Hi, this is Maia Ruth Lee. Well, speaking and understanding several languages at a similar fluency has been… quite interesting for me, because I don't feel like I excel at Korean, English, or Nepali. Language has always been somewhat of an obstacle for me, even though I've had full access to more than one while growing up. But sometimes, I don't know how to express myself in one or the other language, because a lot gets lost in the abstractness of the nuance in languages, because they're based on completely different cultures.

And this new body of work is about that abstractness in language, but in particular, the abstractness of the language of grief. While getting ready for the show and thinking about the works and thinking about what new work I would be making, I was really thinking about this idea a lot, because it is the universal language we all speak, especially right now, since the pandemic started.

I think grief is a larger-than-life experience we're all grappling with, and on various levels, whether we've lost a beloved or lost our job or our homes, or simply just lost control, but also understand that something is lost. I think that really hits everyone in a very different way with a different weight. And also, you know, ultimately, the grief around our own reckoning with systemic racism and inequities in America and all over the world.

So, as we shift towards this future, which I want to be hopeful for, especially for our children, I think the language we are equipped with is just not enough.

I'm not trying to define what the language of grief is, but rather, I wanted to express the sculptural shapes of the language that is already hard to express with words. Writing systems can often obliterate the voice. I think it can lose expression and heart when it is written. So I wanted to create my own writing system that can include more rhythm and notation, rather than articulation, because I do believe grief is one thing we cannot describe with words.

In April of 2020, I bought an electric typewriter, and since then, I've been writing to my friends who I've been separated from. So, our sudden moved to Colorado from New York was extremely difficult at first, mainly because we were just unprepared. So I felt like I had suddenly lost my community, my people, the roots I'd grounded myself in since moving to the United States in 2011. So letter writing became a useful, but also therapeutic tool for me, being away from the screen and unable to edit your words.

It really is refreshing to be able to write lucidly without the anticipation of an immediate answer. It gives you time to think about what you were writing about, details you'd usually leave out if you were to text or email. And I think the communication is just more intentional and special. And I wanted to sort of go back to that mode of communication, because that mode of communication is pretty much lost on us at this point. So it was really great for me to tap into letter writing and it just really helped me through some of the hardest times. It's an important part of my practice, only because it really does keep me quite sane.

Asemic writing is really interesting to me, because I feel like this has been my visual language throughout my career. The term asemic was coined by two visual poets, Tim Gaze and Jim Leftwich, and it is a form of writing that is wordless, without context or meaning. Asemic writing is more of a shadow or abstraction of conventional writing. And I think, therefore, this form can be incredibly intuitive. Like, you know, when my three-year-old child looks at a storybook, he's not reading the words, but he's looking at the words. And because it is illegible to him, the English words can be seen as asemic writing to him. And in that sense, we are all innately familiar with this concept.

So when it comes to the language of grief, as I explained earlier, for this new body of work, the abstractness and the illegibility of the language of grief is what I'm interested in. And it was very important for me to explore that expansiveness of this new language with more intention and consideration of our experiences right now, during these times. How can we document, but also express the pain that we are collectively going through? And I can really only speak from my own experiences, but it really was just very important for me to hone in on this particular idea.