A year has gone by so fast, the October National Holiday break is soon upon us and NUART Festival has rolled round again! Good times – here’s the run down…
Chengdu’s free arts and music street festival on Kuixinglou Street is into it’s third year now, with no signs of slowing down. As in previous years, the multi-genre Main Stage will keep things pumping from afternoon till night outside Mintown, featuring some of Chengdu’s favourite acts Wednesday’s Trip, Zhang Xiaobing,Jahwahzoo and CDC, as well as imports from around the country including ChaCha (Shanghai), Chinese Football (Wuhan), WHAI (Beijing) and South Acid MiMi (Kunming).
One of this year’s most exciting addition is NU SPACE, our new venue that has opened out the back of Mintown which will be housing live sets from some of China’s most exciting producers iimmune, Hu Yang and Sulumi and the debut of the audiovisual collaboration 3000.
Kiwese is pleased to announce UMU and Microsoft Voices from Wellington will be performing with prepared turntables and projectors on Day 1, following last year’s Orchestra of Spheres debut on the Main Stage! Yeah!
Day 1 on the Main Stage sees things kick off with indie-pop songsters Wanmei Daoli, Chengdu shoegaze trio Sound and Fury and the good vibes of Tuvan folk tunes of Taiga from Xinjiang. My personal favourites, electro punk witches South Acid MiMi are coming up from Kunming to play Chengdu for the first time! Local hip hop stars CDC will bring all the 迷妹 out to close the night with their trap flavoured, acid tongued Sichuanhua rap.
Main Stage visuals will be run by Morning 早上好 resident Cha Fei 叉飞, so expect some trippy shit.
“We are Micro Soft Voices. We are Kathy, Vicky, Alex and Bruce. We are Apple Core. We are hash busting keyboard fanatics. We are laptop punk.” You do not wanna miss this set, the side project of Baba Rossa and Mos Iocos from Orchestra of Spheres!
Shanshui Records laoban Sulumi returns to Chengdu to perform a live set of his inimitable techno/glitch/8-bit production.
Shake off that hangover and get down for Day 2! Fake Swing (former and current members of The Hormones) will charm the street with their acoustic indie pop in the afternoon, before Biggaton and Blood Dunza “run it!” and get things skankin’ with Jamaican reggaeton MC magic. Charlie Tango from France are sure to please with their uptempo indie rock stylings, while Wuhan’s math rock darlings Chinese Football are one’s to look forward to, returning to Chengdu for the first time since their album release tour. Last but certainly not least, the Queen of underground Shanghai hip-hop ChaCha will get her groove on with DJ Aivilox from the Shelter on the decks! Parrrrrtay!
Day 2 in NU SPACE sees live techno from Beijing-based iimmune (Prajnasonic) and Hu Yang (Be Sure) with visuals by VJ Mian. YESYESYESOHYES.
Reggae big band Jahwahzoo b2b Zhang Xiaobing and Friends will no doubt see Day 3 off to a very green beginning. Chengdu’s legendary Wednesday’s Trip 星期三旅行 bring out the bass with their synth-saturated trip-hop, fronted by vocalist Wu Zhuoling. Starcardigan from Vladivostok return to NU for a follow up to their last show at NU SPACE, bringing their energetic electro-pop to the street!
Closing the Main Stage for 2016 is Beijing experimental rock band WHAI. I saw them play a couple of years ago at Yugong Yishan in Beijing, donning dark sunglasses, they were concealed by a thin transparent sheet while shouting “FUCK” repeatedly over droning guitar noise. Intrigued to see how this will go down on the street.
Faded Ghost a.k.a. ChaCha will spin a back to back vinyl set with Shanghai sister Aivilox in the afternoon.
To close the festival, NU SPACE will transform for the debut of 3000, a collaboration between bass music producers Cvalda and Jason Hou and lighting designers Li Kun and Miao Jing based on the concepts of space, sound and light. “要你命3000”。Not to be missed.
This year, the Street Party has been extended to two zones, one featuring local labels atmen and Disco Death with custom lighting installation by PLGRM, the other a vinyl stage run by Chengdu’s resident street DJ Marco Duits. Perhaps the only time of year the Qingyang District ayis forgo their own 8pm dancing session to get down with the ravers!
So what are you doing this National Holiday?
NUART FESTIVAL 2016
1 - 3 October
3pm - 10:30pm
NU Crossover Art
NU Street Party
NU Market Stalls
地址：成都市青羊区奎星楼街55号 ADD: Kuixinglou Street, Qingyang, Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Erica Sklenars a.k.a. Lady Lazer Light is in the capital this week for two talks about her art residency in Beijing and touring with Orchestra of Spheres around China.
Kiwese caught up with her ahead of tonight’s first talk!
The last Lady Lazer Light show I saw before moving back to China was in collaboration with long time pals Orchestra of Spheres.
It was a cheap $10 gig at Valhalla – a grungy, hole in the wall on Vivian Street downtown Wellington, which having survived several different eras of management had remained popular among the metal, bogan and experimental community for it’s diverse billing, excellent beer selection and outdoor area provisioned with old car tyres and miscellaneous lounge furniture.
It was mid-2014, a rough time for Wellington music punters with the closures of popular inner city venues Mighty Mighty and Puppies. San Francisco Bath House had been renovated into ‘San Fran’ – a yuppie, tapas-catering ghost of it’s former self that had halved it’s capacity due to safety concerns – the packed out balcony and wall-to-wall mosh pit had become a thing of the past. The city was thirsty for a good show.
The Valhalla line-up included some of Wellington’s favourite acts, who were not greatly affected by the venue closures as they were accustomed to playing in unconventional spaces around town. Throat-ripping turntable noise trio the All Seeing Hand had arrived home from their national tour and were supported by their good mates Orchestra of Spheres, experimental folk yodeller Seth Frightening, andvisually enhanced by the Queen of Psychedelic Projections Herself, Lady Lazer Light. The stage was a whirlpool of colour and sound and the bar was packed with familiar faces, with Valhalla regulars happily drinking alongside the refugees of less fortunate venues.
In the second set of the night, the Spheres took the stage in inimitable style – festooned with the finest eyewear The $2 Shop can buy, armed with one-of-a-kind wooden and tin instruments and oozing with the bizarre stage presence that has earned them a cult following throughout the country. The crowd surged forward, ready for the cosmic rhythms.
As Lady Lazer Light sprayed forth her kaleidoscopic beams and the Spheres chanted a mantra about iPhone chargers, the sensorily satiated crowd swayed shoulder to shoulder as one, united by a brilliant display of colour and sound. If the desired effect was group hypnosis – they certainly succeeded.
The show was a spiritual experience for the city – the buzz around Valhalla, the friendliness and happiness of all the people who had come to celebrate and support, it was a truly magical night. Orchestra of Spheres and Lady Lazer Light were the gems in Wellington’s creative crown, and we all bowed down in ecstasy.
Around the middle of last year, things really started to fall into place. I was emailing Dan from the Spheres on an almost daily basis and we were gradually putting together the pieces for a national China tour. The dream was coming to life, everyone was excited.
KIWESE: “Are you guys bringing Lady Lazer Light?”
DAN: “Erica Sklenars is going to be in Beijing for three months on an artist residency!! So we’ll bring her along for the trip.”
The morning after the second Orchestra of Spheres show in Beijing, I awoke with a heavy hangover to find Erica passed out on the couch at my friend’s tiny flat in Beixinqiao, wrapped in her screen as a blanket and surrounded by noodles of projector cables and chargers. A Lady Lazer Light bomb had exploded in the lounge and ground zero was beautifully chaotic. This chick is crack up.
Despite being a fan of her work for years, I’d actually never met Erica Sklenars before she arrived in Beijing last September.
During my time with her in China, through all the madness, set-ups, pack downs, instant noodles, Jingjiu, overnight train rides, WeChat frenzies, gaffer tape, raves, laughs, cries and hangovers, she became a very dear friend, one who I have enormous respect and admiration for as an artist, improvisor, communicator and genuinely wonderful human being.
I am so pleased to finally feature her here on this humble blog.
KIWESE: Sup Sklen, how’s it going?
