Wayfaring: Photography in 1970s-80s Taiwan

Journeys of self and society at the end of martial law
Australian Centre on China in the World, ANU
Curated by Dr Shuxia Chen and Dr Olivier Krischer

As Taiwanese society was coming to terms with a new political reality in the 1970s and 1980s, many artists and intellectuals addressed issues of locality, history and cultural identity. Despite the pressure on civil society, Taiwan’s visual culture flourished, with photography playing a key role as a visual medium that intersected many creative practices and platforms. Pioneering photographers produced groundbreaking works across these decades, from experimental art to photojournalism and much in between.

The exhibition adopts the concept of ‘wayfaring’ from the phrase ‘找路’, used by the seminal figure Chang Chao-Tang 張照堂 to discuss his work in these decades. Here, the term lyrically evokes both the actual journeys that artists undertook, searching for the real-life experiences and sentiments of their subjects, as well as their personal, introspective searches for a way forward, a new path, through creative experimentation with the photographic medium.

Drawn from the collection of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, with some additional works loaned directly from the artists, this broad selection of photographs reflects the diversity and shifting experiences of Taiwanese society and culture at this pivotal time. Wayfaring features 35 still images by 12 artists, including Chang Chao-Tang 張照堂, Chien Yun-Ping 簡永彬, Chuang Ling 莊靈, Ho Ching-Tai 何經泰, Hou Tsung-Hui 侯聰慧, Hsieh Chun-Te 謝春德, Hsieh San-Tai 謝三泰, Juan I-Jong 阮義忠, Kao Chung-Li 高重黎, Lien Hui-Ling 連慧玲, Wang Hsin 王信, Yeh Ching-Fang 葉清芳.

Exhibition info:
http://ciw.anu.edu.au/…/wayfaring-photography-1970s-80s… Continue reading

The Landscape of Historical Memory review

MCLC Resource Center has published James Flath’s review of The Landscape of Historical Memory: The Politics of Museums and Memorial Culture in Post-Martial Law Taiwan, by Kirk A. Denton. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/flath/. My thanks to Jason McGrath, MCLC media studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

The Landscape of Historical Memory:
The Politics of Museums and Memorial Culture in Post-Martial Law Taiwan

By Kirk A. Denton

Reviewed by James Flath

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2021)

Kirk A. Denton. The Landscape of Historical Memory: The Politics of Museums and Memorial Culture in Post-Martial Law Taiwan Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2021. 284 pp. ISBN: 978-988-8528-57-8 (hardback).

Following his previous study of museums in China (Exhibiting the Past: Historical Memory and the Politics of Museums in China2014), Kirk Denton has extended his analysis to the museums of Taiwan. As in the former volume, the author is interested in the evolution of exhibition space and the ways in which historical narratives are shaped by present-day politics. However, whereas Chinese museums seem to be caught up in the ambiguity of belonging to a neoliberal state burdened with a communist history, Taiwan museums offer a master class in how to construct a pluralistic national identity.

Taiwan is a uniquely interesting case because the citizens of that island are intensely concerned about their identity and with positioning themselves in relation to their gigantic neighbor. During the Cold War, Taiwan’s few but notable historical museums followed the Guomindang (KMT) mandate of promoting reunification with the mainland and identifying Taiwan as the “real” China. That “blue” mandate continues to influence museum culture, but Denton explains how in post-martial law Taiwan the museum culture has grown to include the nativist “green” mandate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). As Taiwan’s government changes hands, the “national” museums and memorial spaces adjust their narratives—sometimes in ways that seem intended to infuriate the opposition, but often in ways that accommodate diverse points of view. Continue reading

Was Taiwan ever really a part of China

Interesting piece on the realities of Taiwan, — but I think the author of the piece is fundamentally wrong about the spineless American actor John Cena. He doesn’t have “opinions,” he’s only performing them. In this, even though he’s compelled only by cold cash and no other concerns, he’s still very much like the parroting enforced in China itself, in those scripted, forced TV confessions preceded by torture. The contrast between the Chinese victims and Cena makes it necessary to pay homage to all those Chinese intellectuals who clearly do have a spine, and some self-respect, to the point that it was necessary for the regime to torture them and threaten their families, before they would sink to this type of self-humiliation. But Cena is cheaper: He sold his integrity for free.

