Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Monday, 29 December 2008
Tuesday, 30 December 2008 00:10

Chinese Painting Today

Chinese painting is a special and pervasive feature of China’s social and cultural theater. In this respect, it has to be acknowledged that Chinese painting often functions as an assertion of national pride and uniqueness, which results in endless repetitive motifs. This should not overshadow the remarkable achievements in Chinese painting in the last decades. Actually, when all is said and done, future generations might recognize the 20th century as one of the most creative periods in the history of the venerable artistic tradition called "Chinese painting." Names such as Huang Binhong (1865-1955), Qi Baishi 1863-1957), Li Keran (1907-1989), Shi Lu ( 1919-1982), Lin Fengmian ( 1900-1991) already stand among the best artists of our time, not only in China but worldwide, even if Western knowledge of Chinese art remains very poor indeed.

But what is "Chinese painting" (guohua) anyway? One must first note that guohua can also be translated as "national painting" if one does not simply consider it as an abbreviation of zhongguohua, i.e., "Chinese painting" stricto sensu. The distinction is important for the intent it conveys, if not for the reality to which it refers. "Guohua and zhongguohua commonly refer to works painted with traditional Chinese pigments on a ground of traditional paper or silk. The terms thus describe the medium and ground of the painting rather than the style."

Some critics plead for a much broader definition of “national painting.” Art historian Lin Mu (born 1949) writes:
“Ink work, rice paper and free-hand techniques came into being only during the last few centuries. Painting styles in China also include folk painting, various fresco styles, silk paintings, stone intaglios, from which much is to be learned. As for the traditional ink and wash painting, which takes the Chan school as its spiritual kernel, this simple, elegant and leisurely style may have difficulty surviving in our changing world, where the closed and stagnant agricultural society from which the tradition emerged is being rapidly swept into the past.... Modern society has good reason to demand of Chinese painting a totally new look.”

Like other historians, Lin Mu argues that Chinese tradition is much more diverse and heterogeneous than often acknowledged, and that different schools, materials, techniques and religious faiths generated various styles of painting. It is only in contradistinction to Western art that the literati school came to bear the label of "Chinese painting" and was set into a canon. The limitations in technique and materials proper to this school have long been recognized, by prominent Chinese artists as Pan Tianshou (1897-1971) and Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). To do "Chinese painting" today is to retrieve the diversity of China’s artistic traditions, with particular attention to religious art and the traditions of ethnic minorities. Lin Mu celebrates the "vagueness" (mohuqing) of contemporary Chinese painting—a vagueness he finds far preferable to the insistence upon any one standard or dominant tradition.

The views summarized above are not mere repetitions of the criticisms Chinese painting has endured over the last 40-some years, but may prove to be even more challenging. The history of Chinese painting since 1949 is a tormented one. Traditional painting was first omitted from the curricula of Art academies. Subsequently, Chinese painting was mobilized for a short period in order to celebrate the successes of the new regime. From 1963 on, artists like Shi Lu, Li Keran, Lin Fengmian or Pan Tianshou fell victim (the last posthumously) to violent criticisms aimed at the "wild, weird, chaotic and black" nature of their works, which could not but betray an essentially counter-revolutionary spirit. The re-emergence of the guohua tradition following the Cultural Revolution has been long and difficult. Although the renewed nationalist fervor has helped its rehabilitation, its artistic development has remained under the control of the cultural bureaucracy. In the past two decades, other media have been deemed to better express the spirit of adventure and protest that art can convey. The underlying question is whether "national art" brings with it a predetermined meaning or might conversely be able to express the diversity, contradictions and various pursuits of the whole nation at a given moment in its history.

The debate about Chinese painting is thus a debate about the essence of Chinese identity. A strongly-worded article by Huo Chunyang, responding to positions voiced by Lin Mu and others, says much about what is here at stake. Chinese painting, Huo argues, is a "(spiritual) universe" (jingjie)—an expression derived from the yijing concept, i.e., the "density" or "quality of soul" that one can find in a painting. In its essence, he argues, Chinese painting manifests the spiritual energy gathered by the man who relates to the universe, and, as such, is the pure emanation of ancient Chinese philosophy. "Although the Chinese people received the shock brought by cultures of other people, they have never changed the spirit of their own culture. On the contrary, they have eagerly welcomed, digested and transformed the cultures coming from outside." The aspiration to cosmic unity embodied in this original Chinese culture cannot be found in Western tradition, Huo Chunyang asserts. Nowadays, artists unfaithful to the original spirit of Chinese culture change their style in order to please the foreigners, thus showing a lack of self-respect and self-confidence.

Huo Chunyang’s position reminds one of what is sometimes called "new conservatism" in art history, by which ink and brushwork become symbols of ethnic identity. Although such a position is quite widespread, it is generally not accepted without reservation. A good number of artists and critics hold a middle-of-the-road position, regarding ink and brush as the best medium through which to connect with their own tradition, while experimentation with other techniques they see as a means of engaging with contemporary art worldwide. This has been the case for instance with abstract or semi-abstract ink painting.

The debate on identity just summarized has been intensified by the internationalization of Chinese painting. "Internationalization" here refers to two concurrent phenomena: (1) even the most traditional style of Chinese painting has been deeply influenced by 20th-century Western art; (2) Chinese painting is no longer about China. A growing number of Chinese painters have opportunities to go abroad. As such, nowadays, the ranges of mountains that spill from their brushes sometimes do not evoke the image of Huashan, Huangshan or Emeishan, but rather remind one of landscapes encountered in the Northwest of the US, Western Canada, France’s Brittany or Australia’s South Wales. The first phenomenon is not new. Huang Binhong, who knew Chinese tradition better than anyone else, also learned a great deal from Matisse and Van Gogh. But the trend has taken on new dimensions, as many artists, while remaining faithful to the literati technique, apply it to a whole new range of subjects, or who, like Lin Fengmian, make extensive use of Western colors while maintaining the characteristic calligrapher’s line.