As Lady Lazer Light, you’ve been a staple visual collaborator in Wellington for many years. Can you tell us a bit about your current set up in Dunedin?
I’ve been living between Dunedin and Wellington a bit this year with various projects, but I’m technically based in beautiful Port Chalmers, Dunedin, living and making work in Chick’s Hotel.
What’s the deal with Chick’s Hotel at the mo?
They closed a couple of weeks ago, went out with a bang with a number of awesome farewell gigs, including Shifting Sands and The Clean sending us off on the final night.
I’ve been away since then, but word on the street says there is a killer recording studio developing downstairs…
You were based in Wellington for many years, how have you found the transition to Dunedin life? My only experience with the music scene on my trip there was a seedy late night karaoke bar, where I realised Seven Days by Craig David is actually really hard to sing.
Haha! I have only encountered YouTube karaoke down there… but may have heard something about such bars.
I’m finding it quite different, a bit more chill, a good place to reflect on my practice and on my high-energy, chaotic last few months of travel.
There are some really cool things happening there in the music scene, some awesome new and old bands, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to collaborate and perform. There is actually some REALLY great music happening there at the moment.
You’ve mentioned Élan vital before. Could you name some other acts you’re digging in Dunedin?
I collaborated with Repulsive Woman recently, she played alone outside an old Free Mason Lodge and the audience watched/peeped on her from inside through a camera obscura I constructed. She plays One Direction covers.
You were in Beijing for three months and really thrived in it. Do you have any favourite spots for music and art in the city?
Liquid Light Show at Temple Bar Beijing, which Erica participated in. Sept 2015.
Shocking Pinks DJ Set at Dada with visuals by Lady Lazer Light. Sept 2015.
Mos Iocos of Orchestra of Spheres with Lady Lazer Light. School Bar, Beijing, Sept 2015. Image / Live Beijing Music
What do you miss about China now that you are back in NZ?
I miss the food of course! I loved it all. I miss being able to order a bunch of different dishes – I’m terrible at making decisions on menus.
I miss always having an exciting new place to go! There’s one particular dish I would get that was kind of an omelette thing with sprouts and noodles, it was soo good for late breakfasts. And the shredded potato!! So good.
I miss the friendly faces around where I was living, going on adventures through different villages to find art supplies, taking several forms of public transport to go somewhere, the amazing friendly people I would meet that would extend so much help and kindness despite us not speaking the same language.
The Spheres tour was so bloody fab. Do you have a particularly standout gig?
Too hard to choose! I loved the BBQ party in Feijiacun because that was in the community I was living in.
I loved the NUART Festival in Chengdu and the after party at Zaoshanghao, so much fun! I loved every city and show for different reasons, I can’t pick a single fav. I really want to come back and I’m working on some plans, watch this space!
When can we expect to see the South Acid MiMi x Lady Lazer Light music video?
What would you say to other artists wanting to visit China?
Do it, it’s an awesome place to tour as a band and to make art.
Chur girl, you Sklegend!
Erica will be speaking in Wellington tonight and tomorrow:
P-LAB: LADY LAZER LIGHT
Time: 7:00pm | Wed 13 April 2016
Location: Pyramid Club
272 Taranaki Street, Wellington, New Zealand
For her P-LAB session, Erica will be delving into her world of projected visuals and speaking about her recent 3 month residency in Beijing on the Wellington Asia Residency Exchange.
The Pyramid Club is run by the Sound and Exploration Society.
International Connections: An artist residency forum
Time: 5.30pm – 7.30pm | Thu 14 April 2016
Location: Adam Auditorium, City Gallery
101 Wakefield St, Wellington, New Zealand
Hear internationally acclaimed visual artists speak about their practice and residency experiences in a panel discussion chaired by Courtney Johnston, director of The Dowse Art Museum. The artists – Marc Brandenburg, Etienne de France, Erica Sklenars and Sian Torrington – will share their work and their thoughts about the world versus Wellington.
Berlin-based Brandenburg is the current Goethe-Institut Artist in Resident at the Bolton Street Cottage; Etienne de France, from Paris, is the Massey University Artist in Resident staying at Te Whare Hera; and Erica Sklenars and Sian Torrington are both Wellington-based artists recently back from Asia.
Earth has borne witness to unstoppable forces of nature – earthquakes, volcanos, hurricanes and The Royal Family.
TW: extreme fangirling
The Royal Family are so fucking badass. I’m hooked. Tautoko these bitches all day – literally. Maybe a little too literally…
For the past 48 hours I’ve been on a very real YouTube marathon – watching all their music videos, international competitions, rehearsals, live shows, interviews, et al. I’ve been sedentary for so long that my body has basically shut down and I’m not sure if my vital organs are still functioning . There’s a wooly blanket draped over me and I’ve pulled the heater so close it is almost burning my skin. #healthyliving2016.
“Polyswagg is combining sassy woman fire with aggressive inner strength.” – Parris Goebel
If you’re unfamiliar with the Polyswagg stylings of The Royal Family, I recommend you start with their performance at last year’s World of Dance Championships in L.A. I’m warning you *passes figurative internet spliff*, this is your a gateway link~~~
Every nanosecond is crafted to compliment the next. They’re the human manifestation of 30 strobe lights going at all once. It’s all a little overstimulating. Excuse me while I put my crowns UP.
The Queen of the Royal Family (/the world) is the chameleon-like choreographer, videographer and visionary Parris Goebel. She’s 24 and already an eight time World Champion. We talking ELITE. She won Young New Zealander of the Year in 2014, which for someone with that much gold in the trophy cabinet, is not that big a deal.
Hailing from South Auckland with Polynesian pride, Goebel has been a force on the international stage since she was a teen. With a shaved head, self-confidence for days and holy-shit-how’d-you-even-think-of-that wardrobe, Goebel is at once incredibly inspiring and incredibly intimidating. She knows who she is, what she wants and where she’s going.
Alongside The Palace Dance Studio she started when she was 15, Parris is working with stars like J-Lo, Janet Jackson and Justin Bieber and casually posting photos of Kanye on Instagram. World domination doesn’t stop there – her cream of the crop crew ReQuest have just done a video with CL, one of the biggest names in that vast musical otherworld of K-Pop.
The Royal Family is comprised of ReQuest, Sorority, Duchesses, Kings and the junior division Bubblegum.
Together they are a flaming fireball of intensity that flares between spastic twitches and slow-motion body rolls, contracting and expanding into space with breakneck speed. It’s unimaginable how choreography like this is put together – a well-oiled machine engineered by Parris Goebel and her right hand man Kiel Tutin.
Soundtracks are known for featuring cuts of hip-hop, Jamaican dancehall, Harlem house, dubstep and a healthy dose of remixed Rihanna and Missy. And all that is good in this world, Queen Bey.
It’s an incredible display of athleticism, agility and discipline, as well as a boatload of sass. While Parris is always unpredictable, there are a few trademark Polyswagg motifs such as the spine-defying Matrix bullet dodge (Keanu Reeves eat your heart out), caterpillar formation booty slap, the pigtail propeller twirl and that glitchy, full body twerking.
Individual personas burn bright within a unified whole, each dancer is at the top of their game – and if anything, the choreography showcases the absence of any weak links. And of course, the styling, hair, fashion… everything is so on point.
Dancers: Sorority Choreographer: Kiel Tutin and Parris Goebel
There’s a traditional performance in Sichuan called bianlian 变脸, face changing. No offence to this celebrated and ancient tradition, but the Palace now own the face changing game. Sweet schoolgirl smiles to fearsome Exorcist gurning, sexy bedroom eyes to ‘bitch Imma rip your face off’ pukana.
Their self-branding is also excellent – The Palace Dance Studio, The Royal Family, Duchess, Kings, the famous ‘Crowns Up!’ salute – the use of gold, regal costuming and general extravagance, all binding into a self-assured status of imperial, Poly-saturated domination. It’s an empire you want to be part of. The Palace has become a mecca for elite young dancers in New Zealand, with several members having moved themselves and their families to Auckland just to train there. Much of the core crew in ReQuest are under 18. Bow down.