The piece is also interesting in the light of yesterday’s abysmal radio “debate” between various American “experts” on the topic of whether the US should do to Taiwan what they did to the Kurds, and so many others (= abandon an ally, because cheap Trumpian Realpolitik, and here above all, because of weakness and lack of purpose). The main giveaway is how the defaitist, pro-China “experts” are unable to talk about anything other than “China” and its supposed unified will to invade and to be able to enjoy all those martyrs. Yeah, that is what it looks like to these narrow-minded, callous, American defeatists! As if it is the Chinese mother’s wish to send their sons to die in another pointless conquest. As if that is what the “tang-ping” youth wants. Indeed, as if that war of conquest would be something wanted by the Chinese people, — and not just by the obsessed, paranoid, genocidal slice of the elite, that holds power in China today.

Magnus Fiskesjö nf42@cornell.edu

Source: The Diplomat (6/10/21)
Was Taiwan Ever Really a Part of China?
John Cena’s apology is a good opportunity to look back at the historical reality of Taiwan’s status and identity over the last 200 years.
By Evan Dawley

The actor and professional wrestler John Cena recently made news around the world for first referring to Taiwan as “the first country” where people would be able to see his new movie, “The Fast and the Furious 9,” then apologizing for an unspecified error in that statement when it brought a backlash from people within China.

Not to criticize Cena – indeed, I applaud him for his rare decision to learn Chinese and interact with native speakers in their own language – but these events nevertheless reveal important and persistent misunderstandings about Taiwan. Continue reading

Taiwan prays for rain

Source: NYT (5/27/21)
Taiwan Prays for Rain and Scrambles to Save Water
Some of the island’s lakes and reservoirs have nearly run dry. And water restrictions have forced many residents to modify how they shower, wash dishes and flush.
By Amy Chang Chien and Mike Ives; Photographs by Billy H.C. Kwok

Tourists taking pictures at Sun Moon Lake in Nantou, Taiwan.

Tourists taking pictures at Sun Moon Lake in Nantou, Taiwan.

TAICHUNG, Taiwan — Lin Wei-Yi once gave little thought to the water sluicing through her shower nozzle, kitchen faucet and garden hose.

But as Taiwan’s worst drought in more than half a century has deepened in recent weeks, Ms. Lin, 55, has begun keeping buckets by the taps. She adopted a neighbor’s tip to flush the toilet five times with a single bucket of water by opening the tank and directly pouring it in. She stopped washing her car, which became so filthy that her children contort themselves to avoid rubbing against it.

The monthslong drought has nearly drained Taiwan’s major reservoirs, contributed to two severe electricity blackouts and forced officials to restrict the water supply. It has brought dramatic changes to the island’s landscape: The bottoms of several reservoirs and lakes have been warped into cracked, dusty expanses that resemble desert floors. And it has transformed how many of Taiwan’s 23.5 million residents use and think about water.

“We used too much water before,” Ms. Lin said this week in the central city of Taichung. “Now we have to adapt to a new normal.” Continue reading

Alone together in Taipei

Source: NY Review of Books (June 10, 2021)
Alone Together in Taipei
Intimacy in Tsai Ming-liang’s films is an elusive possession, but the desire for it is constant and always particular.
By Max Nelson

Lee Kang-sheng in Tsai Ming-liang’s Days

Grasshopper Film. Lee Kang-sheng in Tsai Ming-liang’s Days, 2020

In 1997 the Taiwanese film and theater director Tsai Ming-liang premiered a movie called The River. It starred Lee Kang-sheng, who has had major parts in all eleven of Tsai’s feature films, as a young man living with his parents who develops agonizing, mysterious neck pains after visiting a film set and agreeing to play a floating corpse. Tsai’s previous two theatrical releases, Rebels of the Neon God (1992) and Vive L’Amour (1994), had been tense, entrancing portraits of young people rattling through Taipei’s streets, parks, arcades, restaurants, and apartment buildings, making brief contact and simmering in isolation. In both of those films, Lee plays a voyeuristic onlooker who follows an outlaw played by Chen Chao-jung and watches him have a fleeting love affair with an equally adrift woman. When we last see Lee in Vive L’Amour, he’s hiding under the bed and masturbating while the couple has sex above him, then slipping out and giving Chen’s sleeping character a kiss on the cheek.