The second phenomenon is even more interesting. It separates the "identity" problem from its "territory" dimension, addressing in much more down-to-earth terms the question of the "Chineseness" of Chinese art. In addition, it gives people firmly rooted in tradition a new sense of universality. The cosmopolitan outlook of Chinese painting might have started among exiles, the most famous of them being of course Zhang Daqian, but others soon followed, sent on official missions. Li Keran’s paintings of East Germany in 1957 are testaments to the new horizons discovered by Chinese artists. Nowadays, the State is not the sole institution able to send Chinese painters abroad. Foreign universities or businesses are also inviting painters to give a Chinese flavor to American, Australian or European landscapes. The special relationship of artist Wu Guanzhong (born 1919) with France, where he has held several exhibitions, is a good example of this developing trend.

The trend towards globalization in Chinese painting should not mask enduring divisions among regional schools of painting—divisions sometimes accompanied by various rivalries and affiliation networks. Differences among regional schools are a pervasive fact of China’s art history. Back in 1961, the continuation of regional emulation was encouraged by Zhou Enlai, whose praise of the Jiangsu school of painting ensured its artists a privileged place for the following two decades. The Jiangsu school might indeed be the best example of a regional school of painting, with its history of several centuries and a distinctive style that nourishes but also sometimes confines the inspiration of local painters. Shaanxi artists offer another example of strong provincial affiliation. The Shaanxi school plays an important role in the cultural history of the post-1949 regime. Its founder, Zhao Wangyun (1906-1977), was an initiator of the new guohua, depicting scenes of contemporary life. After Zhao’s purging during the Anti-rightist campaign, Shi Lu became, for a time, the leader of the young, ebullient school. Here, indeed, artistic creativity and revolutionary fervor, if only briefly, were not seen as contradictory.

Regional differentiation can also have a great impact on the content of the works produced. The above-quoted art historian Lin Mu, for instance, is from the Southwest, and his views may indeed be seen to reflect the fact that most painters from the Southwest seek inspiration outside the mainstream Chan school-literati tradition, (many showing a special liking for the Taoist tradition, Tibetan Buddhism and southwest ethnic minorities’ “primitive” forms of art). The Chinese cultural stock is lived and interpreted in different ways by various schools of Chinese painting, a factor which may be even truer today than was the case 30 years ago.

Chinese painting is not only faced with the realities and opportunities of a market economy, but must also define itself in a global cultural environment. Values fostered by this environment can either render painting even more irrelevant to today’s Chinese society or can help it further to change and modernize its artistic language, giving it new impetus and appeal. Liu Chengji, who lectures at Zhengzhou University, offers an analysis of the aesthetic tendencies at work in the 1990s—an aesthetics that takes into account the dominant trends shaping secular society. Materialism is the first trend to be noticed, which Liu Chengji sees as the principal consequence of the consumerism encouraged by state policies. This stands in sharp contrast against the "humanist" view of culture and society advanced in the 80s. The primacy given to "feelings" is directly linked to the dominant materialism. "I feel, therefore I am" could be the motto of present-day China, and such a trend heavily influences the aesthetic criteria of the general public. A new "post-romanticism" derives from this trend and is best exemplified by the MTV culture. It is called "post-romanticism" because its characteristic "loss of innocence" distinguishes it from previous aesthetics. In the post-romantic (non)ethics, feelings are consciously produced and manipulated. Finally, "ethnicism" has been fuelled by political tensions with the US and Taiwan during the second half of the 90s. According to Liu Chengji, however, this trend is too much determined by political factors to enjoy a sustainable future. A look at the tendencies at work during the first decade of the XXIst century does not fundamentally challenge the description of these trends. One just have to notice that non-Chinese forms of art have taken even more importance, due to the globalization of the market where Chinese artists exhibit and sell their work. However, a stroll throughout the galleries gathered in the famous Moganshan road in Shanghai reveals the continuing and happy coexistence of Chinese painting with oil painting, video installations and other artistic media.

The painter Hu Mingzhe (born 1953), who specializes in popular romantic figure paintings, testifies to the aspirations often expressed by younger artists. She writes: "My soul aspires towards purity, liberation.... Art is a kind of religion, when you believe in it with your entire body and soul, when you fully associate with it, it seems that you are able to hear the voice of God, to feel the call of God.... Art wants to represent life, not social life, but rather spiritual life...." Another woman artist, Zhou Minghui (born 1954) paints motifs inspired by the daily lives of Tibetans living in Aba autonomous prefecture, Sichuan. This place, she says, "appears as a condensing point of human culture, philosophy, religion and history. It is the holy land where all life returns to nature.... What I paint seems to have been purified as well. My mind is serene and my thoughts enlightened.... The decayed is discarded and the original soul is retained.... Ultimately, culture and art will reach the other shore." Similar discourses and examples abound, which shows how a kind of religiosity pervades art. This religiosity has strong links with the dominant culture, in that it heavily relies on "feelings" and uses language and motifs also found in other contexts. At the same time, it expresses aspirations for new modes of life, which somehow transforms it into an indirect form of counter-culture. Not only has Chinese painting a future, but many of its features resonate with the aspirations of the post-modern mind... Through this medium also, China is entering and shaping cultural globalization.


Paintings by Li Jinyuan

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Tuesday, 30 December 2008 00:00

Beyond the Beijing and Washington Consensus

The "Beijing consensus" is an expression that has often been used during the last ten years to characterize the Chinese way of dealing with Africa and other areas: The "Beijing consensus" is seen by many as a way to counter U.S. supremacy by not imposing on developing countries constraints usually set up by the U.S. policy (transparency, greater respect for human rights, gradual democratization..), while other analysts see it as a pragmatic alternative to the now defunct "Washington consensus", rejected by developing countries after the experiments imposed by international financial organizations and the impasses of "forced democratization". The term "Beijing consensus " should not dissimulate the fact that the countries to which the Chinese strategy apply do not correspond to a "coalition", but rather to a loose alliance of partners intent on defending "national sovereignty" against the infringement of international law.


