Erenlai - Looking at the World from Other's Eye 透過他人的眼睛看世界
Looking at the World from Other's Eye 透過他人的眼睛看世界

Looking at the World from Other's Eye 透過他人的眼睛看世界

 
 
Here is an offering of the traditions, insights, experiences and stories of others so as to enter into their world, enrich our personal development, stir up our consciousness and open our eyes. A path to embracing everyone everywhere…

就算我們的生活經驗再豐富,總有我們沒看到的、沒想過的或沒體會到的事物。在這裡,讓我們一起來分享不同的觀點、論述與生命故事。但願因心界的開放讓我們學會更大的包容力,讓我們能全心去接納那些跟我們完全不同的他者

 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Enter the Musical Universe of Orbit Folks

Here is the video I directed for the band Orbit Folks at the beginning of the year. For more info about the band, please visit their website:

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Beautiful and the Sublime

Man is an aesthetic animal. He takes interest and pleasure in the contemplation and appreciation of other men, living beings, objects, thoughts, shows, music, landscapes that strike his imagination, his memory and all his senses. He makes such appreciation a driving force of his inner life, which becomes infused by greater meaning through the exercise of his aesthetic faculties. The fact of appreciating beauty, and to be able to take time so as to let oneself be transformed by the contemplation of it also provides one with spiritual nourishment and insights. The transforming power of beauty has been recognized and celebrated in many forms throughout ages and cultures; but it is rooted into the capacity to take time out for silence and attentiveness. Therefore beauty is a fragile power, the appreciation of which is to be nurtured from one generation to another. And we have also to recognize that beauty is not purely immemorial: some forms of beauty will speak more to our senses and our understanding according to the age and milieu we live in.

But what is “beauty’” after all? Greek philosophers, and many thinkers after them, have generally drawn some kind of distinction between two kinds of aesthetic emotions, which can be roughly labeled as the “Beautiful” and the “Sublime.” “Beautiful” somehow refers to an aesthetic pleasure provoked by the understanding and mastery of the thing with which we relate: we appreciate the beauty of a musical piece because we realize how skillfully it has been composed, and we can compare it with other works; we admire the craftsmanship in the painting, the jewelry or the vase that is offered to our appreciation; we celebrate the beauty of the face of the loved one according to some aesthetic standard (the Romantic, the Modern, the Classical…) that have become intelligible to us through education, and travels. This is why it is sometimes so difficult to appreciate artworks that come from a culture utterly alien to ours.

The Sublime is an emotion awakened by a sense of mystery, by the sudden realization that we cannot master or understand how this particular thought, artwork or landscape has come to the light of the day. The emotion we experience has not been produced by the pleasure of recognizing aesthetic canons that we have learnt to master and appreciate, but rather by the overwhelming impression that the object we contemplate produces on our senses. The “Sublime” has to do with shock and sometimes with terror, with the struggle between life and death, with the primal forces that work within our inner being and around us. Somehow, “Beauty’ is deeply human, while the “Sublime’ confronts us to what is beyond and behind us: the Animal from which we come from, and the Divine in which we aspire to be transformed.

The whole spectrum of our aesthetic emotion speaks of the different strata that compose our humaneness – the strive for reason, and the one to go beyond or behind reason; the pride we take in being humans entrusted with the task of dominating nature; our potent and unconscious recollection of the fact that we come from the breast of the very nature that we colonize, and our aspiration towards the Divine who made us what we are and still who calls us to trespass the boundary of our selves.

 

Drawing by Bendu

 

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Music of Micronesia

Professor Osamu Yamaguti is a world famous ethnomusicologist currently engaged in research as a visiting professor in Taiwan's Nanhua University. He recently gave a conference about Belauan culture organized by NTU, after which he also agreed to be interviewed by us. In this video, Prof. Yamaguchi shares with us his opinions about the importance of music in preserving culture in Micronesia, and the similarities of certain Micronesian cultures to those of the aborigines of Taiwan.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Alternative Media

Five young journalists who work for alternative media share their working experience, their family life, their dogged persistence in the face of challenges, and their hopes for the future. They discuss their career as well as their home lives, describing the process of deliberation they faced over working in the media, including their self-doubt and their self-confidence.

