Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Reflection for Transexperiences: A conversation between Chen Zhen and Zhu Xian

Christina Xiong
Reflection for Transexperiences: A conversation between Chen Zhen and Zhu Xian

Chen Zhen says in his 'self-interview', "That is the beauty of
being a <<migrating creature>> like me, who could examine my own
country and Asia through a polygonal prism". Although at first it was
hard to connect Chen's points, from his definition of a
trans-experience and "short-circuit" to the role of multiculturalism
and art in 'Westernization', I found it easier to understand by
relating his experience to my own. By coming to China, I've not only
gained a different perspective of the country of my supposed "identity
gene", where my family heritage traces back, but also learned more
about America. In the U.S., we focus on our nation's potential, what
lies ahead for us. But by 'zou-ing' and leaving my home in New York,
I've been able to see the other side, what the U.S. represents in the
eyes of the Chinese. Most importantly, I realized that while adapting
to Shanghai's environment, I've been unconsciously comparing the two
cultures. This, according to my interpretation of Chen Zhen's
interview, is 'trans-experience". From taking in communist China's
thoughts on American democracy and comparing it to our own pride in
the ideals of freedom, I've had to "connect the preceding with the
following". From being frustrated over crowded buses and frequent
line-cutters, I've grown to accept Shanghai's distinct social
behavior. The only difference between my own attempt to find a healthy
balance and that of Chen's is 'context'. China, unlike the U.S., which
is filled with 'multiculturalism', is constantly changing.

One of these constantly changing 'context' factors is China's
modernization. Chen believes that many outsiders mistake
modernization, China's social, economic and political transformations,
for "Westernization". Of course economic development, the need to
prove one's existence among Western superpowers, has an impact on the
culture of the people. But its influence does not mean that
modernization controls mass culture. According to Chen, "even though
the concept of multiculturalism was developed in the West, especially
in the United States, you can nonetheless set your own <<rules of the
game>> to shape that space". Therefore, through art, he is not only
trying to express what cannot be said in words, but also taking a part
in shaping this new China. Instead of allowing Chinese culture to be
defined by the many influences of the <<Others>>, he envisions China
as an initiator of a "second tradition" in multiculturalism.

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