In Low Winds, These Vortices Cancel each other out.



An earlier form of this work came from a short poem, which was quickly written beforehand. The original idea was to explore the situation in which one was asked to be honest.

The child's play, a reckoning of the day,
makes things detestable.
The rain the wind adsorption,
endless vibration. I walk
with clean steps.
Honesty, giant saxophone, and wheat
become some kind of
filler, what under grains were killed?

facing the
A piece of flint
still burning alone.

I discussed it with poet and artist Kirsten Norrie. As my first reader of this poem, she said: “I know, I really know what you're talking about, it's about oppression.” Kirsten is right. Even though I didn't think it would be about oppression before, she's right.

“You didn't answer the question. You became the question itself,” she said.

The answer became the question or the unanswered question, and the answer became the fire of nonexistence, the burning of the impossible.

When I wrote this poem in 2020, I was on the highway back to my hometown from Beijing. My father came to pick me up. Once in a while, when I wasn't sleeping, Dad and I would have a chat on the road.

It was overcast with light rain. We talked about Granny's healthy condition. Dad said it wasn't so good this time. We both were silent for a while.
Halfway through, we suddenly saw a light in the distance. It wasn't the first time we saw fire on the highway. If someone throws cigarette butts away, when the wind blows, the weeds nearby would burn up. I didn't usually care about how those burning weeds are finally put out, but this time it was different. First, it was a rainy day. Second, what was burning wasn't weeds, but a car.

The car was burning alone quietly, and there was no one around it. Dad and I were in sync, unconsciously holding our breath.

From the perspective of the burn patterns on the car’s body, it had burned for a quite long while. There were no people in it, no traces of accident, it seemed like someone had abandoned it on the side of the road. It was parked in the emergency lane, carefully, with a door missing. Maybe it was towed there after an accident, but why they just left it on the side of the road, but instead of dealing with it?

I didn't know how should I feel about this car, or if I should care about it, because it seemed to be dangerous. It hinted that there might have been an accident earlier, but at the same time, it looked like something permitted, neatly placed on the side of the road, as if it was determined to be abandoned.

Dad was silent, and for a moment we didn't say anything. It was a dim moment for us, facing a car that wasn't in our experience, which wasn't in a condition that our natural experience could describe.

At the same time, I kept thinking about Kundera's ‘highway’. I had read Milan Kundera's Immortality in March 2020, and felt trapped with it ever since. My poem can be seen as delayed feedback. In Immortality, Kundera talks about the natural road versus the modern highway:

Road: a strip of ground over which one walks. A highway differs from a road not only because it is solely intended for vehicles, but also because it is merely a line that connects one point with another. A highway has no meaning in itself; its meaning derives entirely from the two points that it connects. A road is a tribute to space. Every stretch of road has meaning in itself and invites us to stop. A highway is the triumphant devaluation of space, which thanks to it has been reduced to a mere obstacle to human movement and a waste of time.

The main character, Agnes, escaped from the utterly modern highway to the path, and met her death. Escaped from absolute modernity, from self, from the fight of immortality, and permitted herself to die.

The car looked like an ‘accidental product’ on the highway. Time was misplaced there, the silent and burning vehicle. Its time doesn’t belong to the capital clock time in modern society, cannot be counted. According to Jonathan Martineau: ‘time is a social construct and how we are experiencing time is changing under capitalism. Instead of measuring time through "concrete" processes such as the change of the seasons or the day-night cycle, we have "abstracted" time to that of the clock - minutes, hours etc.’ Modern time; the time from the past to the future, which can be counted, from point to point, just like a highway, rather than a road.

On that highway, what attracted me was the premeditated light. It was not a destructive light that hinted at danger, but a light that kept burning for itself alone. I wrote that poem during the rest of the journey.

It was about two weeks after the written poem. We got the news of Grandma's death. The moment I saw her, I didn't say anything. Should I cry? Or shouldn't I. Should I say something? Or shouldn't I. I felt a calmness in her face, which had a soft, marble-like sheen, and I felt ashamed of my analogy. No, I shouldn’t think like that.

“You could call her,” my mother said to me. I couldn’t. I choked, and the feeling of choking continued. At funerals, it is traditional to perform a heart-wrenching cry. That was what they did at my grandfather's funeral. The same as then, I couldn't cry, even though I had a very good relationship with my grandfather. When he lost consciousness, they said, "Call your Grandpa.” I couldn’t.

Finally, my lips moved, but I didn't say anything.

What should I say? Nobody had taught me that before. In the face of unspeakable things, the only way is to remain silent. Not to think, not to say. Silence is the supreme virtue.

