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Asian Canada in Motion: Cover Artwork  

Sudden Enlightenment

by Annie Wang

I grew up, as do many third culture kids, feeling like an outsider, feeling under-represented. I took that and went with it — Annie the artist was different, was unique. But as a teenager, I learned that I was perfectly average — Han Chinese were the most common ethnic group in the world, and I was exactly the average height of women within this group. As you can imagine, I was quite upset.
Even later, I learned that in collectivist cultures there was less emphasis put on originality. It helped me. These images are a series of instances of Asian origin which somehow subvert the notion of “original = good, copying = bad”.
1. VCDs were the only way I had access to many forms of media as a child. We’d go to China and bring back   folders and folders of them. Before the internet, it was the only way I’d get my Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese dramas.
2. The story of Huineng, a follower of Chan Buddhism, who reached enlightenment through repeatedly chopping bamboo for many years. Huineng became the founder of the Sudden Enlightenment school of Buddhism, hence the name of the artwork.
3. An AI generated face, identical to my own.

4. A manga illustration, an art form predicated on laborious drawing of scenes to tell a story.

5. An idol, a highly manufactured public figure.
I learned of the Lying Flat movement earlier this year. At the time, I was reaching the peak of life anxiety — this increasing fear that things may never get better, that I’d never have the wealth or time to be a mother, that I’d never have my own home, that quality of life and mother nature were intertwined in a downward spiral… I knew it was a generational feeling, but I wasn’t sure how global it was until I learned about this movement in China. While my parents’ generation were busy feuding between East and West, I suddenly felt a shared sentiment with my peers on the other side of the world. Moreover, I saw it as a sign of strength, a signal to agency, and a type of civil disobedience I could culturally relate to.

The title “Flying Flat” refers to a favourite Miyazaki film of mine, Kiki’s Delivery Service. You can see a sliver of Kiki lying flat in the centre of the collage. In the foreword, Miyazaki says this, “In today’s society … where anyone can earn money going from one temporary job to another, there is no connection between financial independence and spiritual independence. In this era, poverty is not so much material as spiritual.”