On a Cool Road to Miami: Queering Performance
Jane V. Hsu
徐蓁 Jane V. Hsu
Jane V. Hsu is an independent curator of moving image and performance. Her work focuses on gender, sexuality, HIV/AIDS awareness, and violence in China, and she juries numerous independent film festivals, including the censored Beijing Independent Film Festival, where she was held under house arrest. Current projects include producing an experimental film with Barbara Hammer, co-chair of the UN Women’s Committee, and co-editing the first comprehensive catalog of post-2000 Chinese films in collaboration with the East Asian CV Starr Library at Columbia University.
崔子恩导演的作品“雾语” (2003) 则是北美首映。这部作品亦纪录了二十年前中国独立电影活动所隐藏的一面。画面弥漫抽像的气氛以及诡异的光影：晨曦时份，一个接一个来自金星和天王星的外星男人，以人类裸体的面貌现身，唱出和谐的歌声，步落弯弯曲曲的山峡。当他们抵达山脚的时候，男性人类围绕着他们，以形恶相声称要绑架他们。梦常被形容为日常生活里的自我防卫系统。的确，于2003年拍摄这部以外星人作隐喻的诗作的时候，男同性恋于父权社会之中是没法可以高调地论述的。为了避开严谨的审查，崔子恩选择以演绎的方式进行。
「相信眼前所见的，才能看得见眼前的景像。」范坡坡透过两部他的作品：彩虹伴我心 (2012)，讲述中国新一代成年人向母亲表白性取向及来自阴道(2013)，讲述一场中国学生开放舞台让女性放声说出她们的性器官。这两部作品都假定故事会以失败告终，新一代的年青男女不敢向他们的母亲承白同性恋取向，女性始终会害怕及漠视在公众场合公开讨论自己的性器官。结果却完全相反，范坡坡不但推反了预先的假设，反得到正面的结果。“彩虹伴我心” 里的母亲鼓励子女的坦诚，即使面对反对的政治环境和社会声会，依然给予支持。演出“来自阴道”的女性在舞台上赢取一众观众的热烈掌声和接纳，赞咳她们的开放和慷慨分享。
On a Cool Road to Miami: Queering Performance
Jane V. Hsu
Twenty years ago, Chinese independent film made its mark in the Western world because it was heavily censored or banned in China. Chinese directors used piracy to spread their films beyond Chinese borders and gained worldwide notoriety at international film festivals and screenings.
Online streaming video has provided Chinese audiences to watch Chinese independent films. “Queer China Meets Miami” was the first survey of Chinese independent LGBT films from China during gay pride month in Miami, Florida. The film screenings and discussions allowed the filmmakers an opportunity to publicly screen and discuss their work with a Miami audience, LGBT related activities are limited in spite of the large gay population.
Works by filmmakers Cui Zi’en, He Xiaopei, Yuan Yuan, and Fan Popo have used independent documentary film as witness to the changes in contemporary Chinese society, but in the last twenty years, used this platform to expose the Chinese audiences about LGBT life in their own country. This is a step beyond the Chinese documentaries of the 90’s, often screened and celebrated at festivals abroad yet completely unknown to the very population the films are about.
There was also a re-performed performance piece by Nina Dotti, “Hot Flashes Bar.” In 2009, the artist attempted to perform a one-woman work about menopause at the Mint bar in a westernized section of Shanghai. Before the performance could begin, she was told to stop and place all props in black garbage bags. The artist, who is also the director and founder of the Chill Concept, was inspired by the political advancements in feminist and LGBT related art events and China. The Chill Concept has collected the works of key Chinese independent film directors focusing on LGBT issues.
It was in the discussion of Nina Dotti’s performance that the topic of actually re-performing a failed event from the past that precipitated the selection of the following films for the program at The Chill Concept titled, “Queer China Meets Miami.” For some reason, life sets forth an expectation to re-perform achievements and goals–to practice again and again until a satisfaction, or perfection is received. With successful performances, there lies the inevitable defeat. Why not take performance from a queer perspective and revisit the underappreciated moments of failure?
The re-performance of failure is articulated not just in the “Hot Flashes Bar” performance, but documentation of performances in everyday life. In Our Marriages: When Lesbians Marry Gay Men (2012), directors He Xiaopei and Yuan Yuan reexamine the institution of marriage with contract marriages, when gay men and lesbian women meet, usually online, to form a marital union in order to maintain traditional family expectations and receive benefits otherwise left to heterosexual couples. Not only is the idea of the marital union often wrought with the expectation of failure, but the irony in the contract marriage assumes the failure of incompatibility of the marriage of a gay man and lesbian woman. The probability of performance failure here is certain.
Director Cui Zi’en presented the world premiere of his film, The Narrow Path (2003), a founding documentary that was part of the underground movement in Chinese independent film twenty years ago. A surreal atmosphere frames a strange occurrence: one by one, at dawn, alien men from Venus and Uranus in the shape of nude humans arrive on early, walking down a curvy mountain road, singing in harmony. As they reach the bottom of the mountain, they are approached by human men, who circle around them, harass and threaten to kidnap them. Dreams are often said to be the protective mechanism for the performance of everyday life. Certainly, at the time of the filming in 2003, this poetic metaphor of aliens in the company of everyday men speaks clearly of a gay voice that could not be so directly stated on video. In order to avoid censorship, Cui Zi’en chose to perform
Have trust in what you see, and you will see exactly what’s in front of you. This notion presents itself by the two of Fan Popo’s films: Mama Rainbow (2012), about Chinese youth adults coming out to their mothers, and VaChina Monologues (2013), a compilation of live performances by Chinese college students on women speaking out loud about their vaginas. There is a pre-assumption of a failed performance, both by the young men and women afraid to tell their mothers about their homosexuality, and the fear and ignorance that comes with speaking about a woman’s vagina in public. However, Fan Popo turns this assumption of failure around, creating positive outcomes to the performative moments: The mothers in Mama Rainbow embrace their children’s bravery and support them both personally, even with political and public activism. The women performing the VaChina Monologues receive roaring laughter, acceptance and applause for the openness and generosity.
However, there’s only the re-performance of failure that can lead the ultimate perfection of the underground.
July, 2014, New York, NY
Mama Rainbow (dir. Fan Popo, 2012) HD video, color, 28 min.
The Narrow Path (dir. Cui Zi’en, 2003) DV video, color, 73 min.
Our Marriages (dir. He Xiaopei & Yuan Yuan, 2013) HD video, color 60 min.
Queer China, China Comrade (dir. Cui Zi’en, 2008) Cui Zi’en Studio, DV video, color, 60 min.
VaChina Monologues (dir. Fan Popo, 2013) HD video, color 28 min.
[中译Chinese Translation:何小培He Xiaopei]