Trip to China

Beijing, Forum on Dutch-Chinese Cultural Relations
At the end of August I made my first trip to China. A meeting of Chinese and Dutch academics in the cultural disciplines had been convened to discuss the possibilities of collaboration. The meeting was meant to explore the specificity of intercultural relations in the era of globalisation. Preceding the two-days meeting of intense and dense academic work were three days of visits to the great monuments of this dazzling city. From the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City – so well known from Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor – to the contemporary art scene, we ran around at high speed to benefit as much as possible from this short trip.
Three days after returning my head is still full of the impressions. Our Chinese hosts were incredibly friendly and open-minded. The food was amazing. The places we visited were stunning. The lectures were unequal, but mostly worth hearing. The primary cultural difference seemed to be academic. Our delegates were ASCA-trained, which meant that their talks had that balance I am so fond of in theorising, analysing, and going back-and-forth between general and particular, as well as literal and metaphorical levels of meaning – in fact, quite a good demonstration of what the meeting was supposed to achieve.
A truly intercultural moment occurred when I showed, after my lecture on the project Nothing is missing, one of the videos of the project (Elena). A vehement debate followed; some of the Chinese participants were upset, and many, including some of the Dutch, felt uneasy. One participant found the filming of a mother’s grief unethical. Our colleague Maaike Bleeker hit the nail on the head when she said the unease we felt was not due to an unethical filming but to the fact that the film showed something we’d rather not see nor know about. Later, it became clear that what upset some of the Chinese participants, was not to see the mother’s emotion (the issue of voyeurism) but that her son exposed her to the viewer in this vulnerability. The focus on the interviewing son, rather than the emotionally expressive mother, seemed to us to point to a cultural difference.

View of the Forbidden City, Beijing
The Dutch delegation and two of the Chinese organisers

DVD box set of “A Long History of Madness” available now

The wait is over: after weeks of hard work we’ve made something special. The A Long History of Madness double-DVD set is ready!

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