Mercantilism or Tributarism?

The United States often summarize their criticisms against the Chinese strategy by using the term "mercantilism". A passage of the revised National Security Strategy in April 2006, says:
"(Chinese leaders) are expanding trade but acting as if they can somehow "lock up" energy supplies around the world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up - as if they can follow a Mercantilism borrowed from a discredited era ... "

The word mercantilism is highly controversial and for a long time, well expressed the frustration of American leaders in front the accumulation of trade surpluses by China. However, the American Treasury itself always stopped short of accusing the Chinese authorities of "manipulation" of their currency but spoke simply of the "misalignment" of the Renminbi (RMB). The expression was to implicitly assign international financial organizations the heavy task to convince the Chinese authorities in accepting a regime of flexible change.

An entirely different way of looking at China’s international policy towards developing countries has been one provided by the "Tributarism" paradigm. China sometimes knows how to use the political asset that a trade deficit can constitute: with most neighboring countries and African countries that China wants to attract into its sphere of influence, China develops favorable commercial trends in exchange for political allegiance. Already, during the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Chinese emperor would give more favors to tributary states or kingdoms than he received from them; for this generosity, the emperor obtained their respect and goodwill. Indeed, it is clear that China carefully differentiates its commercial strategy according to the political areas it deals with, following strategic considerations.

Shaping a New Consensus

Recent political and economic developments have weakened both the Washington and Beijing consensus. The Washington consensus has been broken by the excesses of extreme liberalism. The Beijing consensus now suffers from the international outcry on some aspects of China’s African policy (Darfur), backlash against Chinese interests in some African countries, and the weakening of China’s position along with the worsening global crisis.

The Time of a "Global Consensus" Partnership between China, Europe, India, the United States and Africa should help this continent to achieve the right balance between economic development and political reform. This cannot be done in the same way in all countries. Africa, on the long run, does not gain anything in being the battlefield where the great Powers confront their strategies. Rather than making Americans, Europeans and Chinese compete among themselves for a slice of African’s resources, leaders of this continent should call for a "Global Consensus for Africa" in which all partners would cooperate in making Africa a showcase of sustainable and peaceful development. Will the current crisis teach us at last some common sense, in showing the global community that cooperation serves everyone’s interests much better than strategic competition?
 
Photo: B.V.
Monday, 29 December 2008 21:02

The Bipolar Polar Bear

Once upon a time, there was a rather short and stocky polar bear living in the vicinity of the North Pole. This particular ursus maritimus was probably the first bipolar polar bear ever recorded in the Annals of the Carnivores Psychiatric Society. As the mere mention of his mental condition might awaken some fears in the reader, let us hasten to add that Polar was an amicable animal, and prone to make friends. Mentally and physically, he had kept some features of a cub, which explained why people and mammals alike thought him to be much younger than he actually was.

How could our likeable Polar be diagnosed as bipolar? This was due to a strange mixture of genetic and ecological factors. From his youth, our bear had indeed shown a propensity to wander by himself throughout the Arctic immensities - at times retreating north when he was beaming with such energy that even in the hardest winter he was feeling so hot that he would have willingly relinquished his prized and immaculate white fur -, at other times feeling so lonely, lifeless and cold that he would advance south in search of a place where the overwhelming coldness pressuring his body and soul would somehow be mitigated.

It so happens that our bear was living at a time where man-induced global warming was transforming the ecology of the North Pole. In the southern marshes where Polar was looking for warmth and comfort the change in fauna had finally induced the arrival of troops of bees that were actively growing a local industry of Arctic honey – not the sweetest you could eat, for sure, but still a hitherto new treat for Polar, who soon developed some features and habits of his close cousin, Grizzly Bear. Genetic and ecological factors were thus mixing in a strange alchemy: by the very fact of going south and eating a healthy dose of honey the psychological balance of our bear was indeed restored for a while – but the new diet was also making him progressively feel manic, hot and restless, till he had to retreat again towards the icy solitude of the North Pole. There, after a few weeks or months he was miserable and cold again, thus migrating southwards and going back to the habits and habitat proper to a well-behaved grizzly bear. This was still a livable condition after all, but the lack of balance, the endless wandering from his white to his brown psychic poles were giving Polar a feeling of helplessness that was weighing on him even during his most manic periods.

One day, as his mania was recessing and he was once more on his way towards the southern marshes of the Arctic and their booming honey business (in places when, a few years back, there had been only blocks of frozen ice), he stopped for a while, and engaged in a conversation with a large band of migrating birds. Our bear, I have noted, was an amicable and considerate Polar, and even in the midst of depression he always tried to be sociable – even if sometimes the effort proved to be too great for him.
- Polar, sang the birds, are you again going southwards to get your cure of honey?
- Yes, sighed Polar, and after a few weeks or a few months, feeling again hot and manic, I will be compelled to go back to the Pole. The only thought of this absurd travel is enough to make me gulp a full barrel of fresh honey, even though my psychotherapist has told me to beware of honey addiction.
- But you do not have to go back!" cried a bird. "As a matter of fact, I have meant to tell you for a time: We, birds, circle around the whole surface of the earth. Did you know that, if you continuously walk southwards you will finally encounter a place - a much bigger place than even this one - that is still fully covered with ice and snow?
- No, said the bear, suddenly interested, I did not know this.” (He was much more versed in psychology than in geography.)
- Well, you’ll first have to go through really hot countries, but it’s worth the trip. My advice is as follows; make the most of your depressive span for travelling southwards, without ever stopping. Since it is during that time that you always feel hopelessly cold, the heat should not indispose you. With a bit of luck, as your depression usually lasts for a few months, you will feel hot and manic again just when you will be approaching the South Pole.
- The South Pole?” repeated Polar, intrigued.
- The South Pole, yes. In my opinion, this is where you belong. There, you will find a species of flightless birds (May Heavens spare me to ever meet with such a destiny!) who are even more bipolar than you are. It might kill you as it might save you...”

