Foreword| Figuring Out a Position through Post-colonialism and Identity Studies
Updated: Nov 6, 2019
Last winter of the southern hemisphere, I travelled to Canberra, fell in love with this peaceful and natural bush capital, and decided to move away from Melbourne to seek a new life. During this first semester at ANU, a fundamental question gradually emerged:"What should be my positioning here as a Chinese student living overseas since 18?" So, what is the positioning, what is it that is about me being here and where is here?
My art and curatorial research found its starting point in this question. This last period of research has formed my stepping stone of future studies because it has informed me critically of my unique perspective and relationship with my surroundings in a complicated transcultural context. It further provided several approaches for my identity problems being an international student.
Writings On Art: 2018 Volumn 1/ Postcolonialism, the first series of my essays at ANU, reflects on the reality of postcolonialism that we have all been born into (as artist Christopher Ulutupu said). A predetermined system can be seen dominating our judgements, much evident as a problem in contemporary curatorial practice related to the so-called "primitive" cultures such as crafts and indigenous art. An analogy I have always used is the assimilated traditional Chinese medicine 中医 to science 科学: in contemporary China many have repudiated the former because of its inconsistency with science, i.e. Chinese medicine is not empirically justified in a scientific framework so it is not trustworthy. However, most people did not realise that the two discourses are based on fundmentally different world view and thus not comparable. The situation of "other art" like crafts and indigenous creativities is the same as the Chinese traditions. This is how I have found postcolonialism a reality so deeply rooted in our current social systems weaved within capitalism.
Therefore, to simply call it "Western", the word from an Orientalist tradition, is not sufficient. We have long since passed that point where we (the "non-Westerns") can blame someone else for an unchangeable history, when our own countries decided (even forced) to take on the modernist path. The ideal "Orient" has disappeared into the past. What should we do? Are we to re-learn the past? Ultimately, the history of human beings is similar to a person's life cycle. We are always losing and missing while gaining something. What if we just keep being honest to ourselves and humble to others?
In this initiative volume, the readers will be able to observe a trajectory of the seek of my own identity and its becoming (as the existentialists shall call it).
June 2018 in Canberra