Parris also directs and edits videos from the Palace with inimitable swag – clever swipe transitions and forward-surging tracking shots have become the Royal trademark, which capture the incredible talent of the dancers into beautifully curated works of art. She’s always keeping the viewer on their toes, weaving through unusual spaces, bouncing off walls – each video is action packed without feeling overdone.
The Royal Family | Polyswagg Lesson 2 Concept and editing: Parris Goebel Choreography: Parris Goebel, Laurence Kaiwai, Lance Savali
Despite becoming a global superstar, Goebel has chosen not to move to Los Angeles and instead oversees her kingdom from Auckland, where she continues to recruit predominantly female, Maori and Polynesian dancers into her ranks and shoot world-class music videos all on home soil. Respect. Case in point:
Last October, Parris and the ladies of ReQuest Dance Crew dropped this dancehall inspired video for Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry,’ as part of the video series she choreographed for his latest album ‘Purpose.’
They filmed the video at the last minute over a couple of days in Auckland, randomly chucking on clothes Parris brought to the shoot. ‘Sorry’ has become the most viewed music video of 2015, with almost850 million views on YouTube. That eclipses ‘Royals’ by Lorde. As core Palace dancer Kaea Pearce said to Maori TV, “it’s just buzzy seeing it get so many views.” Hard.
Choreographer: Parris Goebel Dancers: The Ladies of ReQuest Dance Crew (don’t have all their names – sorry!)
Oh man they are just the best!! I’m all brimming over with pride and excitement for their awesomeness and hard work. Shot guys.
To grace this Royal Family worship piece with tangential relevance to the themes of this blog, I want to give a massive shout out to Giverny Hing, a Year 10 dancer from Auckland who absolutely KILLS it in this video:
And this one (my all time favourite):
And this one!
It goes without saying that ReQuest dancers are selected on talent and commitment, not race. And I don’t want to turn this into an analysis of ethnic representation in the media yada yada, because the Palace doesn’t exist to create a sense of ‘ethnic diversity’ *shudders,* they exist to do and share what they love, and they are bloody good at it. In the same token, the fact most of them are Polynesian and Maori should not be overlooked – as it’s their power, expressiveness and confident sense of identity that is key to making everything they do so amazing.
Giverny Hing reps it hard for all us Asians in Aotearoa who wish we were cool enough to Polyswagg. She is so fierce. The bit where she flashes her grills in the 711 video and rips into that dance routine gives me strength. And as the lead in the Children video, she reps it for Asians worldwide. The bit where she power stances that forest field and everyone runs into formation behind her?? That opening panning shot of the dancers is like, the most accurate representation of Aotearoa multi-culture since… ever? Also, this.
Giverny must be like 14? I am so excited for her, she’s got a huge future ahead of her and I can’t wait to see more. Big ups, girl!
Big ups Parris, big ups Royal Fam, big ups to all the dancers, choreographers, stylists and camera crew that have put New Zealand on the map for something other than rugby and Lord of the Rings. Much aroha, I salute you. Crowns UP!
Do you have a favourite video? Comment below! I have a lot of time to discuss this crew. Seriously.
A mainstay of the 00后 Beijing-Shanghai art community, Mian Mian’s confessional blog writings published in On High In Blue Tomorrows《于忧郁的明天升上的天空》 are scattered with bands, albums, films, poems and lyrics, some of which I have collected here for you to enjoy.
There is something about trawling that I like. The thrill of a bargain genetically inherited from an Asian bloodline. The delight in digging through second-hand records in the wooden coffers of Wellington’s record stores. The flick and pluck of counterfeit DVD sleeves in Hong Kong night markets. So the street front pù miàn 铺面 bookstores of China, where cheap deals are recited over a megaphone like a modern day sales mantra, are essentially my spiritual homeland.
Last year, amidst the stacks of dusty, plastic-wrapped reprints of ancient primers and gaudy coloured children’s books, I found a copy of On High In Blue Tomorrows by Mian Mian. Intrigued by the choppy hair and dark shades of the figure on the front cover, I took the book home and entered the personal recollections of a writer, music-lover and survivor of addiction, often dubbed as a New Generation Writer 新生代作家.
Mian Mian gained a reputation as a post-Mao era, 70后 (born in the 70s) wild child, with the publication of her sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll novel Candy《糖》in 1999, based upon her own life experiences as a party girl flitting between Shanghai and Shenzhen. In the 80s era of reform and opening up, Deng Xiaoping saw Shenzhen transform from a tiny fishing village to a ‘special economic zone’ full of factories, new cash and people from all over the country trying to make it.
In the early 90s, a young Mian Mian ran away from Shanghai to join the action, as with new money brought parties, drugs and hedonism. Heartbreak, hopelessness and heroin followed. In 1995, her parents dragged her out of Shenzhen and placed her in a Shanghai rehab clinic. She published her first book two years later. Candy was published in the same year as Wei Hui’s Shanghai Baby《上海宝贝》, which is also about drugs, sex and parties and also banned in China. The two books are often likened in this way.
Mian Mian’s prose in On High In Blue Tomorrows is colloquial and clear, it reads like a personal journal. It is not heavy with literary descriptions or obscure chéngyǔ 成语 (idioms), which means as a learner, it is easy to read and enjoy.
“My books are not for intellectuals,” Mian Mian said to Jonathan Napack in an NY Times interview almost fifteen years ago, “my readers are in the streets, in a disco, listening to cool music.”
Mian Mian’s writings are mostly about liberation, self-destruction and self-rescue. Her personal life has recently undertaken a huge change with giving up smoking, drinking and eating meat.
The blog entries date from 2005 to 2008, through which she writes about the illness and death of her father, her reflections on her previous life and novels, being a writer, her relationships with friends, the universe and Buddha. Her posts touch on daily life and encounters – trying to give up smoking, going to YY’s club in Shanghai, as well as a lot of movie watching at home.
Below I have included some of the music and films she mentions in these entries written in brown along with my own English translation in black. She often mentions and promotes the work of her friends, which is what blogs are for, right?
Jiang Xin 姜昕
Recommend baby Jiang Xin's album 'I'm An Unusual Flower'! It is even better in the moonlight! She is as beautiful as vanilla!
I believe the happiest thing in life is finding the road you want to take, then having lots of close friends along that road. I think that's what 'Rainbow 2006' is about. The song is an all-encompassing bridge, not a bridge of the human world, but one that connects people and spirits, life and death, the past and the present.
Talking with Jiang Xin is a pleasure. Her purity has power, she makes the little details come to life.
I asked her: "Do you believe in love because the person is beautiful, or has talent, or because they love you?" She immediately responded: "Absolutely not. Love is fate."
Her manner, attitude and voice is unparalleled. Using beauty, youth, music, love and troubles and destiny, she bears witness to a Beijing underground that will never return again.
Muma was formed in 1998, consisting of members Muma (guitar/lead vocals), Cao Cao (bass), Feng Lei (keys), Huhu (drums)
Some people say that listening to Muma is cold, but I think it is a kind of warmth. They sing so honestly about grief, buried youth, the good years and strange dreamscapes.
Out of Muma's three albums, I am most inclined towards the first two.
I remember a song off the new album called If There is One Person I Hate, That Person Is Myself. It is only a name, and I can see their old stubbornness. The new album doesn't make me lose hope, I'm already well-acquainted with that sound from the depths of night, the same way I have come to understand Radiohead.
Some years, in the late hours of night, I find myself in Muma's sound, on the streets of disorder, in my room, picking up my already broken heart.
Wild Children 野孩子
I keep forgetting: I saw Wild Children play at Su He Art Space and cried. Back at home I listened to their CD and cried some more. They are so clean!
2006年4月6日 If you want me toI will be the oneThat is always goodAnd you'll love me tooBut you'll never knowWhat I feel insideThat I'm really badLittle trouble girlRemember mother?We were closeVery, very closeSha la la you taught me how to fit it goodSha la la flow down life you understoodSha la la curl my hair and eye lashSha la la hitch my cheeks and do my lipsSha la la swing my hips just like youSha la la smile and behaveSha la la a circle of perfection, it's what you gaveSha la la then one day I met a guyHe stole my heart, no alibiSha la la he said: "Romance is a ticket to paradise"Sha la la momma, I'm not too young to trySha la la we kissed, we hugged, we were closeVery, very closeSha la la we danced in the sandAnd the water rose - higher and higherSha la la until I found myself floating - in the skyI'm sorry mother, I'd rather fightThan have to lieIf you want me toI will be the oneThat is always goodAnd you'll love me tooBut you'll never knowWhat I feel insideThat I'm really badLittle trouble girl -SONIC YOUTH, LITTLE TROUBLE GIRL我的好朋友Anto... 想起她我会想起这首歌。。。她给我发过这首歌的歌词，而这首歌我以前很喜欢。
My good friend Anto... when I think of her I think of this song... She sent me the lyrics and I also liked this song before.
