AntipodeanSF Issue 308

By Kai Holmwood

Tuesday, September 16, 2025

Helena Massey, also known as LenaMa, is an American artist from Los Angeles, California, now based in Dunedin. Her latest — and, to date, only — public exhibition, titled lifeLine, features hundreds of aluminium straws (perhaps better described as pipes or tubes, as one might find at Mitre 10 or Bunnings) piercing the ground and reaching toward the sky. The smallest appear to be reusable drinking straws, while the tallest perfectly mirror the straws’ dimensions at approximately 11 metres high by 30 centimetres across.

When asked two days ago about the meaning behind her piece, LenaMa declined to answer, claiming its significance was up to each individual viewer to determine. Yesterday, however, she relented and shared her inspiration exclusively with us. We now make it available for you, our readers. Here is the artist’s reply in her own words:

my grandpa died when I was four years old, & of course my mom did her best to explain. “your grandpa is asleep forever & he won’t ever wake up, no matter what. now he’s nowhere. just like before you were born, you were nowhere. his body is in the coffin, but grandpa isn’t really there”

I accepted it with the solemn grace of childhood, in which accepting new, unfathomable things is just a part of everyday life. wouldn’t the world be better if adults did the same? so grandpa was dead, & that was that. there was just one little problem & it didn’t seem to have occurred to anyone but me

I woke my mom up late that night & begged her to take me back to the graveyard. I guess she was probably too tired & sad to argue

when we got there, I ran to his grave & stuck a straw into it

of course mom asked why. “grandpa isn’t coming back, honey, he doesn’t need a straw, he’s dead, remember?”

I knew he was dead. everyone had explained that over and over. but the answer was obvious: what if grandpa forgets he’s dead & needs to breathe?

I’d like my creation to invite viewers to question exactly (or generally?) who (/ what) might forget (/not(/barely) remember) their (its?) own death & potentially need a lifeline …

~ LenaMa

Residents of the area have expressed bemusement. One of our reporters collected reactions from the public yesterday. Here we offer a representative sample of the responses:

  • “Oh, that’s art? I thought it was the beginning of new construction.”
  • “Are they supposed to make noise? Like those tubes that hum in the wind?” Upon being informed that the work was seemingly not, in fact, a sound sculpture: “So what does it do?”
  • “I just don’t trust them not to fall over. I don’t reckon I’ll get too close.”

In a remarkable grounding of metaphor, the farmer whose land hosts the unexpected exhibition complained that the installation had killed some of his onion crop. Perhaps upon the removal of the display, he will be lucky enough to find that the onions’ hollow, straw-like stems received enough air and light through the tubes to survive their entombment. We plead journalistic objectivity on the question of whether this unauthorised construction provides enough meaning to justify its disruption to the farmer’s land and livelihood.

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About the Author

Kai holmwoodKai Holmwood holds an MA in Writing from the University of Canterbury in Aotearoa New Zealand and was awarded the H. W. Hill Prize at UC Berkeley.

Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in Solarpunk Creatures, Stanchion, DreamForge, ParSec, and elsewhere.

She spends her writing days drinking Korean tea and trying to convince two giant formerly stray mastiffs that they don't need to bark at every bird.

Issue Contributors

The AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50Our weekly podcast features the stories from recently published issues, often narrated by the authors themselves.

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