Artist Liu Chun-yu explores Chinese diaspora

By Rory Howard
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 1, 2016

"A Complete Story: Between the Strait" is a short documentary work that explores the Chinese diaspora in Taiwan, and how perceptions of Chinese-ness are skewed by the political realities in the modern-day Sinosphere.

Chun-yu Liu (left) and Xiao Yuan (right), interviewees in Liu's "A Complete Story: Between the Strait".

Told in dual-channel format, the short film explores how the two interviewee's families were affected by the Chinese Civil War in the mid-twentieth century, and how their roots in Chongqing, central China, were shaken by moving to Taiwan.

These two stories told side-by-side tale of the heartbreak and survival of people who, during this time of upheaval, found themselves at once Chinese but also part of different cultural identities because of diaspora and the resulting differences in reality.

The artist Liu features as one of the interviewees in her own work. She grew up in Taiwan, had never visited the Chinese mainland, and her knowledge of the homeland for Chinese people was passed down to her and diluted by oral histories told to her by her parents and grandparents.

The family of the other interviewee, Xiao Yuan, remained in Chongqing and but those who moved to Taiwan were separated from their mainland relatives by the political separation of the mainland and Taiwan.

Liu noted during an interview that the Chinese people are one and the same whether they are from Chinese mainland, Taiwan, or any of the many places that large communities of Chinese people now live in. What makes these people different is not their Chinese culture or their feeling of being Chinese, but the political realities that they live in.

"If we look at the whole of Chinese history," Liu says, "[the] Chinese people have undergone several changes. First there were the dynasties, then the Republicans, and then the Communist Party." These periods interest her as an artist because those that left the mainland cannot culturally and emotionally return to where they came from.

To do this Liu examines what the interviewees in "A Complete Story" know about Taiwan and the mainland. What follows in the answers brings light to how two culturally similar people's perceptions are changed by the politics of even school textbooks.

In the film, Liu says how her grandparents returned to Chongqing when the travel ban was lifted, and how they cried so much at the thought of returning to their homeland and seeing the people they were separated from. Her grandparents even considered moving back to Chongqing but Liu says that they perhaps thought it was not for them, after all, hinting perhaps at how decades of separation from their home had changed them and their homeland beyond how it used to be, beyond the reality of Liu's grandparent's youth.

The significance of telling two stories alongside each other seems to show the unity in these two young ladies' realities as young, modern Chinese; the dual channel also highlights the inconsistencies in reality for these Chinese products of history.

Liu continues to work on the subject of Chinese diaspora and is currently in London working on a piece that will tell the story of Chinese communities in England, and the British love affair with Chinoiserie—or the European fascination with the Orient.


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