Lotus by Anni Baobei《莲花》安妮宝贝
I seriously recommend Lotus by Anni Baobei to everyone. One look at it and I cry. This book is blessed, containing important information and moving emotions. I'm not someone who reads books often and given my busy schedule I generally skim through to the end, but then I have regrets because this way of reading doesn't respect the author. So I implore you not to do as I have.
Our writing styles are very different, though similar in the way we are always searching for 'meaning.' This wasn't my phrasing but I think it is absolutely correct.
Today I saw another sad film, but it was so great! It was Love Streams by independent American filmmaker John Cassavetes,
This film told the story of two heartbroken people. Exquisite, lively, interesting and sad. The acting was so good. The director is the lead actor, so handsome! I love him so much!
Summer Palace 《颐和园》
Yesterday I watched Summer Palace and cried for ages.
Today I watched Carmen, a Spanish film from 2004. I never find characters that resemble myself in literature or film, so I was shocked to find so many details that reminded me of the old me. So strange, and at key moments in the film she would speak the same as I did: "either leave me or kill me, I don't love you."
And plenty more. Mian Mian has been pretty quiet on the writing front recently, but you can find her blog (which this book was based on) over on Sina!
Comedy for stage, horror for screen; evil gnomes, fish tanks and everything in between.
Kiwese caught up with PJ-born actor, producer and ardent coriander opponent Hweiling Ow about her life as a creative in Auckland, to play or not to play the Asian roles, and what makes her tick.
NB: PJ is Petaling Jaya in Malaysia, not Peter Jackson.
Hweiling Ow’s resume reads like a menu at a funky nu-fusion restaurant, where you confidently nod away at the dishes you understand while being discreetly disorientated by others.
While some loyalists to the nation’s longest running soap drama Shortland Street may recognise Hweiling as the help-me-I’m-dying token Asian patient Angkasa, it is in independent stage and screen productions where her talents truly shine; gore flick T For Talk is only for the strong stomached and brave hearted, while her multiple roles in Under the Same Moon have had audiences cracking up and theatre reviewers singing her praises.
Like many creatives in the hardly bounteous funding environment of New Zealand, Hweiling’s credits are punctuated with advertising gigs and commercials. However, with so many new projects and concepts on the go right now, she should be able to close out of those Looking for Work tabs forever!! Or at least just bookmark them for later.
Without further ado, here is the interview with the hilarious and wonderful Hweiling Ow.
KIWESE: What up Hweiling! Genuine question, how do you pronounce your surname?
HWEILING OW: Huwayling Ow!! Like if someone punches your arm and it hurts, or if you stub your toe, or if you walk into a wall. Anytime you are in pain, think of me.
As an actor/producer/creative, your work is far from a 9-5. Can you walk us through a day in the life of Hweiling?
No day is the same. Like every bacteria, plankton, and snowflake. But like every artist – I think about where my next pay cheque might come from, and how can I make this work. I am great at stretching my dollar and am a better cook too because of that… silver lining!
You discovered acting in your twenties. What were you planning to do as a career prior to that?
Unlike lots of people, I didn’t have a plan. Having a ‘career’ is overrated. Life is measured in many ways.
In a previous interview, you said that as an actor you need to bare all your insecurities. That sounds TERRIFYING. How do you approach that level of honesty with yourself while working?
I strip down and rehearse naked. Honour thy feelings to yourself – no matter how inappropriate society may judge it to be.
Can you share some of your life’s greatest cringe moments?
This time I was on a date, and I hadn’t realise how much my stomach doesn’t agree with fresh milk. The whole date was silently toxic.
You just finished Bubblelands, where you played a Blue Cod in a fish tank. How did you and your co-star Benjamin Teh prepare for these fishy roles? Visits to Kelly Tarltons having deep and meaningful chats with the fish?
OMG – how did you know I speak fish?! The Blue Cod Society are really unimpressed with the extent the Gloriavale community has copied their culture without any public acknowledgement for where they get their inspiration from.
You’re currently producing and acting in the web series AFK. Is there a deeper gaming nerd within you that drew you to the series?
My deeper nerd is alive and well in my everyday life. I am a recent proud owner of a BB-8.
The players are all stuck in bodies that they created online, is the idea of separate inner and outer identities something that interests you?
The writer/director of AFK, Peter Haynes, should be the one credited for everything AFK encompasses because it’s his baby. Very very clever, and so much potential. I love everything sci-fi and fantasy. My character is kooky and slightly psychotic, so I’m loving it.
Amy plays alot of MMORPG with her boyfriend Jack. Turns out he’s a douche and cheated on her with her best friend. So when she was trapped in the game, she’s pretty pissed off and very skilled. She ate dead fairies to keep alive, and plotted her revenge. She wields a huge hammer, and plays a gnome in the game.
Woah epic. You are also doing some writing. Are you thinking of putting on your own show, or making your own film?
Short answer is yes for film. I have started to write something for theatre, but found it hard to get my head around. My background isn’t theatre – I’ve only been doing it for about four years and I am still learning the ways.
I am great at horror concepts. Exhibit A:
Dude, that is fucked up. Reminds me a lot of Saw/Hostel/gore movies my sister and I used to be obsessed with. What are your favourite horror flicks?
Hah – lots of people made that comparison. The IRONY is that I do not and cannot watch horror. I remember watching Blade and having to leave all the lights on in the house. I watched Brain Dead in two sittings. And just thinking of Poltergeist pushes my anxiety levels up. My brain is warped enough and the dark still freaks me out.
WATCH: Hweiling starring in 48Hours 2015 Grand National Finalist ‘Katy Harrison: Grooming a Superstar’:
The Internet is full of stupid black holes and click bait, a theme you and Peter played around with in your 48Hours entry this year, as well as the online world in AFK. I feel like the world is waiting for you guys to make a way-too-close-to-home internet based horror flick… Thoughts?
There’s plenty of real horror stories – we should just pitch for a reality TV series of that instead. Life is like the internet. There is great amazing stuff, and bad dark stuff. Choose what you click on – cos you never know how many pop-ups you might end up with.
We’re not very sociable. So its becomes a bit of a marketing tool for our skills. We make good shit in two days. Also, we’re a sucker for punishment.
Woah. Polyglot alert! You speak five languages, four more than most other Kiwis. Can you tell us how you learnt all these languages?
Lol, okay, clarification: England my first language is. Then Malay, it was in all the schools, then Hokkien, the only language my grandma could communicate with me in (with the help of sign language), kinda like a 5 year old. Then Cantonese – cos all my classmates were speaking it, and now I’m learning Mandarin just cos there are so many peeps speaking it.
I want to pick up the basics of Tamil and Arabic at some point. Sounds impressive, but you get Cambodians, Vietnamese, Thai people coming to Malaysia, and THEY pick up the local languages and dialects to survive and find low level work for a better life.
How did you fall in with the Liang sistahz? You have worked with Renee and Roseanne for stage and screen.
True story, I met Roseanne in a casual random hip hop class in Auckland Central fifteen years ago, saw that she was into making movies, and I’m like HEY I LIKE MAKING MOVIES TOO!!!! Renee came much later when she was writing for theatre, they ARE STUPENDOUSLY AWESOME BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE.
WATCH: Trailer for Roseanne Liang’s film
My Wedding and Other Secrets:
Earlier this year, you took on the mammoth role of playing all the characters in Renee Liang’s play Under the Same Moon. Full on!! You’d playing two characters before in Two Fish ‘N’ A Scoop, how did you step it up in Under the Same Moon?