Bipolar animals... Where he had been living, Polar had never met with anyone suffering the same fate as his. That sounded most interesting. Maybe they could work out a kind of support group of something.
- How do you know they are bipolar?” he asked, hoping to learn a little more.
- Being a flightless bird is bad enough, and it makes you develop all kinds of psychological troubles I suppose… Anyway, their plumage is all black in some parts and all white in other, and this seems to reflect the endless changes in their mood. You, polar bears, are all-white mammals, and, as a rule, quite stable in mood - except when you are feeling really, really hungry. You were ill-lucky to get that sickness, but all of this might not have happened if the climate had not changed so much – look, honey is now harvested where good, solid ice used to be the only thing to be found. Be careful: one day, if you stay in this land of the doomed, the heat and the honey will make half of your fur turn a dirty brown...”

The threat was enough to scare Polar (He was very proud of his white fur, the one thing that was anchoring him into normalcy.). So, pushed at the same time by fear and attraction, he underwent his long and perilous trip towards the South Pole. He took advantage of his depressive stage for travelling under the hottest climates, feeling cold and miserable even at the Equator. How he survived such a trip is not part of our story. His natural sweetness, the crush for polar bears that men have inexplicably developed, his canny abilities and mere luck, all of this explains why he was already well into the southern hemisphere when he realized that the all too well-known transition from depressive to manic stage was about to happen.

Exactly at the point when he was feeling dangerously ebullient he entered the Antarctic. His excitement was even greater as he was experiencing so strong a cold that his usual feeling of surrounding hotness was admirably balanced by the meteorological conditions. He met with an agitated troop of penguins, which soon surrounded him and started to deluge him with questions. At first, Polar was surprised by the short size of his new friends, by the noise and agitation that seemed to reign everywhere, and by the casual style of their questions and conversation. He was used to be treated with more deference. But he was in a splendid mood, happy to discover a new white continent, and he was very much amused by the jocosity of the penguins.
- Hi, Polar! My name is Pingu…” said a young female penguin, probably the prettiest and most impertinent member of the band.
- Hmm, hello Pingu…” said Polar.
- You’re truly impolite, Polar, responded severely Pingu. I am giving you my first name and you should tell me yours. What are you called besides Polar?”
- I am just… Polar,” said Polar hesitantly. (All bear anthropologists know that, like Eskimos, Mongols and Tibetans, polar bears use only one name.)
Pingu thought for a while.
- Then, you’ll be Teddy!” she decided.

This did not truly enchant Polar, who liked to be just called Polar, but he said nothing. Anyway, he would soon realize that there was not much to be said when Pingu had spoken. So, Teddy-Polar started his new life on the Antarctic with his new friends and his self-appointed girlfriend (though they were not able to go very far in their relationship, for reasons too obvious to be stated here). He soon realized that penguins were indeed decidedly bipolar animals, and that they lived their bipolarity in an intense, bellicose but sometimes almost playful fashion. Overpopulation was making things even more explosive. On the ice field it was a constant outburst of psychodramas. Weirdly, this atmosphere had a therapeutic effect on Teddy. He was feeling calm and self-controlled in comparison. He was often called for being the arbitrator of penguins’ quarrels, and, on the whole, the change of surrounding proved to be most beneficial. He was just somewhat apprehensive of Pingu’s sudden furies, laughter and melancholies. She was so intense in the expression of her emotions that even her fellow aquatic, flightless birds were calling her the Bipolar Queen. Still, when listening to her anguishes, drying her tears, smiling at her jokes, Polar was feeling less and less bipolar, and he decided that the Antarctic continent was indeed home to him, a land where he would dwell happily and forever.

The problem arose because of the long tales he was serving penguins about the lost, spoiled Arctic kingdom. They were met with fervent interest by his listening crowd – no auditor listening to him more intently than Pingu. The idea of a land that was becoming kind of geographically bipolar, where you could dine on seals or honey according to your mood, where brown earth and white icecap were now fraternizing with each other, where you could at will harmonize outer climate and inner feelings, all of this was most appealing for a structurally bipolar species. Still, most penguins could not yet envision such an intercontinental travel. Not so with Pingu. She soon was pestering Polar, imploring him to go back to the Arctic with her and to settle together in a land so adapted to their common mental condition. For once, the usually weak and subservient Polar firmly refused - he was not going to forsake his so difficultly won equilibrium, he would not leave the white paradise where he was by far the least bipolar of all surrounding sentient beings. The discussion became heated to the extent that, at some point, he flatly told her that he did not want to be called “Teddy” anymore – that was infringing on his identity and dignity. For Pingu, such a rebellious, insensitive claim was the final straw. She plunged into the icy water, took a deep dive towards the north – and she was gone.… Needless to say, in the weeks and months that followed, both of them wept bitterly over their quarrel and would have happily reunited. But it was too late. Pingu and Polar were too proud for coming back on what had been. Besides, it might be that their fate was indeed sealed from the start: Pingu was made for living on the Arctic, and Polar on the Antarctic.

In the course of years, they received frequent news from each other through obliging migrating birds. Pingu had safely reached the North Pole and had found a land of ice and honey that suited her needs and her dreams. Still subject to emotional ups and downs she was at home in a country ravaged by climate change the way her soul was permanently affected by inner and outer currents. And there were around white and (more and more) brown bears with whom she could relive her polar days… Pingu was eventually able to make the most of her condition. In her new environment she developed her ingrained sense of leadership to such an extent that she came from being called the “Bipolar Queen” to becoming simply and grandly the “Polar Queen.” The news about her that kept being brought by the birds took on such a mythic dimension that they were at the origin of the large-scale migrations of penguins from the south to the north that the two following centuries would witness.

