Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 2 - Orientalism
Log 2 - Orientalism

Christchurch Roundup
Vanessa Jack


notes from two years ago: dare to say it, risk. understand what you want to say. words from sue macauley. tessa asked if I wanted to write. sue said to start with something. I dug out an essay I wrote last year titled `culture, ethnicity, race and feminism', I thought it might give me that something to start with. but it was strangled by its own halo. religious. well meaning. devoted. it irritates me. bores me. but I want to write. and I feel stink for not remembering details. for not being able to recite to you facts. sue said to aim for emotion not information.

she asked if i wanted to be involved. a review of a play. it was so exciting... so exciting `cos it's you... i keep forgetting. a solo performance by lynda chanwai earle. called ka shue, letters home. music by karen hunter. directed by jim moriarty. supported by asia 2000, creative nz, christchurch arts festival. the system approves. and it seemed logical for me to be interested in a half-caste artist. and I felt nervous and excited cos it matters. and i got dressed up, and i carried a pen and notebook, and I wore my silk brocade jacket and checked my chineseness in the mirror. my eyes looked squintier with my hat on.

the intensity of her beginning alienated me. alone, yelling. energy projectiles, vigorous, propelled across the theatre. alienated by some stuck up idea that was instilled in me when i was too young to know, michael. about being obedient and inoffensive and humble. and i was annoyed by her accent. false, dishonest, exaggerated, animated. and i wondered who her audience was. i wondered if she knew it was me. she declaimed cliches. a single sentence scribbled from a book by clemence dane came to me: "she did not have sufficient originality to be unfashionable." i was alarmed by how well i knew this story. between feminist studies and amy tan it's all covered. let them feel secure in their knowledge. repetition makes things true. chinese for beginners. first chinese play from nz. teach them. affirm what they know. inscrutable dog eaters.

merissa said she was a good actor, and the evening post said `chanwai earle is a striking performer elegant and true'. i felt acted to. told, taught. didactic. three generations of chinese women. that sentence makes me stiffen. like the words identity and body and space. women. she was all of them, chopping and changing between people. inconsistent. i liked that. who are you? digital. made up of discrete dots. memories. photographs. independent of one another. autonomous, these moments. all lined up. and she switched roles, not linear and she said the coin is made up of three parts, gold and two swords.

across a taiwanese street, in a different lifetime, a boy recited to me at the top of his lungs the english he knew. Hello. I love you. Fuck you. tiananmen square. bok choy. concubines. is this what it is to be chinese? culture clash. half-caste. this is why i was asked to write. 'cos we're the same. her and i. half castes. she was a scheming popo, like my grandmother, who screws up her face as she disapproves of her daughters in law cooking. and a friend of my mum's, good, hard working, plum in your mouth mother. and a ditzy young woman. painful. the other people i recognised. but how can you be yourself? maybe she's not anyone i know. i was so eager to recognise her, to know her life. so eager to map her onto me that i didn't notice her. didn't take note. duane michaels said things are what we want them to become. and i feel disappointed in myself for not being open to her, for being nervous about writing and about meeting her afterwards. holding on too tightly to what i want to believe. i enjoyed her schizophrenia, her multiplicity. pulling me in. jarring me. being many, contrary. capricious. the evening post sensibly noted that "the different attitudes and concerns of the women are vividly portrayed." déja vu. three generations of women. the wall was half-built already, i could feel my eyes roll. jesus. is there no more than this? three generations of women, the chinese version. what does it mean? all the stories we know? shadows on the wall death puppet show. HELLO? I love you. Fuck you.

Vanessa Jack



Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room