I had two personalities in Two Fish ‘N’ A Scoop. I invited another seven more into my brain, like Being John Malkovich. Baptism by fire is how I roll. I people watch.
“I have turned down roles if I didn’t think the accent was necessary, or if I was having one of those – ‘nope, not doing an accented character’ days.”
I know Renee is more interested in writing more ‘non-cultural’ pieces this year, but using Cantonese on stage and even just seeing the NZ Herald publish the words ‘Por Por’ is awesome in asserting Asian voices into NZ theatre.
What are your thoughts on playing roles where your Asian-ness is the focus, and how do you break away from that?
Non-cultural?! It’s got cultural. New Zealand needs that ‘transitional period’ of being offered stories of people from different cultures and races instead of default setting. It’s important these stories are more than just culture and race. As for Renee, I think her breaking point is Bubblelands, thoughI haven’t seen The Quiet Room. If having culture is relevant to the story, it needs to happen. Each person journeys through the transition of just writing humanistic stories – differently. I am happy to play those characters as long as it serves the story and the story is a good one to tell.
Have you ever had a showmance?
On screen and on stage – yes.
Have you ever corpsed on stage? If so, what was it that set you off?
Yes! My sister blister sitting in the front row giggling. She’s been away and it was the first show she’d seen me in. After that, we agreed she should sit as far back as possible.
Which character that you’ve played have you connected with the most?
That requires knowing myself really well. Which is still a work in progress.
What is your ideal post-show celebration/commiseration feed?
Sweet and salty popcorn and sushi. Apparently being Asian, I should be in love with food. But I’m not.
“I get accused of being Malaysian and not liking coriander. If you want to see me puke, just bring me a bouquet of fresh coriander.”
Hath you any words of wisdom for aspiring filmmakers/actors/creatives?
If the timeline of earth was compressed into one year, humans wouldn’t show up until December 31 at 11:58 p.m.
Complete this sentence: New Zealand needs more________?
Here, Hweiling shares with us her YouTube recommendations, so we can all spend more time in front of our screens.
Ai Weiwei’s Appeal ¥15,220,910.50 is a film that documents the long and tedious legal proceedings that hound Beijing artist Ai Weiwei 艾未未, son of famous poet Ai Qing 艾青, on alleged tax evasion charges against FAKE Design, following his unlawful imprisonment in 2011.
His associatesWen Tao, Liu Zhenggang, Zhang Jingsong and Hu Mingfen were also imprisoned for over 80 days.
Text from Youtube:
Ai Weiwei’s Appeal ¥15,220,910.50 opens with Ai Weiwei’s mother Gao Ying at the Venice Biennial in the summer of 2013 examining Ai’s large S.A.C.R.E.D. installation portraying his 81 day imprisonment. The documentary goes onto chronologically reconstruct the events that occurred from the time he was arrested at the Beijing airport in April 2011 to his final court appeal in September 2012.
The film portrays the day-to-day activity surrounding Ai Weiwei, his family and his associates ranging from consistent visits by the authorities, interviews with reporters, support and donations from fans, and court dates.
The Film premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam on January 23, 2014.
Title: Ai Weiwei’s Appeal ¥15,220,910.50
Length: 127 minutes
Robin Hyde, born Iris Guiver Wilkinson, was a New Zealand journalist, poet and novelist who raised her middle finger at the expectations of housewifery in post-WWI society by travelling solo to the frontline in China during the war with Japan in 1938.
The resulting work was Dragon Rampant.
"I haven't attempted anything so presumptuous as a book about China– only a record of things seen and heard during a few months of the Sino-Japanese war; and, for the rest, faces, voices." - From the Introduction to Dragon Rampant
When the humdrum rhetoric from our Government leaders about wartime sacrifice and national identity finally came to a close at the Anzac centenary commemorations last month, the $120m refurbishment of Wellington War Memorial glimmered in the half light of dawn, we all lamented on how truly fucked up Gallipoli was, and heaved a close-lipped, polite sigh of relief.
Now in May, the world media are turning towards to the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, the fall of Nazi Germany to the Allies and the Soviets. School curriculums, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ tea towels and museum displays will ensure that this triumphant vanquishing of evil is tattooed on the nation’s collective historical consciousness forevermore.
Upon rewinding the clock just a touch further, our stored memories of the horrors exacted by Japanese forces in China during the 1930s seem either hazy or absent. Nazi concentration camps, Hitler, Hiroshima and Nagasaki… history became fatigued with atrocities, and the events that occurred before Pearl Harbour are often overshadowed.
The Second Sino-Japanese War was a brutal imperial conquest that inflicted incalculable destruction, disease and dismemberment, massacred tens of millions of people, forced thousands of ‘comfort women’ 慰安婦 into sex slavery, and scattered countless numbers of men, women and children to strange, foreign lands such as New Zealand, where the only such welcome was the Government’s two pronged omission of the Chinese poll tax and additional maintenance taxes…
Those who fled Canton for Hong Kong for Aotearoa during the war are either not with us anymore, or understandably, just do not wanna talk about that shit. For both the media and the heads-down work-hard old-hand Chinese of New Zealand, this history is largely left unspoken.
Which is where Robin comes in.
Robin Hyde, born Iris Wilkinson in Capetown, South Africa on 19 January 1906, was an outspoken and outstanding New Zealander who challenged the personal and professional boundaries of patriarchal New Zealand society. Driven to be a great writer, Hyde set out on a path that would invariably lead her away from the life of a married “Hawkes Bay housewife.” A socialist and a feminist, she studied Te Reo in order to better understand the plight of the Maori, she attended riots in Auckland and made a name for herself writing for publications up and down the country on everything from parliamentary issues to children’s stories.
A prolific and talented writer, Hyde’s work is often discussed alongside the many traumas that punctuated her short life: the loss of lovers, the death of her first child, her second child born secretly out of wedlock, physical disability, long months of hospitalisation that brought on a lifelong addiction to sedatives, attempted suicide and institutionalisation for her ongoing mental illness, where she voluntarily checked into ‘The Lodge’ in Albany, where Janet Frame would be treated with electro-shock therapy ten years later, as documented in the harrowing semi-biographical novel Faces in the Water.
I managed to find a copy of Hyde’s 1939 novel Dragon Rampant at Arty Bees in Wellington before I came back to China last year – a memoir of her spontaneous five-month stint in war-torn China, a second-hand edition published by the New Women’s Press with an introduction by her son Derek Challis, critical notes by Linda Hardy and Hyde’s travel permit stamped and signed by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek on the front cover.
In January 1938, after discharging herself from The Lodge, Hyde planned to head to London via the Trans-Siberian Railway to gather new material for a book that would ultimately provide financial support for her son. However, aboard the S.SChangte from Sydney to Hong Kong, Hyde had her first real encounter with Chinese people and culture, meeting “sweet and sour pork,eggs with crimson insides,” (24) alongside amicable people from bombed villages with whom she sympathised and wanted to help. Upon arriving in Hong Kong, she wrote to her family “the conviction that I’m not going any place but China came over me,” and she purchased a boat ticket to Shanghai instead.
During my journey to the south of China this year, I brought Robin along in my backpack, where her beautifully crafted prose in old-fashioned English and old-school Wade-Giles pinyin provided me with much companionship and inspiration as I traversed the same land she did more than 75 years prior. While I was craning my head upwards at the towering skyscrapers of Guangzhou, she was there watching the skies for Japanese aerial attacks. As I trucked out to the rural countryside to meet distant relatives, she was meeting with army generals and discussing military objectives. As I occasionally longed for New Zealand, Robin did, too. And so it was, us two Kiwi girls on the road.
I was searching for my roots in Guangdong, piecing together the family puzzle that scattered with the dropping of Japanese bombs. Robin helped to fill in the blanks of the stories I was never able to ask my grandparents.
On July 7, 1937, full scale war breaks out with Japan in China. Circa ’37, my maternal grandfather Yee Jeng Doon moves from Guangdong to New Zealand.