Similarly, Polar found a solitary ice field where he could remember Pingu while achieving through meditation the balanced, wise and peaceful outlook for which he would be so celebrated afterwards. He had truly overcome his bipolarity (maybe caused more by ecological than by genetic factors after all), and the birds would celebrate the “Sage of the Antarctic” till the farthest reaches of his land of birth. Traumatized by the continuing warming of their territory, in search of a new home and of a leader, the depleted population of polar bears would then start its exile from the North to the South Pole.

And this is why, several centuries later, when Polar and Pingu have now become enduring legends, white bears live on the Antarctic while penguins proliferate on the Arctic.


Photography by Kevin Dooley (some rights reserved)
See Kevin Dooley’s photographs on Flickr

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Monday, 29 December 2008 20:14

地球的鹽

石油漲價以前,似乎讓人覺得它取用不盡,感覺不到它不存在的一天。那麼,我們天天習以為常的鹽呢?

隆納德 撰文

鹽、空氣和水是地球上三個最豐富的自然資源。每一樣對生命都非常重要。這三樣自由讓人們取用,但取用上並不一定免費。
瀑布的水免費地從天上來,在地上化為泉水自由地流,溪流和河流四處廣佈,自然地集成湖泊和池塘。對於那些住在河流旁,並能夠隨手汲水的人來說,儲水相對容易。但是,如果必要開挖水道灌溉、建造溝渠或是埋設水管,水的費用卻開始上升,更不用說今日在污水控制與淨化上的額外開銷。海水淡化更是昂貴。
在人類爬向高海拔與下降到深海以前,呼吸不需要任何花費。如今,淨化污染空氣的費用卻是節節上升。
鹽在歷史上出現一個重要的轉折,對於大多數覺得它無關緊要的人變成非常昂貴的商品。鹽對於治療、血液平衡以及消化等等非常重要。不管哪一種脊椎動物,一公升血液中存在九公克鹽。若要不冰凍地保存的食物,鹽不可或缺。鹽的最大問題,就是它尚未人人可及;對於需要鹽的人,擁有鹽的人或是製造鹽的人能夠獨佔。在歷史早期,政府壟斷鹽的來源;為了賣鹽,甚至必須增加稅收。鹽甚至被當成貨幣,英文salary(薪水)這個字詞從拉丁文而來,鹽被當成士兵收入的一部份,而且需要配給。大家為了保有鹽或是獲取鹽開戰,甚至為了推翻強收食鹽稅的政府爆發革命。
食鹽稅被取消,政府不再壟斷,多元使得價格下降。2002年,處理一噸鹽的熱加工是120美元,鹵水蒸發處理是6美元。在製造塑料與工業工程的製造過程中,鹽的使用帶來莫大利潤。舉個例子來說,在加州生產鹽是數十億美元的商機。
鹽真是取用不盡,這本是談石油與媒炭所說的用詞。現在這個時刻真盼望這是真的。

附加的多媒體:
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Monday, 29 December 2008 19:28

掏空

內在與外在之間的停格,請欣賞笨篤的詩作,

詩作 笨篤

-1-
La cérémonie
La cérémonie du thé
S’épuise avec cette goutte.
Toi, dehors, près de la route,
Tu mets l’eau sur le brasier.

典禮

茶的典禮,
一滴一滴被飲盡。
你在外界在路旁。
拿水澆在炭火上。

-2-
Encagé
Dans la cage : un canari.
Bloqué dans la gorge : un cri.
Dans la nasse : un poisson pris.
Dans mon corps : mon cœur dépris.

掏空

籠子中,一隻金絲雀。
喉嚨中,哽住一聲啼。
魚簍中,一隻魚被抓。
肉身中,我心被掏空。

-3-
Sortir
Hors du creux d’où jaillit l’eau
Qui dit le son de l’écho ?
Hors du gosier de l’oiseau
Qui du chant crierait le mot ?

外界

空孔湧出的清泉,
誰說出回音的聲源?
鳥兒喉嚨的外界,
誰從歌聲吶喊字句?

-4-
Feu d’artifice
Perdu parmi le corps de signes,
Resterai-je en ce tourbillon,
Ou rentrerai-je en l’embryon
Qui ourdit l’explosion des lignes ?

煙火

迷失在身體的信號,
我將停留在漩渦中,
或是重回胚胎?
誰策劃線條的爆發?

附加的多媒體:
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Monday, 29 December 2008 19:27

海角七號與其他

在加露林魚木前,我咀嚼著那第七封信裡無法完成的愛,我想我已經來得太遲。風起,花落繽紛如秋之殘酷天問。

石計生 撰文

-1-

老師,您現在應該還在沉睡吧!在您睡著之後您所熱愛的台灣最近流行看一部電影《海角七號》。我也看了。我終於看了。我在街頭漫無目的地行走,試著走到台大醫院前理出一個頭緒說給您聽。我先走進一個夢境般美麗的公園,就在您家不遠處的新生南路上的大安森林公園,我在音樂台上席地而坐試圖調動那天邊的雲彩。仍然是的老師,我從永康街那邊來帶著丹堤咖啡來,今天的天好藍好亮,雲好白好近,雖然偶而會有烏雲交疊在音樂台前演出著,從北向南趕著路,老師,坐在排成弧形的數不清的長椅上,暗下來的世界我彷彿看見年輕的那人摔爛的吉他兀自彈唱著,回到那恆久是春天的南方國度。為了瓶中沙。無限水平線。芒果結實纍纍的南方。老電風扇吃力地搖擺慶祝著永遠新婚的溫存。是的。我就是那年輕人終於離開我操他媽的該死的開不完會的台北。回到土土的,飄著雨的國境之南的滿州里蔚藍海岸,什麼都不做就躺在那沙灘上,讓低垂呢喃的星空擁有我以光年計算其距離的愛淹沒我以千朵萬朵壓枝低的素白花朵埋葬我過勞的閃亮胴軀。老師,我想您一定去過的,混和著鹽味的風催促著在地林投樹驕傲地茁壯著,混和著國語、台語和日語的全球音樂語言,從那天我在外雙谿308研究室迴廊所瞥見的彩虹這頭,經過台大醫院也一定就這樣一路跨越北迴歸線到了國之南境那頭吧。老師,我多麼希望此時和您能長久比肩,跟您說著我的夢想,屬於浪漫去流浪看山看水組個搖滾樂團的夢想或者也拍齣電影,說說我們那時代的故事。屬於雪霸之上稀有台灣種鳳仙花的故事。因為路途遙遠。完美而虛幻。我沉迷不可自拔於其中,老師,我故意說些令您經濟理性擔心的事,虛幻的事,希望能讓您能夠專注於醒來的事業,坐起,以炯炯有神對我訓誡說「你要試著欣賞不完美的美」。

