「表現正常」的年輕人是改變的強大力量 / 人的莊園－周慶輝個展 (Youth’s ‘Normality’ a Potent Force for Change / Chou Chin-hui’s Animal Farm)
約翰百德 (John BATTEN)
at 7:10pm on 19th June 2015
Movie poster for Asghar Farhadi's A Separation (Australian market only)
2. 周慶輝，《人的莊園No. 02》，純棉無酸相片紙， 360 x 274.3厘米， 2014
Chou Chin-hui, Animal Farm No. 02, inkjet Print, 360 x 274.3cm, 2014
3. 周慶輝，《人的莊園No. 07》，純棉無酸相片紙，, 230 x 274.3厘米， 2014
Chou Chin-hui, Animal Farm No. 07, inkjet Print, 230 x 274.3 cm, 2014
4. 周慶輝，《人的莊園No. 23》，純棉無酸相片紙，108 x 148厘米， 2014
Chou Chin-hui, Animal Farm No. 23, inkjet Print, 108 x 148 cm, 2014
5. 周慶輝，《人的莊園No. 29》，純棉無酸相片紙 ，108 x 148厘米， 2014
Chou Chin-hui, Animal Farm No. 29, inkjet Print, 108 x 148 cm, 2014
(This essay was originally published in Chinese in Ming Pao Weekly, 13 June 2015. Please scroll down for English version.)
從近年的伊朗電影，例如阿斯哈．法哈蒂 （Asghar Farhadi ）的奧斯卡得獎作品《伊朗式離婚》(A Separation)，我們可以看到伊朗的急速轉變和性格倔強的一面。法哈蒂的電影鋪陳出城鄉兩者思想開明和保守的分別，也寫出了思想開明的中產階級如何亟待離開伊朗、如何認為伊朗是一個沒有未來和自由選擇的國度。諷刺的是這些希望走出去的伊朗人，最希望到的還是美國。電影亦觸及錯綜複雜的道德困局，就是人們身為「好」回教徒，應該採取開明還是傳統的視角。電影不僅引起伊朗人的共鳴，也令其他當權決策者與年輕人關係緊張的亞洲社會（包括香港）都感同身受。
附錄：哈蒂 ( Farhadi ) 的《伊朗式離婚》( A Separation )講述以Nadar 和 Simin 夫婦婚姻為主題，最後一幕中他們在法庭裡與法官一同討論離婚協定。電影鏡頭最後轉向他們的年青的女兒，同時法官問道一個決定性而傷心的問題：她希望留在年長的父親身邊繼續在伊朗照顧他，還是跟隨願景著「美好將來」的母親移民到美國。
Youth’s ‘Normality’ a Potent Force for Change / Chou Chin-hui’s Animal Farm
John BATTEN (Translated by Aulina Chan)
A recent headline in The Financial Times stated that Iran’s current crop of young people were the “normal generation.” That is a compelling thought! After the Iran Revolution of 1979 and decades of virtual isolation from the world, continuing tight cultural controls and repression, and tight US-led economic sanctions, Iran’s present young generation sees the world differently from their elderly leaders. Predominantly urban, internet-savvy, and increasingly socially liberal they do not identify with the country’s previous revolutionary fervour and anger towards the USA.
Recent Iranian films, including Asghar Farhadi’s Academy Award winning A Separation, have documented a rapidly changing and fractious Iran. Farhadi’s film depicts a rural-conservative and urban-liberal divide and the desperation of liberal middle-classes to leave Iran, perceived as having no future and freedom of choices. Ironically, their favoured destination of escape is the USA. The film also tackles the tricky moral predicament, whether one takes a liberal or traditional viewpoint, of consciously being a ‘good’ Muslim. The film resonates not only for Iranians but also for all Asian societies, including Hong Kong; places that see great pressure between incumbent decision-makers and young people.