In February 1938, Robin Hyde arrived in Hong Kong. A stranger in a strange land, she wrote bluntly of her new identity: “You are the foreigner. Nobody loves you.” (37) Rickshas, opium, smallpox, dead children, British broadcasts, Sikh police officers, Tiger Balm, “toys with bright cheap plumage, furniture, hats, camphor chests, restaurants, fish-shops where split and dried sharks show golden-brown over dangling remnants of octopus…” (52)
My paternal grandmother Hon Yue was also in Hong Kong in 1938. She had fled from her village in Guangdong (some say on foot) and was staying in a rented shack in Sum Sui Po with several other women. Hong Kong was invaded by the Japanese just eight hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941, when she hurried back to Guangdong.
InApril 1938, Robin arrived in Canton (now known as Guangzhou) instead of staying in Shanghai and writing herself “blind, deaf and dumb for the Middle West” (100). My Por Por was around Canton at the time. Her brother Kan Bong would have been just a toddler in Pang Jeel. Guangzhou is now a giant megalopolis full of skyscrapers and subway lines, thought it was rather empty when I was there over Chinese New Year.
“For three weeks, while I was there,” Robin told me, “bombing casualties were few and purely sporadic, though we had at least two air raids and probably more signals every day. In the last week, the bombers were annoyed, changed their tactics, killed 180 civilians, besides bringing back the old fuss and nervousness.”
“Occassionally some harmless old sheep of a village got bombed and machine-gunned; (after the first phase there were seldom any visible defence planes in Canton, and though the anti-aircraft guns rattled away so importantly, really all they did was to drop remarkable quantities of shrapnel in everybody’s backyards).” (117)
Hyde interviewed Governor Wu Te-chen of Canton:
“Do you think it likely Kwungtung may be invaded?”
“Oh, well!” he stood up, politely, “it is not at all unlikely” (136)
Canton, the capital of Kwungtung (now spelt Guangdong) fell to Japan in October 1938, around the time Robin started writing Dragon Rampant near Kent in England.
Like myself, Robin grew up in Wellington and has an adoring affection for the place. Her family rented various ‘dingy houses’ in Newtown, Melrose and Berhampore, before eventually settling in Northland. As a child, Iris attended Berhampore School and SWIS, where her love of poetry began. One day she wandered from home and was found curled up writing verse in an old boat at Island Bay.
As a teen, she attended Wellington Girls’ College. Like many friends of mine, Hyde found ‘Dub Gee C’ to be rather ‘stodgy and cold,’ though it provided her an environment where she could develop her writing skills. I imagine Iris would sneak out at lunchtime to smoke rollies under the bridge like my WGC friends used to do. Heh.
Having Dragon Rampant with me on the trip was like having a friend from home, someone who could make observations with the same wind-swept Wellington worldview. Of fishers Hong Kong she wrote: “This custom seemed familiar. It is what the Italian fishermen do at Island Bay in Wellington” (32), while in Chengchow (now Zhengzhou), she noted: “the same catkin-grasses and convolvuli we knew around the Wellington bays.” (203)
I found a pohutukawa like flower in Guangzhou and wondered what Robin might have thought of it…
“Almost every night, lying in the red padded quilt, I dreamed about New Zealand, dreams so sharp and vivid that when I woke up, it seemed the black-tiled houses that were a fairy tale.”
– Dragon Rampant, p. 97
As a foreign female journalist in wartime China, Hyde was often surrounded by condescending men in the Press who didn’t take her seriously. The big boys of the New Zealand-China story during the early twentieth century Mr. Rewi Alley and Mr. James Bertram met with Hyde on her journey and thought of her as a naive girl on a reckless adventure, but helped her on her way regardless. The freelancing Kiwi writer James Bertram, who provided Hyde with assistance and companionship in China and afterwards in England, gave the book an unfavourable review in Landfall 1953, palming Hyde off as a “precocious child” who has written “a rather embarrassing record of dangerous living and over-stretched ambition.”
“They are too polite to say so. But can’t you see that you’d be an encumbrance to them?”
I don’t like any reference to women as encumbrances, chance or otherwise.
“Go to Hell. We’ll see whether I’m an encumbrance.”
– Dragon Rampant, p. 206
Hyde’s vexation at the way some foreigners would treat the local people was heightened by her genuine desire to help. In one chapter, she wanted to give some coins to a leper on the street, but two Australian men stood in front of her and yelled obscenities at him in English. The way men would get protective of her and the way foreigners would dehumanise the Chinese clearly got to her, and she often felt more comfortable in the company of the Chinese. “I wanted to get away from anyone who might possible speak my language” (184). Though as a white foreigner, she found her efforts to be friendly with the Chinese often ended with confusion: “I was sorry for her and tried to be very friendly, so immediately she thought I was insane” (83).
Bertram described Dragon Rampant as “fragmentary and chaotic, and not very easy to follow.” Anyone who has ever travelled in China will know the experience is precisely that, so a written account which manages to capture the chaos must be on point!
Each sentence bursts with the illustrative descriptions that Hyde is so well known for in her poetry; the sensory overload one is confronted with in China conveyed through a myriad of tenses and voices in Hyde’s writing. Sobering descriptions of rotten corpses and bombed villages, a harrowing scene where a raped Chinese woman tries to kill herself by swallowing a pair of sharp-pointed earrings, intertwined with interviews, anecdotes, conversations, poetry and insight into the human condition during wartime.
Hyde was writing for a Shanghai newspaper and attended a Press meeting in Canton. Her accounts of how the foreign Press would report the war back home are underlined by her sympathy to China’s cause and her own desire to foster an understanding of the nation’s struggles in her readers. “Canton, Hankow. Within a few days these cities were gone, neither achieving much of a sunset on western front pages,” (13) she laments in the introduction, written from a caravan in England at the start of 1939.
The atrocity fatigue of world news reportage goes on: “‘Even if there’s another Nanking,’ one American reporter told me, during Pa Ta Chia’s chocolates, tea, bulletones and bonhomie, ‘what of it? There’s already been one Nanking.'” (169) These words recur in Hyde’s narration throughout the rest of the book, despite all the suffering and death she sees, the papers won’t report it with Nanking like enthusiasm. “And it is so hard to make West take East even a little seriously,” (193) she rues.
Hyde’s descriptions of the people she meets along the way are made with keen observation and for me, are the highlight of the book. The writer Agnes Smedley “kept looking at the flowers as if she expected them to turn into string sandals, munitions, or a small donation for the Orphans’ University in the north-west” (176), the Chinese-Australian girl Rene Hsu “alternated between being twelve years of age and approximately a Chinese five thousand” (22). Hyde’s impressions of other people show off her humour and wit, alongside her ability to capture the best and worst facets of the human condition. “Her eyes were exactly like those of an eighteen-year-old who used to come up to me and talk in a New Zealand book-shop,” (216) she wrote of an injured villager named Mrs. Wong. The human spirit transcended race. Later in London, Hyde said Dragon Rampant was “secondarily a war book, primarily a book about people—not Consular book—or maybe a war book reflected through people.”
Contrary to many biographies online, Hyde sustained an eye injury not from the assault by Japanese soldiers, but “a poor old scared devil of a Chinese peasant,” who pushed her down a hill.
The image of Hyde limping for thirty miles along the Lunghai railway line in her bid to escape the captured burning city of Hsuchowfu (now known as Xuzhou) with a bung leg and a fucked up eye is an enduring description of Hyde’s epic bravery and insane commitment to the art of journalism and storytelling.
On her second attempt to make a “pedestrian retreat” out of Hsuchowfu, perhaps inspired by the “brains, courage and energy” of Miss Chang Yi-Lien and “another diminutive Chinese girl writer” (193) who had succeeded in escaping on foot, Hyde was captured by Japanese soldiers and eventually handed over to the British in Qingdao, who sent her to Hong Kong via Shanghai where she recovered briefly in hospital and wrote of her longings to return home, but her internal pressure to continue on to England.
“I want New Zealand, though I doubt if it’s a reciprocal affection.”
– Hyde to her family, Hong Kong. 23 July, 1938.
Hampered by tropical illnesses, post-traumatic stress, drug addiction and her ongoing mental illness, Robin spent the final months of her life in England with the support of James Bertram, Charles Brasch and fellow writers. Dragon Rampant was published in 1939 to favourable reviews, but it was quickly overshadowed by the looming war in England. The situation worsened in China and now in Europe. In August 1939, the New Zealand High Commissioner visited Hyde in London and arranged her journey home to New Zealand, where in an inquest he reported she wanted to go back to China. But it was too late.