-2-

老師,您在沉睡中還聽得見我說的話吧。如您所知,台北每天都有超載的事情發生,今天我撿這有趣的給您聽。一齣票房已經破了四億的台灣自製電影《海角七號》。我也看了。我終於一個人看了。我在街頭漫無目的地行走,試著走到台大醫院前理出一個頭緒說給您聽。我從紫藤廬出來後完全無意識地在溫羅汀隨便亂走。這個轉角,那個轉角,什麼花草,怎樣建築都熟悉自然相遇。老師,我從戒嚴時代做您的學生以來,已經在這裡閒逛二十幾年了。老師家是無論如何不可能不經過的。我看著粲然明備的天空,似乎在趕路的藍天裡的浮雲自北徂南,剛好經過您家的屋頂,刺眼的光芒黯淡了家的視野。我止步。我拿起已經不太用的手機發個你收不到了也回不了的簡訊。這哀悼的浮雲我無力蹲在路旁,我想起現實是您身上插滿管子躺在加護病房腦死,老師,我想我是絕望了。如同無法寄出般。那電影裡的七封要寄到恆春郡海角七號的信箋,在一個時代轉折中絕望地塵封於記憶中,在此時眼前不遠處的加露林魚木初開或者殘餘之花分不清地被光影照得晃搖生姿又似乎顯得有些生機,說「我會假裝你忘了我,假裝你將你我的過往,像候鳥一般從記憶中遷徙,假裝你已走過寒冬迎接春天,我會假裝,一直到自以為這一切都是真的」,我咀嚼著那第七封信裡無法完成的愛,我想我已經來得太遲的加露林魚木前,風起,花落繽紛如秋之殘酷天問。

-3-

老師,我曾從您的角度揣摩若來看這齣電影最喜歡那些橋段呢?我覺得會是那住在恆春郡海角七號的台灣友子的暮年背影。這也是我最喜歡的橋段。住在那雨的國境之南的偏遠地域,白髮蒼蒼已經胖了老了的青春皺紋滿佈的手遲緩地打開精緻木盒遲緩地拿起裡面的照片和七封信箋。鏡頭緩緩拉遠。淡出。淡入。來到碼頭眾人送行的場景。你提著想要一起走的皮箱。落寞地張望。終於捎來。消散顯像的彩虹。海灘上的嬉戲倩影。無限地平線。你是那六十年後堅持挽著夕陽的人。
這些交雜著日語的敘述,曾遭來台北知識份子的強烈批判,說著些「媚日」「沒有台灣主體」的論點。老師,我對這些言論沉默懷疑很久。直到自己看了作品之後,我才能斷定這一切是無的放矢。使用日語不就是二次大戰結束前出生的台灣人民如同您或我的母親那輩人很自然的生活語言與記憶嗎?即使平常不講,但在面對日本人的音樂公關友子或者久遠記憶的信箋,老師,在那樣時代轉折中的人民要表達屬於他們私人的情感使用日語在電影脈絡中是那樣貼切自然。難道我們要如同1960年代的國民政府壓制台語般,要在電影中不用日語硬以國語或台語來敘述那段櫻花般淒美分離卻在六十年後文字再見的感情嗎?這會是怎樣荒謬的橋段呢?相反地,這荒謬性也表現在對於那對戰敗的日本離開時的碼頭送行一幕的詮釋,說成是台灣人痛恨中國人而懷念日本殖民母國,進一步從「媚日」走到「仇中」,進一步狹隘化我們本來活活潑潑包容全球的視野與無限創造力。我們要問的是:劇情裡有哪一點是這樣告訴我們的呢?還是觀看者因為自己的政治立場自由心證地橫加解釋呢?這荒謬性也發生在硬要在最後的演奏時安排茂伯演奏代表台灣主體的陳達的「思想起」的論述一般,老師,難道是要純粹台灣人演奏演唱台灣人作詞作曲的歌才有所謂台灣主體嗎?我們的山風海雨如此多元廣闊吸納各方力量成就自己的美麗不才是真正的台灣嗎?E世代的年輕人今天以流行的西方搖滾風或者即時以月琴充滿實驗精神地表達混同各種可能的音符唱出自己的心聲不就是台灣主體嗎?「台灣水牛的精神是被剝幾層皮還是屹立不搖」,老師,沉睡中的您記得對我說過這些話吧。那緊抓住土地的堅毅生活,帶著土氣的、語帶髒話的流俗味道中我們卻看出一種可愛,人民在無法自己選擇的統治中混同著各種語言去表達愛恨情愁,這是生活中的真實,無可取代的雨之國境之南的彩虹情事。

