Taey Iohe

It’s ok to fall  

Waking without words

Muni places her fingers on Garu’s guitar strings, as if she was putting her fingers onto his wrist to feel his pulse. His blood must have travelled from his heart through his stomach, thigh, toes, fingers, the back of his head and back to his heart, within only a second.

It feels as if there is a great waterfall pouring through his guitar, as if it was his body. He makes a low humming, a layer of a music. She knows that the humming echoes from his organs, rather than from his throat. He has grown his beard like sandpaper, and wears a grey sweater like a heron’s wing. He flies into waterfalls as he flutters his lean, grey wings.

Muni packs her suitcase and Garu sings a song. She will stay away for ten days, so she places ten pairs of socks and underwear in the very bottom of her suitcase. She puts all the small cosmetics packets, tubes and bottles that she kept for travelling, inside a plastic bag, in case they explode inside her suitcase. It’s good that it is not winter now; all her clothes would have to have been much thicker. Once she positions all her clothes and toiletries, it is as if the packing is done; but as she needs a book to read, batteries for her camera, and some travel documents, the suitcase is at bursting point in the end.

I spent all my energy for today. I am going to bed. Garu went to bed first. The top of Garu’s head is warm. Muni finishes her packing and climbs under the blanket too. Her spine slowly melts down into the mattress. Garu talks about fragmentary things before he sleeps.

You know, the woman who lives behind the town hall? I think there is not much time left for her. It’s shame her mother is still not ready for it. I was talking to her today, yeah, and her mother came into the room, with something to drink and stuff. And the patient suddenly changed the subject. I think she is ready. She has arranged her bank account and her pension. It is amazing how calm she is.

Garu works for people who are terminally ill, people who are beyond operations and tests. He talks to them and their families, to help them be as ready as they can be for the end of their life. He cares for as much sorrow and pain as he can foresee, for the people who will remain behind after the person has died. He started to talk about this woman, who lives behind the town hall, a while ago.

The woman worked for a normal company, like other twenty-somethings do. She went socializing with her friends, and went to a fitness class to keep in shape. One day she couldn’t bear her severe headache, so she went to hospital. Cancer had spread all over her body; it was pointless to start any therapy by that time. She quit working that day, without any hesitation. She dealt with her coming death, making things ready and prepared, as calmly as if she had just been made redundant from her job.

Her family however, especially her mother, could not understand her daughter’s coming ending. Someone’s children should never die, her mother probably thought. Her mother couldn’t even allow anyone to speak to her about it. The patient didn’t make her mother accept it; she just let her be. Garu goes to their home, and speaks to the young woman, but not to the rest of her family or mother. Nobody can force the acceptance or preparation for death on another; even more so, as the dying allow people around them to rage and bargain. Accept it! See the facts in front of you! It is meaningless to push when people are not ready. Time flows whether anybody accepts it or not. People do talk sometimes because they don’t understand. Sometimes people do not understand, and it is not because they cannot talk.

Yeah. Ok... Muni started to drift away, and fell asleep while hearing piecemeal details from Garu, her head under his arm. Night repairs something dying. Like a faded vision in front of a background fuzziness, a tingling sensation in the hands and feet, warm and heavy at the back of the head, a slowed spirit; all of these suddenly get tightened and perked-up at night-time. In the early morning, Garu rides his bicycle to work, vanishing into misty morning woods. Muni waved from the balcony until he disappeared in the fog. Soft wind blew his bike onwards. I’ll be back soon. Live well inside the waterfall ‘til then.

Digital photography, It's ok to fall, image by the artist It’s ok to fall, digital photography, Taey Iohe

Waiting without words

A woman, sat next to Muni on the plane, kept rocking herself backwards and forwards. Sometimes she grabbed the hand of the person who sat next to her, by the window. The person tried to comfort her but it didn’t seem to work.