 

Friday, 27 January 2012

The Genesis and Development of Aboriginal Literature

The literary creations of Taiwan Aborigines, from a global dynamic to a local level; From the first authors of the Japanese language to the expression of a collective “I” in Mandarin; Genesis, definitions, formats, topics and actors.

About two weeks ago, I was invited by the organizers of the Workshop of Doctoral Students in Chinese Studies (CECMC) to give a paper on my PHD thesis. Since 2010, I’ve been enrolled in the Doctoral School of Arts, Humanities and Languages at the University of Provence, among the LEO2T team (Far East literatures, Texts and Translation), and under the supervision of Noël Dutrait. I had previously written a Master's thesis on this subject between 2002 and 2005.

My field of study throughout this project has been that the formation of "those" literatures (press, cultural magazines, anthropological publications, fiction and poetry, etc.), their themes, and the profile of their actors are closely related to the social reality around them. Therefore, first of all I returned to the general context of Taiwan, its history and its various ethnic and cultural components. The population of the island is 23 million and the Aboriginal population is only 500,000. The majority of people are of Han ethnicity.

Then, I shed light on the term "Aboriginal Literature" which in fact covers two realities: the first is the “oral” literature of these peoples (myths, legends, ballads), and the second is the “written literature”, which appeared later due to the lack of any true scriptural system among them.

These literatures emerged during a process of democratization on the island, which began around the lifting of the martial law in 1987. Indeed, the political demands of the Aborigines which were expressed at this time show their cultural renaissance. Taiwan experienced several waves of invasions between the fourteenth and twentieth century’s, and from these encounters with foreign civilizations unpublished, hybridized and modernized cultural expressions were coined. These marked the start of a subjective representation of these people.

Rencontre_avec_Dong_Shuming_-_19.09_1

I was also able to establish a short history of the aboriginal literary creations, since the beginnings of the Japanese colonization (1895-1945.) Starting with the first authors of the Japanese language (who were mostly composers of songs) to the writers of Mandarin expression from the late 1960s to the present. The extreme diversity of those texts also led me to understand why I had decided to work exclusively on the novelistic and poetic productions. Consequently, I was interested in the controversy over the definitions that were given about these authors in Taiwan: sometimes called "native writers" or "native literary creators" in academic texts. It seems that the questions of their "blood", the themes they deal with in their writings, or the linguistic tools they use (Mandarin, romanized or sinicized mother languages, etc.) are respectively put forward by the leading observers of this literature (writers, literary critics, researchers, whether they are Aboriginal or Han). Following this, I recognized the institutional framework of these creative productions (aboriginal literature prices, editorial relays), and briefly analyzed the lines of force that emerged from their literary and sociological reception (analysis of the literary prices posters, the generic division in "songs-poems’, “prose” and “novels”, or "traditional literature" and “literary creations in mother tongue," etc.).

Talking about aboriginal literature without mentioning the content of these texts was inconceivable. So I declined the major themes that appeared regularly in them, all genres included, and emphasized how these writings seemed to be "caught between a crossfire”: the critique of the Taiwanese society and its globalizing modernity, which destructs the cultures of these peoples, mixed to a reconfiguration of the oral tradition by writing (myths, legends and songs translated into Mandarin, or transcribed in romanized and sinisized native languages, etc.), or to a form of ethnical promotion by praising the alternative lifestyle, supposedly closer to nature, that the Aborigines knew before the arrival of the first foreigners in Taiwan.

The brevity of the exercise didn’t allow me to quote all the authors in this literary field (33 writers were officially registered in 2008); so I only presented some of the Paiwan poet Monaneng’s work. He’s an author/activist whose writings largely reflect the struggles of the indigenous activists in the 1980s (rectification of the name of these peoples, from "mountain compatriots" to "Aborigines", the denunciation of prostitution in which aboriginal young girls were constrained to take part, etc.). His collection of poems in Mandarin was the first to be published in 1989.