The River carried the tone of those films past where many viewers were willing to follow it. “I was almost boycotted by the entire Taiwanese audience,” Tsai said in a 2003 interview with the critic Chris Fujiwara and the scholar Shujen Wang. At the core of the controversy was a single five-and-a-half-minute-long shot: a scene of inadvertent incest between Lee’s character and his father (Miao Tien) in a dimly lit gay bathhouse.

That scene was a breakthrough for one of Tsai’s career-long projects: emphasizing his characters’ material needs and hungers. The River is about “a family, a wife, husband, son,” he told Wang and Fujiwara. “But in their attitudes I make them go back to the very beginning, to zero. So they are just three bodies.” And yet what made that scene in the bathhouse so startling might have been what the scholar Rey Chow has since called its “reciprocal tenderness.” Continue reading

Risk of nuclear war over Taiwan in 1958

Source: NYT (5/22/21)
Risk of Nuclear War Over Taiwan in 1958 Said to Be Greater Than Publicly Known
The famed source of the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, has made another unauthorized disclosure — and wants to be prosecuted for it.
By Charlie Savage

Soldiers in 1958 on Kinmen Island, also called Quemoy. According to an apparently still-classified document, American officials doubted they could defend Taiwan with only conventional weapons. Credit…John Dominis/The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — When Communist Chinese forces began shelling islands controlled by Taiwan in 1958, the United States rushed to back up its ally with military force — including drawing up plans to carry out nuclear strikes on mainland China, according to an apparently still-classified document that sheds new light on how dangerous that crisis was.

American military leaders pushed for a first-use nuclear strike on China, accepting the risk that the Soviet Union would retaliate in kind on behalf of its ally and millions of people would die, dozens of pages from a classified 1966 study of the confrontation show. The government censored those pages when it declassified the study for public release.

The document was disclosed by Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked a classified history of the Vietnam War, known as the Pentagon Papers, 50 years ago. Mr. Ellsberg said he had copied the top secret study about the Taiwan Strait crisis at the same time but did not disclose it then. He is now highlighting it amid new tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan.

[CRISIS OVER TAIWAN STRAIT: Read the full version of an apparently still-classified document or just its previously censored pages.] Continue reading

Taiwan confronts a Covid flare-up

Source: NYT (5/20/21)
‘This Day Was Bound to Come’: Taiwan Confronts a Covid Flare-Up
The island’s border controls had shielded it from the worst of the pandemic. But new variants and a slow vaccine rollout gave the virus an opening.
By Raymond Zhong and Amy Chang Chien

Amid a sudden rise in Covid-19 cases, the Taiwanese government has ordered residents to stay home whenever possible and to wear masks outdoors, though it has not declared a total lockdown. Credit…Ritchie B Tongo/EPA, via Shutterstock

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Closed schools and restaurants offering takeout only. Lines around the block at testing sites. Politicians on television urging the public to stay calm.

If the scenes around Taiwan this week have a distinctly early pandemic feel, it is because the coronavirus is only now washing up on the island’s shores in force. A crush of new infections has brought a swift end to the Covid-free normality that residents had been enjoying for more than a year.

By shutting its borders early and requiring two-week quarantines of nearly everyone who arrives from overseas, Taiwan had been managing to keep life on the island mostly unfettered. But all that changed after enough infections slipped past those high walls to cause community outbreaks. Continue reading

Transitions in Taiwan: Stories of the White Terror

Transitions in Taiwan: Stories of the White Terror, edited by Ian Rowen, has just been published.

This book is part of the Cambria Literature in Taiwan Series, headed by Professor Nikky Lin (National Taiwan Normal University), a collaboration with the National Museum of Taiwan Literature, the National Human Rights Museum, and National Taiwan Normal University.

Paperback (ISBN: 9781621966975)  $32.99 • 290pp. • E-book editions start at $19.99—Order from Cambria Press.

Taiwan’s peaceful, democratic society is built upon decades of authoritarian state violence with which it is still coming to terms. At the close of World War II in 1945, after fifty years of Japanese colonization, Taiwan was occupied by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). The party massacred thousands of Taiwanese while it established a military dictatorship on the island with the tacit support of the United States. Continue reading

Queer Taiwanese Literature: A Reader

New Publication: Queer Taiwanese Literature: A Reader, edited by Howard Chiang (Cambria)

As the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in Asia and host the first annual gay pride in the Sinophone Pacific, Taiwan is a historic center of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer culture. With this blazing path of activism, queer Taiwanese literature has also risen in prominence and there is a growing popular interest in stories about the transgression of gender and sexual norms. 