Everything on the plane had her on edge. The heavy wings of the aeroplane she can see through the small window, the idea and reality of this large flying object, not attached by anything, on the air, off the ground, its ambient noise blading through thick cloud. Time flows too slowly for the woman. She asked Muni: What time is it now? Muni didn’t have a watch. Muni lightly shook her head without much of an expression. Muni didn’t want to give any hint that she is worried about this woman’s constant anxiety. The woman did not miss any chance to call a flight attendant, collecting garbage from the other passengers. Do you have the time please? It is quarter past eight Miss. We will arrive at the Dublin Airport at 8.35.

The woman started to rock herself again, putting both her fists against her head to block her ears. There was an infant crying and screaming on the seat in front. The baby was crying as if it sensed the end of the world. The eyes of the mother of the baby were vividly bloodshot; she was absolutely exhausted. Muni felt a stream of bright and strong energy flowing over her every time the alarm light and sound were switched on. It wasn’t clear where the alarm sound was coming from, but when it was audible in every seat, the woman sat next to Muni stopped rocking herself, straightened her spine, and raised her chin high. The gesture seemed to prepare her for resisting gravity, when the plane fell to the ground.

The plane trembled more and more, as it neared its destination. All the flight attendants moved back to their seats after finishing their carefully choreographed cleaning routine. Soon patches of green on the surface of the earth were in sight through the window. The disorientated feeling of lostness in the air, Muni felt now became a different coloured distance; it is a feeling of ‘now I know where I am, but still far from where I should arrive at’. Muni expected the noise of the landing, the aircraft hitting the concrete of the runway. Then, the aircraft spits people out of its rubbish bin into the airport. Muni wanted to feel the resistance in the atmosphere, gravity pulling the aircraft into the ground, against all winds. Muni focused her mind to feel that subtle sensation of pulling in the falling. Muni, unlike the woman who sat next to her, fearing the flight, enjoyed this silent sensation inside and outside of her. Muni was thinking about tomorrow, where she will experience a true falling at the zero gravity camp. Muni started to feel excited by thinking it; she felt that there was a squirming humour tickling the inside of her stomach. A humour of gravity, perhaps.

The aircraft finally stopped with a squeaking friction. The woman with her fear of flying also finally exhaled with a gulp of relief. Muni hurried to stand up with her luggage. Muni wanted to let the woman find her way as soon as possible. Muni pulled her suitcase from the cupboard above carefully, and straightened her coat. Muni didn’t want to raise her chances of getting a question from the immigration officer at the border.

The queue in the airport was never ending even for Muni, who didn’t have any checked-in bags. She continued to walk away from the aircraft, through transit, more corridors and more spaces. Muni felt thirsty. She wanted to gulp down a bottle of fresh water after passing the border without a problem. Muni couldn’t stop the tension inside her.

Muni was busy imagining the route she would have to take after the airport. She had never been to Shankill before; she needed to find a coach in that direction, then find another local bus to go to the exact place. Her nerves were concentrated on all the transportation she had to arrange late at night. It is already 9 o’clock in the evening. After passing the border, it will be half past nine; if I am caught with an irritable or picky passport control officer, it will be 10 o’clock. Once I get on the aircoach and get to Shankilltown, that would be eleven. What if local buses have stopped running by then? Muni felt her throat closing up very slowly, as she is unfamiliar with this space. Her voice is irregularly toned.

What’s the purpose of your visit? It’s business. What do you do? I am an artist. What kind? Ah, like performance, live arts. Where exactly will you work in Ireland? I will be working at the Runway camp in Shankill. Shankill? Yes. Shankill. What kind of art are you doing there? Well, it’s not performance really. I am taking a falling plane, for training. What do you mean by a falling plane? The place is designed for astronauts to get used to a similar environment in space, for zero gravity. I am training with people from Trinity, and other astronauts.

The interview went on, unnecessarily. Not because Muni’s voice was too soft; the immigration officer thought the reason for her visit was rather unusual. Muni unzipped her suitcase and showed her paperwork, proof of invitation from the Aero Technology Research Unit at Trinity, a schedule sheet, an address in Shankill where she would stay, and her return ticket. It would have been much easier if she had just said her visit was for leisure. Muni regretted her honesty in the immigration interview. By now she could have already passed the border.