Rencontre_avec_Lin_Yimiao_et_Monaneng_le_26.09_2

Among the other topics which are frequently raised are the "mountains" and the“ocean”, i.e the environment that would be natural to these peoples. Two authors, among the most famous in Taiwan and around the world, almost systematically articulate their stories around these aesthetic constructions:

The work of the Bunun Topas Tamapima, who was born in 1960 and is the author of three collections of texts, regularly highlights these "mountain forests" as a narrative framework in his stories, the traditional hunting to which his people are devoted, the various taboos of this practice, the relationship of his tribesmen to nature, and their misunderstanding of the modern world that changes their ancestral way of life. However, we can observe throughout his publications a kind of emancipation of the topics related to his people, which gradually converge towards a more collective dimension. There is an interaction between people from different groups and also with the evocation of demands which are common to "all" the Aborigines.

Syaman Rapongan is a Tao author who was born in 1957 on the Orchids Island, a small island off the southeastern coasts of Taiwan. In his stories, he talks about his return to his native island, his quest for re-learning traditional uses of his people (making boats, the art of fishing, etc.), but also of his difficulties in reintegrating among his own people: he is seen as an assimilated Aborigine who had been abroad for too long from their ocean culture. Syaman Rapongan retraces a true identity pilgrimage throughout his fishing expeditions, his relationship with the sea and fish shoals, or his interaction with the ancient Tao.

The second part of this paper allowed me to provide an update on the state of my research, during which I could make a short visit to Taiwan in September 2011. This was not my first visit as I had lived there between 2001 and 2003.

 

Rencontre_avec_Lin_Yimiao_et_Monaneng_le_26.09_1

So I spent the first year of this research translating the latest collection of texts by Topas Tamapima, Lanyu xingyi ji 蘭嶼行醫記 (Memories of a doctor on the Orchids Island), which was published in 1998 and has recently been adapted to the television. In this book, he traces, through very short texts, his experience as a doctor at the dispensary of the Orchids Island. He also talks about the results of the meeting between him, the doctor/hunter of the mountains, and the Tao of the ocean. My presentation at the PHD students Workshop also allowed me to justify the choice of this book (his novelty and visibility), as well as the literary interest that represents its translation (autodiegetic narration that illustrates the "look" of an Aborigine on what surrounds him, the double han and aboriginal viewpoints of the author, etc.). I spent 1500 hours on translating this text of 253 pages into French (123 pages in the format of an academic work). Whilst completing this translation, I also gathered various documents on my subject, and established contacts with other researchers in Taiwan, the United States (Berkeley) and Canada (Manitoba).

Rencontre_avec_Lin_Yimiao_et_Monaneng_le_26.09_30

Finally, I retraced the one-month stay I made in Taiwan in 2011 September. It wasn’t really a "field" in the ethnographical sense, but rather an "impregnation". I hadn’t visited Taiwan for 8 years and I think I needed to re-evaluate things, to remember who those Aborigines were. They are the common man shown in this literature, rather than the intellectuals who write these texts. So I did a tour of the island and visited:

1. The National Museum of Taiwanese Literature of Tainan, in the south of the island, where I could see a permanent exhibition dedicated to the Taiwanese literature in native languages (Hakka, Minnan or Austronesian languages);

2. The dispensary of Ch'angpin in Taitung, in the east of the island, where I found Topas Tamapima who I had last seen in November, 2003. I filmed a one-hour interview with him, where we had a casual conversation about his work, his life, his work as a doctor, his views on politics, the situation of his fellows and about Aboriginal literature. I also had the opportunity to meet Professor Tung Shu-ming at the University of Taitung, who is the author of one of the first PHD thesis on this literature, and who gave me a lot of advice and documentary sources;

3. Orchid Island where I visited all the places described by Topas in his latest collection of texts. I met his former colleagues at the dispensary, interviewed the staff of the nuclear wastes treatment factory, and interacted with the local people. Beyond the advantages to this passage of visiting the island (i.e. to help me to better understand the subject of my translation), the collection of different opinions on Topas also made me avoid to praise his personality and the reasons which led him to write. Separated by five years of inactivity and more than 10 000 miles from the subject of my research, I realized how much I would have stumbled upon this pitfall if I hadn’t made this visit.

