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What Lies At The Center #4: Hester Stefan Chillingworth

Hello Heart Marrow Community,

Taurus season has arrived. Taurus brings the message to slow down a bit and enjoy the body, the scents, the air, the food, the warmth, and all things sensual (sharks?). And so here I bring you the fourth edition of the micro-interview series What Lies At the Center? With the aim of bringing a breath of fresh air and space at these moments of the month- I invite a guest to the space of Heart Marrow, conducting a micro-interview with a spirit who has brought me personal awareness and connection. I hope these interviews bring you a morsel of reflection, engagement, and centering during these transformative and unsettling times.

Hester Stefan Chillingworth has such an awesome name, do they not?

Such an incredible name deserves a wonderful and heart-centered person. Hester Stefan and I met in graduate school at UC Davis, where they were an international student attending from the UK. They currently live and work in Margate, England. Hester Stefan, as long as I have known them (20 years now), has always been an explorer of interaction and response. An instigator full of humor. A bit of a trickster, with a very serious side. And, I can say, one of my favorite people. I am so happy to offer this insight into their mind and their work to you this month.

You can learn more about Hester Stefan and their work HERE.

Scroll down to receive their artwork and written contribution. AND!!- please share this love letter with those who you feel might benefit- using the email or social media button at the bottom of the letter, or simply by forwarding it to them, or reading it aloud.


Hester-Stefan Chillingworth makes performance work, installations, texts, and film. Hester-Stefan is interested in the grey areas in life, and their work is committed to undoing things which claim to be fixed.

Their work is playful, low-key, and interventionist. It is work that would like to think it elevates the everyday, while remaining accessible. Theirs is a practice of in-betweenness and overlap which celebrates liveness and slippage, and the things they make often play with language, duration, mischief and confusion.

Hester Stefan Chillingworth: What lies at the center for you?

I think my short answer to the question What Lies At The Center For You? has to be I Don't Know. Which maybe I would have felt quite disorientated or upset about in the past. Or in some moments of the past. Or I would have felt it meant I was missing something. Hadn't worked something out. Or hadn't worked something out YET. But right now I don't feel like that. I feel like "I don't know" actually IS what lies at the center for me. The fact that I don't know.

The older I get, the more I realize (almost on the daily) that I know less and less. And that claiming 'to know' is maybe somehow a quite sweet human thing we do to try to feel secure or grounded or positioned somehow. I mean, let's face it, sometimes it's not sweet. Sometimes it's deeply problematic. Tyrannical, even. It's definitely often about control. And I think sometimes it's just us trying to have a map.

I know I'm trans. I know I'm non-binary. I know I'm Queer. But I also know that all descriptors, all categories, all language, is made up by humans. There's a really joyous (for me) space in the conundrum I live in which is that I strongly know (for me, in me) that gender is not real. And I also strongly know that I am trans. Go figure. You can't. We can't. I can't.

We have to be inside descriptors (do we?) in order to move forward and be able to communicate (though sometimes I think maybe it's just in order to be able to sell things to each other.) So, fair enough, if we're inside descriptors, I'm trans, non-binary, and Queer. I have been all of those things, and known I was all of those things, as long as I've known anything. Before I had language (or categories really) for any of it.

But truthfully, what lies at the center of all of that? Space. Openness. Possibility. Change. Exploration. Distrust of any narratives that say they know on a global scale; know things about other people; and that that knowing is fixed. A refusal (an attempted refusal) to be inside any knowing that is imposed upon me.

I'm trying to get more and more comfortable with "I don't know" being the goal, and not the problem. Not as a shirking of responsibility - I'm trying equally to go to "I feel" to get the guidance on that.

Have I expressed myself adequately here? The thing is, I don't know.

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