Tiger Balm (student project)

Kelsey Chen

Tiger Balm is a hand-bound book of poetry and art, comprised of hand-made prints, drawings, and annotations as well as printed art and text. The piece is structured as a mosaic—a collection of fragmented memories and emotions that add up to the sum total of who, at this moment, I am. Titled after a Chinese traditional herbal ointment, Tiger Balm is for wounds: It is both a confessional narrative and philosophical treatise that grapples with selfhood, loneliness, and the ecology of existence. When applied, tiger balm is hot and cold at once—it brings a stinging, painful kind of relief. Learning how to feel pain without mutilation—maybe that’s what life is all about. Or at least, that’s what this text is about: it’s about showing that the bits and pieces of my past & my life that have hurt me, that some of my incidental loneliness—that all of this—is just a by-product of being alive. A beautiful side effect of existing. Tiger Balm, for wounds.