Robin Hyde took her own life by overdosing on Benzedrine at a cottage in Notting Hill on 23 August 1939, never to make it back to her beloved New Zealand. The following year, my Yeye Carr Yam immigrated from Canton to Hong Kong to New Zealand to join his father. Hon Yue managed to get out in 1948.
Her writings in Dragon Rampant and in her poems about China in Houses By the Sea would capture the humanity, strength and suffering of a people so readily discriminated by her countrymen (she was ashamed of New Zealand’s racist immigration policies at the time). She desperately wanted her fellow New Zealanders to understand; that would be the way she could help.
Hyde often reiterated her amateurish knowledge about the greater situation and admitted to feeling “ignorant and childish” (83) in the company of her more informed counterparts, yet published Dragon Rampant, originally titled Accepting Summer, in her efforts to “understand fragments of the mosaic” (9). Her longing wish to help was staggered by the enormity of the country, the sheer amount of suffering and the ginormous population, but her writings were not in vain.
While books by James Bertram and Rewi Alley may record a more ‘complete’ picture of the Sino-Japanese War, Dragon Rampant survivesas an important document of the multiplicity of sights, sounds, smells and voices of wartime China, both poetic and journalistic, recorded earnestly by a Kiwi woman who was not so ignorant as to believe she could become ‘one’ with the Chinese people (an encounter with Japanese soldiers told her she’d be shot if she weren’t white), but through her compassionate attitude to all human beings and solidarity with China’s plight to defend itself, she produced a remarkable, enduring account of a brutal war that is often overlooked by the Anglophone world.
May her memory go on.
Header image via Oztypewriter, who has written an excellent article on Hyde’s typewriter and travels. Robin Hyde writing outside Charles Brasch’s rented cottage in Wiltshire, April 20, 1939.
Chengdu. An old lady in slippers fossicks about in the bright yellow leaves for fallen nuts from the local ginkgo tree. Bananas on pedicabs roll past mahjong players and open air eateries. Bundled up babies flail about like pudgy starfish on the laps of knitting grannies. The pace is chill, the sun shines, the sky is blue.
This is the environment where Allan Xia 夏昊禹, theAuckland-based artist and founder of the indie arts festival Chromaconand the transmedia production consultancy company Kognika, spent his childhood years.
Hey Allan! What brings you back to China this time?
Hey! I’d originally already planned the trip myself, then was invited to be part of the Screen Delegation with the NZ Film Commission for five and a half days in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.
Thanks! Yeah, I can see future initiatives going in this direction, seen as we have a Consulate-General here now. Chengdu for me has always been a very creative and artsy city. The overall mood, environment and pace of the city is what I’ve always liked about it. Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing are very business orientated – everything moves at a rapid pace. Whereas Chengdu is full of teahouses – substitute them for coffee houses and its like Auckland.
I moved to New Zealand when I was eight. It was a massive culture shock, really. We moved a lot and I went to like eight different primary schools in West Auckland within three years. So there was the language barrier, plus not having time to really make friends.
I think the lack of social engagement pushed me to become more interested in reading. I read a lot of everything, fiction especially, in Chinese and English. I was reading stuff like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West and all the martial art novels. It definitely helped me keep up my Chinese reading skills.
I read a lot of comics as well: Japanese manga, Tintin, Astrix. I drew for fun, as well. I always liked it. I thought I was decent at it, in hindsight I wasn’t really, but it is good to be ignorant [laughs].
“Myths and legends and fantastical worlds with all these interesting characters… my love for storytelling was developed before visual arts.“
Your ‘Crossed Cultures’ remix of Renee Liang’s poem and Dylan Horrocks’ comic is amazing! I thought I was gonna cry by the end!
I feel like I was an observer in the whole thing – it came together so naturally. It’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever made. It was for a competition called Mix and Mash, which is all about Creative Commons and the idea of remixing work and generating new contexts for them. Renee’s poem and Dylan’s comic were put up under the Creative Commons License. Cultural identity isn’t something I always think about, but Renee’s poem encapsulated so much of my experience and perhaps even how I felt really deeply. It made me get over some stuff on a personal level, like I don’t think I ever need to make another piece of art about cultural identity [laughs].
How did you first go about pursuing your passion for art?
When you are in high school, you are thinking about your career path and that. I was really into indie web comics and games at the time. Once I decided I wanted to be a designer for film and games, I joined a lot of online arts communities like conceptart.org, CGTalk and CGHub, and started learning more and more. In high school, you’ll just get told what you need to do in uni, then the job you need to get. Whereas online, people are industry professionals who skip straight to the relevant information. That was really good for me because I quickly saw this pathway – and to get there I needed fundamental skill sets and knowledge. We don’t really teach drawing fundamentals in New Zealand, so if anything, swapping Science for Design taught me that I needed to NOT do seventh form. I spent a year in Chengdu and Beijing doing boot camp style art tuition classes.
Haha woahhh, how did that go down with your parents?
I was a typical Chinese kid – I had good grades in Science and Math… until fifth form when I decided I wanted to do art, then basically dropped everything else [laughs]. I was just drawing in math class. I went from A+ to D. It was a shock for my dad. Asian parents aren’t used to seeing D’s on reports.
How did the idea of bringing together local illustrators, comic artists, designers, animators and videogame developers in an event like Chromacon come about?
I did a group show with some illustrator friends at the gallery above Kfma few back. We had a really awesome opening. The whole “oh its low brow, but let’s try do a show, cos its K Rd!” vibe [laughs]. But after the opening, it was quite empty. I wanted the vibe of the opening expanded into its own event. Cos what’s the point of making art if people don’t see it?
For the first Chromacon in 2013, I thought it could be like twenty or thirty artists who I personally knew, but then word kinda spread and more people signed up. It just grew. It is a free event, but was still surprised with how many people came! Two thousand! Which is like nothing if you tell people about it in China [laughs].
Awesome! How are the plans coming along for Chromacon 2015?
It is gonna be from 18-19 April at Aotea Centre, with two floors this time. We went over capacity last year, which was positive but scary! The good thing was we had another room for talks and discussion panels and we didn’t have to turn anyone away.
How do you see creative outlets in China and New Zealand developing in the future?
I’m still trying to figure that out. It is also why the Kognika website is still quite empty. I want to co-develop a cross-cultural collaborative model with China, a strong and meaningful bridge between creative industries in New Zealand and China. One that is sustainable.
I think the most important thing at this point is to not make too many assumptions. Even I have. The more I engage with China, the more I realize I need to learn.
One year ago, amidst the panoramic plume of grey sky and uncontrollable heating units of Beijing, over a tenuous VPN connection in a dank, crampeddorm room at BLCU, Kiwese was born.
To celebrate this milestone, Kiwese has a prize pack to giveaway to one lucky winner!
This is a bunch of original notes I hacked out while thinking about what I wanted Kiwese to be:
Rehumanising the way NZ and China interact with each other
Dodging stereotypes, modernizing perceptions, increasing awareness, avoiding awkward hakas and martial arts displays
Giving voice to those in the NZ and Chinese communities who are doing awesome shit that no one knows about
Not specialised towards an ethnic group. For all who are interested in the topic.
He tangata he tangata he tangata
Celebrating difference, bonding over similarities, acknowledging the ugly
Making China a topic for discussion instead of target of judgment. An alternate dialogue to trade/milk/real estate/etc
Foster the dialogue, enter the lounge
I think there is now a stronger need than ever for more fresh perspectives from China and New Zealand – we need to remind ourselves that New Zealand is not this utopian paradise of photogenic mountains and equality for all, likewise, China is not just a sprawling mass of polluted cities and internet censorship.
I hope that you have all enjoyed the journey so far as much as I have. The New Year holds plans for an updated format to make the site more accessible and shareable with our friends in China.
Thanks to all people who have been a part of this blog so far and to the bands, artists, photographers, poets and spicers for generously contributing their work to this birthday giveaway!
