may be shocking, to come across circumstances where sex isn’t present. How can one experience a true relationship when there’s no sex involved? 

How about this – there is no definition to a true relationship. The way one considers a relationship to be varies to a much larger extent in comparison to what it would be to someone else. Factors like sex and romance are not paired and fixed in many relationships. Sometimes, they don’t come paired together. Sometimes, they can both be deal-breakers. What we’re trying to reiterate is that they don’t have to be the focus. That the issue lies in the lack of recognition due to us being completely transfixed with the idea of sexual-romantic relationships as the only form of a relationship. 

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And that’s what happens when we are fixated to one idea, one form of living; we automatically dismiss the rest. We dismiss what’s out of the box because to survive, requires us to live collectively, which we believe requires commonalities. The stereotypes we are so immersed in come from a place of wanting to connect. We are delicate, emotive beings who want to feel loved and belonged. It’s that want paired with abstract, collective ideas that we fall prey to. And lucky are we if the pieces fit this rigid puzzle. 

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The good news is that we don’t have to fit into this puzzle. To live collectively doesn’t require having core common interests. It requires thoughtfulness. To be able to empathize and understand that differences exist. To know that we have the magnitude to accommodate these differences. Along with learning acceptance, we must simultaneously learn how to build a world that can embrace the idea of innumerable ways to live life, and to do so collectively. To understand that as humans, we are varied in thought, and have so much to offer to this world through a simple deed – connection. 

Asexuality exists. We just never looked. And now we see. It always has been.