iris yirei hu

Survival Guide: joy

January 14 - March 4, 2017

Dear Reader,

There is a gradual fall in the sky when the moon rises and the sun sets. I keep multiples of the last image my spirit sister sent me of the California desert on my phone. Her image made me miss home so deeply. I love the way the azure of the sky sits on the gravity of Los Angeles’ lazy pink haze, its weight barely floating above a low ultramarine enveloping the fervor of our mother mountains.

My body drifted into the California desert on the first day of the new solar year. It gave me the quiet to feel her.

I keep shuffling through the last texts and images she sent me on the final day of April. My grandmother began her eternal sleep the April two years before. I started painting things around her house to slow time; I trusted that our souls met in images. Now I think that of my spirit sister, emi, too.

I’m not sure where she is now, but I’ve been making portals where our higher spirits meet when we sleep. In our sleep, we sing. It sounds like the brush of her skin against mine, the flutter of our eyes when they meet, the pitch of our voices reverberating in space, the dissonance of our words. Our song caresses the soil to make the matter between us evaporate. Can you hear this? It’s meant to be heard in our refuge.

Sister lover, the water has evaporated into thin air, and left me with a drought of unfamiliar stasis. I wish I could protect you, and hold your head against my chest. But I’m realizing now that it is no longer “I,” that the eternal breath of the earth is embracing both of us with a loving silence.

I like listening to the silence. I want to propose that silence is a refuge of potential built for learning, strategizing, and assembling with love and song. In our shelter, deep listening becomes one of the necessary modes of survival, an active ingredient of empathy. I have been making a body of images that honors a life cut short, but one that also taught me how to make life with others through shared stories bound by love and fury, care and vigilance. This life moves out of a generative and cooperative “we,” united through our difference, agile enough to pivot in surprising directions, weaving between you and me, our family, our clan, our land, and the Great Spirit. Here, our motivation is emancipatory joy. In the words of emi: “so here I am inviting you in.”


In loving memory of emi kuriyama, the rabbit in our moon.

iris yirei hu (b. 1991/Los Angeles, CA). She lives and works in both Los Angeles and New York City. She is a 2017 MFA Candidate at Columbia University.