Mazu’s Children research
Shorts from full video, 2020
Work in progress, Kinmen Island, Taiwan
Part of an ongoing research and work in progress: A multimedia landscape-based consideration of this unique landscape in these changing times.
Performance, gestures, video, interview, text, photography, objects.
Working with Local Teahouse, Jincheng, and the Kinmen Dance Co.
Considering this site on Kinmen Island, Taiwan, through working with three local groups, utilising a collection of flags depicting the ocean beneath the feet of the goddess Mazu, the goddess of the Sea and restorer of social order.#
I was privileged to be able to work at this site with some teens- a traditional drumming group and a hiphop dance group- responding to a set of flags I’d made, depicting the sea under Mazu’s feet, inn response to local conversations. The teen dancers choreographed a series of flag-gestures that considered this site and their future, as they danced collaboratively with the traditional drumming group. These children of Mazu hope for a future containing the freedom of democratic governance in Taiwan, yet aligned with the island’s history as Chinese, and an eye on the power and wealth of contemporary China. This breadth of choice and truth only imagined by teens, where all things can come together.
This work was filmed one week before the Taiwan election in Jan20, when the Taiwan Independence party, DPP, won nationally, although not in the complicated political landscape of Kinmen.
Mazu’s children and the entanglements of adulthood ( stills and shorts of in-progress video)
Local Kinmen adults respond to the same set of flags given to the teens. Individually interviewed, they express ambivalence about Kinmen’s present and future, offering individual viewpoints of how best this island can navigate its complex past and entangled future.
Kinmen 金門 is a small island in the Pacific Ocean, 5 km from mainland China and part of Taiwan, 160 km away. On the global periphery, this site was a battle zone for 30 years after WWII.
If contains a stratigraphy of political infrastructures embedded in its landscape.
Post WWII, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist KMT army was pushed from mainland China by Mao Zedong’s PRC army dominance, to eventually set up a military dictatorship over Taiwan, Kinmen became the proxy border and battle site between these armies, nations and ideologies.
Kinmen was under KMT martial law and shelled by PRC for 30 years, until the 1990s.
A contested border for over 30 years, now ferries from Xiamen travel hourly to Kinmen, carrying Chinese tourists, students and businesspeople.
An island of the Anthropocene, Kinmen was totally deforested by its inhabitants by the 16th century, such that a number sites dedicated to local Wind Lion deities evolved, to pacify the extreme winds blowing across the mostly flat island. USA and Taiwanese soldiers replanted the island in the 1950s, to assist with troop coverage and movement, so now all the trees on the island are around the same age.
There’s a story from the first few years under martial law, about a KMT soldier that deserted, and swam across the waters to China, using two basketballs as floatation devices. As an outcome, balls were restricted to only one per family; to be shared between children. Adults retell this story today.
The soldier survived, the basketballs floated him to China. These basketballs were probably manufactured in Tainan, Taiwan, in a factory set up by the basketball-mad Chiang Kai-shek.
The Taiwanese basketball factory closed two decades ago and moved manufacturing offshore to mainland China. Now almost all basketballs in Taiwan are imported from the PRC.
The soldier is now the PRC representative to the World Bank^.
Right: Landscape studies #3: fluid borders (shorts of in progress work)
#The goddess Mazu was born on a nearby island, around 960, was a shamaness, and is a much revered local goddess in Fujian and Taiwan culture.
^PCR’s Chief Economist, World Bank, Justin Lin Yifu
‘Forget not what happened in Jǔ’ was a quote from Chiang Kai-shek referencing a historical Chinese battle, the KMT’s mainland Chinese origins and lifelong wish to ‘retake’ the mainland.