4. Taichung, where I met the American-Taiwanese professor Hung Ming-shui who, before his retirement, taught a course on this literature at the University of Tunghai. We exchanged an extensive amount of information over a whole afternoon, after which he gave me the personal notes he had made on these texts, and a long article on this literature;

5. In Taipei, where, after a long interview, I was able to recover data and books from Lin Yi-miao. Lin is the chief editor of the Publication Society of the Mountains and Seas Culture, a publishing company that relays the arts and cultural activities of Taiwan Aborigines. Next, I went to meet the Paiwan poet Monaneng who agreed to be filmed during the interview. He also performed some of his poems in front of the camera.

At the end of this paper, I collected some questions from the public, which enabled me to wonder about some pre-existing analytical categories in Taiwan that I had pursued. I figured that it was imperative to deconstruct them to avoid falling into essentialization. Those questions also allowed me to understand the importance of being in regular contact with ones research supervisor, to measure his expectations, but also to clearly define an initial question, a methodology and research axes. While I was mostly considering my subject under a anthropological, sociological and literary perspective, one of the public comments made me realize the importance of the delimitation of my field and the approach under which I intended to study it. The draft plan of my PhD thesis is structured around three parts:

1. The authors and the texts

2. An annotated translation of "Memories of a doctor on the Orchids Island"

3. The reception of this literature in Taiwan

These three parts are organized around two major questions, according to a historical and literary approach:

- What "view" do those authors express?

- How is it reflected in their backgrounds, their texts and their reception?

The responses will help us to understand more sufficiently the following problem:

What can develop from the meeting of these "view points"? What is its literary and symbolic significance, both at a local and a global level?

Taken from a report of the meeting at the EHESS (School of Graduate Studies in Social Sciences) on December the 13th, 2011, from 17 to 19 pm

All photos by C. Maziere

Read here the original report in French

 

Tuesday, 08 November 2011

Short Animation: Bot

In a godless world ruled solely by chaos, there may be forms of companionship that we do not fully comprehend, however, this lack of comprehension does not make them any less beautiful. We often come across people engaged in things that we find monotonous or pointless, like Sisyphus of legend, for us they seem to lack a raison d'etre or objective except that of habit, just like the way one might feel about the robot in this short film. We're not sure why he insists on protecting the life of this flower, which blooms on a mostly barren planet. His perseverance leads him only to be flung from the planet by a passing asteroid to another corner of the universe. In a universe without rules, without a master, where can we find meaning in our lives? The perseverance of this robot despite the indifference of the universe around him puts one in mind of Song Rongzi from Zhuangzi's Enjoyment in Untroubled Ease:

"Though the whole world might praise him, he would not for that have stimulated himself to greater endeavour, and though the whole world might condemn him, he would not have exercised any more restraint in his course"

Or for readers in mainland China (please excuse the advertisement at the start)

For more of Arvid's animation and illustrations visit his website: http://arvidtorres.weebly.com

Tuesday, 08 November 2011

At the Chinese Pharmacy

It is a dark and humid Friday night, we are wandering around Sanchong, a district of Taipei when we encounter Mr. Wu, the owner of a traditional Chinese Medicine shop.

"What are you doing here," he says. 
"Oh, just taking in the atmosphere of Sanchong."

 

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The ineffable bond between master and disciple

Lucie Kelche (路婉伶) is French and after having studied design and costume-making in London ( at the prestigious St Martins College of Arts), she decided to come to Taiwan in 2006 to learn a new artscraft: the traditional Taiwanese puppetry. She spent her first ten months with the Yiwanran Puppet Theater Troupe (亦宛然掌中劇團) located in Sanzhi (Taipei County). This is where she met Master Chen Xian-huang (陳錫煌老師), the older son of famous Li Tien-lu. She became then his disciple and studied with him during five years before taking off to the US where she plans to start her own theater troupe. This is the story of the ineffable bond between the master and the student,  the story of a friendship that goes beyond language and cultural barriers.

