Saturday, June 13, 2009

La Vie de Mlle B.

Today we went to the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts. We missed the Andy Warhol exhibit, which ended last week, but were surprised instead to enjoy the Barbie Doll exhibit. Seriously...
I have never collected nor owned Barbie Dolls. I grew up in West Coast North America feminist hippie culture, and Barbie and Ken were not hip. Sure, they were around, but I never would have considered the possibility of avant garde artists using Barbie as a vehicle for social commentary. Goth Barbies, Barbies surrounded by hundreds of origami cranes, Back to Eden Barbie and Ken... there was a lot more there than I can begin to describe, much of it thoroughly surreal.
This show features artists from Paris, and a few from Taiwan as well. David Byrne (Talking Heads) will love this, if he hasn't seen it already. If you're unfamiliar with his work in film, check out True Stories, the fashion show will give you some idea of some of the flavor of this Barbie exhibit.

Next, we explored the other floors of the museum, where I learned a lot more about Taiwan history and culture, and got to check out some truly delightful and bizarre drawings and paintings by Taiwanese artists.

Then we went outside, where the monsoon rains resumed with a passion. We sweat all the time here, and when it is raining as well, sometimes it takes me over the edge... at least, when I have to travel in it. Between that, negotiating directions with the cab driver, and hunger, by the time we found dinner, we were all a little overwhelmed.

Our friend Mark told us this evening that after 21 years here, he no longer gets upset. (He is fluent in Mandarin, which definitely helps.) In the short term, I've experienced a tendency to oscillate between delight with my experience here, and overwhelm. I have moments in which I hate the place:) Bigger challenges are ahead, we'll probably be starting work soon.

Mark also helped us buy cell phones... that is empowering for us. Negotiating red tape in Chinese is interesting to say the least... I am leaving a lot unsaid here, in the interest of being polite.

Disclaimer: Taiwan is one of the most civilized places I've ever been. People generally get along very well with each other here, and I feel much safer than I do in North America. This is generally a very well regulated society where people care about each other a lot.
23 million people live on an island the size of Vancouver Island. A lot of them ride scooters.
There are lots of stray dogs here. I have not felt anger from any of the dogs here.
There are language and cultural barriers, lots of them, although a lot less than there were twenty years ago, when, my friend tells me, people would cross the street to avoid speaking English to him. Now that he speaks Mandarin, people often will only speak English, because they want to practise, to improve their position in the world among other reasons.
Some of the electricity here is generated by nuclear power plants. The Taiwanese relationship with the environment is interesting...
The garbage trucks play music like ice cream trucks in Canada. This lets people know that it is time to run out with there garbage.

Over and out for now...