Monthly Archives: September 2019

Burn Down The King’s Castle

Alchemical Bride 30 (Abigail Adams)

The last time I team-taught the Coordinated Studies class, The Power of Myth, I had a series of Big Dreams such as those that Carl Jung described in his writings. I was reading his autobiography, and studying the Red Book. I would teach during the day, and after grading and reading, was working on 50-foot long drawings until late at night.

I was reading about Chinese Alchemy and acupuncture one Saturday when I fell asleep. I dreamt the image that would become Full Immersion, one of the mural scale drawings from the MetaCorpus series. In my dream I rose out of the water, felt the flooding water recede from my body, which in turn transmuted into mercury.

Genesis, above
Full Immersion, below

It was the weekend, so I went downstairs to my studio upon awakening, only to discover that it had just flooded! We hadn’t had any rain in weeks. Where did the water come from?


I’d been reading about this in mystical alchemical texts: As above so below, as within so without. Jung himself experienced such strange occurrences– the internal life projects outward and manifests in material observable reality. Woo-woo mumbo jumbo. Nonetheless, it happened for real. I had many archetypal dreams during this time of my life, as I was undergoing all kinds of personal transformations.

Some weeks later I had the most memorable dream of all. It unfolded not in the weird spatial and time distortions typical of dreams, but like a neatly edited film. It had a cinematic quality to it, mostly because it was symmetrical, had mirrored language, followed a narrative structure. In fact, when I describe the dream to others, I often call it a film and have to correct myself.

In the dream, I was tagging a castle with red spray paint, and yelling, “Burn the king’s castle!” over and over again, leading a mob carrying pitchforks, spades, guns, not unlike the storming of the Bastille.

detail of Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix

I clambered on top of the castle, where Marcel Duchamp asked me to marry him. I agreed and we flew off together, floating above the melee below.

In the dream, I am back in my studio when a friend comes to visit and asks, “Hey Tati, what’s new.” I tell her I married Duchamp. I say “DiDi and I got married and he lives in the shack.” I am so delighted to take her to meet him. He is spotlit, cutting out tin figures and placing them on a chess-board. We watch this careful orchestration for a bit, when suddenly music plays and we begin to dance. It is a polka and we bounce off of walls, ceilings, floors, in what could be an infinite space even though the actual room is quite small– we’re inside a cardboard box.

One of my alchemical ovens in the studio

When the music stops, DiDi goes back to his work, and I turn to my friend, who is laughing, breathless, and I exclaim, “Isn’t he a riot?” I woke up laughing.

It’s taken so many years for me to understand this Big Dream. It’s come back to me a number of times but has always been undecipherable. I get it now, as it unfolds daily in my studio. I think in some ways, I could never have conceived of the Alchemical Bride series, of storming Picasso’s castle with my Cubism 3.0 if I had set out to do so directly.

‘If I have ever practiced alchemy, it was in the only way it can be done now, that is to say, without knowing it.”- Marcel Duchamp

Flux Year Box 2 by George Maciunas 

Last academic year I went on sabbatical to storm a different castle. A white castle. I set out to film documentaries that shone a light on PoC artists in my community who are making a living in their chosen art profession. They prove that you can have a good life doing what you love right here, in Seattle. Mind you, I’ve never studied film-making. I make films as a part of my interdisciplinary inquiry, like a Fluxus artist more interested in experimentation and experience than product. In this case, I wanted my films to topple the notion that only white European males can make a living in the visual arts. The videos were posted on YouTube and links sent to high schools with the hopes of encouraging the young creative to follow their hearts, and pursue careers in the arts.

I released them in the spring, and this Fall term I am already seeing more brown and black faces in my classrooms. I’m yelling “Burn the king’s castle!” hoping all the emerging talents coming to SCC will kick and stomp and tear down the walls of art’s gated community

Another Bastille– All during 2018 I often wore a beard in the studio, assuming my trans persona, Puer, the Eternal Man Child. I painted a series of landscapes, taking experiential trips to various landscapes using an Aleph (in actuality, my iPhone). I think it interesting that the only time that the city of Seattle has purchased one of my works for their portable art collection, was when I painted as this male persona. Things that make you go Hmmmm.

Puer looking back in the mirror

Puer, is a purely performative persona for me. I am cisgender, and comfortable with my skin. But by wearing a beard, I claimed for myself the privileges awarded only to gendered males. I gave myself permission to play at the easel, without any political agendas. Maybe giving myself that permission was psychological gold for me.

True alchemy, in psychological and philosophical terms constitutes tearing down the conflicting male-female duality, uniting Puer and Puella in the individuated Self, integrating the personality like a symbolic Gnostic Anthropos.

I realize now that DiDi and Tati sound very similar. That the fabulous recurring Big Dream that has always made my pulse quicken and brought laughter to my lips is none other than my feminist art practice. That the Alchemical Bride series is me, tagging the castle, getting ready to checkmate the king.

Marcel Duchamp in his trans persona, Rrose Selavy

I cut out well over 1000 brides for my series, so I think I’ll be playing chess inside my Fluxus cardboard boxes, those little alchemical ovens known as Houses of the Chick. I’ll be dancing off of all those reflections and refractions, brush-stroke by brush-stroke fr some time to come.

Opening at Neplanta Cultural Arts Gallery Tonight

I am so honored to be participating in this interactive installation at Neplanta Cultural Arts Gallery. Sponsored by @la_sala_seattle The Concentration Camp, an interactive exhibition curated by Juan Carlos Ortega is part of the 2019 La Cocinita series sponsored by La Sala. 😍 

Come discover the stories behind the incarceration of undocumented immigrants and the racist policies that target the most vulnerable among us. The opening reception is tonight, September 14, 6-9pm! I can’t be there because we were rear-ended and our car and we shouldn’t be driving it until we get it to the body shop.

The exhibition runs through October 9. 🎞 

Five of my films will be a part of the show, which features written material by Juan Carlos Ortega, sound installations by Camila Jade, and my videos.

This is such an important topic, I hope everyone has a chance to go to Neplanta as participate in this wonderful interactive exhibit!