「去國立事件」

I call the current political sentiments in Hong Kong “contradictory” because the forces of sinicization are unbelievably strong precisely at a time when Hong Kong’s historical difference from China should stand as the most uncompromisable opposition to the mainland. While that difference is always invoked (even by the Chinese authorities themselves, who promise a “one country, two systems” rule after 1997), one has the feeling that the actual social antagonisms separating China and Hong Kong – such as a firmly instituted and well-used legal system, emerging direct elections, the relative freedom of speech, and so forth, all of which are present in Hong Kong but absent in China – are often overwritten with the myth of consanguinity, a myth that demands absolute submission because it is empty. The submission to consanguinity means the surrender of agency – what is built on work and livelihood rather than blood and race – in the governance of a community. The people in Hong Kong can sacrifice everything they have to the cause of loving “China” and still, at the necessary moment, be accused of not being patriotic – of not being “Chinese” – enough. (The same kind of logic was behind the guilt-tripping purges of the Cultural Revolution: Sacrifice everything, including your life, to the party, but it remains the party’s decision whether or not you are loyal.) Going far beyond the responsibility any individual bears for the belonging to a community, “Chineseness,” as I show in some of the pages that follow, lies at the root of a violence which works by the most deeply ingrained feelings of “bonding” and which – even at the cost of social alienation – diasporic intellectuals must collectively resist.

Rey Chow (1993: 24-25)

In present day 2016: 去國立事件

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Dancing with the body and the pen

Recently the issue of scholars staying within the confines of academia and not communicating with the rest of the world is something that I have been thinking about.

Especially whenever I read articles where people just blast the other writers in their field with words like ‘laziness’ or sentences like “such and such topic has already been widely discussed in social/cultural theory”.

Because my research interest gears very much toward the Chinese diaspora, postcolonial theories and the whole notion of Chineseness, I end up reading a lot of material from cultural studies and Taiwan, where this group of talented dance scholars have gathered in one place and all talk about the different aspects of dance in Taiwan.

And I don’t know that tons of people have written on Chineseness! For me, each new article is something I excitedly dig into. Especially after reading up on Fredrick Ashton, who is in all ways great but I’m just not much of a ballet scholar (ballet music is easier to analyse because in our course we learn to use Western musical theory), and when I put the Ashton book down after sighing and rubbing my eyes, and pick up Rey Chow’s book, I’m like wow this is an awesome read.

Before this course the most complicated book I had ever read was probably… the Ender’s series (I didn’t even read LOTR cos that was too tedious).

And anyway, I just had this thought that I must jot down my thoughts at this moment because this is the best moment in my career. Beginnings are always destabilising and exciting and fearless.

Then I realised that there was a ‘usual way’ that articles were written: Critique of theories by others/your own theory -> applying that theory to a specific case study.

Of course I’m drastically oversimplifying here, but there is a standard way to write a paper, and that’s further emphasised by my lecturers when I get feedback for my papers.

Sometimes I don’t get why we need a theory. Why do you group different elements together and decide to call them a name? “That’s just the way we do it.” Well I don’t want to theorise. I just want to talk about certain phenomena and talk to people who have experienced it differently and show that there are more than two sides to any one story and just do it messily and all jumbled up.

Well then no one would understand and be interested, maybe.

But especially when we talk about dance, it is not just the experience of watching a performance but also the experience of dancing and performing that can reveal so many interesting things, and yet there is a huge divide between dancers and dance scholars.

I’m sure there are exceptions who theorise as well as dance and perform (although, to be fair, a person can only have so much time). But I desperately want to dance and learn and write and discuss and do all of that at once because I don’t see them as separate interests.

I love to roll around on the floor, I love to analyse dance movements, I love to think of why a dance step should be taught a certain way. I love to be aware of how my body feels in certain fixed positions. I love the essay that I did on propaganda ballets. I love closing my eyes while dancing in the dance studio and just feel my head travelling through space. I love blogging and talking about my emotions in the most descriptive, metaphorical ways.

I might not be a dancer in a full-time company, or a PhD student, or a lecturer in a dance conservatoire, but is there a job that exists where I can do all this? Where I can teach, dance, write, choreograph, read, learn, communicate…

And how can I perform that job? How can I make this linkage between dance and academia with others? How can I get through to those who see writing as a MOUNTAIN when we can even record through images, videos, colours, sounds now, and that writing is just one very useful tool of many?


Edited, 4 months and one dissertation later:

I really should practice writing more, this is not…very pleasant to read.

On blueness, desire and memory

“The world is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost. Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us. It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water. Water is colorless, shallow water appears to be the color of whatever lies underneath it, but deep water is full of this scattered light, the purer the water the deeper the blue. The sky is blue for the same reason, but the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance. This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the color blue.

For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go. For the blue is not in the place those miles away at the horizon, but in the atmospheric distance between you and the mountains.”