The exxxtremely limited edition (ie. one) prize pack includes:
x 1 God Bows to Math (AKL) and Pairs (上海) split “7
x 1 Carb on Carb (AKL) China Tour poster
x 2 ‘Permanent Vacation’ 1 & 2 zines, stickers and badges from Kerry Ann Lee (WGN)
x 1 ‘New Kiwi Women Write Their Stories’ poetry collection, edited by Renee Liang (AKL)
x 1 CD of ‘1984’ by P.K 14 (北京）
x 1 CD of ‘Mechatronics’ by the All Seeing Hand (WGN)
x 1 CD of ‘Elephant’ 《象》by the Hormones (成都)
x 1 CD of ‘Sacrifice Mountain Hills’ by Skip Skip Ben Ben (北京)
x 1 Jar of X-Claw Chilli Oil & t-shirt from Sichuan Spice (WGN)
x 1 UP THE PUNKS zine and photograph by John Lake (WGN)
Intrigued by the potential for free cocktails and drawn to the purple skyline on familiar, yet dream-like landscapes, Kiwese wandered into the opening of the group exhibition, Signals at Starkwhite Gallery on K Rd back in August.
The latter, the work of Shanghai-based artist Jin Jiangbo 金江波, who has been interpreting the visual language of New Zealand over the past five years and creating a dialogue with both the mountainous beauty of the South Island and the dilapidated factories of Taranaki.
It is 6pm at Little Algiers on K Rd. The cat-from-upstairs nimbly roams around the coffee machine. Jin Jiangbo takes a seat at the table and pours a freshly brewed pot of tea. He seems very much at home here in Auckland – the Shanghai of New Zealand – where he has been flitting back and forth for art and family since first coming to New Zealand in 2009.
Originally from the fishing island of Yihuan, Zhejiang, Jin Jiangbo grew up near the ocean and holds fond memories of his childhood. “Being in New Zealand reminds me a lot of where I grew up. I think people that live near the ocean have a different temperament to those from who live inland,” he says.
“Where I’m from, the people are called “tǎo yú rén 讨鱼人,” people who make a living from fish, or “tǎo hǎi rén 讨海人,” people who beg the ocean for food. People from Yihuan have a very bold and determined way about them. In ancient times, if you went out fishing, there was no telling if you’d make it back. This affects the character of the local people.”
The personal connection to the ocean is one reason Jin Jiangbo came to New Zealand, as well as the World Famous Outside of New Zealand landscapes. “I’ve been to a lot of scenic places here and have been amazed by its natural beauty, the diversity of geology and landforms; the rich variation,” he muses of his road trips in the North and South Islands, where he captured them through more lenses than one. The mountainous topographies, low-lying mist and rain cloud formations felt familiar to his visions of classical Chinese landscapes.
The resulting Dialogue in Nature (2011)series was exhibited at Starkwhite. “New Zealand was a kind of déjà vu. In my eyes, the scenery possessed the same kind of aesthetic spirit as the mountains and waterfalls of Song Dynasty landscapes.”
Instead of black ink and rice paper, he used analog photography to capture snapshots of these natural scenes before digitally reworking them. “I wanted to reimagine the New Zealand landscape; reshaping it with this visual language formed by my own views of shanshui 山水 painting and the Chinese literati’s understanding of nature and the universe.”
However, it was not only the scenery that visually linked New Zealand and China for Jin Jiangbo.
2009. The Global Financial Crisis sends shockwaves through the economy; the same year Jin Jiangbo first came to New Zealand through the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth.
The Eurozone needs bailing out. Manufacturing debris and cold concrete walls lie abandoned in China. The large-scale, wide angle photographs in Jin Jiangbo’s series The Great Economic Retreat (2008) act as a document of these deserted factories and buildings, the by-product of massive changes in the China economy.
“At that time, I was looking at the changes occurring in the global economy and how it was affecting places all around the world, as well as Chinese society and politics,” he says, “then in Patea near New Plymouth, I found a dilapidated factory that was similar to the ones in Dongguan, China. This connection gave me a sense of purpose.”
“As a contemporary artist, it is impossible to separate the influence of political, institutional and economic impacts on our lives; they affect our behaviour and ability to think.”
“As an artist, one involves themselves in observing the current social and political situation with their own lens, to re-examine them and make their own judgments.”
Shanghai is no stranger to change. “The 2010 Shanghai World Expo followed the worst of the global economic crisis – everyone thought the economy was going collapse, with the state of the US economy and the debt crisis ravaging Europe,” he says. “But for China, in order to maintain high-speed development, GDP production and large investments in infrastructure… a direct consequence was the printing of more money, which done at such a speed and intensity that has subsequently brought inflation, rising prices, rising house prices and so on.”
“The cost of living is an enormous pressure and we have all become mortgage slaves.”
In addition to photography, Jin Jiangbo works with a range of other mediums in his installations under the umbrella of New Media Art.
“It is a dynamic concept,” he explains, “throughout the various stages of history, painting and art has always taken on new forms. For example, in ancient China before written word, we tied knots in ropes [结绳记事] and painted frescoes on rocks to record hunting achievements, to pay homage to ancestors, for marriage and childbirth ceremonies and so on. Then came paper, banana leaves and bamboo, followed by painting on paper and printing with etching presses. And now, in the modern day, we use cameras to photograph and record things. These things are all New Media Art, they are new against the backdrop of history and tradition. ”
“Each form of media has a new interpretation, which bring a new style of language and cultural production, including how WeChat is now used more than email.”
This perceptive observation of modern society is perhaps reflected most acutely in Jin Jiangbo’s 2010 work God, Go Ahead With Chatting,《 天哪，你去聊吧》 – the striking and disturbing installation of a silica internet slave with his face twitching out on a computer screen, while other live screens hover above him.
WATCH: God, Go Ahead With Chatting:
“At the time there were mobile phones, but iPhones hadn’t been widely adopted, so people were still chatting on their computers with things like QQ, MSN, Skype, Facebook and chat rooms,” he says. “The world was enveloped by it. People would be chatting right into the night, myself included – it’s extremely tiring.”
“A lot of these chat things are full of rubbish, but they provide a wealth of feelers to perceive the outside world. You can sing karaoke or play mahjong with people in chat rooms, some people even take English classes, check in with the stock markets, or even nude chat – all kinds of things. But you will eventually crash, because you can’t be in control in this digital world. So the idea is that before you collapse, the chat notification bubbles will still be floating around your brain, the online world continue on without you.”
As an Associate Professor of Contemporary Art with a PhD from Tsinghua University, Jin Jiangbo spoke of his approach to creating art from an analytical perspective. “Inspiration is sometimes fleeting, a lot of things cannot be considered as inspiration – they are more like a kind of research. I think it is important to study texts and contexts, researching history, news, the political situation – these things will prompt me in finding what I should be focussing on. Instead of a flash of inspiration or a ‘eureka!’ moment – I think dissecting things give me a kind of joy.”
“Art assists you to know this world – more precisely, to cognize a world that differs from what you have seen before.”
Having established links between the Fine Arts College of Shanghai University and friends at the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland, Jin Jiangbo feels positive about the opportunity for collaboration between both staff and students. “People here are very friendly and have a strong appreciation of art and life,” he says of his experience in New Zealand, where his immediate family are now based. “Last year we invited the Auckland School of Fine Arts to attend the Shanghai Design Biennale, the largest of its kind in the design world. Our teachers and students were able to share research on geological change in urban environments and disaster relief measures. It was very interesting for all involved.”
The future looks bright, as he speaks enthusiastically about plans for the 2nd International Public Art Forum to be held next year with the Shandong University of Art and Design and the Hong Kong Institute for Public Art. “This provides a platform for more international researchers, scholars, artists, critics and curators to come to Auckland and discuss the relationship between public art and cultural development, in New Zealand and rest of the world,” he says of the anticipated event, “it is the highest international honour in the public art world.”
It’s nearly dinner time, the tea pot is empty, so I ask Jin Jiangbo if he has any advice for young artists.
“I am a young artist, too!” he remarks, and I wince at the inference I may have made otherwise. “For those starting out, you need to stimulate your own creativity instead of copying others, or following a path that has already been walked. You’ve got to uncover your own creative talent, your own artistic language… it is certainly a very interesting process.”