Muni got a stamp of passage on her passport, and finally escaped from the border. She forgot she was thirsty. She ran to the bus station to find more transportation. The air, the unfamiliar place, often too hot if the sun is out, the temperature dropping rapidly when the sun goes down. It’s not about any real temperature; there is a burden and unclear sense in every foreign space. Muni felt suddenly very cold outside. The next bus to Shankill would not arrive until a quarter to ten. She bought a bus ticket, and finally got a bottle of water and gulped it down.

She placed her suitcase on the floor of the coach and sat down on the front seat, in case she might miss the stop at Shankill. The road signs were not easily visible to her. It was an unkind city for her. She blinked her eyes slowly. Some road signs passed and faded away on the window. Muni drifts away, thinking about Garu’s arriving at home after work. She thought Garu’s pedalling would be heavier than usual, as he would already know there is nobody home. Maybe Garu spends his evening alone quite happily and peacefully. Muni was trying not to fall asleep.

People think that there is a place of zero gravity on the earth somewhere. They think that astronauts go there, to train physically and mentally in preparation for life in space. But in reality there is no such place. There is only a zone of the faked experience of reducing gravity. When a place ascends at 90 degrees, and drops back down at 90 degrees vertically, this creates circumstances similar to a space without gravity. People have the desire to develop technology, to cultivate unknown places, travel into the universe, into space, more and more, soar and soar.

My job is the opposite of this. My training is in the unlearning of what we have learned so far, and in making everything fall back to the ground instead of lifting things up. I am fallen, onto the planet, and I am still falling on a certain trajectory I was given. A track in life perhaps.

In the falling aeroplane, it’s possible to not to feel the gravity, but it is impossible to escape from the gravity anywhere. I cannot escape from this track even if I travel to a new place, I thought.

Muni looked around when she arrived at Shankill town. Except for a small dingy pub, a flower shop and a convenience store, there are only tall green trees, one after another. Darkness crawls into the night. There were two teenage girls sitting at the station when Muni disembarked from the bus. Do you know how much the single fare is? Muni asked. Dunno, one girl answered carelessly. Muni counted all kinds of coins from her wallet, and held them in her hand. She was waiting for the number 145 bus.

Soon, a bunch of teenage boys started to march towards us. They shouted something to the two girls, which Muni didn’t understand. One boy was chewing a burnt cigarette filter, another was suckling a big Mars Bar. Muni tried not to give them anything to pick her up on, but the boy with the Mars Bar and bad skin slowly approached her. He made slanty eyes and a squint to bully her. Do you wanna suck this? He waved his half bitten Mars Bar in Muni’s face. Muni pretended she didn’t see, or hear. She stared at the horizon of the road, where the bus should come. The cheeky boy kept provoking her. Why on Earth would someone want to come to Shankill? Where are you from? What do you have in your bag? You don’t understand English, no? Idiot, Asian. Muni, at last, could stand him no more.


Leave her the fuck alone.

The girls screeched in a high-pitched voice. The fall of their accent came on ‘alone’. The bus still didn’t come. Heavy clouds had all gone by; instead there were stars slowly appearing in the dark sky. After some time, the boy came back to stand in front of Muni again. I just meant to say hello, he said. Muni saw his eyes, young and childlike. Then the 145 bus finally came. Muni jumped on, quickly. I want to go ShankillRunway, can you let me know when we are nearby? The driver didn’t say a word. Muni sat down close to the driver, so that the driver could not ignore or forget her. Muni stared into the dark outside, nervously. Muni thought of those Shankill youths at the station. Unpolished and uncomfortable teenagers, caught between child and grown up. Muni felt relieved and sad about encountering them. It might have been their only way to express greetings to a stranger in their small town. The world stays still in this dark town. The anger and humiliation from them sang an untuned music of their hospitality. It was pitch dark. Are we at the Shankill Runway yet? The driver carelessly said, oh, it was two stops before. Muni climbed off the bus with her suitcase, without a word. She had to walk in the dark, back through the forest-like small town. It was an ill-mannered place.