Since the lifting of martial law in 1987, queer authors have redefined Taiwan’s cultural scene, and throughout the 1990s many of their works have won the most prestigious literary awards and accolades. This anthology provides a deeper understanding of queer literary history in Taiwan. It includes a selection of short stories, previously untranslated, written by Taiwanese authors dating from 1975 to 2020. Readers are introduced to a wide range of themes: bisexuality, aging, mobility, diaspora, AIDS, indigeneity, recreational drug use, transgender identity, surrogacy, and many others. The diversity of literary tropes and styles canvased in this book reflects the profusion of gender and sexual configurations that has marked Taiwan’s complex history for the past half century. Queer Taiwanese Literature: A Reader is a timely and important resource for readers interested in Taiwan studies, queer literature, and global cultural studies. Continue reading

A Son of Taiwan

A Son of Taiwan: Stories of Government Atrocity edited by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin (Cambria Press) has just been published.

This book is part of the Cambria Literature in Taiwan Series, headed by Professor Nikky Lin (National Taiwan Normal University), a collaboration with the National Museum of Taiwan Literature, the National Human Rights Museum, and National Taiwan Normal University.

Paperback (ISBN: 9781621966937)  $29.99 • 216pp. • E-book editions start at $14.99—Order from Cambria Press.

On February 28, 1947, a widow selling cigarettes on the street in Taipei was brutally beaten by government agents searching for contraband cigarettes. When a crowd gathered, shots were fired and a bystander was killed. Island-wide demonstrations prompted the Chiang Kai-shek government to send reinforcements from China. Upon arrival, the troops opened fire, killing thousands. The massacre was followed by large-scale arrests of anyone suspected of sedition or Communist associations, all in the name of national security. Martial law was declared and not lifted until 1987. What happened in 1947 is known as the 2/28 Incident, which led to a four-decade-long suppression of dissent, encroachments upon civil liberties, and the wholesale violation of human rights, all subsumed under an era referred to as White Terror. Its pernicious effects went beyond actual acts of atrocity, as the citizens practiced self-censorship and passed their fears on to the next generation. For many years, this part of Taiwan’s past was talked about, if at all, with circumspection. As evidenced in this collection, literary representations often employed obscure references, which themselves could place the writers in serious jeopardy. Despite, or because of, differences in approach, these writers keep memories alive to ensure that the past is neither forgotten nor repeated. Continue reading

Taiwan indigenous hunters try to uphold tradition

Source: NYT (4/13/21)
Taiwan Hunters Contend With Taboos, and Trials, to Uphold Tradition
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
The island’s Indigenous hunting cultures are circumscribed by ancient rituals and modern legal restrictions. We join a hunt as Taiwan’s constitutional court considers a case on Indigenous rights.
By Amy Qin and Amy Chang Chien

Bayan Tanapima, a Bunun hunter, firing his homemade hunting gun in the woods of eastern Taiwan last month. Credit…Ashley Pon for The New York Times

ZHUOXI, Taiwan — The smell of damp earth filled the air on a recent moonless evening as the hunter wove through the dense mountain thicket, clutching a homemade rifle and with only the narrow white beam of a headlamp to illuminate his prey.

But the hunter, Vilian Istasipal, was confident. He knew this terrain well.

A member of the Bunun, one of 16 officially recognized Indigenous groups in Taiwan, Mr. Vilian, 70, has been hunting on this land for more than 60 years.

Some of his earliest memories growing up in Zhuoxi, a town of around 6,000 people in eastern Taiwan, involved going on dayslong hunts with his father deep into the mountains where he learned skills considered essential to being a Bunun man, like how to lay a trap, shoot a flying squirrel and skin a boar.

“We kill them, but we also pay respect to their lives,” Mr. Vilian said in the courtyard of his home in Zhuoxi, also known as Takkei in the Bunun language. Continue reading

Queer Taiwan and Historical Difference

Event Announcement: At the Edge of the Sea: Queer Taiwan and Historical Difference

Join us for a conversation on new ways of thinking about Taiwan’s past and future. Exploring regional diversity and global connections, four panelists draw on a range of cultural repertoire to diagnose the stakes of queer narration and Taiwan’s historical difference in the world.