What the most abused in civilization know is the barbarity of speech and the neglect of silence. In Toward Some Air, Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm discusses silence as a form of resistance. Failure to understand and ‘read’ silence is the cause of a great deal of misunderstanding, conflict, frustration, and exploitation. It is a form of dominance and fear-based aggression that is perpetuated against Others. At this point, to remain silent is to acknowledge the injury. As a kind of retreat, it acquiesces to the ineffectiveness of discourse and hides as the subject of discourse.


‘The power of the journalist is not based on his right to ask but on his right to demand an answer.’ In the ignoring of silence, do the people who are alive define the dead, regardless of their will? The living define the image of the dead. “We” define “others”, presence defines absence.

In Immortality, with silence, as the forced and exploited party in the struggle of discourse, Agnes went to her death. It was her way of rebelling against everything that was imposed on her, by not fighting in the way they fought. But was there any way to keep Agnes from dying? In such a situation, is running away from everything the only way?

In the novel, Kundera writes about the differences between the main character, Agnes, and her sister Laura: 

There are two methods for cultivating the uniqueness of the self: the method of addition and the method of subtraction. Agnes subtracts from her self everything that is exterior and borrowed, in order to come closer to her sheer essence (even with the risk that zero lurks at the bottom of the subtraction). Laura's method is precisely the opposite: in order to make her self ever more visible, perceivable, seizable, sizeable, she keeps adding to it more and more attributes and she attempts to identify herself with them (with the risk that the essence of the self may be buried by the additional attributes).

This duality is reflected in all their actions, including language, or speech as action. In the fight, Agnes is always the one who keeps silent. This is not only their speech behaviour, but also the support of their existence, the metaphor of existence. In the fight for her existence, Agnes gave up all her territories. In turn, others – her husband, her sister – get what she left of her self in the world. This also means the self has to fight for territory not only in itself, but also in others.

Agnes, by the complete surrender of the right as the subject of the ego, by a complete renunciation, admits everything to her: admits harm, renounces war, and leaves the battlefield of discourse. The fight could be seen as the denial of death, the attempt to achieve immortality, to occupy a future time. But silence is the admission of mortality.

Agnes’s silence is the admission of mortality.

If, when I talk about myself, I find that I have nothing to say, because I ‘subtract’ everything. When I talk about myself, I am all that I can't talk about. I identify myself by what I cannot do, by what I am not, rather than by what I can do, and by what I am. So in the end, the only thing I could recognize was ‘no’. So in the continuous reduction of self, I feel a kind of inertia that will disappear me from the world. So back to the question, is there any way to keep Agnes from dying?

I started with silence because of its solid quality. Silence is a determination not to define. As Ludwig Wittgenstein said: ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’ This means if one wants to speak something that cannot speak, or be spoken, then it will be fruitless. So, Agnes didn’t say anything anymore. Her death was an irretrievable silence.

If people speak as if they possess, should those who have no owners be silent, disappear in the world full of words?

Silence can mean not speaking, but it can also mean struggling and refusing to speak. In silence, the closure of meaning can be not only passively imposed, but also actively chosen by the silent subject. Its political nature is not only reflected in the attitude of an active subject towards the silent person, but also the determination of silence as an active subject. It is no longer just a passive being waiting to be understood; it is actively rejecting that.

These objects together form a wall of silence with pores, blocking something from acting on it, blocking language from acting on silence. So for the audience, what happens to us when we bump into a wall of silence and try to have some interactions with it? We feel the failure of trying to explain, the failure of trying to say, and then the feeling of being blocked. Thus stuttering is born from the recognition of the silent thing, so to speak. It is language that has encountered a ‘barrier’, a kind of obstruction.

Language hits a wall of silence and tries to get feedback. At such moments, I felt a stutter, even though I had no obvious stutter by any pathological definition. My mouth, my tongue feels that it has something to say, the muscles in my mouth contract; for me, stuttering is both the preparatory stage and the result of silence. Stuttering, because I want to say something that should be silent. The difference between me and a stutterer is that when I feel the stutter, I don't speak. The stutter exists before my speech.


1.    to have difficulty speaking because you cannot stop yourself from repeating the first sound of some words several times
2.    to move or start with difficulty, making short sharp noises or movements
– Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

Basically, stutter is used to describe a state of being stuck, or hard to move.

Stuttering is ‘first and foremost an acoustic phenomenon, a series of interrupted sounds and silences that can exist only for short, fleeting moments’. According to Lisa Iverach and Ronald M.Rapee, the stutter is ‘a speech disorder characterised by involuntary disruptions to speech which impede the capacity to communicate effectively’. In Stutter, Marc Shell mentions that Stuttering involves the mental and physical inescapable ways in which humans make sounds. At the same time, it deals with those questions which are unspoken or can’t be spoken.

