These yearnings of the exiled souls,
 to which Time shall we send them?

Video and text. 8 mins. 2022

Bo Choy

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Bo’s practice has evolved out of the densely populated cityscape, her experiences are far removed from the untouched shores of Lake Baikal or the vast permafrost expanse beyond. Her video, performance, and sound works have navigated the layered histories and disparate realities of the city, through the poetics of memories and tales and reflections of the past, often knitted together with speculations on the future.

For Dissolving Earths, considering a seemingly drastically different content, she seeks out shared entanglements with the land. Seeped in shared Eastern philosophies and deeper still through ancient ancestries, Bo considers the fragile Buryat landscape alongside Buryat and Chinese mythologies. In the story of Meng Po, the Guardian of Forgetting and the gatekeeper at the Bridge of Reincarnation, souls are fed to the Soup of Oblivion to ensure memories of their past lives are erased. Through poetry, sound, and image, Bo’s project attempts to remember the lives, stories, and emotions lost in time so as to know, understand, and connect:

‘How should one know a faraway land? Socrates believed that all knowledge is a form of remembering, and that each person’s soul, being immortal, knew everything before it was born anew.’

Depicting the imagination of a disappearing land, for Bo this new video work is the result of a generous gift of knowledge, wisdom, and memory exchange: amongst contemporaries, as well as with the shared ancestral foremothers of the region. The precarious permafrost landscape becomes a constellation of the collective memory and the collective unconscious: an umbilical cord of multiple histories, connecting new life to old life, and ripe with future possibilities.

Bo Choy

Bo Choy is a Hong Kong-born, London-based artist who works across film and performance. Using fiction, sound, and writing as narrative devices, her work borrows from Far Eastern folklore traditions, mythologies, and wisdoms to navigate the historical, the socio-political, or simply what it means to be living in a technologically driven world such as ours. Bo also teaches in the BA Fine Art programme at the Chelsea College of Art, University of the Arts London.

These yearnings of the exiled souls,

  to which Time shall we send them?

How do I connect to the land
 when I grew up in the sky?
I traced the steps of my foremothers back
 to the First Mother in Buryatia.
I followed her back to the ancient land some 22,000 years ago
 where the old bones called my name.

Voices resonate in my belly
 under which the chthonic beings lie.
They hide safely in the warmth of my womb
 lighting up the Baikal.
They hide underneath the ground
 where the afterbirths of my forebears lie.

I breathe their blood in the soil
 bathe my skin with their guts.
The old bones speak to me, coo me into oblivion
 — a reason to forget.
Through endless distances named remembrance
 I connect to the land

The mountains below the ground growl.
Mammoths awaken from their ancient dreams
 dreams that have sustained for so long
 the union between the sky and the earth.

They have witnessed, thoughts and feelings
 melting slowly, atop the subterranean frozen peaks.
Streaming down the receding ground
 gathering swamps of emotions.
These yearnings of the exiled souls
 to which Time shall we send them?

Custodians of the present, the mammoths
 command the severance of the ties of eternal redemption
Nymphs shall remain nymphs.
No longer can mayflies reincarnate
 – forever they are
 the red worms in the sun

As above so below. Souls of mayflies queue up at the bridge by Baikal
 to down the Oblivion Soup.
The old bones need you to forget,

Scenes of existences flit past on the frozen lake
 calm as dead sea.
Vapours take up the melted feelings
 molecule by molecule
like mirrored holograms as large as the cosmos
 up to the sky.

* afterbirths — For Buryat people, a child’s afterbirth was buried under the yurt where their parents were camped at the moment of their birth through a special ritual. It establishes an intimate and magical union between the child and the birthplace — a connection that remain throughout life.

* mayfly — In Taoist thought, mayflies are often evoked as a metaphor for the fleeting existences of human life in relation to the entire Cosmo.

* red worms in the sun — according to Buryat shamanistic belief, humans are seen as “red worms of the sunny world” by the spirits from the world of the dead.

* oblivion soup — According to Chinese legends, a soup is served and must be eaten by souls in the spirit world that are queueing to cross the bridge of reincarnation. All memories of the past life will be forgotten once the soup is consumed, the soul is then ready to cross the bridge to be reincarnated.