-4-

老師,我假裝您是醒著的睡著的人說這些給您聽,我知道您是聽得到我說話的。因為爆紅,這台灣自製的電影《海角七號》引起台北知識份子圈極多的抽象理論討論甚至意識型態論戰,但這一切恐怕把事情弄得太複雜,太沉重了,恐怕正像電影一開頭阿嘉摔爛吉他我操他媽的台北所詛咒的養尊處優的台北城裡的知識份子,只會用抽象的語言複雜的論述掩飾自己的欠缺創造力罷了。老師,我自己就是其中之一,但這次我站在影迷這邊,一起感覺這是一部幽默動人的哀傷淡淡的好看的電影,發生在台北人不怎麼熟悉的雨的國境之南美麗的域土的美麗愛情故事。恆久春天的恆春裡兩條軸線:日治末期的老師與學生間純粹的愛情因為時代轉折而未完成,和今日春天吶喊裡的叛逆返鄉異國遭遇的可能完成的愛情,跨越六十年,懦弱的男人與絕望守活寡的女人,勇敢去愛的男人與獨立自主接受愛的女人,在七封信箋的中介下這樣意識流地超現實現實感人地交織了,而且還是全球在地化地交織。有一種聲音,老師,常在心裡。「這容不下愛情的海岸,總容得下相思吧」,這一切是以能觸及我們靈魂感覺的音樂形式來表達。完美的愛情易遭嫉妒,即使真心相愛,老天也不容,因為這樣的幸福會凸顯世人為維持形式掩飾矛盾的平庸。因此,戰敗的日本使得那恆春女子一身白亭亭玉立於岸邊的張望,與躲在名為某丸輪船上的懦弱的日本男人的書寫,這一令人心碎的離別是容不下愛情的歷史海岸啊。但老師,相思可不可以呢?我在您加護病房病榻旁喃喃自語反覆說著既往的掌故是不是相思呢?如果您象徵的是台灣的一段耐看美麗的歷史,我想就是相思了。六十年後。那春天吶喊裡被擔憂的搖滾樂卻完成了愛情上的,與我們土土的,醜美的,雜種的,混血的土地的相思。

-5-

老師,《海角七號》電影的最後一幕某種程度上完成您的具有高度供給與需求彈性的台灣意識的夢想:曾為台北樂團主唱年輕歌手阿嘉,勤勞不懈的客家人小米酒推銷員馬拉桑,老婆跑了離開霹靂小組返鄉的原住民警察勞馬,閩南人修機車的暗戀老闆娘的水蛙、彈月琴的「國寶」固執可愛的茂伯老阿伯,中日混血的個性小孩大大在台上共同組成了一個屬於台灣恆春在地的搖滾樂團,以現在(會隨歷史變動)居於統治支配地位的外省人在影片中「缺席的主體」的國語歡樂動人地唱出由馬勞口中說出的「我們都是一家人」可以讓老少咸宜不分族群喜歡的音樂,這直接觸動感覺的全球在地化的音樂,就是台灣意識,就是老師您一直告訴我的寬廣無涯無入而不自得的台灣人的精神。
阿嘉把信送到孑然一身年近古稀的台灣友子那裡完成了海角七號詞曲無樂不作以搖滾形式唱出後就安慰了六十年的未完成,阿嘉對著年輕美麗的日本友子接著唱出慢版的情歌「請原諒我的愛,訴說著太緩慢」舞台旁的友子戴上那孔雀之珠虛構的投影與舞台上的真實觀眾所見的疊合就預約了六十年後的跨國之愛雖然我們不知道真正結局為何可能那日本友子還是會離開。而最後的舒伯特世界名曲「野玫瑰」,茂伯在安可聲中固執地拿著台灣月琴彈奏著,然後本來已經退出春吶舞台的恆春人組成的樂團又再次上場了。阿嘉以國語唱著。然後日本流行療傷歌手中孝介受到感染也上台用日語合唱著。阿嘉展現台灣這代年輕人的禮貌優雅想下台讓位卻為中孝介拉住一起歌唱著。台下的聽眾如癡如醉地吶喊跳喊著的台灣人的真精神:土土的善良的包容的創新的浪漫的冒險的優雅的理性的,如老師您,如我們的雨的國境之南的美麗的愛情故事。
那整齣戲裡未曾發聲的恆春友子一身素白優雅佇立引頸找尋碼頭邊的找尋,「老師,我的愛,您在哪裡?」離港的移動腳步無人回應,六十年前的悲劇在六十年後未完成地完成了,現代的友子對日本來的中孝介說:「彩虹的事,謝謝您」,因為無言的天空超現實地終於調動了那些雲彩讓驚人龐大的彩虹從海灘音樂演出的那天早上一直七彩美麗至傍晚。我托腮聆聽,老師您說 「在消散前,你要試著欣賞不完美的美」。

-6-

讓通俗笑聲不斷的只有說台語才能解的幽默與恆春水天相連的壯麗蔚藍地方所發展出來的搖滾戀情起伏與台灣的歷史巧妙結合著,精緻木盒裡的照片與七封信箋從自南徂北航行的夾板上起伏的感情書寫裡旁白適時貫穿全戲,每次當這齣戲快要淪為庸俗笑鬧劇時就被那底層六十年前的未完成的愛救回,如大提琴降八度的低音在電影中淡淡的哀傷低迴著一種悲劇美學高度溢出電影院的四面牆阻隔,「老師,我的愛,您在哪裡?」離港的注目找尋無人回應,這海角七號與其他,公館溫羅汀這帆狀雲聚合急行自北徂南出港離散遠行,翻騰蔚藍轉狂濤的暴雨過馬路的城池深不可測的太平洋海中那背影自言自語:「我要熄滅我自己,以免灼傷你,但啊吾愛,我如何能在黑暗裡尋得出路?」