Friday, 02 September 2011

Hi-Life Wedding's hope and heart

We met Kate (US) and Davos (Australia) who form the band Hi-Life Wedding. They now live, work and create their music in Taipei. The band’s main influences range from the pop-music of Hot Chip & The Beatles, the electronic production of German Paul Kalkbrenner and the literature of Franz Kafka. Hi-Life Wedding believes that music and all art is a form of expression that can help us create a life where we are more free of the constraints of our modernity.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Experience the Bodega

I’m Dionne Machado, I come from Canada and I have been living in Taiwan for two years, teaching English and attempting to learn Chinese. In the first days of July, a friend invited me to a Concert of World Music in Taipei. The title was strange but reasonably catchy: “Sombreros, Sandals and Smiles”. It was a free event, as well, so it’s not like I’d be out of pocket if it was crap. So on Saturday, 9th of July, I grabbed a nice little dress from my wardrobe and followed the directions to get there. The concert was taking place in a small Spanish restaurant, hidden in the labyrinth of lanes of Zhongshan MRT area. After getting lost several times, I finally found the restaurant called “La Caja de Música”, which means the music box in Spanish. The place was already quite crowded and there was a nice atmosphere. I snuck some tapas, grabbed a glass of sangria and started mingling.

The metallic and reedy notes that wound their way up from the basement, signalled the start of the show. I was standing on the stairs as there were already no more seats downstairs and caught the finale of Luo Chao Yun, a female pipa player who was experimenting with a slide technique on her instrument with all kind of objects. You could feel the tension created by the extreme concentration of the performer. The second band, which comprised of a guzheng player, a percussionist, a saxophonist and a pianist joined the pipa player on stage for a bit of improv. I’ve never heard anything like it, and, if I’m honest, I still can’t say if I liked it or not. It was just... new and surprising! It seemed to me like it had a narrative to it, like a detective story told by an anguished pipa.

After briefly introducing themselves, the second band, Ka Dao Yin, launched into their own musical tale. The saxophone evoked for me the black and white movies from the fifties with its deep lamento, while the staccato of the guzheng seemed to provoke a feeling of urgency, and then the layer of stasis was there too, with the psychedelic waves of the organ (or the organ setting on a keyboard). They also improvised other pieces that had a quicker rhythm or a different colour to them (but which were all quite cinematic to me). I don’t know much about music, but it seems like improvisation is first of all a matter of resonances and correspondences, like a continued dialogue between two instruments which become the extensions of the musicians who wield them. Unfortunately, this kind of place might not have been the most appropriate for that kind of music as you could still hear the laughter and chatter of the people in the restaurant, which diminished a little the dramatic intensity of the show.

More wine and tapas during the interval got me in a good mood for the last band, Alma Itana. I hadn’t heard of them either, but I was highly excited by the idea of hearing a combination of different influences, latin, flamenco and reggae. And I was not disappointed! There was a real energy and a tangible connection between the musicians who apparently vary their set from gig to gig. That night there was about 8 of them cramped on the little stage, literally sweating out their enthusiasm and visibly enjoying the music together with the audience. The atmosphere was infectious, so much so that the owners of the restaurant, who also play in the band, left the bar unattended to join the jam session. The basement was transformed into a dancing bodega and the temperature rose by 10 degrees in an instant! I emerged from the basement soaked in sweat, but with a really big smile on my face. The experience even made me revisit the Gypsy Kings’ album that had gotten lost in the innards of my PC, and put it back on my ipod, in an attempt to recapture the rhythm of that night.

{rokbox album=|myalbum|}images/renlai_music/*{/rokbox}
 
Photos by Morris Tsai

 


Videos excerpts from the concert at La Caja de Musica
 
 

 
 

Next concert will take place on August 19th at the Tien Educational Center in Taipei city (First Floor auditorium, N.22, section 1, Xinhai road). More info here.