Forum speakers include Eno Chen (National Chengchi University), Fan-Ting Cheng (National Taiwan University), Ta-wei Chi (National Chengchi University), and Wen Liu (Academia Sinica).

Forum discussants include Amy Brainer (University of Michigan-Dearborn) and Ying-Chao Kao (Virginia Commonwealth University).

Event Organizer & Contact: Howard Chiang (hhchiang@ucdavis.edu)

Time: April 28, 2021 6pm in Pacific Time
Zoom Registration Link

Taiwanese-dialect Cinema of the 1960s film series

Starting this Friday, the Harvard Film Archive will be streaming the film series Cities of Love and Sadness: Rediscovering Taiwanese-dialect Cinema of the 1960s—a collaborative effort with students from Harvard’s East Asian Film & Media Working Group who have curated the series and also provided the text and video introductions for the four recently restored films. With a focus on the shifting roles of modern Taiwanese women, the “urban melodramas” will screen in two programs on the HFA Eventive page, joined by a third program of lectures and discussions which add vital context to these thrilling rediscoveries.

Program One will screen this Friday March 26 through Thursday April 1, and Program Two will be available Tuesday March 30 through Monday April 5. Program Three—featuring the lectures and discussions—will remain available throughout the series. Log on to Eventive and enjoy these shows free of charge!

Shao-Hung (Tim) Teng
PhD Candidate, East Asian Languages and Civilizations
Harvard University

The Landscape of Historical Memory

If I might indulge in a little shameless self-promotion…

The Landscape of Historical Memory: The Politics of Museums and Memorial Culture in Post–Martial Law Taiwan (歷史記憶的景觀:戒嚴後的台灣博物館和紀念文化的政治意義)
Kirk A. Denton
Hong Kong University Press (March 2021)
Hardback 978-988-8528-57-8

The Landscape of Historical Memory explores the place of museums and memorial culture in the contestation over historical memory in post–martial law Taiwan. The book is particularly oriented toward the role of politics—especially political parties—in the establishment, administration, architectural design, and historical narratives of museums. It is framed around the wrangling between the “blue camp” (the Nationalist Party, or KMT, and its supporters) and the “green camp” (Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, and its supporters) over what facets of the past should be remembered and how they should be displayed in museums. Organized into chapters focused on particular types of museums and memorial spaces (such as archaeology museums, history museums, martyrs’ shrines, war museums, memorial halls, literature museums, ethnology museums, and ecomuseums), the book presents a broad overview of the state of museums in Taiwan in the past three decades. The case of Taiwan museums tells us much about Cold War politics and its legacy in East Asia; the role of culture, history, and memory in shaping identities in the “postcolonial” landscape of Taiwan; the politics of historical memory in an emergent democracy, especially in counterpoint to the politics of museums in the People’s Republic of China, which continues to be an authoritarian single party state; and the place of museums in a neoliberal economic climate.

Kirk A. Denton is a professor of Chinese language and literature at The Ohio State University. He is the author of Exhibiting the Past: Historical Memory and the Politics of Museums in Postsocialist China (2014) and The Problematic of Self in Modern Chinese Literature: Hu Feng and Lu Ling (1998). He is also editor of the journal Modern Chinese Literature and Culture.

Taiwan Arts program administrator position

The University of Washington is looking for a Taiwan Arts Program Administrator to design and direct a new Taiwan Arts Program. As part of our new MOFA grant, the new Taiwan Arts Program under the Taiwan Studies Program will offer national events open to the public focused on Taiwan arts and culture. We define arts and culture broadly, including high culture, popular culture, folk culture, cultural history, indigenous culture and contemporary cultural movements in Taiwan.

The Taiwan Arts Program Administrator will have an opportunity to direct and grow an ambitious new initiative at the intersection of contemporary culture, higher education, and academic studies of Taiwan.  The Administrator will be in charge of finding and engaging culture partners, such as film directors, literary authors, and dance troupes to perform or speak for US audiences, and will have significant ability to shape the program.

As part of the role, the Program Administrator will also offer one academic course on Taiwan per year on an arts or humanities field.  This could include, for example, literature, poetry, cultural studies, art history, performance studies, film and media studies, cultural anthropology, etc.  The ideal candidate will have academic training, preferably a PhD in one of these fields.

The position will remain open until filled.  For more details and to apply, please see the job listing in UW Human Resources.