In a simple comparison with Iran, the mainland has only had economic liberalization since the 1990s; Taiwan only lifted martial rule and introduced democracy after 1987; and, Hong Kong has only flirted with aspects of post-colonial democratic governance since 1997. The present young generation in greater China is the most ‘normal’ for generations. This is predominantly due to the lifting of Cold War animosities in the region, and like young Iranians, this generation is not necessarily bound by history or dogma, but higher – albeit, often ill-defined – ideals and a wish to have a future of opportunities and freedoms without official recrimination or censorship.
These were sentiments that I unfailingly met when I recently visited Chaozhou in Guangdong, Xiamen in Fujian and Taipei in Taiwan. Of course, amongst many issues, these were similar sentiments and the demands of protesters during Hong Kong’s Occupy demonstrations. It is remarkable that there is such general consensus in the region for such a future and questioning of the past amongst young people. Unfortunately, like in Iran, Hong Kong decision-makers are slow to acknowledge societal change. A continuing frustration for the young is that official opportunities to be influential are rare.
Hong Kong leaders are invariably male, well entrenched, have connections, and wealthy. In such a cosy environment, their conception of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ can also be very different from the rest of us. Therefore, of some recent examples, it was really no surprise to hear that Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, the Hong Kong Football Association’s delegate to the recent FIFA Congress in Zurich had voted for Sepp Blatter, the incumbent FIFA President, despite a full-blown corruption enquiry of FIFA by Swiss and US law-enforcement authorities and the arrest of seven prominent FIFA officials. Nor is it surprising to hear that the son of the recent leader of the Heung Yee Kuk, Lau Wong-fat, is now his successor. And, I was not surprised that many recent appointees to the West Kowloon Cultural District Board and its committees were people with only peripheral experience or involvement in Hong Kong’s art and cultural scene. The status quo – for now – continues!
Unfortunately, many young Hong Kong people – like their Iranian counterparts – openly talk of leaving Hong Kong; Taiwan is one destination.
However, there is no perfect place. I recently saw a visual representation of the vicissitudes of contemporary life by the Taiwanese photographer Chou Ching-hui, whose elaborate photography, video and mixed media installation at the Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) was intentionally titled – after George Orwell’s book - Animal Farm.
In his five-year project to bring to fruition, Chou constructed a series of nine large-scale theatrical sets inside the animal enclosures of Hsinchu Zoo and Shoushan Zoo in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Chou used carefully arranged props, furniture, decoration and recurring motifs, including stuffed animals, to create different scenes and scenarios from life, and using hired actors and models. These were photographed, and the resulting large-scale tableaux and portrait photographs were displayed in nine differently sized museum rooms. Finally, the audience enters a large room to watch nine high definition videos of the same actors playing an additional layer of stories.
Chou’s intriguingly surreal and mesmerizing installations are a distortion of modern life and have a simple message: our lives are trapped. The intentional zoo setting is a “cage within a cage,” with entrapment governed by circumstance and choice: the need for work, the desire for sex, the comfort of family, the ambition to be successful, the safety of the home, the inevitability of old age. This is emphasized by Chou’s critical portrayal of self-beauty and an obsession with ego and our attachment to the Internet allowing communication with everyone, but rarely alleviating loneliness. Chou’s stories are compelling, and despite their darkness, individuality – so repressed in Orwell’s Animal Farm – remains, and retains great innate power.
It is a heady time in Asia, with Xi Jinping’s new ‘New’ China demonstrating an uncharacteristically assertive foreign policy and unsettling and untested domestic agenda. In such an environment, the ambitions of young people and their ‘normality’ will be a surprising leveler: a potent force for calm and change.
Postscript: The final scene of Farhadi’s A Separation sees Nadar and Simin, the couple whose marriage is the subject of the film, inside a family courtroom discussing their divorce with a judge. As the film pans to its end, it is their teenage daughter that the judge asks to make a final, heartbreaking, decision: either to stay with her father, who wishes to continue living in Iran to care for his elderly father, or with her mother, who wishes for a “better future” by soon emigrating to the USA.
'Animal Farm - Ching-hui Chou Solo Exhibition' @ MOCA Taipei
This essay was originally published (in Chinese) in Ming Pao Weekly, Hong Kong, 13 June 2015.