A Creation Story for the Present

Ariel Dong

The question I wished to tackle through a series of drawings that tell a new creation story, one that is present in all cycles of time and synthesises the creation stories we have read in this class, is what it means to create a sense of belonging, purpose and place-ness in the age of the Anthropocene.

I have been intrigued by the many creation stories we have read throughout the course, ranging from real world to fictional ones, worlds that begin with sin and recovery, while others begin with co-creation and life, and how these stories can be meaningful channels to re-examine our sense of place within the world, our cosmologies, morality and humanity. I’m also enchanted by the many poetic and incredibly vibrant images that these stories paint.
Simultaneously, we have also struggled deeply with what we could do about the age we live in, and our very lack of purpose and place-ness within this world. Should we create new stories for the present? Do these past stories still apply to such a vastly transformed world? Do I write an individual story for myself to reinvent my being in this world, or could I tell a story of my family? Or could we write collective stories?

We have talked about the failure of imagination in the way we have written stories about the future, one that is often realistic but bleak. What if we saw the coming tide as a creation story, a place where meaning is birthed, rather than one where meaning is destroyed? (What if it is both?) I often wonder if the Earth is rebirthing itself. These are questions I attempted to tackle as I write and draw a new story that emerges at the edge of a dull extinction. I wish for it to be story that encompasses practices of ceremony and grieving, and most importantly give myself a sense of purpose that allows me to see the most of my life in this moment…

Speaking of creation stories, my most potent memories were those of early 60s Chinese animations of the Monkey King and Nezha, as seen through the TV screen dapped with vibrant colours of myth and rhythmic lines of movement. It was enchanting, near yet distant, mythological and almost real to the mind of a child. In my own drawings, the same mythological aesthetic seeps through subconsciously, like a psychological enchantment of creation. Sometimes they remind me of the work a child might draw, and I deeply enjoyed the moments of pain and joy that co-exist with the images. While the colours I use seem surreal and magical, they are also uncanny to real life. Dark pink skies, neon orange fires, plants that cry with blood, and roots spreading into a dark green forest floor. To recognise where we are is also to recognise the terrifying and uncanny. Yet it is also strangely intriguing, fascinating, even beautiful. I hope to capture the duality of life and death in all these pieces. It is not all dark, it never is - unless we choose to see only with human eyes.

In many ways, I consider this project an incomplete and unresolved art piece. Stories will unravel through time, and so will the drawings and the way they are presented. Currently I have five panels of drawings, each panel telling a separate yet interconnected story told in order of placement but not chronologically in time. Each story is influenced by images, atmospheres, and metaphors that we read in class. They are also influenced deeply by the sensations and emotions I felt when I reflect upon what I learned, as I step into the neighbourhood garden to feel soil and roots beneath bare feet. I invite you to imagine what it seeks to tell, or what you feel upon closer looks. For every person it would be different. The first three panels focuses on the task of recognition and remembrance, from remembering the life force of nature, to forgotten ecological memories, and being naturalised to place. The following panel demands us to take action - asking forgiveness from the plants, restoring the honourable harvest, and even considering the act of human sacrifice as an act of life. The last panel seeks to understand what Time is in the age of the Anthropocene, as evolutionary time is also intimate time, the time of becoming. Every person alone can personally influence 250 years (2 generations before us and after us) of life. How do we carry forth our stories, our love, our resilience? How do we become more human and not less human in the future?