-7-

老師,然而電影畢竟是基於現實設計出來的超現實嗎?燈一亮,走出戲院後,什麼都沒有了嗎?恆春郡海角七號,是不存在的存在的住址嗎?為亮麗海水沖刷然後漸漸地忘記那一切嗎?所有的歷史的美麗可能只剩下商品拜物的票房得獎追逐與明星崇拜,與熱潮般的知識份子論述也終將退潮化為虛無嗎?我也看了。我終於看了。現實裡我在街頭漫無目的地行走,試著走到台大醫院前理出一個頭緒說給您聽。我先走進一個夢境般美麗的公園,就在您家不遠處的新生南路上的大安森林公園,我在音樂台上席地而坐試圖調動那天邊的雲彩。而在此時公館溫羅汀眼前不遠處的加露林魚木初開或者殘餘之花分不清地被光影照得晃搖生姿又似乎顯得有些生機,說「我會假裝你忘了我,假裝你將你我的過往,像候鳥一般從記憶中遷徙,假裝你已走過寒冬迎接春天,我會假裝,一直到自以為這一切都是真的,然後,祝你一生幸福」,我咀嚼著那第七封信裡無法完成的愛,我想我已經來得太遲的加露林魚木前,風起,花落繽紛如秋之殘酷天問。

【人籟論辨月刊第56期,2009年1月】
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附加的多媒體:

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Monday, 29 December 2008 19:12

六位大師的童年框景

橫跨二十世紀的六位電影大導演,六段童年故事的切片。不管童年散發微光、矇矓與強光,日後都串起光芒大師一路探索的燈火…

導演 彥高樂Yann Le Gal等六人
編劇 彥高樂
《六個大師的童年》(Childhoods)
法國出品.2007年德國首映
台灣上映時間 2009年1月1日(聯影/聯贏發行)

從六段故事的吉光片羽,透露六位電影大師影片中日後為人稱道的線索。
《六個大師的童年》描述的是電影大師成為大師的童年軼事。不一定愉悅,不一定被保護,不一定被允許,但他們都有一雙探索的眼睛。
這六段童年故事發生的時間是他們與家人朝夕相處的生活、閒暇時光與學校中的逃逸時刻。時間上讓觀者感覺與他們共渡一段時光,編劇選取真相、差異、階級、嫉妒、幻想、勇氣等不同角度的軼事片段,敘事色彩相連,同時是藝術教育的素材。

真相與差異
〈門後的祕密〉描述的是出生於奧地利導演佛列茲朗(Fritz Lang, 1890-1976)的往事。他十歲參加父母親的婚禮時,驚覺到的祕密讓他堅定的信念瓦解:眷戀的母親,猶太人的身份,粉碎的世界…期待、女性、等待中的確信與誤會於是偷偷地滲入他的底片。
〈拜託開門噢〉說的是一段法國導演賈克大地(Jacques Tati, 1907-1982)與同學、老師拍合照的故事:身高過於高大的他怎麼都走不進相機的鏡頭裡,於是出現他的一小段漫遊。憂鬱、對望、散步、異於常人高度的觀想後來轉變為《我的舅舅》(Mon Oncle, 1958)中的逗趣、歡笑、緊湊,目不暇給的速度是嘲諷現代科技的節拍。

階級與嫉妒
〈祕密基地和舊皮鞋〉中敘述尚雷諾(Jean Renoir, 1894-1979)在假期中與一名貧困少年的相遇,兩個人在河畔相談的畫面令人想起尚雷諾的父親印象派雷諾瓦畫中的光景。樹葉下的點點光影卻不再是富貴人家的歡聚,而充滿不同階級之間存在的緊張、友誼與相互學習。日後尚雷諾《遊戲規則》(La Règle du jeu, 1939)作品中,則在一片淒迷的樹林中呈現貴族奢華的聚獵,獵物全數中彈,中產階級的荒謬世界一覽無遺,像似透過童年同伴的眼光。
瑞典導演英瑪柏格曼(Ingmar Bergman,1918-2007)自稱是大教堂的工匠,導出六十多部直指人心的影片,其中柏格曼的影片《野草莓》(Smultronstället, 1957)或屬〈童年殺人事件〉的迴響。《野草莓》男主角晚年獲頒醫學成就勳帽,前往領獎的路途中腦中的想念卻都是年輕時的蠢事與罪感,而年輕女孩摘著野草莓,對他熱情地說話模樣卻揮之不去。這樣的熱情之火在〈童年殺人事件〉影片中變成了剛出生的妹妹的啼哭聲。小小柏格曼斯文、懂事,最終決定拿起枕頭往下一按,因為妹妹搶奪父母的愛。劇情結構與影像鋪陳深具柏格曼影片之風:最後哭聲終究短暫消失…

幻想與勇氣
〈魅夜〉中童年的希區考克(Alfred Hitchcock, 1899-1980)是個膽怯人物,讓人很難聯想起拿著煙斗,斜著眼看著觀眾巨大而幽默的形像。童年住在英國的他敏感、崇拜劇團女主角,畏懼母親嚴格的家規;他怕黑,活脫像極自己劇中在樓梯狂奔的演員。場景的營造讓人想起一幕幕希區考克的驚悚形式,而嚴厲的母親似乎在他的影片中缺席,溫柔美女一個個跳出他的相簿上場。
〈少年的凝視〉訴說的是奧森威爾斯(Orson Welles, 1915-1985)的堅持與勇氣。他從小愛演戲,朗朗上口的他讓我們想及《大國民》(Citizen Kane,1941)中報業大王的口才與表演才情的出處。此外,他在重病母親的床前守候,不離開半步,小小年紀的堅持與勇氣令人動容…

小孩子喜歡穿大鞋,搖來晃去想和大人一般高;年紀日長的人們往往喜歡端望小孩子的微笑,想和純真童心一起悠遊。穿越導演的童年,再欣賞大師的作品,在交錯中品味其趣…每個人可找到與自己同調或是不同調的欣喜與驚奇。

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導演一覽表
佛列茲朗【門後的祕密】Yann Le Gal
大地【拜託開門噢】Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil
尚雷諾【祕密基地和舊皮鞋】Ismaël Ferroukhiao
柏格曼【童年殺人事件】Safy Nebbou
希區考克【魅夜】Corinne Garfin
威爾斯【少年的凝視】Isild Le Besco
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延伸觀影【六位電影大師陪你跨年】就在國家資料館
2008年12月23日-2008年1月13日
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【人籟論辨月刊第56期,2009年1月】

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