 

Monday, 01 August 2011

An alternative reality? Bogans, boat people and broadcasting

In June 2011, Australia’s public multicultural broadcaster - SBS - showed a three-part reality show.  What’s surprising about that, you might ask? Australian audiences routinely lap up reality TV—home renovations, talent contests, cooking competitions, extreme weight loss—the ratings and advertising dollars are almost guaranteed to roll in. Formats change from year to year, but the concept’s popularity remains. Reality TV has been much analysed over the past decade, and while the debate is often framed in terms of ‘love it or hate it’, I suspect that for most people interest lies somewhere in between. Either way, the ‘reality’ of reality TV is not straightforward.

Of Australia’s five free-to-air broadcasters, SBS traditionally rates the lowest. Its standard fare of subtitled foreign news, art-house movies, soccer and other non-mainstream sport tends not to attract more than a niche audience.  Occasionally SBS breaks through and introduces a program that catches on with the mainstream, such as Southpark and Top Gear, but these successes are few and far between.

This year SBS once again came up with the goods, producing a controversial reality show called Go Back to Where You Came From[1]. The six participants, all of whom had strong and primarily unsympathetic views on Australia’s refugee situation, were sent on a refugee journey in reverse.

Starting in Australia with visits to resettled refugees from Iraq, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the participants took a boat trip to Malaysia where they stayed with Chin refugees from Burma while joining in with Malaysian authorities to hunt down and catch illegal immigrants. From Malaysia the group was split in two: one bunch was sent to Jordan and one was taken to a refugee camp in Kenya. The final destinations were Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo – conflict zones where many refugees start their journeys.

 

Each of the participants found the gruelling journey to be more challenging than expected, if not changing his or her perceptions of the refugee issue, then at least gaining a better understanding of it. Given the trying and confrontational circumstances in which the producers placed participants, an emotional response was to be expected. Sometimes the danger faced was simulated (the boat began to ‘sink’ on the way to Malaysia), sometimes it was real (on patrol with US troops in Iraq) and sometimes it was too difficult to tell. This is reality TV, after all. Regardless of the authenticity of the risk to participants, simulating the refugee journey made for stimulating television viewing.

Go Back to Where You Came From attracted a range of opinions in Australian media, both favourable[2] and otherwise[3], with much fiercer commentary on blogs and Youtube clips[4]. Given the political volatility generated by successive Australian governments’ refugee policies and the mixed levels of general understanding of the complexity that cloaks the issue, such a vocal public response is not unexpected. Much of the discussion is underpinned by a perceived class distinction: unsophisticated and under-educated suburban ‘bogans’ against effete and out-of-touch inner-city elites in the ‘latte belt’. In this case, racist bogan ‘refugees’ appeared to have been set up for the mirth of the educated classes watching from the comfort of home. Looking a bit deeper, we can see how Go Back to Where You Came From managed to transcend this tired social dichotomy.

The SBS producers very cleverly employed the tropes of reality TV: contrived scenarios; emotional manipulation of participants; dramatic music and editing to stimulate viewers’ senses.  It is very easy to question just how ‘real’ this reality program was – the likelihood of Australians escaping by boat to some of the most grim and dangerous places on earth, like those in the show, is so slim as to be ludicrous. But this reverse journey successfully managed to convey the dire circumstances that so many refugees are fleeing from, and the abject desperation and perilous unpredictability of their journey into the unknown.

Go Back to Where You Came From’s unexpected popularity was large enough to suggest that it had an audience more reflective of ‘mainstream Australia’ than might normally be the case for other SBS shows. Rather than gripping the edge of their seats as competitors struggled to cook the perfect duck l’orange in a Masterchef pressure test or mocking the perspiring and jiggling contestants of The Biggest Loser, viewers were given a glimpse of the multi-dimensional and tangled reality that is the global refugee situation.

