An Open Studio Flow participant typing their reflection
“This next piece is called Questa dolce sirena,” musician-in-residence Annette Bauer shares at Sitka’s recent Open Studio. “Performing a piece inspired by mythical water creatures in the presence of Naoe’s Flow feels special… There are a lot of fa-la-las in the piece, but I suspect the Italian sirens in the original lyrics had more to say."
The studio wall also has a lot to say. It is filled with a river-like shape made of hand-typed reflections on the question, “What is your relationship with water?” In Flow, participants are invited to type their reflections using a manual typewriter and then add their piece onto the wall in reciprocal exchange for someone else’s reflection to take as a keepsake.
“The idea for Flow came when I was swimming in Eagle Lake,” Naoe shares after Annette’s recital. “I was thinking about pollution and the environment, and about profit-driven relationships with water and natural resources versus a reciprocal one. Reciprocity is important.”
After the concert, I sit down at the manual typewriter and a sense of intentionality takes hold. Writing is a daily part of my life. Word processing on a laptop means I can move ideas around on the page and change my mind. This is different. This is no going back writing.
I advance the carriage using the spacebar until the guide nears the center of the tea-stained paper that Naoe has made. Inspired by Annette’s dexterity on the recorder, the pinky I broke a decade ago stretches out to find the shift key and holds it down firmly, as if all of the physical therapy exercises it performed on our behalf after the accident were in preparation for this moment.
With my right index finger, I press straight down on the letter, T. In a blur, the energy from my finger transfers through the key to the typebar and strikes the paper with a clack.
The typewriter is old and quirky, double-advancing sometimes and blurring some of the letters. This is frustrating at first, but then quickly becomes collaborative and freeing. With each clack, there is a sense of surprise to discover exactly where each letter lands.
Slowly, the typewriter and I make a shape poem together, inspired by Annette’s sirena and my four-year-old career ambition to be a mermaid and live in a light house. When we finish and study our creation, I am not sure which choices are mine and which are the typewriter’s.
“Lichen make us question where one organism ends and another begins,” writer-in-residence Zeyn Joukhadar shares later in the Open Studio, explaining how the mutualistic relationship between a fungi and photosynthetic organisms is inspiring his latest sci-fi novel-in-progress. The excerpt he reads is from the first draft. “I just finished it while I was here at Sitka, so no one has heard it. This is the first time I’m reading from it.” There is a sense of joyful connection in the room as Zeyn reads his words aloud and we receive them.
Sitka writers-in-residence Morgan Thomas and Zehn Joukhadar read from recent work at the Open Studio.
On the Flow wall, I swap my message in a bottle for a reflection by Becky, written on October 29, 2015:
“I am a mermaid
I am a unicorn
I am the water”
“This is perfect,” Naoe beams after I make my choice. “Becky was a five-year-old girl when she wrote this, so you see, everything is in flow.”
This week, Sitka’s open call for the 2023-2024 residency season closed, and now the inspiring process of reviewing applications begins. Past residents will serve on our Artistic Advisory Council and reciprocally help shape the next cohort of writers, musicians, visual artists, ecologists and interdisciplinary creatives who will come and stay at Sitka.
With gratitude for the ever-growing community of creatives who work and collaborate in residence and take us inside their work, and with anticipation for those who will continue this flow in the fall,