Falling without words

Muni woke up inhaling a new air. The unfamiliar place she rubbed against her tired body last night after the long journey had become her new home and reality. A security man at the front desk was blunt when Muni had finally arrived at the accommodation, at a very late hour. He was also tired from long hours working inside the building, as much as Muni felt fatigue from the journey. He asked for a name, then threw an envelope towards her. Oh well, your letter came first, then you got here. Muni was happy to see Garu’s handwriting in an unexpected place.

The map will only work if we don’t read it too closely, if we don’t see what it really is ... The map tells us that we are already lost; we have maps in the first place because we don’t know where we are, we don’t know where there is to get to, and we don’t know how to get there …

Garu had printed a photograph of the landscape near their house. The Lea River, a concrete island, and low cloud over the island. The light looked like time in hazy dusk. He probably sent the letter before Muni left home. Muni was heartfelt, thinking of Garu’s sincerity. It suddenly felt too far from Garu’s guitar, house and the waterfall.

Muni left the letter in the room, and changed into a set of light clothes, one unified piece from top to bottom. The garment was narrower at the wrists and ankles, to minimize any friction and allow moving more freely when she would float on the plane. Muni tore open a pillow, grabbed a fistful of cotton wool and thrust it into her pocket. Muni headed to the Runway.

There were people from Trinity College, lab researchers, movement experts, training technologists, artists like Muni, and pilots at the Runway. Inside the aircraft, the space seemed to be wider and higher, unlike other planes Muni had seen, perhaps because there were no chairs and any decoration in the interior. Instead there were belts and soft protectors on the floor and walls. There were some grips and handles aligned on the floor, positioned to hold bodies from uncontrollable movement. There were no windows. Muni thought of the woman and her phobic reaction on the plane. Would she not be fearful if there was no window to see through at all?

Some people were already anxious about the training. They grabbed their brown bags in case they threw up. A man with glasses bent the arms of his spectacles, fitting them to his head more tightly. Muni sat down on the floor, took the weight off her feet too, and buckled her body with belts. She waited.

Our stomach, and all our interior mechanisms fall into confusion when our body is suddenly not affected by gravity. Our bodies are tuned to natural gravity. Muscles, nerves, blood, organs roll from one side to the other. People on the Earth perhaps survive only by leaning and treading on the ground, with this pulling sensation.

Soon the plane soars at great speed. The temperature dropped down as the plane left the atmosphere. Then, the plane started falling vertically, rapidly. The pair of glasses on the anxious man escaped his face and floated around in the air. Muni unbuckled herself slowly and swam through the sea of unreal weightlessness. She held the handles on the wall, and began to let go of herself. She felt her arms and legs lifting without weight and strength.

The plane fell faster and deeper. Muni walked hard in the air as if she was walking in a deep-sea chasm. Her toes were tense and tight, to make a walking motion without stepping on any ground. The interior space of the plane was dismantling; anterior and posterior, below and above, ceiling and floor, all structures in separate pieces, half of the people were in the air, and the other half was still attached with buckles. Muni danced in a slow curve of movement in the falling plane. She placed the cotton wool from her pocket on the air layer. People’s emotions were heightened in this un-gravitational space; Laughing harder, or even crying or throwing up or firmly shutting their eyes. It’s Ok to Fall, as Much as you Like, Muni murmured.

A piece of art writing, titled It’s ok to fall, is based on dialogues she conducted with other participating artists in the exhibition, 'language but no words' at the Space Mom Museum in Chungju in Korea. This art writing extends an imagination of gravity and falling in use of every day life.

There are two main characters: Muni (the name can be translated as Patterns) and Garu (which can be translated as Dust). Muni is undertaking a journey to a zero-gravity training facility in Shankill, Ireland; Garu works as a home-visiting psychologist. Taey continues her investigation of falling by taking a series of photographs. 

Iohe, Taey. Source: Virtual Creativity, Volume 7, Number 1, 1 June 2017, pp.

Key words: falling, gravity, languging, freefall, space, virtuality, enophobia, distance, dialogue