Regardless of the average Australian viewer’s ideological persuasion, they would probably have witnessed at least one aspect of the debate for the first time. From Chin refugees eking out a living in the Malaysian underground economy, to disfigured victims of the Iraq war dancing in a Jordanian rehabilitation facility and the heaving refugee camps of central Africa, the messy reality of the world’s refugees was put right in front of the viewer.

Australia, like everywhere else on the planet, has to deal with refugees. This is a ‘reality’. A reality for the government, for Australians, and most certainly for the refugees scrambling for a better life. Despite popular misconception, Australia is not at risk of being ‘swamped’ by bedraggled boat people on our northern shores.  The number of boat people arriving in Australia fluctuates from year to year and was 4,940 in 2010-2011[5], higher than the yearly average as calculated since 1989. Under Australia’s Humanitarian Program for asylum seekers, approximately 13,000 asylum seekers are granted visas each year[6]. Australia has a population of 22 million people, a bit less than that of Taiwan.

Australia’s social fabric is not threatened by foreign arrivals. This is a country of migrants and our national culture/identity/neurosis (if such things actually exist) is forever mutating. Trying to pin down ‘Australian-ness’ to a static point in time is an exercise doomed to failure. Pitching downtrodden refugees as a threat to that even more so.

Boat people are sometimes stigmatised in Australia as ‘queue jumpers’, cutting ahead of legitimate asylum seekers who have applied through the appropriate channels and are patiently waiting in a refugee camp somewhere for their official invitation.  No doubt some boat people are rorting the system and fork out cash for a quicker, though extremely risky, passage to freedom. But most are fuelled by pure desperation. These are the issues that the producers of Go Back to Where You Came From were able to highlight.

Australia’s migrant intake, especially of refugees and boat people, will remain an ongoing and contentious issue in the national imagination. Tragedies such as the December 2010 boat tragedy on Christmas Island (where at least 30 boat people died attempting to reach Australian shores) polarise opinion. Recent government attempts to discourage boat people by processing them on cash-strapped Pacific islands have had varying degrees of ‘success’ in deterring boat people and discouraging the much reviled ‘people smugglers’ who charge huge sums to ferry human cargo in rickety old fishing trawlers. The current government’s ‘Malaysian solution’, where Australia has entered into an asylum-seeker trading deal with Malaysia, is dogged by opposition from both sides of the political divide. Inconveniently for the two governments, the dubious conditions faced by asylum seekers in Malaysia were plainly illuminated in Go Back to Where You Came From.

The failure to develop a sustainable solution to the refugee problem not just in Australia, but anywhere in the world, shows just how complicated the situation is. One thing remains sure, at least in Australia, the discussion needed a kick in the pants. Hopefully this is what SBS gave us.

When set against the backdrop of Australia’s ever-droning refugee debate, fuelled by conservative and paranoid commentators and mismanaged by a muddle-headed government, the stark images and conflicted emotions shown in Go Back to Where You Came From can play a useful role. Undoubtedly this glimpse of refugee anguish is a contrived scenario, all ‘reality TV’ is. But the producers managed to create a product that jolted some Australians out of seemingly entrenched stances on refugees. For the rest of the world, this is a reality that is worth taking the time to track down and watch.

 


I’m not sure if Go Back to Where You Came From will be screened internationally, but you can watch parts of it on Youtube and it will be released on DVD in August 2011.

 


[1] http://www.sbs.com.au/shows/goback

[2] http://newmatilda.com/2011/06/22/reality-tv-gets-real

[3] http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/you-call-this-evenhanded-refugee-series-is-strictly-for-the-gullible-20110622-1gfav.html

[4] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHjVTCRKLFU

[5]http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/bn/sp/boatarrivals.htm#_Toc285178609

[6] http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/60refugee.htm

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Taiwan's Museum of Alien Studies: a new view of the extraterrestrial

The Museum of Alien Studies is nestled in a basement in Taichung, central Taiwan. Containing a large collection of alien 'artefacts' and offering divination and massage services, the museum grants visitors an alternative conception of extraterrestrial life and how these entities can aid humanity.

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