For stutterers, the problem is often that they focus too much on their stuttering. According to Dr. S. Loew:

The stutterer’s way of thinking about his language (and in general, we would add, the way anyone affected by defects in pronunciation thinks about his language) differs remarkably from that of a healthy person. While the latter has no interest in his speech, the stutterer accords to his own speech an extraordinary and morbid degree of attention. He prepares himself in advance for every conversation; he dreads the pronunciation of certain words. He feels obsessed by these words, by these letters, even in his dreams.

It is an image stuck in the crack of its infinite loop. According to Shell, stuttering ‘is not just the tongue that is twisted for the stammerer. The voice of the stammerer is imagined as twisted, tangled, contorted, a body closed in or folded over on itself.’ A stutterer is both a cause and a result of his own stuttering. He represents a special knot between the subject of speech and speech itself. Stuttering for us is more like a complex puzzle that is hard to grasp, a jumble of physical, mental, and verbal knots.

A struggle image, which is stuck, trapped, unable to move, appears repeatedly in my works. In my recent work made for a group online show at Freud Museum London, ‘I Object’, I explored the puzzle's dependence on itself as a knot; a puzzle exists because it is unsolved. Just as the stuttering and the stutterer shape each other, in the formation of the knot, the subject and the object are confused. Blurring the opposite duality of subject and object in the traditional notion, the boundary disappears, they resist each other, but they also generate each other, or in other words, they are an integral whole and cannot be separated initially.

Knit into a mass, dissolving each other in opposition, becomes a kind of mixed vomit. It is the crux of stagnation, a place where fluency is lost – a knot. Knots are generated in resistance; just as a labyrinth is generated with those who are lost in, a knot is generated with those who are struggling in it. Just as Slavoj Žizek said: ‘Subject and object are thus not simply external: the object is not the external limit with regard to which the subject defines its self-identity, it is ex-timate with regard to the subject, it is its internal limit - that is, the bar which itself prevents the subject's full realization. ‘ The obstacle to the subject, the thing which prevents the subject from being fully realized, is itself as an object, at the same time.

I am trapped, but what trapped me is myself. Between speech and silence, language moves from the speaker to the listener. In the silence, it is the bearing of language. The direction of stuttering is not imposed on another object, but towards itself.

In ‘He stuttered’, Gilles Deleuze writes: ‘When a language is so strained that it starts to stutter, or to murmur or stammer. then language in its entirety reaches the limit that marks its outside and makes it confront silence. When a language is strained in this way, language in its entirety is submitted to pressure that makes it fall silent.’ The stutter is all the silence suspended over words: the voice at the limit.

Silence, because it knows the pain of words , chooses not to say. What about the stutter? Stuttering is an attempt to speak after acknowledging this is invalid. Stutter and silence, both of them confront the limitations of discourse. Because the silence overhangs my words, it leads to my over-awareness of stuttering. This is the voice in the limit; it exists between speaking or not speaking. It is both the conscious awareness that it has nothing to say, and the unconscious awareness that asks for a voice.

In Beyond Words, Steven Connor states: ‘Iconicity is often taken as a proof of the immediate relation between language and the world. My argument is meant to be a reproof to that idea. I think that iconicity occurs via a sort of traumatic, though entirely painless knot, in which language must transact with the fact of its own pure noisiness or vacancy.’ In this sense, this entangled and complex relationship makes stuttering not only a physiological or psychological disease, but also a kind of ‘iconicity’. A knot formed in resistance, representing the special barrier between the subject of speech and the speech itself, is language at the limit, bearing all the weight of silence. And it exists between saying and not saying.

Even now, the stutter is squeezing my throat, making me a sound machine. As for what I am going to say, I still know nothing about it.

This work based on research about “stutter and silence”. Discussed about the language in limit, relations of imagination and action, powers and resistance, and uncertainty and impossibility. The limit of language is the state of language that is about to overflow, the attempt of language to grasp what cannot be said. Silence, knowing the pain of speech, chooses not to speak. What about stuttering? Stuttering is an attempt to acknowledge the futility of speech. Stuttering and silence, they both confront the limitations of discourse. The subject who stutters becomes a symptom that opens the door to the world of possibilities through the recognition of the impossible, the unspeakable becomes speakable through the unspeakable, it becomes an opening of noise and exists between speaking and unspeaking.

该作品基于对“口吃与沉默”的研究,探讨极限处的语言,是一个关于想象与行动,力量与抵抗,不确定性和不可能性的研究。语言的极限,就是说语言呈现某种将要溢出的状态,是语言试图把握不能说之事。沉默,因为知道言语的痛苦, 所以选择不说。那么口吃呢?口吃是在承认说话无效之后的一种尝试。口吃与沉默,他们都在面对话语的局限性。口吃的主体通过对不可能之物的识别,成为一个症候,打开了可能性世界的大门,不能说的事物,通过不能说,而变的可说,从而成为一种噪音的开启,并且存在于说和不说之间。

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