Rituals of Social Transformation


Rituals of Social Transformation

More Art’s 2023 Engaging Artists Fellows share their practices, cultivated research findings, and transformative routines.
Multiple Artists – Rituals of Social Transformation

Carrie Sijia Wang, Danielle Cowan, Jessica Angima, Mei Ling Yu, Nava Derakhshani, and Ray Jordan Achan


January 27, 2024, 4:00 – 8:00 pm


Head Hi bookstore & cafe
146 Flushing Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205

Mei Ling Yu, DEEPENING WITH CHA CONNECTION, a Gong Fu Cha performance and ceremony, at Rituals of Social Transformation, an Engaging Artists event at HeadHi, 2024. Photo by Avery J. Savage.
  • Project description
  • About the artist

Rituals of Social Transformation was a showcase of the work of More Art’s 2023 Engaging Artists Fellows, featuring work and conversations by Carrie Sijia Wang, Danielle Cowan, Jessica Angima, Mei Ling Yu, Nava Derakhshani, and Ray Jordan Achan.

Rituals of Social Transformation invited participants to delve into the evolving practices, cultivated research findings, and transformative routines of More Art’s current cohort of Engaging Artist Fellows.

As we explore the alchemical power of building community, developing radical empathy, and stewarding our own communal and personal rituals of care, connection, and transformation, we peek into the journeys and processes our fellows undertook over the last year. This public presentation of ongoing work illustrates the 2023 cohort’s exploration of and attention to themes of information accessibility, community care, storytelling, and visibility.

Multiple Artists – Rituals of Social Transformation

Ray Jordan Achan (he/him/his) is an Indo-Caribbean, Brooklyn based theater-maker. Ray is the Founding Artistic Director of EXILED TONGUES, a performance collective that provides financial, artistic and collaborative support to artists of the global majority who center diasporic consciousness. Ray's performative work primarily deals with the intersection between racial and climate justice, particularly as they relate to the NYC coastline. He is the recipient of the 2022 NYSCA Individual Artist Grant for his site-specific documentary theater project, "Our Bang for Their Buck: No Pipeline for LNG", the 2022 Creative Equations Fund from the Brooklyn Arts Council and a commissioned artist with Works on Water for his site-specific documentary theater project, "(Re)Imagining Greenpoint's Green Waters". Ray is a Rising Producer Fellow at the Creative & Independent Producer Alliance, and an Associated Artist at Culture Push. Ray is a graduate of Wesleyan University with a BA in Government and Theater with Honors. rayjordanachan.com | exiledtongues.com

Jessica Angima is a first-generation Kenyan American organizer, meditation teacher and social practice artist. In a constant state of process, she facilitates intimate community through the exploration of art, justice, and contemplative practice. Her identities as the daughter of Kenyan immigrants and a Black American woman deeply inform her community-based practice. Her work primarily focuses on deep vulnerability, using meditation and creative practices as methods of awakening consciousness. Jessica blends dharma, ancestral wisdom and poetics to decenter European thought frames and lead herself and others toward liberation. With over 400 hours of meditation instruction training, she has worked with BRIC, Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, Dia Art Foundation, Google, SELF Magazine, SHAPE Magazine, theSkimm, Tricycle Magazine and more. Jessica was a 2019 Create Change Fellow at The Laundromat Project and holds an MA in Arts Politics from New York University Tisch School of the Arts. She is a member of Inner Fields Collective and serves as Deputy Training Director at Arena. Jessica lives in Brooklyn, NY on unceded Lenape territory with her cat and her books.

Danielle Cowan is a blind, queer and Blackarican native New Yorker dabbling in organizing, performance and poetry. Her art comes from fascination with what it means for a body or place to hold multiple sometimes conflicting identities and playing with ways to write within shared histories and trauma. Her work has been published in Causeway Lit’s Revolution Issue, Mobius: the Journal of Social Change and elsewhere. She was an artistic investigator for Rattlestick Playwrights Theater’s Block by Block Project and was a spring 2022 Office Hours Poetry Workshop fellow.

Nava Derakhshani is a multimedia artist with a background in Architecture and Sustainable Development. Born to Iranian parents in eSwatini, her work explores themes of migration, identity, belonging, and gender. She is a 2020 graduate of the International Center for Photography, NYC, and works in images, as well as form and sculpture.

Carrie Sijia Wang (she/her) is an artist and educator based in New York. Combining art, technology, and research, she makes performances, videos, and participatory experiences to explore the humanization of machines and the mechanization of humans. Wang is an inaugural Working Artist Fellow at Pioneer Works, 2023 More Art fellow, Year 8 member of NEW INC, and 2020 Mozilla Creative Media Award recipient. She has shown and presented work with venues including Rhizome, New Museum, Onassis Foundation, ACM SIGGRAPH, and A.I.R. Gallery. Her work has been featured in publications including the Business Insider, Slate, and Computerworld. As an educator, she has designed and taught classes and workshops covering topics like creative coding, making artistic chatbots, and countering digital surveillance. She currently teaches at NYU in the Interactive Media Arts department.

