By Aden Suchak
Aden Suchak is an Alliance Youth Media Fellow
I recently picked up Adrienne Marie Brown’s Emergent Strategies. In it, Brown describes a way of thinking and organizing that she calls fractal. A fractal is “a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole.” Brown discusses the word in context of organizing, and she asserts, “How we are at the small scale is how we are at the large scale.”
She sees that democracy in the United States is too similar at the small (local) as at the large (state, federal) levels. This specific analysis leads Brown to discuss ways that organizations can organize using practices that reflect their stated values, initiating a “transformation from good intentions to good practice.”
This idea of a fractal fascinates me, particularly when I begin looking for fractals in my life, examples of things co-existing and interacting, influencing one another at different scales. For me, that’s why I titled this piece Transition.
Transition is something I hold dear to me. I’ve always been interested in the future, specifically my future and the ways I will be different, look different, think different, feel different. As an example, transitioning from adolescence to adulthood is a relatively recent thing for me. I’m 21 and in my creative and professional spaces I’ve often been surrounded by people mostly older and wiser than me. As opposed to stunting my growth or making me always feel childish in my day to day interactions, these relationships make me constantly and consistently hungry and eager to take my next steps. In many ways, I just want to be as old as them. I also want to be given the responsibilities that come with being in that space.
And now I’m asking, “What is YOUR key component of personal transition?”
Organizational foundation and community support is what comes to my mind first. The two main sources of my community in the past three years are integral parts of my adult transition. The first is Youth FX an organization that I have had the privilege of being a part of since I was twelve. The founder, Bhawin Suchak, also happens to be my dad.
Since it began I have had access to that space and community. Youth FX has always been a space I feel comfortable creating in. It’s always been familiar, and it’s always been a safe space. Youth FX is an example of an organization that puts good practice first. The first iteration of Youth FX came in the form of a hands-on, four week summer workshop where students actually made a short film. The organization has been committed to providing free film education and safe space to young people from the South End of Albany since its inception. Consistent practice of its core values has led it upwards and enabled that community to grow and expand as its members grew themselves.
The second organization is The Alliance for Media Arts and Culture. The Alliance represents an organization and community that required me to break out of my comfort zone to join and become a member. I became aware of the Alliance’s The Issue a few years ago while still in school and decided to submit a piece I had written in a creative writing class to its first iteration, The Special Issue with Youth Media Reporter in 2017. To my surprise, I was selected, and my piece, “The Story of Taylor”, was published. An even greater surprise greeted me in a Spring 2018 email from Myah Overstreet and Jason Wyman, Editor in Chief and Creative Director of The Issue respectively, asking if I would want to be a guest editor on the next The Issue. I accepted.
Fast forward to now and I am fully ingrained with The Alliance and The Issue, in particular. All from 3,000 miles away! The action demonstrated by The Alliance to form long distance healthy work partnerships is a key reason for my growth over the past few years. Thus proving, at least in my life, that action-based support from communities regardless of where they are located can have a huge impact.
To the above stated end, I am presenting the next part of this document as a living breathing example of the ways I have grown in the past year artistically. Its purpose is both to share and to reflect. I think the sharing part is important as a way to introduce myself as both an artist and as a person. The piece, “Happy Together” was initially shared in January 2019 on Cassandra Pintro, a new online magazine. And I’ve added in reflection, which gives this piece additional usefulness. Through the process of presenting this art and reflecting on how it came to be, I will inevitably learn something new about it.
Through these two modes, I hope to prove something about fractals and the ways in which being involved in the right kind of organizations or communities through transitions translates directly into growth as an artist and person.
“Reflecting on Happy Together”
“Happy Together” is a piece revealed to me during a moment of deep personal reflection sometime last summer. It was a time of intense transition and mental instability for me. I was facing a workload of 21 undergrad credits in the fall within the space of five months. I was also facing the fact that I was taking on this workload as a way to graduate early, to speed up the process of my transition from “structured” education to the “real” world.
This created some inner tension. I spent time trying to avoid thinking about it. I spent time letting it get me down. I spent time being uplifted by the idea of extra flexibility in life. I spent time on it. A lot of time.
It was also a time where I was transitioning into a larger role in my communities. I became the Director of Education at Youth FX in January and also became an Alliance Fellow around the same time. This heightened responsibility contributed to the stress and the excitement. After a period of thinking about it and letting it be, the pressure and newfound freedom granted by my transition resulted in this piece.
These images are inspired by a number of ideas, pieces of art and emotions. They are an amalgamation of my thoughts and my vision for the future for young men like me in this country. The primary inspiration for this piece is derived from Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai’s 1997 Happy Together, a film about two men in a foreign country with only each other to relate to. The film explores their intimacy, their love and specifically their insecurities. This film, in many ways, illustrated the varied ways in which masculinity manifests itself within us.
Exercising masculinity or being “masculine” is both a place of pride and a coping mechanism for many young South Asian men in particular. Conversely, our masculinity is intrinsically tied to our identity and how we were raised. Sometimes this is a burden. We feel the constant need to affirm our masculine selves, especially in the face of stereotypes about South Asian men that paint us as sexually inadequate or physically weak.
Persona by Ingmar Bergman is another huge influence on the way I am attempting to meld and fuse ideas and images to create a visual that includes elements of masculinity, femininity and things in between. I wanted to heavily emphasize calmness, movement, and assuredness. I also did not want to over-feminize the images, the masculine elements are meant to meld with what can be perceived as more traditionally “feminine” posing to create a new image, a new idea of these men.
I want the images to represent a rebuttal or complication of some of the stereotypes and concepts America has placed upon young South Asian men. For me, the process is everything and these images and words are not complete. I hope to revisit them in the future and use them to reflect on my growth as an artist.
To see the image set in full click here.