+++++

“We treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature and the sensation of desire, though often it is the distance between us and the object of desire that fills the space in between with the blue of longing. I wonder sometimes whether with a slight adjustment of perspective it could be cherished as a sensation on its own terms, since it is as inherent to the human condition as blue is to distance? If you can look across the distance without wanting to close it up, if you can own your longing in the same way that you own the beauty of that blue that can never be possessed? For something of this longing will, like the blue of distance, only be relocated, not assuaged, by acquisition and arrival, just as the mountains cease to be blue when you arrive among them and the blue instead tints the next beyond. Somewhere in this is the mystery of why tragedies are more beautiful than comedies and why we take a huge pleasure in the sadness of certain songs and stories. Something is always far away.

The mystic Simone Weil wrote to a friend on another continent, “Let us love this distance, which is thoroughly woven with friendship, since those who do not love each other are not separated.” For Weil, love is the atmosphere that fills and colors the distance between herself and her friend. Even when that friend arrives on the doorstep, something remains impossibly remote: when you step forward to embrace them your arms are wrapped around mystery, around the unknowable, around that which cannot be possessed. The far seeps in even to the nearest. After all we hardly know our own depths.”

+++++

“When I was two, we lived in Lima, Peru, for a year, and all of us, mother, father, brothers, and I, went up into the Andes once, and then sailed across Lake Titicaca, from Peru to Bolivia. Lake Titicaca, one of those high-altitude lakes, Tahoe, Como, Constance, Atitlán, like blue eyes staring back at the blue sky.

One day a few years ago my mother took out of her cedar chest the turquoise blouse she bought for me on that trip to Bolivia, a miniature of the native women’s outfits. When she unfolded the little garment and gave it to me, the living memory of wearing the garment collided shockingly with the fact that it was so tiny, with arms less than a foot long, with a tiny bodice for a small cricket cage of a ribcage that was no longer mine, and the shock was that my vivid memory included what it felt like to be inside that brocade shirt but not the fact that inside it I had been so diminutive, had been something utterly other than my adult self who remembered. The continuity of memory did not measure the abyss between a toddler’s body and a woman’s.

When I recovered the blouse, I lost the memory, for the two were irreconcilable. It vanished in an instant, and I saw it go… Sometimes gaining and losing are more intimately related than we like to think. And some things cannot be moved or owned. Some light does not make it all the way through the atmosphere, but scatters.”

+++++

“There is no distance in childhood: for a baby, a mother in the other room is gone forever, for a child the time until a birthday is endless. Whatever is absent is impossible, irretrievable, unreachable. Their mental landscape is like that of medieval paintings: a foreground full of vivid things and then a wall. The blue of distance comes with time, with the discovery of melancholy, of loss, the texture of longing, of the complexity of the terrain we traverse, and with the years of travel. If sorrow and beauty are all tied up together, then perhaps maturity brings with it not what Nabhan calls abstraction, but an aesthetic sense that partially redeems the losses time brings and finds beauty in the faraway.”

Above excerpts from

Rebecca Solnit – A Field Guide to Getting Lost

I will never look at blue in the same way again…

I hate titles

Today something a classmate said in class really resonated with me.

She attended a Pop Moves conference a few days ago and one of the topics they touched on was how we have to approach an issue, not from a linear perspective or as one point in the linear reading of history, but spatially, considering the potentially huge nexus of relationships linked in one way or another to that issue. And the problem of putting that consideration down onto paper, in an article, or a book, which is in itself linear, especially within the academic field.

I guess this is why blogs are such a hit with writers/researchers nowadays.

I have a hard time making decisions, and when I have to think of something to write about its torturous, because many times, ideas just come to me. Not amazing, inspirational ideas (although they might feel that way to me at times), but it could happen at any random moment.

Sometimes when it becomes more developed, I write it down in my blog, and its there for me to look at and maybe, possibly, act upon when the occasion arises. But if not, its just a shadow of an idea, a pre-idea, that disappears.

I have had so much inspiration for dance/theatre choreographies since starting this course. But because I’ve always had difficulties coming up with movements, I’ve never seriously considered becoming a choreographer. Maybe one day I might try it. When I allow myself to be vulnerable and bulletproof (towards the audience) at the same time.

So I think this messy jotting down of stuff is something that is really useful for me, and I didn’t want to do it in my other blog because it is weighed with so much history and emotion and embarrassing thoughts. I might reblog some of the more amazing posts (sometimes when I look back I can’t believe I wrote some of the posts). Also, I have this fetish almost, for new writing spaces. I love new notebooks, I hardly ever finish using any one notebook, so I restrain myself from buying more, but when people gift me notebooks I just have to make my mark in them.

I might, also publish some of my essays here, just to mark a beginning (haha in very linear fashion) of my writing and research process!

Ah… and also, titles are really hard. How do you title a mishmash of stuff? I was thinking “hmm…URL? It needs to be something ambiguous…” and so there.