Mei Ling Yu (She/They) self-identifies as a cis-gender, queer Chinese-American and Gong Fu Cha Practitioner. Born, raised and based in New York City, on unceded Lenapehoking land. Mei Ling is deeply passionate about radical healing, spirituality, and well-being. A life-long devotee of Tea, Cha, the healing arts, somatic practices and experienced in practicing Gong Fu Cha, 4 years now. Mei Ling is a child of Toishanese immigrants, coming from an ancestry of village farmers and Chinese medicine people. Mei Ling aspires to study spiritual herbalism and farming to reconnect and deepen their practice with medicine of the East and West, integrating ancient and modern practices.

  • Carrie Sija Wang
  • Danielle Cowan
  • Jessica Angima
  • Mei Ling Yu
  • Nava Derakhshani
  • Ray Jordan Achan

Whose AI? is a socially engaged art project intended to empower young people from underserved communities to (re)imagine the future of Conversational AI, and engage meaningfully in critical dialogues concerning the risks involved in the development and utilization of AI language models. Can we create AI chatbots that prioritize community over profit; value imagination over efficiency; represent unique voices instead of flattening them? The project explores these questions through a series of hands-on, process-driven workshops. Participants will co-construct knowledge about ethical AI by coming together to collectively build AI chatbots in an explorative, transparent, and decentralized way.

Neverending artists’ bios that sound like academia down bad for some ancestry DNA results, community asset mapping, class show-and-tells, all them kids games that count on the number 7C. Wouldn’t it be easy to believe me if I said they was all spread by some well-meaning white women with nonprofit wishes? No Shade Show-and-Tell is part cipher, part circle time and part satire. Bring the ratched relic you couldn’t have been raised without, but Ma refused to let you pack for school. For seven minutes, submerge us in its greatness, retell its story, wrap us in ill reverence, or you just being real. Then we all gonna be up in them bougie art display cases with the velvet lining co-designing a community exhibit that only we could.

I AM THE EARTH AND THE EARTH IS ME (I AM THE EARTH…) engages the residents of Bed-Stuy through participatory research, contemplative workshops and public ceremony. These engagements will be one-time artistic events exploring lineage and ecological consciousness.

I AM THE EARTH…aims to create pathways for community decision-making in a neighborhood that bears a higher environmental burden despite having historically been left out of policy-making that affects its residents.  It responds to the urgency to take care of the land and through doing so, take care of our mental well-being. The project will create valuable research that may be used to inform future community-centered climate solutions for Bed-Stuy.

DEEPENING WITH CHA CONNECTION – Display of (personalized) Gong Fu Cha set up – with a Gai Wan or tea pot, fairness pitcher, one or two tea cups, tea leaves. Additional little details of incense, crystals, small flowers, dry herbs etc. The intention of the “display” is to be a collective tea altar and interactive story-tell / story-share portal. Opening up with, honoring this intention by activating the tea altar with “performing” the start of a Gong Fu Cha “ceremony” and the tea steeped will be the opening offering to the collective tea altar. Collective tea altar will be there throughout the event for folks to be with the tea altar whenever they feel called to it. Inviting folks to be vulnerable, truthful, get real deep (if we want to) and centering stories of the most impacted, most marginalized, disabled, chronically ill, MAD, queer, trans, black, indigenous, people of the Global Majority (QTBIPOC) who are disproportionately, intentionally, systematically, oppressed. There will be some paper available for folks to take a sit (if possible), write something they want to offer to the tea altar (open to other expressions of sharing, too) and something they may have with them that they would like to place on the altar (for however long they feel called to during the event. Welcome to leave it or take it back with them when they leave the event. Closing out the tea altar, with another steep of tea to honor the collective tea altar, stories shared, and gratitude. Grounding in this affirmation for the collective tea altar to be, that the elements of Earth and Nature are big enough, wise enough, (been) here way longer than us… to be able to hold what we feel is too big, too much, too painful. We must remember to root into deeper connections, reciprocity and gratitude as we call on their big support.

DIASPORA LETTERS. This project works with women in the Iranian diaspora. Silent video portraits of women face the viewer while they contemplate the Woman Life Freedom revolution taking place in Iran, as well as their own stories of womanhood, displacement, longing, and dreams for their homeland.


The women in this work of minority and heavily persecuted groups. So far they include women in the Baha’i community and the LGBTQ+ community. There is an open invitation for diasporic Iranian women to participate in the project by adding your face or voice to the project, which will be housed on the artists website, and shown in public spaces.


The silent videos are accompanied by personal stories told by the participants. Their voices don’t match their faces, and come in and out of the silent stares.


Guests are invited to leave messages to the women in the work by following a QR code where they can either upload a voice note, written note, or both.


In addition to the video and storytelling work, there is a light work installation. On the work, in Farsi, it written the memorable final words of Persian-Baha’i feminist figure, Tahirih. She famously said to her executors: 

می توانی به زودی مرا به قتل برسانید. اما جلوی ازادی زنان را نمیتوانید بگیرید

You can kill me as soon as you wish but you will never stop the emancipation of women

Powerful words which are embodied by the women and men of Iran today who are risking everything for the same rights and equalities.

SUPERFUND SOLILOQUIES – A participatory public art project about Newtown Creek.